What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Keep Writing While You're Waiting: Author Interview with Carrie Turansky
What made you decide to write your first novel?
In the late 1990s, our family spent a year in Kenya, East Africa. When we returned, I missed it so much I decided to write a novel set there as a way to relive our experiences. That was my first “learning how to write” novel and it will probably always remain in the drawer because I didn’t know much about fiction techniques, but it was fun to jump in and just pour out a story.
Being from the United States, what drew you to writing historical English novels?
I was at a library conference in 2012 and I saw an editor I’d met at a writers’ conference the year before. I decided to be brave and say hello. We chatted for a few minutes, and I asked her what type of novel she’d love to see come across her desk. Downton Abbey was just becoming popular at the time, and she said she’d love to see an English historical novel set in the Edwardian Era like Downton, with a heroine similar to Jane Eyre and a brooding hero like Mr. Rochester.
I thought that was a great idea! At first I was hesitant to try writing an English historical novel, but when I did some research and watched a few more episodes of Downton, I fell in love with the era, and I wrote The Governess of Highland Hall, the first of three books in the Edwardian Brides Series.
You write both historical and contemporary novels. Which do you feel more comfortable in writing?
I enjoy writing both contemporary and historical novels. If I had to choose, I suppose I’d say I prefer writing the longer, more involved English historical novels.
Your first novel was published in 2005. Tell me about that journey. How did you connect with your publisher? When did you get an agent?
I met my agent at a writers’ conference two years before that first sale to Love Inspired with my novel Along Came Love. She submitted three of my completed novels to several publishers before the first one was accepted for publication in 2005. I’d been working on learning how to write fiction for about five years through taking part in ACFW and being in a critique group.
In conferences I’ve attended, editors and agents often tell the attendees not to write novellas. But you’ve published a few of them. How did that come about?
When I was first trying to break into publishing, an author friend I met through ACFW invited me to be one of four authors in a Barbour novella collection proposal. She helped me polish my novella and submitted it for us. She was already published by Barbour, and that helped open the door for me. Learning to write tight and tell a satisfying story in 25,000 words is a challenge, but I enjoyed it very much.
I’ve written two historical and three contemporary novellas. My novella, A Trusting Heart, about a Swedish mail-order bride won the ACFW Carol Award in 2010.
I see you’ve entered and placed as a finalist in multiple contests. How has that helped you in your writing?
Contests for unpublished authors often give you feedback from the judges, so I entered several of those and appreciated all I learned from those judges. Contests for published authors give you a chance to see how readers/judges enjoy your stories. You can also list those on your website and include them in your proposals. Being a finalist or winning a contest is an encouragement boost.
You are also active in ACFW and I see you were a finalist in Mentor of the Year for 2018. What is the criteria for that award?
I’ve been a member of ACFW American Christian Fiction Writers) since 2000 when they first began. I’ve learned so much and made wonderful connections with authors and publishing professionals by attending the annual ACFW Conference.
The Mentor of The Year Award honors one member who has helped others on their writing journey. Mentors are nominated by an ACFW member who writes an essay describing how they were helped by that person, then the judges choose the finalists after reading those essays. It was a fun honor to be nominated last year.
Your bio says you actively do speaking engagements. How did that begin? Do you set up the engagements or does your publisher or agent does?
I’ve spoken at writing conferences, for women’s retreats, homeschooling groups, and writers’ groups. Some of these opportunities came as a result of connections I made at writers’ conferences or through friends.
The publicity and marketing team at my publisher have arranged many online and radio interviews, but I usually arrange my own speaking events. My agent handles my writing relationship with my publisher. He’s not involved with my speaking.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Dialog? Tension, etc?
The hardest part for me is not over-writing. I need to go back and trim and tighten every scene to keep the story moving forward and not get bogged down with too many details or extra words.
What does your editor remind you to do most often?
I’m blessed to work with some wonderful editors. Each one has helped me polish my books and taught me many important lessons. They often help me find phrases I use too often, and they make me straighten out my timeline, so it makes sense!
What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
The best encouragement comes from readers who comment on social media or send an email to let me know they were touched by one of my stories and connected with the characters and themes.
We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of how you learned to write past it.
I received many rejections early in my writing career, but I kept on writing. I was determined to keep learning and growing as a writer. I stayed involved in my critique group and ACFW. I attended writers’ conferences and purchased audio recordings of conference workshops to listen to between conferences. I kept reading and saved a file drawer of ideas for future books. Most of all I didn’t give up.
What has surprised or frustrated you the most in writing/publishing?
Traditional publishing is a very slow process. You need a tremendous amount of patience while you wait to be accepted by an agent and then to receive a contract offer. That often takes years. Even after you are published, there is still a great deal of waiting for editors to respond with decisions about new projects, to receive editing feedback, and see the final cover.
What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
I’ve learned how to use a daily word count app to help me chart my progress as I write a novel. That helps relieve anxious thoughts about trying to finish a 100,00+ word novel by the deadline. I know if I meet my goal each week, I’m on track to finish on time.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
I’ve met many writers who finish their first book and revise and revise it to death. I encourage writers to do your best job, send it off to an agent, and write your next novel. You learn to write by writing! If you only write one book . . . you may never be published.
What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
My newest release is No Ocean Too Wide. Here’s a summary of that story: When Laura McAlister, a young lady’s maid, learns her three siblings have been taken from their mother and emigrated to Canada without her mother’s knowledge, Laura determines to search for them and reunite the family. But lack of funds and resistance from authorities push her to use a false name and take a position with a child emigration society to gain passage to Canada.
Andrew Frasier, a wealthy young lawyer, is surprised to see his mother’s former lady’s maid on board ship escorting a group of child immigrants, especially when she uses a different name. Laura eventually convinces Andrew to help her search for her siblings and uncover the truth about the treatment of British Home Children.
Romantic feelings grow between this unlikely couple, and though they have different backgrounds, they share a growing faith and desire to seek justice and relief for the children who are mistreated. Inspiring and hope-filled, No Ocean too Wide will touch your heart and lift your spirit.
That’s all for today’s interview. That new book sounds like it would make a great movie. If my readers want to learn more about your books, how can they do that?
I love to connect with reading friends on social media and through my website. I have an email newsletter and a blog linked there to also keep the conversation going. I hope you’ll stop by, sign up, and then connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
You’ll find all those links at: http://carrieturansky.com/