Thanks Sandra for your time. I really enjoyed your questions and answers.
- What is your genre?
- When did you receive the “acceptance call” and how did it make you feel? How long did it take you to calm down afterward?
Well, I was out when I got the call, so I got a message instead. L But Susan Downs didn’t give too much away in the message. She IMed me later and offered the contract then. I went out on my back deck and screamed as loud as I could. The neighbors came running, asking what was wrong. They got the news first. Hubby second. Daughter third. Sister fourth. Friends fifth, sixth & seventh. J
- How many books have you published and over what period of time?
Murder on the Ol’ Bunions is currently out, with books 2 and 3 under contract. This series is called The LaTisha Barnhart Mystery series. Polly Dent Loses Grip is book 2 with Eat, Drink and Be Buried the last in the series.
- If you entered writer’s contests prior to publication and where a finalist or a winner would you like to share some of those details with us?
OH! That’s how I got my contract. I entered ACFW’s Genesis contest in 2006, simultaneously sending a copy of my proposal and first three chapters to Susan Downs at Barbour because I’d heard about the new cozy mystery line they were launching. After I discovered I had finaled in the first round, I e-mailed Susan the news and she contracted me shortly afterward!
- Have you received any publishing awards/credits that you would like noted?
My husband gave me a kiss and my daughter gave me a hug. Not to sound sappy, but those are the best credits/award I can get.
- What are your hobbies?
Gardening, history, piano are my favorite forms of relaxation. Ironically, I used to enjoy reading, but it’s much harder for me to enjoy a book now because I can’t seem to turn off my internal editor.
- In addition to writing, do you offer writing courses, judge contests, blog, write reviews, participate in speaking engagements, etc.
I’m a weekly columnist for Novel Journey (www.noveljourney.blogspot.com) so I do a lot of author interviews. I also review books for Novel Journey’s sister site Novel Reviews. Speaking engagements? I talk to myself all the time. I even talk to my family, though they ignore me most of the time. I also judge for ACFW’s Genesis contest. As a an interesting sidenote, previous to becoming the Genesis the contest was called the Noble Theme, which I coordinated for 3 years. I learned a lot about the inner workings of contests and how much time and effort goes into one during that time.
- Is there something unique or special about you or how you write that you would like to tell us about?
I’m soft-spoken. I had no idea! All this time I thought my voice was pretty loud just like others, then someone said, shock lacing their voice, “You’re very soft-spoken.” It was a terrible blow for me to hear that, though I’m not quite sure why. Weird, huh?
- How long did you concentrate on learning the craft of fiction writing before you received your initial offer?
Oh dear. My member number in ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) is 64. I think we’re approaching a 2K membership now. That means I’d been going to conferences for about 7 years before landing a contract, though I had contributed to Living Miracles: Stories of Hope from Parents of Premature Babies, St. Martin’s Press, and Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul.
Another help to me has been joining Penwrights, an intensive critique group. I was invited to join Penwrights about six months previous to landing my first contract. Being a member of Penwrights is all about doing away with the frills and soft words of critiquing and uncovering your hidden strengths and weaknesses. Critique groups work for some, not for others. On the actual writing side, setting a daily word count of 5K helped me realize my goal of completing a manuscript. That discipline came in handy when Susan Downs contracted me and asked me to convert the entire manuscript to first person from third! I did it in one weekend.
- Did you write any “practice” novels, or did you revise and edit your initial story until it sold?
Many practice novels. I’d say I have ten manuscripts in various stages of completion sitting around on my hard drive waiting for the right time to show their faces to the world. But these manuscripts are important to me because each helped strengthen my writing and pulled me closer to that time when I finally found my voice.
- first started writing, approximately how long did it take you to complete and edit a novel until you felt it was ready to be shopped around? Have you noticed a decrease in the time it takes you to complete novels to your satisfaction now?
You’re going to hate me. I started Get Off My Bunions (it’s name before being contracted) in late February and had it completed and edited, albeit professionally, by the time I landed the contract in early May. If there is any decrease in the time it takes me to finish a manuscript now, it’s because I have started homeschooling my daughter, and because we’re in transition, meaning we’re in the process of building a home, which takes even more time out of my schedule.
- What type of writer are you? A SOTPer (seat-of-the-pants), Compulsive plotter . . .?
Writing a mystery is not for the faint of heart. I must outline the characters, who they are, then weave the web that joins them together with the center of the web being the dead body or crime. I also summarize as I write. A spreadsheet works best for this process, each column is a chapter, each scene has its own cell. I also highlight important events, for example, red is used to outline red herrings, blue for clues, green for internal struggles, etc.
- What is a typical writing day for you?
I have to have time to let the manuscript rest before editing. It’s a must for me. I generally try to finish a manuscript three weeks prior to due date. This gives me two weeks to let it rest and one to do final edits before I turn it over to my editor.
- As a fairly new author, how important do you feel agent representation is in this industry for first sales?
It’s hard to say. I don’t have an agent. Have never had an agent. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think they are important. Should I ever try to expand my horizons, to borrow the cliché, I would definitely need an agent to open the doors to some of the publishing houses that require agent representation before they even look at a manuscript.
- How do you decide when your manuscript is ready for your editor’s or agent’s eyes?
I write tight to begin with, then I go back and flesh out certain scenes and setting. I may even add a subplot. But I know it’s ready when I can read it out loud and each scene flows into the next.
- Do you have any direction for or thoughts that you care to share with weary authors-in-training?
Writers write.Sandra has generously offered 5 books to give away to readers.
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you have til 3pm Monday 23 Aussie time.
My review can be found here.