1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
I’ve written twelve novels (!!), but I’ve only gotten around to
publishing six. For the purposes of these questions, I’ll focus on my latest
published novel, “Quiet, Please!” I got the idea while talking to a co-worker of mine who was telling me about a friend of hers, an archaeologist, who decided to make a major career change and become a kindergarten teacher. She said he brought such an interesting dynamic to the classroom, and his interactions with the children were so unconventional and often humorous that she loved hearing him tell work stories. My imagination immediately started to churn as I pictured this guy and thought about what it would be like to know him. By the way, I’ve still never met the real archaeologist/kindergarten teacher who inspired my
2. When did you take up writing?
I’ve been writing since I was really young, like as soon as knew how to write, physically. In high school and college, I focused more on personal
essays and some short fiction, but I realized I stank at those formats, so I
decided to focus on longer fiction. I took a long break from personal writing, though, when I started my career in the TV news industry. I was just too tired and mentally drained to devote the sort of attention novel-writing requires. After I came to the harsh conclusion that I stank at TV newswriting, too (seeing a pattern here?),I decided to pursue a lower-maintenance day job so I could focus on writing novels.
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
Setting is a big deal, but I tend to be somewhat capricious when it comes to deciding where to set a story. Sometimes it’s a place that’s familiar to me, but most of the time, I choose settings where I’ve never been. It’s not hard to do, because I never go anywhere. But I like researching different places and taking what I like to think of as vacations in my head. I chose North Carolina for “Quiet, Please!” because I wanted it to be somewhere on the U.S. Atlantic coast. I also wanted it to be a state that may be better known for smaller towns than big cities.
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
Obviously, I love my protagonist, Kendall, and I love Jamie, too. But my favourite character in“Quiet,Please!” is Kendall’s mom. I love that she’s gentle and has a great sense of humour but that she also knows when to turn on the tough love. She reminds me a lot of my mom in some ways.
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
Grammar, mechanics, and style matter just as much as story. If you’re not completely sick of your story and its characters, then you haven’t proofread it enough times. And when you are sick of them, you need to proofread it a couple more times. Then give it to some trusted beta readers for honest feedback, and hire an editor. Anybody can come up with a great idea. The execution of that idea is what gets readers past the first page.
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
Ha! I wish. I write whenever I can squeeze in the time. Right
now, it has to compete with a lot of other things in my life: my day job, my
family, marketing and managing the books I’ve already published, staying
connected with communities of writers, etc. I do tend to write better in the
morning, which is a real bummer, since I almost NEVER have time to write in the
mornings, but I’ve learned to write wherever and whenever I
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
I wing it. I find that if I try to plot something out too much, I get bored with it. I often don’t know how a book is going to end until I write the ending. Or re-write it several times. The end to “Quiet, Please!” is the third one I wrote. If I know how something is going to end, what’s the point in writing all the stuff in the middle? I know it sounds like I’m not all there in
the head when I say this, but I like to have the characters drive the story and let meknow what’s going to happen.
And I’d rather do just about anything than write an outline. That being said, I make great use of calendars to keep plot points straight and to make sure I don’t have continuity errors.
8. Can you name three or four of your current favourite books?
I’m currently reading and enjoying The Prince of Tides. It’s taking me forever, but I’m savouring it. I also
recently read “The Fall of the Misanthrope” by Louise Wise and loved it. And I love anything by Claire Matthews. I’m also a big Brit Chick Lit fan. Love anything set “across the pond.”
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
Right now, I’m working on a novel written from alternating points of view that deals with the all-consuming lifestyle of the
self-published, indie novelist and how that life affects the people closest to her. Of course, the female protagonist (the novelist) does a lousy job of juggling everything she needs to juggle in order to keep life running smoothly. Meanwhile, her friends and family struggle to be understanding while also standing up for their own needs and trying to remain priorities in her life. As in my other books, I try to keep it light—people like to laugh—while also addressing some important and universal experiences and aspects of human nature.
10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Sure, it’s good to read others’ works and get a sense for what good writing is, but a huge part of being a writer is to display your individuality. Comparing yourself to everyone already out there and trying to mimic them is pointless.
10/17/2012 03:22:26 pm
Thanks for this great interview, Monique and Brea! It’s great to get an insight into someone else’s process and ‘meet’ a new author. I’ll look forward to reading ‘Quiet, please’, it sounds like a hoot!
10/17/2012 03:24:51 pm
Me too! And I love the Brea is reading Prince of Tides…one of my all time favourite books…
10/17/2012 10:11:44 pm
Great interview! I didn’t know you were a journalist, Brea. And you are too kind with the shout-out. I can’t believe I would ever be mentioned in the same paragraph with Pat Conroy–jeez!