Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Q&A and guest post by author Kathleen Long


GUEST POST:
Thank you, Emily, for taking part in the blog tour for Chasing Rainbows and for inviting me here today!

I thought a lot about a topic for today’s post. Trade secrets to publication? The truth behind the author, is she as neurotic as her characters? Does her dog really chase airplanes? Then I thought, where does she get her ideas? The question every author hears on a regular basis.

Where do I get my ideas?

I once answered that question by saying, “In a warehouse outside of Atlantic City.” There were two problems with that answer. One, it’s not original. I borrowed the response from the amazing Susan Elizabeth Phillips who once said almost the same thing during a workshop I attended. Secondly, the person to whom I made the statement said, “Really?”

So, where DO I get my ideas? A better question is to ask, where don’t I get my ideas? I am forever jotting down story ideas, notes, snippets of overheard conversations. At one large family gathering, I pulled a small tablet out of my purse, and a cousin sounded the alarm. “Careful! She’s got her notebook out!” Thank goodness they’re used to me.

My first romantic comedy was inspired by a Feng Shui for Dummies book and an afternoon spent watching the movie, Best In Show. My first thriller was inspired a local news story covering the black market for prescription pain killers. The question of whether or not someone might confess a murder through an anonymous post card triggered my last thriller. And, so on.

Then there was Chasing Rainbows.

Unlike the stories that started with the idea for a premise, Chasing Rainbows started with Bernie.

Once Bernadette Murphy took shape inside my mind, she wasn’t going away. She didn’t care what I was working on, didn’t care about what deadlines loomed. I saw Bernie and her story as a means to write the kind of book I’d always wanted to write--a bigger book that dealt with topics important to women.

Many of the key elements for Chasing Rainbows came directly from my life. I don’t think that’s unusual for an author. I believe that once we have an idea in our mind, authors pull details and emotions from our own experiences to bring our story to life for our readers. That’s truly what I did for Chasing Rainbows.

Did I endure the loss of our infant daughter and my dad? Yes.

Did I face down cosmetic kiosk clerks who shook their heads and said, “Recovery,” after I’d asked for “Prevention cream?” Yes. (Did I jump the counter? No, but man, that scene was fun to write.)

Do I believe a good pair of boots can cure most any problem? Yes. I’m shallow like that.

Did I come to realize life’s not perfect and there’s always going to be a choice between wallowing and moving forward? Yes.

While much of Bernie’s story is culled from my life, even more is not. The beauty of writing and creating is that the initial kernel of an idea—be it for a premise or a character—takes on a life of its own and grows into a fully-formed journey for the author and her readers.

So, where do I get my ideas? Everywhere. So, be careful. The next time you see me, I just might pull out my tiny tablet and start taking notes.

Q&A:

Q. What inspires your writing?

A. Life. The news. Overheard conversations. Commercials. You name it!
One of my first contemporaries, CHERRY ON TOP, was inspired by a beer commercial. True story. There was a couple in the commercial, sitting in a car, if I remember correctly. He told her he wanted to break up. She told him she’d just won the lottery. I thought, what if a woman who’d just been left at the altar bought a lottery ticket and won? She could do anything. She could recreate her life. Cherry Harte was born.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A. My favorite thing about being an author is having the freedom to create entire worlds using only my imagination. For me, the power of the written word is awe-inspiring. Being a writer gives me the opportunity to inspire, to entertain, to offer escape—even if that escape is only for the time it takes a reader to journey through the story. I also love being an author for what it means to me. Writing has been my life-long dream. Achieving that dream is beyond amazing, and it allows me to teach my daughter that dreams are worth chasing.

Q. What is the toughest part of being an author?

A. The discipline...or lack thereof. I used to be fanatical about protecting my writing time. Now that my little one is in kindergarten, you’d think I’d be more productive than ever, but I’m not. I use my down time to clean, to grocery shop, to organize. I once had the discipline to get up at 5:30 every morning and get my pages done before the rest of the house awoke.

I lost that focus and determination somewhere along the way, and am now working to rediscover that commitment. Even as I type, I’m sitting in my public library, answering your questions, because at home all I wanted to do was take down Christmas decorations, run one more load of wash and dash to the grocery store.

Another difficult part of being a writer is the uncertainty. There are no guarantees a particular story will resonate with an editor or a reader, so all a writer can do is to craft the best story possible. When one story is finished, we start the next. But then, that brings me right back to the discipline issue, I suppose.

Q. If you could not be an author, what would you do/be?

A. I’d be a meteorologist! (Everyone who knows me just groaned, by the way.)
I am OBSESSED with the weather. Is it going to storm? What’s the temperature? Which way is that hurricane headed? How many inches of snow are they calling for?

One time when hubby and I were first married, we were late on paying the cable bill. As a punishment, the cable company flipped some switch which allowed us to receive only The Weather Channel? Punishment? I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven.

Q. What would the story of your life be titled?

A. “What was I going to say, where are my glasses, and has anyone seen my keys?”

Seriously? I’d probably call it “Chasing Rainbows.”

Our first daughter taught us that life is short. I’ve been chasing my dreams...and rainbows...ever since.

Q. What is your favorite book of all time?

A. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles.

Q. Which character from any book are you most like?

A. This is such a difficult question. According the quizzes I take while wasting time on Facebook, I’m the most like Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Come on. You know you took the very same quiz. Matter of fact, I think we all got the same answer.

Honestly? You’ve stumped me here. When I read, I see pieces of myself in most every heroine. A characteristic. A quirk. A belief. I think that’s the beauty of reading. We lose ourselves in the story and allow the characters and their world into our imaginations. Reading rocks, and yes, I avoided the question.

Q. What character from all of your book(s) are you most like?

A. I am definitely the most like Bernie from Chasing Rainbows.

Sarcastic? Check. Difficult hair? Check. Still carrying around weight from fertility treatments? Check. Never took the belly dancing DVDs out of the cellophane? Check. Climbed a chair to yell at boss? Check. Chase airplanes with the dog? Check.

Unlike Bernie, I am happily married and spend my time trying to keep up with our five-year-old. Who knows? Maybe Bernie will get a sequel someday.

Q. What is your favorite season?

A. I adore autumn. I love the crisp fall air and the burst of color along the horizon as the leaves turn. I love the sound of kids playing soccer and the scent of the season’s first fires in the night air. Most of all, I love sweatshirts. In my world, sweatshirt weather = happiness. I’m shallow like that.

Q. Tell me something funny that happened while on tour or while promoting your book(s).

A. About three months after our daughter was born, I appeared on an author panel at a local Barnes & Noble. I was tired. Very, very tired. I nodded off for a split second. At least, I hope it was a split second. When I caught myself, I slapped my hand down on the table and took out an entire bowl of M&M candies. They flew everywhere.
Everyone was lovely and understanding, but that memory sticks in my brain as one of my not-so-finer moments.

A. Are you working on something new?

Q. Yes! I’m working on a new women’s fiction project, titled Changing Lanes. Changing Lanes is the story of Abby Halladay who’s forced to move home with her parents after case of terminal termites sends her packing. The story is full of quirky, small-town characters, poignant moments and loads of self-discovery.
My next release, however, will be my romantic thriller, Vanished, due out this March.

Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to say hello! I love visiting blogs, and am so glad you invited me to hang out today at Mrs. Mommy Booknerd’s Book Reviews.

If I had to leave you with one thought, it would be to get busy chasing your dreams. Plain and simple.

Also, if you do pick up a copy of Chasing Rainbows, please drop me a note once you’ve had a chance to read Bernie’s story. I’d love to hear what you think.

Big thanks and warmest wishes!

Thanks, Emily!


Connect with Kathleen:
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