In the past, whenever I’ve done a Q&A, I’ve reached out to you guys on Instagram to have you submit questions. This time around, I thought I would answer the strangest/most interesting/fun questions I’ve gotten over the years since becoming an author. So, grab a cup of coffee, or whatever else you like to drink while you sit down to read.
Q: Is there anything that helps you get in the writing mood?
A: A lot of people already know this, but I can’t write without soundtrack music playing in the background. It helps me get in the zone. I recently joked with a friend that I don’t know how authors did it back in the day. I would probably have had to hire a cellist to just play in the hallway while I wrote my manuscripts.
Also, rainy weather and a pot of Earl Grey tea. But, alas, I don’t have much control over the weather. However, there is a great website called rainymood.com.
“One study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that the right level of ambient noise triggers our minds to think more creatively.”
This scientific research might point to the fact why a lot of college students find it easier to study and focus at a coffee shop, as supposed to at home. I’m not putting everyone in one bucket, but it’s food for thought.
Q: Is there a certain time of day that you prefer to write?
A:I have a really hard time writing during the day. At least, writing fiction. Because, I do write for a living every day. Maybe, because with my personality, when the sunshine is out, I think of all the other things I could be doing, instead. I’d love to send out a survey to authors and discover what they find to be the optimal time for creativity.
Q: Have your ever woken up in the middle of the night with your characters talking to you?
A: Yes. Some people, get woken up by their baby crying in the other room. I get woken up by my characters knocking on my door, asking if they can finish out their last thought. Okay, humor aside, I’ve definitely woken up in the middle of the night with a new idea bursting through my head. Usually, I just pull out my phone and then write it all down before I forget.
If you’ve ever seen The Man Who Invented Christmas, the struggle of the author life is depicted so perfectly. It’s about the true story of Charles Dickens and how he came to write the beloved A Christmas Carol. You don’t get to choose when your characters show up.
Q: Do your characters have an influence on you in your own life?
A: When I was first asked this, I thought of an interview I had once listened to with Erin Doherty, who played Princess Anne in The Crown. She was asked a similar question and in the interview, she said that when you play a character, it does become part of you+influence you. One night at dinner, she was sitting around with her family and spoke quite bluntly about something. And, immediately afterwards she said to herself, oh, that was Princess Anne coming out.
So, yes. In a similar way, when I’ve been spending a lot of time with my protagonist, I have watched as certain aspects of their character show up in my life. Since I write in first person, and can spend a couple hours a day, every day during the week, writing, their dialogue inevitably makes a way into my personal conversations. It’s great fun. For the most part, I’m aware of where it came from.
Q: Are your characters names influenced by people you know?
A: Every once in awhile, yes. In my fourth book that I’m currently writing, the two main characters are named after my grandmothers, Eva and Nancy. My grandmother, Eva Joyce, passed away before I ever became an author, but always encouraged me in my writing pursuits. And, my grandmother, Nancy, was one of my biggest supporters. She read my first three books and always gifted them to her friends and family members. When I first started writing my fourth book, I was so excited that she would get to read a book whose character was a nod to her. Unfortunately, she unexpectedly passed away before I ever got to tell her. But, I’m thankful I can honor her memory with this story. For me, this book has been the most special to write, a dedication to two of the most important women of my upbringing.
Q: What do you do when you hit writer’s block?
A: Scream and throw a book across the room. Kidding.
I usually take a break from writing. My longest break ended up lasting several months. Usually, I only have writer’s block for a few days, sometimes it’s just a few hours. In most cases, I do something physical. For me, it’s running. It helps me to clear my thoughts, get the endorphins running (ha), and hopefully come back refreshed, to write something new. Also, travel. Going on an adventure always inspires me to write.
Q: Do you have an author that you read for inspiration?
A: The two most influential authors in my life are C.S. Lewis and Kate Morton. I like to think my writing is a marriage of their writing. My second and fourth book have strongly been influenced by C.S. Lewis’ writings. For those who don’ t know, I wrote A Song for Somme after reading a book on Lewis’ argument for God, which discussed in great detail his conversion from atheism to Christianity.
And, then, there’s Kate Morton. I’ve introduced her to so many different people, like introducing one of your friends to just everyone you know, because you want everyone to be her friend, too. All of her books are set in the U.K. and jump between different time periods as the main character tries to solve a mystery from long ago. Kate Morton’s writing is absolutely brilliant. One really incredible thing about her writing is that just when you feel like you’ve solved the mystery or have gotten somewhere, a plot twist throws you for a complete loop. I’ve had times where I didn’t figure it out until the last couple chapters. And, her books are 600+ pages. So, that’s definitely saying something. But, yes. Her writing is the reason I include mysterious elements into all of my books. And, who doesn’t love a great plot twist?
Q: Do you know the end of the story when you first start writing it?
A: Not entirely. For all of my books, I did know what the epilogue would be. So, I know where the characters end up ten years after the story comes to an end, so to speak. I, as the author, just have to figure out how they get there.
Q: What is the most frustrating part about being an author of historical fiction?
A: You are limited in creativity. Since I double(triple) check to make sure everything is historically accurate, I don’t always have the freedom to take the story in the direction I’d like. In the book that I’m currently writing, I discovered something in my research that resulted in me having to change one of the main storylines entirely. You have to work around the history, which can be a good thing, because you have a framework for the story, but also, you can’t always unleash your imagination fully.
Q: When is your next book coming out?
A: The fact that I have already announced that I am writing a book, before I have completed the first draft of the manuscript is a big deal. My three previous books I kept a great secret until I had a printed copy of it. This one is so different from the rest. I won’t tell you when it’s coming out, mainly because I don’t quite know myself, although I do have a goal date that I’m trying to publish by.
That’s all for now! I hope you enjoyed this little Q&A. And, as always, if you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out. I absolutely love to hear from you, the reader! Until next time, cheers!