Welcome to a brand new segment on Today’s Chapter, Author Insights. I realised I’m fortunate enough to know some truly fantastic authors from the Indie community and they are a very interesting bunch, so I wanted to pick their brains and show you just how awesome they are.
I’m aiming to do a new Author Insights once a month. If you’d like to take part please fire me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
First into the spotlight is romance writer extraordinaire, Margaret Locke. I just finished reading Margaret’s first book, A Man of Character. You can read my review on goodreads here (spoiler: I loved it!). Without further ado, let’s get into the interview and find out more about Margaret.
First of all, congratulations on the success of a Man of Character, it really seems to be resonating with readers. I know I certainly enjoyed it! What has been your favourite comment or review so far?
ML: Gosh, I have been so tickled by all the positive responses I’ve received about my little book. I mean, people are reading something I wrote, and gushing about it? Say what?
In truth, there are many I love, but two stand out: yours (yes, I’m serious), because, well, you’re a man, and you not only read my entire romance, but wrote a thorough, glowing review of it.
The second would be Annie McDonnell’s review. Annie writes for The Write Review, Chick Lit Plus, and Elle Magazine! She actually approached me about reading A Man of Character (usually it’s me emailing bloggers and begging ever so nicely), and then it turned out she loved it! She got my book onto Chick Lit Plus, which feels huge to me, and was the one who informed me my writing was whimsical – a descriptor I absolutely love.
I interviewed her here: http://margaretlocke.com/throwitforward-thursday-meet-annie-mcdonnell
If you could travel to any period of time, where would you go? What would be the first thing you would do when you get there?
ML: Wait, I have to pick just one?
A lot of things might influence my answer: am I there as a safe, invisible observer, or am I in the thick of the action?
I can think of three places on my must-see list:
1) Early medieval Germany and specifically the court of Henry the Fowler and his wife, Matilda, mother to Otto the Great, and subject of my master’s thesis (once upon a time I was a doctoral student in medieval history), to find out what she and he were really like.
2) Ancient Rome—what would it be like to walk the streets of Rome in Caesar’s time? What did Latin truly sound like? Would I love or hate the society? Would anything feel familiar, two thousand years ago?
3) And then, of course, I’d like to jetset to Regency England, especially if I could meet Jane Austen. I’d like to know what really happened between her and Tom LeFroy, what was in all the letters her sister Cassandra destroyed after her death, and was there a real-life inspiration for Darcy?
As for the first thing I’d do? My guess, vomit. Second guess, go immediately to check out the architecture. Third thing, freak out because I actually time travelled, dude.
You regularly try different styles and genres in your flash fiction. Would you consider a different genre for a full length novel? If so which genre?
ML: It’s hard for me to imagine writing anything other than romance. I have been an avid reader of the genre since the far-too-young age of ten, and absolutely love it. Having said that, A Man of Character is fairly chick-lit-esque, so that would be an easy leap. I suppose I could try literary fiction, but I have the sneaking suspicion I would totally suck at it.
Who is your favourite author and why?
ML: In romance, I have my triumvirate: Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries, and Julia Quinn (though Sarah MacLean is sneaking in to make it a quad). All four write Regency romance with a light touch and delightfully witty banter between the hero and heroine, which I fall for every time.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, LaVyrle Spencer, Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter, and Lisa Kleypas were my go-tos, just because I loved either the emotional style, the adventuresome plots, or some combo of both. I still love them.
In non-romance, Margaret Atwood. I read most of her books, and much of her poetry, in my college years, yet I still call her my favorite author. She can describe the emotional resonance of things in a way I’ve never seen equaled. I’ve long struggled with weight and body image, and when I first read her novel Lady Oracle, which features a heavy heroine, I thought, “Here’s someone who really, truly gets it.” Imagine my surprise when I discovered Ms. Atwood herself was a tiny little thing (I got to meet her at a reading, and yes, my copy of Lady Oracle is autographed!). I need to go back and reread her work, but if you don’t know her work, if you read nothing else, please read her poem, “Variations on the Word Sleep.”
Your next book is a period piece, how did you go about researching the time period?
ML: Probably not as systematically or well as I should have! I’ve read in the Regency genre for years, so many, many of the terms and ideas are familiar to me. I quickly discovered, however, it’s one thing to read about the period, and quite another to write about it! I have accumulated a fairly massive library of Regency-related books (though please don’t ask me how many I’ve actually read; it’s never enough, and my buying habits far outpace my reading time). I’ve created a number of Pinterest boards related to the Regency, and am constantly adding links/images to them.
I read a lot of blog posts from fellow Regency authors and Regency bloggers, and have made great use of the Beau Monde, a group of Regency writers who are members of the Romance Writers of America, and who run a fabulous discussion board on all things Regency. People there have been amazingly willing to answer all my dumb questions, such as how to address a Duke (still positive I don’t have the ins and outs of the whole title thing down), how long it would take to travel from Winchester to London (depends on the type of coach, but probably most of a day), etc.
I want to read every book, read every blog, read everything I can about the Regency period, but much of the research when it came to writing A Matter of Time came down to what I needed to know at the moment: if Eliza James is eating dinner with a ducal family in 1812, what kinds of foods would she have seen on the table? What kind of puppies might one find on a Duke’s estate? That kind of thing…
A Man of Character
What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago? Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.
A startling revelation – that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago – forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.
Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect – who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which – or whom – she wants more.
Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.
What’s your writing style? For example do you plan everything out, or do you sit down at the keyboard and see what happens?
ML: I’m definitely a plotter, though the original draft of A Matter of Time drifted from its outline, for sure, in part because I wrote the majority of it during NaNoWriMo 2013, and when it’s NaNo month, you don’t have time for intricate plotting: it’s write, write, write.
I tend to jot down a basic outline, or sometimes even more roughly than that, a list of scenes with the basics of what happens in each scene. It’s like I watch the movie in my head, and write down what happens at each moment.
Of course, both A Man of Character and A Matter of Time have undergone fairly substantial edits. I have a fabulous developmental editor, Tessa Shapcott (www.tessashapcott.com), who helps me see what’s good and what needs to be fixed. When I get her initial feedback, I usually want to chuck the whole book in the river, but each time, once I make it through the second batch of edits, using her suggestions as my guide, the book emerges stronger and far better (hopefully; I guess I leave it up to the readers to decide whether or not my novels ‘work.’)
Do you have any writing routines or habits?
ML: My routine is I suck at routines. I really do. I always want to stick to a writing schedule, have my time planned out in logical, productive fashion, and yet, the minute I try to do that, I get rebellious and break all my own rules.
I have learned I generally write best in the mornings, in about two hour stretches, and usually with some sort of music on. This works well when my kids are in school; not so well when it’s a weekend, summer vacation, or I suddenly get the urge to write at night. I am not the type of person who can write in small time increments, get interrupted by something else, and then easily return to my writing. If I were, I’d get a lot more done.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
ML: I’m not entirely sure. The thing is, when I don’t want to write, I don’t write. This isn’t great for my productivity levels, but it’s the truth. However, when I do sit down to write, I can usually make something come out. I’m not claiming it’s any good, but I’m rather verbose in person, and yes, that does translate to the page.
If I’m really stuck, I occasionally work on things like character sketches, or jot down other book ideas, or, well, play on Facebook and/or Twitter.
No more than 3 word answers to the following questions:
What’s your second favourite type of jam/jelly? Grape. Raspberry first.
Mac or PC? Mac!
Least favourite genre to read? Horror.
Do you have a nickname? Banana
Dog or cat? CAT! Total addict.
Coke or Pepsi? Soda-free since 12/12/2011.
Who or Whom? Nominative or accusative?
Tea or coffee? I drink neither.
Favourite book? Can’t pick [just] one!
Are you an early bird or night owl? Night owl wannabe.
How do you balance your time between writing your next book and promoting A Man of Character?
ML: Balance? There’s BALANCE? If someone has a great answer to this question, I’m all ears.
First off, promo 1) makes me uncomfortable, because I really don’t like to toot my own horn (what if I claim my novel is funny, and no one else thinks it is? What if I insist someone will love it, and they don’t?), and 2) takes up so much more time than I ever imagined.
I could easily work on promo all day long, making images to share, posting on Facebook groups, researching best promotion practices, etc. And in truth, I have no idea what works and doesn’t work. Am I pleased that people are buying my book? Of course. Are they buying it at a pace to put me on a bestseller chart? Nope.
One of the hardest things for me is simply lack of time. Or, perhaps more accurately, lack of time and energy. For often when I have time, I don’t have energy, or when I have energy, I don’t have time.
This isn’t supposed to be a full-time job for me. I’m still mom and wife and carpool driver and field trip chaperone and grocery procurer and all the things that come with running a household. I’ve added critique group leader and now NaNoWriMo liaison to that. I’m also trying to get to more Virginia Romance Writer meetings, to connect with fellow romance writers in my area.
The list could go on and on.
Suffice it to say, 1) I don’t know how ANYONE with a job outside the home also manages to write, and 2) I need at least three of me – one to write, one to figure out promo and social media and connecting with readers and fellow writers, and one to be wife/mom/friend, etc. No, make that I need five: I want one of me to be able to read all the time, and the other to be able to watch as much television or movies as I want. (I’d say six, and have one of me clean, but hey, I hate cleaning, so I’d rather farm that out to someone else.)
Anything else you’d like to talk about? (shameless self promotion entirely encouraged!)
ML: I just want to say THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone who’s bought A Man of Character, who’s read A Man of Character, who’s left a review for A Man of Character. Thank you to everyone who’s posted, tweeted, voted, shared, or in any way, shape, or form, spread the word about my book in any capacity.
I couldn’t do any of this without all of you, and I am so grateful and so very blessed with the people who’ve come into my life via writing – my tremendous Shenandoah Valley Writers community, the fabulous Flash Friday and FlashDogs peeps (whose kind comments on my Flash stories have boosted my confidence in my writing more than they will ever know), the fellow writers with whom I’ve connected (it feels like celebrity sightings, all the time, when I’m chatting on FB with authors I’ve admired, etc), the readers who’ve taken the time to tell me how much they enjoyed my book … each of you make this trial-and-error journey so much more fun!
I do hope if you liked A Man of Character, you might consider giving Eliza’s story, A Matter of Time, a go. It debuts November 30th, but is available for preorder on Kindle here (paperbacks come on release day)!
(Okay, enough with the self-promo).
Please also find me on:
My website (http://margaretlocke.com).
I’d love to talk to you, although with how scatterbrained I’ve been since immersing myself eyebrows deep in edits, you might need to excuse my incoherency.
A huge thanks to Margaret for being the Guinea Pig for Author Insights, didn’t she do a wonderful job! Let me know if you enjoyed this segment and what type of questions you’d like me to ask the next author we put under the spotlight. If you’d like to know more about Margaret, there’s a brief bio below.
As a teen, Margaret Locke pledged to write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things, not penning steamy love stories. Yeah, whatever. Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader. Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fab kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window; she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person). Please visit her at margaretlocke.com