I wanted to write a book with an authentic cancer story line in it. Having experienced a cancer journey myself, I recognize that life goes on despite your illness. So in Full of Grace, protagonist Angela, who has made her living as a romance author thus far, begins writing the story of Grace, whose husband is having an affair. Again. (Luckily, that part I didn’t experience.) (:
How did you come up with the title?
The title, Full of Grace, is multi-layered. Angela becomes full of the character she is writing about, Grace. Also, the character Grace, is told she is full of Grace. There are different ways to interpret it.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
No, no specific messages. If the readers take anything from the book, I’m pleased! I think different things will resonate with different women.
How much of the book is realistic?
I think the book is quite realistic, being that it is a contemporary women’s fiction novel. I like to think I write about current societal issues.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
While there are no characters directly based on someone I know, I certainly drew from all the people I have known, including myself, who have had a struggle with cancer. I also wanted a story line where someone adored their grown children, as I do mine.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Readers can find out more about me on my website, Elizabethcrocket.com. (And I love when they comment!) I’m also active on facebook. Facebook.com/Elizabeth.crocket.7923
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
My next book, The Smell of Roses, is hopefully due out in the next year or so. It’s also women’s fiction with a strong romantic element. And so was my debut novel, A Path to the Lake.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I grew to love both of the protagonists (there are two) Angela and Grace, as the story unfolded. I enjoyed Angela’s sense of humour, and Grace’s kindness, in particular.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I do write in more than one genre. In particular, Japanese short form poetry, including haiku, haibun, photo-haiga and more. I had two chapbooks published by Red Moon Press, the largest publisher of Japanese short form poetry in the western world. There are many samples on my website.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I start with getting to know my characters really well. I have been surprised myself by where they take me sometimes!
What is your best marketing tip?
I’m not sure I have a “best”. But I do think it helps to try and build a network of support around you of people you trust and enjoy.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
I think in today’s market, a certain amount of social media marketing is a necessity.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
I am so blessed in that regard. My husband, my family, my dear friends and my writer friends are all enormously supportive.
Elizabeth is a women’s fiction author and poet living in Ontario, Canada. She has written three women’s fiction novels, all with a strong romantic element. A Path to the Lake debuted in April, 2018, and Full of Grace launched in January, 2019. The Smell of Roses is slated to be released the end of 2018 or early 2019. You can find out more about her at Elizabethcrocket.com https://elizabethcrocket.com/
Please welcome Phyllis – as you can see she is a prolific author!
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing energizes me. It’s all I really want to do. Once I sit down and start, I don’t want to stop. It’s what I think about when I’m doing other things. Characters talk to me while I’m moving the clothes from the washer to the dryer or unloading the dishwasher.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
My characters drive me. Once I have their name down on paper, these people and animals lead the way. Sometimes they do things I didn’t anticipate, and they are always right.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I briefly considered a pseudonym, but decided against it. My thoughts were, I wanted readers to know me personally and I didn’t think that would be possible if I didn’t use my name.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have virtual writer friends and a few mentors. Social media groups are the place I get the most assistance. I have found other writers to be a generous lot, willing to share their failures and expertise.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Currently I have a series of books that could stand alone, but they are based on the same coming of age of the main character, Sabine. The four book series follows her from age four, living in severe neglect with her mentally ill, alcoholic mother, to the age of sixteen. These were the first books I wrote. I only intended to write about Sabine as a child, but I couldn’t stop. I have five other stand alone novels, a pair of middle grade books, an anthology of short stories (a little spooky), and a non-fiction book on retirement. I have learned I am a story teller first and my stories are not always related, so I have no desire for my books to be tied to each other.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
First, I would say editing is the best money spent and second is the money I’ve spent on BookBub promotional deals. I say this because the BookBub deals have garnered reviews.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My paternal grandparents used to tell me stories and read to me. I remember picturing images from their words. I could literally see the fairies and beasts in their stories. I think that was my earliest experience, the knowledge I could see what they spoke.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I like historical fiction, and I think my favorite was Cleopatra, by Stacy Shiff. I could visualize the palaces, her clothing, the ships, everything described. It takes me back to the time and place.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A dog would be my spirit animal. All of my characters have pets. Many of them communicate with their pets. I think we all do that to a certain extent, but my very first character, Sabine, was psychic. Her dog, Auggie, was her only confidant. When Sabine missed human cues, Auggie could help her. For me, that was a metaphor of what we take for granted with animals every day.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
One book unfinished. I have a rough draft and a few rereads. I hope to get it to the editor in February to publish in late spring. I have a cover and the title is Birdie & Jude.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success for me would be people reading my books and enjoying the story. I hope readers can take away something they can apply to their own lives. I love it when readers say they feel like they know my characters or can identify with a place. When I hear that I know I did a good job.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Characters inspire my stories, so I get to know them first. If they take me to a time I’m not familiar with, I do some research on what appliances, vehicles, clothing, etc. were common. Often, the book is set in a time I’m familiar with. My novel, And the Day Came, was set in the 1930’s, so I read about the history of some of the families in the story. It is historical fiction based on the childhood of my mother-in-law. There were other books written about the family, so I took some time to read those. That was the most time consuming research I’ve done.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
I write most of the day and sometimes late into the night. I would say I write about 6 to 8 hours/day. Sometimes my time is blurred between writing and promotion. I spend a lot of time on the computer doing blogs, newsletters, submitting short stories, etc.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Selecting names is a challenge. I have to admit I gravitate toward short names, so I don’t have to type so many letters when I’m writing the story. One of my editors criticized a name choice once, but I refused to change it. The young girl’s name was Beatrice. She was a minor character. I live in south Texas. Growing up, I had many Latina friends. Some of my best friends were Veronica, Beatrice, Norma Linda, Mary Helen, etc. The book, The Bright Shawl, begins in San Antonio and ends in Galveston. It would have been perfectly normal for a female to be names Beatrice. However, if she had been the main character, I might have given her the nickname, Bea. I like Pinterest and pin many inspirations there for my books. I have a board for every book. If I’m looking for a name, I do a search on Pinterest. There are wonderful categories, Bohemian, Hollywood, Biblical, etc. Pinterest is a great source for names for humans and animals. I used Pinterest to name the horses in Secrets of Dunn House.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I had to think about this one. I think transition scenes where there is not much emotion or description. It’s hard to come up with a new way to describe the mundane. I don’t do romance, so that would probably be hard for me to write.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
My experience, my age, and my characters dictate my genre. I wrote first and then decided on the genre. I lean toward southern gothic, but the more I write, the more I think my books are generally Women’s Fiction. I’m aware I’m not the traditionally branded author where all of my books are linked by an atmosphere, font, cover, etc. They reflect me and the issues that concern me at the time. As I learn more, I try to do a better job of branding those things and one of these days I may have a more professional look. I have done some do-overs to tie things together. It does look better on the shelf. I’m a work in progress.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing all my life, but not stories or books. I didn’t start trying to market what I wrote until about six years ago.
What inspires you?
I like to people watch and I always find things to apply to my characters. This past August, we had a hurricane in Texas, Harvey. Some of the situations I watched on television and read about in the newspaper inspired the story in Birdie & Jude. I started thinking about people who get stranded due to unpredictable circumstances and meet other people they become attached to. It’s not a literal story, but a “what if” that I think about in those types of situations. I have been through a few hurricanes, so the details were easy for me to get in touch with. It’s interesting when I look back at other stories to see how much weather inspires me. My short story, Audrey and the Summer of Storms was inspired by spending summers in the Texas panhandle with my grandparents. They had to deal with tornadoes. There was a summer when I returned from several trips to the storm shelter in Quanah to my home near Corpus Christi to face Hurricane Carla. I can find inspiration in most anything. Houses, food, fabrics, animals, travel, illness. It’s never ending.
How do you find or make time to write?
I’m lucky because I’m old enough to be retired. Because I’m old, I have many life experiences to draw on and lots of time to think about them. My normal routine is to write most of the day after I’ve finished my few chores. During holidays, I get a little resentful that there are other demands on my time. Writing is my priority and I’m lucky to be able to do it most of the time.
What projects are you working on at the present?
My current project is Birdie & Jude. As I said it was inspired by Hurricane Harvey, but it’s also about the relationship that grows between two women from very different backgrounds. They connect because of their differences, but also because they have the same insecurities and desires. One rejects her family and social status, while the other longs for family and a stable home and friends. One is elderly and healthy as a horse and the other is young a medically fragile. However, as in real life, there is a spirit that unites them and it’s not what they might guess.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I would like to begin writing something to release around the holidays, 2018. I love a good holiday story. Opal’s Story, my best-selling novel. Culminates in a Thanksgiving celebration. Josephine’s Journals takes place during preparations for a holiday open house. I like to decorate using the accoutrements in my imagination. They are free, after all, and I can rummage around in someone else’s attic and polish the silver without getting my hands dirty. I can also order someone else to do it if I’m that character. I can be sweet, or a real “you know what”. It’s the most fun, like playing house and mud pies.
Phyllis is a retired social worker and former owner/operator of a small bed and breakfast. She’s lived in the rural areas and cities of south Texas. She currently lives on Galveston Island with her husband, Richard.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Writing energizes me unless it’s a really emotional scene and then I’m exhausted. Being a writer, being able to sit down and write each day, it fills my well. My husband knows when I haven’t found time to write…apparently, I tend to get slightly grumpy (lol).
What is your writing Kryptonite? This is a hard question to answer. Let me get back to you…(I’m afraid to admit to it because then it’ll be real, you know?)
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Absolutely. In fact, I’ve decided to create a pen name for a new series of books I’ll be writing and publishing starting this summer. But it won’t be a secret – I’ll be writing under J.M. Jack.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I have a community of writers that are near and dear to my heart. There’s a group of four that get together once a month and chat almost daily. Then I have a large online group that I meet up with every conference I can attend. The community of writers is amazing and I’m so glad to have a large group of peers I can call friends.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? I prefer to write standalones but I have written a few series. I find them harder to write – probably because when I began them, they weren’t series in my head.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Signing up for classes with Margie Lawson. She has changed my writing! As well as purchasing Scrivener and Vellum.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? House by Ted Dekker.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? A black sheep!
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Probably around 5 that will never see the light of day.
What does literary success look like to you? Having a vast readership where people can name me as one of their favourite authors.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? I tend to research as I’m writing. It can be in the form of reading articles, calling professionals…whatever is needed.
How many hours a day/week do you write? I write a minimum of 1000 words a day. Some days I can get those words in 2 hrs, some days it takes me 8 hours. I write 5 days a week. I take one day off on the weekend and then plot on the other day.
13. How do you select the names of your characters? I always ask my readers for names…they are the best resource I have!
14. What was your hardest scene to write? Every book has a hard scene to write. In The Forgotten Ones, it was when someone died. I bawled so hard I ended up with a massive headache.
15. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? I write what I love to read and what I’m passionate about. I tend to focus on one book at a time so that it gets my full attention.
16. long have you been writing? Full time, since 2010. But I began back in 2005.
17. What inspires you? My family, my faith and my readers.
18. How do you find or make time to write? It’s not a matter of finding time to write, it’s deciding that writing is important to me and so I will write. If anything is important it will become a part of your lifestyle.
19. What projects are you working on at the present? I am working on my upcoming novel that will be out with my publisher in 2019.
20. What do your plans for future projects include? I have a new series that I’ll be publishing beginning this summer that I’m really excited about. It’s about a woman who helps to rescue abused women from cults.
21. Share a link to your author website. steenaholmes.com – I have a free book readers can download if they join my newsletter.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Both. To not write, dismays and distracts me. Writing is like lancing a wound. It’s painful but with writing, comes release. And relief! I often worry there’s no story there at all, so once I realize there is, I feel a great deal of relief!
What is your writing Kryptonite? I use too many he said, she said’s. I also have to completely rewrite every single thing I write, at least three times. It would be so much easier if I could just get it right the first (or second!) time. But then again, most of writing is rewriting anyway, isn’t that so? And when you sculpt a sentence or an image, it’s wonderfully satisfying! Sometimes I’ll read a first draft of a thing and think that it’s utterly awful writing – who on earth can even write that badly? But at that time, the only thing was to get the story down and I always say that – just get the story down, you can fix the writing later. If I edited as I went along, I’d get nothing done.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Actually yes! I am thinking of branching out into some really weird noir and I’m considering these names: Kingston Lee, Mansel Williams, Lee Digby, Lee Hunt.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? Terri Favro, Carole Giangrande, Brenda Clews, Catherine Graham, Grace O’ Connell, all my pals at the Mesdames of Mayhem, D.J. McIntosh and Dawn Promislow are just a few. I love their work so much – their direct, beautiful prose, their descriptions. And I am blessed to be part of a very strong writing community, so that list is really very brief, there are many more names. We are all, across Canada, linked in our love of literature and I find the Canadian literary community to be extremely supportive and encouraging. I know that if I hadn’t come to Canada, the chances of me publishing a book would have been very slender because it was within this community that I learned how to write. And there are SO many fantastic Canadian authors and poets! It’s astounding, really, what a nation of literati we are. And, kind, lovely people!
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? They are all definitely standalones! I would be very open to writing books with connections but it doesn’t seem to happen! I just write what I am told to write!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Going to workshops. I love workshops and conferences. Also, buying books about writing and self-editing.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? Wow, this is tough one! I can’t say for sure. I remember being part of the debating team at school and it was fascinating to me then, how language is actually a tool of persuasion. I’m sorry to not have a better answer for you.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? The Book of Stolen Tales by D.J. McIntosh. It’s such a masterful, gripping read, filled with fascinating folklore.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? It changes a lot! I find there is usually one per book. The owl was very strong for a long time. Then the snake. Right now I would say it’s the wolf.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? I have a whole cupboard of them! They include God’s Day Off, The Fables of Foxtrot Four, The Savage Chardonnay Society and a collection of short stories called Cannibals of the Afterlife. None of them is worth a damn and I really want to have a lovely big bonfire and watch them all go up in smoke. I feel like that would be cleansing and cathartic. I wanted to do it last summer but the opportunity never arose. Although, some stories in Cannibals of the Afterlife are fairly recent and have some potential. So I wouldn’t burn those just yet!
What does literary success look like to you? I feel happy and fulfilled when people enjoy my work. My books aren’t always to everyone’s tastes and I understand that so when a new reader gives you a four or five star rating on Goodreads, then I am happy! I think that No Fury Like That is enjoying a lot of literary success which I wasn’t expecting – I thought readers would hate Julia Redner but they really seem to like her! So that’s a huge win!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? That depends on the book. Rotten Peaches is my next book, for 2018 and I did a lot of research on trade fairs, the toxic ingredients that go into cosmetics and also, the history of the Afrikaner in South Africa. I worked out a calendar of trade show events before I began the story, so I would have an accurate timeline for the book. For my 2019 book, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution, I did a huge amount of research on treatment and methodology in psychiatric institutions in the 50’s and 60’s (very scary stuff) and I read a lot about tarot, casting spells and the like. That was how I discovered the The Occult Shop on Bathurst. Also, you can find a lot of gems about that kind of subject matter in used book shops. I also researched the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a great amount of detail as that is featured in the book too. Sometimes I will write the story and then flesh out the facts later, when I don’t want to lose the momentum of the real writing. The facts can always be tidied up later – something I rue when I get to it! Why didn’t I just look this up at the time? Well, because you were too busy writing! There’s a lot of constant internal dialogue in my head about my writing, the process as well as the stories.
How many hours a day/week do you write? I write every day. At least two hours a day, usually a lot more on weekends.
How do you select the names of your characters? I find it tough! I study movie credits constantly, or names I see in newspapers. I think about people I have met, and do I have any connotations with that name? I prefer a name to not have any connotations at all but just fit the character. I often change the names a few times but Julia Redner was always Julia Redner. The main character names seem to come easier than the secondary ones. The secondary names are perhaps even more important than the protagonists because the names need to bring a volume of information and meaning and description, meanwhile you can take the time to actually describe the protagonist.
What was your hardest scene to write? Banishing the evil spirit in The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution was very tough. As I was writing the scene, I noticed a series of blisters pop up on the inside of my wrist, in the shape of a serpent and I felt quite terrified. Later I realized that I had shingles. I told my husband it was the demon spirit and he said no, it was obviously a hard scene to write and it made it physically clear! In No Fury Like That, it was hard to write the final revenge scene – Julia went to great extremes to exact he revenge and I was concerned it was too much but people have likened it to Kill Bill which I thought was a great compliment! I think I need to work on having more tough scenes to write, it’s a good workout for the brain!
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? I started off writing literary fiction but then I wanted to write more of a plotted book. Characterization comes fairly easily to me but plotting is much harder. I love reading crime novels and wondering how they came up with such intricate plots. So I set myself the challenge of writing novels with more layers of plot. I love imagining what could happen next and then, the domino effect that would have and how the characters will interact down the line. My novels have been called cross-genre or genre-bending, so I guess they just are what they are!
How long have you been writing? I feel like I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been reading and I was a very early reader. Ever since I read Enid Blyton (I devoured her books), I tried to imagine myself coming up with stories like that. The Magic Faraway Tree was one of the first books I wish I had written!
What inspires you? Everything. Street art. Graffiti. Other people’s trash. I was recently on holiday in Auckland, New Zealand and I had a fine old time of it, rooting through the trash. I know, that sounds unhygienic and disgusting (and I do get some odd looks) but there are so many stories in what other people throw out. People on the subway or bus inspire me. Fashion inspires me. It’s ridiculous and extremely beautiful. People’s conversations inspire me. Movies, books, poetry, patterns in the clouds, stories in magazines or newspapers (I have cuttings from all over the world, snippets of things that could turn an idea into a character. Travel definitely inspires me.
How do you find or make time to write? I am neglectful of cleaning the house, I eat the same food day after day (quite happily). I wear the same style of clothes. I minimize wasting time on a thing when I could be writing or planning a story. I put writing before meeting friends for a coffee, I shamefully neglect my husband (who thankfully is a sports fan and has his own photographic interests and doesn’t seem to mind!) I am distracted a lot, by whatever story is in my head. I limit my time on social media and miss a lot of what’s going on. I get behind on current affairs and things that are going on in the real world.
What projects are you working on at the present? I am working on self-edits for Rotten Peaches. Those need to be completed by the end of January. Then I want to work on a new idea for a novel that came to me on my trip, Boomerang Beach. I wrote a hundred or so page longhand and I need to input them and see if there is anything there, and then I need to do a completely new second draft of another novel called The WeeGee Doll, after receiving great feedback from a writer friend of mine. Then I have a few short stories I want to sculpt.
What do your plans for future projects include? As you can tell from the answers to 20, there is a lot on the go! And then there is always the promotion of the current book. I have a blog tour for planned for No Fury Like That for all of Feb, with Partners in Crime and I hope your readers will find it to be of interest.
Share a link to your author website. I’d like to share the blog tour link if that’s okay? The blog tour hosts and I have quite the lineup planned! And let me take a moment to thank you for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog today. You and I go way back Dear Mandy, and it is with great joy that I celebrate your many writing successes with you.