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How long did it take to right the story? From the day you came up with the idea to the very last day of writing.
Weekend Agreement took a rather long and winding road to completion. The very first draft was written in 2004! It then when through multiple rewrites and revisions over the years. (In between rejection.) In 2007, the story won the Golden Heart but never saw publication. I never forgot it, and in early 2012 decided to give it one more set of revisions. The result is what you’re reading today. So long answer, eight years. Shorter, more accurate answer – five revision passes.
Tell us about your latest release.
Weekend Agreement is a story that is very close to my heart. Plot-wise, it’s about Charlotte Doherty, who, in order to save a family farm, agrees to spend a weekend on Nantucket Island with billionaire businessman Daniel Moretti. However, I like to think Weekend Agreement is really a romance between two people, both of whom are weighed down by baggage from the past. What starts out as an weekend business arrangement – albeit a highly unusual one – quickly becomes complicated when they both realize how wrong their first impressions were. Problem is, can they get over their own insecurities long enough to let love in?
What made you want to write?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. My earliest writing memory is being eight years old and my friend Kim telling me she was writing a book. I decided I wanted to write one too, so I created The Adventures of Ginger the Cat. From that day forward, I was hooked. I spent much of my childhood with a pen and notebook creating stories.
What authors do you enjoy reading in your downtime?
I love a variety of authors. I’m a huge Barbara Hannay fan. I’ll read anything she writes. Likewise Deborah Smith. Jane Porter, Liz Fielding, Lisa Gardner – all favorites. Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury mysteries are also something I’ll grab in a heartbeat. I have a deep love for her sidekick, Melrose Plant. I also love nonfiction. (I’m an admitted self-help and psychology junkie.)
How important is the beginning chapter – the opening – the first few lines?
Extremely important. I have been known to write the first fifty pages three, four, five times before I get the exact right feel for a story. I’m one of those writers who can’t move forward until I know my characters inside and out. That first chapter plays a major role in developing their personalities.
As a reader, the first chapter is important to me as well. I want to be pulled into a story right away, without a huge back dump of information or back story. Otherwise, I tend to lose patience. As a writer, I try to remember that as well, and make sure the reader isn’t stuck wading through a lot of information that could be better woven into later chapters.
In what order do you write?
I have to write linearly. Like I said, those first three chapters are vital to me as I get to know my characters. Because I focus so strongly on their goals and motivations, I sort of have to let them lead me through the story. If I write out of order, I find I end up ‘forcing’ the plot rather than letting it unfold naturally. I’m actually very jealous of those authors who can write out of order – they are often much better plotters than I am. J
You are called upon, at a school, to tell those interested in becoming an author, all the ins and outs of good writing skills and getting published. What are the three important elements in writing, publishing and promoting that you would give them
Great question! My first piece of advice would be to never stop writing. I was just mentioning the other day that, according to Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, excellence can’t be achieved until you’ve put in at least 10,000 at a task. No matter how much raw talent you have, you can’t grow as a writer unless you work at it – and every writer needs to grow. No one, not even Nora Roberts, knows everything. (OK, Nora might know everything.) So never stop writing and improving your craft. This includes writing even on those days when you don’t feel like it. Don’t wait for the muse to strike – because she will be fickle and she will desert you.
Second, I would remind students not to compare their journey to anyone else’s. In this world of heavy promotion and social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone is doing better than you. You start wondering why you’re not getting the contract or finaling in a contest or making the USA Today list. Truth is, like snowflakes, no two writers are the same. Nor are their journeys. And to compare yourself isn’t fair. Not to you or the other writers. The best thing any writer can do is stay true to themselves and their writing. Don’t worry about anyone else. Just keep writing.
I guess that last line would also be my third piece of advice. Stay true to yourself. We can get too caught up in trends, in marketing, in whatever – and the truth is, the best ingredient for success is authenticity. This applies to your writing and to your marketing. Be real. Oh, and did I mention to never stop writing.
Do you plot out each chapter? Or are you a seat of the pants writer?
I so envy plotters. They are organized storytellers. I envy pantsers as well because they can so frequently shut off their internal editor and churn out pages. I am neither. My friend, author Katy Cooper, coined the phrase plodder. That is me. I am a plodder. I plot out my story one little section at a time. Sort of like carving a tunnel, but with a very small spoon.
Do you listen to music while you write? Is for what are your favorite artists or albums.
I don’t listen to music often – mainly because the lyrics drown out my characters’ voices. I tend to need silence to write. When I hear lyrics, I tend to visualize the story the song is trying to paint. (Curse you, songwriters!) However, if I do want music, I turn to classical. I played clarinet for close to a decade so I’ve come to enjoy a good symphony. I have a favorite online radio station – ClassicFM.com It’s out of England, but it has a terrific playlist.
I just realized that answer makes me sound like a horrible music snob. Truth is, I am a sports radio nut. If the radio is on in my house, it’s because I’m listening to them dissect the Boston Red Sox.
Out of all your characters, which one do you identify the most with and why?
Another good question. Can I choose the cop-out answer and say there’s a little bit of me in all of them? Seriously, I tend to create characters who mirror some of the issues I’m working on in my own life at the time. For example, the mother of a teenager or even Daniel Moretti’s feelings of being an outsider. All my books tend to have a central theme, which is learning to trust and allowing yourself to be loved. I suppose that’s because being loved for oneself matters so very much to me.
Do you have a book that you just cringe? If so which one is it and why?
Why? Are you going to track it down? The answer is yes, two. One is a book under my bed called the Garden Prince. I had a great premise involving a hero under house arrest, but I couldn’t pull it off. It might someday return. The other is a book I published with Neighborhood Press called Harry’s Return. It was my attempt at short romantic suspense. I hope Harry never shows his face again.
What are your writing goals for the future?
I’m currently working on another short contemporary about a long-lost heiress. It’s sort of Anastasia meets My Fair Lady. Soon as I finish that, I’m diving right back into another story. I’m hoping to become a better known, more popular writer. The only way I can meet that goal is by creating what I hope are stories readers enjoy.
Weekend Agreement by Barbara Wallace