Monday, October 28, 2013

"Becoming Josephine" for Heather Webb was That and Much More!

I have been drawn to reading historical fiction of late and when I saw that Heather Webb, a member of the WRITER UNBOXED group I belong to, mentioned her debut novel was coming out December 31 about Josephine Bonaparte, I wanted to interview Heather and find out more about the process of "Becoming Published." In addition, I visited the Palace of Versailles in 2010 and curious about the the woman I saw in the huge mural. 

Would you agree it takes a lot of courage to write a novel?  How so for you with your first novel?  Absolutely! It takes courage to face that blank page every day, to have enough faith in yourself to keep going despite rejections, to keep learning and growing. I found it difficult to take the head nods and tight smiles that would come when I told friends and relatives I'm writing a book. "Good for you, Heather. Why not? You're not teaching right now. May as well have some fun." Yet I was BURNING inside. I'm the kind of girl who is all in or NOTHING. So yes, courage to face the doubts. Let's not forget all the gumption it takes to face an industry packed with incredibly brilliant, talented people. Once again, courage, and lots of it.

What was the publishing process like for you? I can't complain! I suffered through rejections like anyone else, but ultimately, I only went on THE GREAT AGENT SEARCH twice. I met Michelle at a conference, she loved my pages, and we had an instant connection. After I signed with her, I spent about six weeks revising and then we went out on submission. The book sold in 5-6 weeks. It was quite a whirlwind. 

What was it like making a historical figure come alive again in your novel?  Josephine's voice was REALLY LOUD in my head. She would wake me up at night to tell me things. On days I wasn't feeling it, I would read Napoleon's letters to her, play my favorite classical station on Pandora, or look through my gallery of photos of Josephine's favorite haunts. 
  I think part of the reason I could hear Josephine so loudly was that I could identify with her on some level. I moved a lot as a military brat, so I understood Josephine's need to adapt and how she must reinvent herself to belong. My family was very close, as we had to start over and over again, and we were all we had. Also, I could relate to Josephine's sense of caring for her people, something I do utterly for my tribe. I'm fiercely protective of and loyal to my circle of loved ones and friends. At the end of the day, they are what matter and I believe Josephine felt the same way. 

In terms of writing about a prominent historical figure, I had history books with me constantly. There are a few I reread at least five times. Though after allowing the factual information soak into my brain, I went with my own interpretation of Josephine. I stressed the different facets of her personality--her faults and her strengths--not just her goodness, not just her spendthrift behavior or highly sexualized nature, but those traits that made her unique in a time packed with famous personalities.

What are your hopes for readers of Becoming Josephine to come away with? Above all, I hope my novel inspires readers to want to know more about Josephine, the times in which she lived, and the people in her life. And I'd love for them to just enjoy her story! It was a real doozy.  

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

Twitter: @msheatherwebb

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Get Into Character!

WOW, I hadn't realized how long it's been since I last posted here. I haven't been neglecting my writing projects, only my blog it seems. As you well know, especially if your novel is character-driven (which mine is), your characters need to be real to the reader and to the story.  

Actors are told to "Get into Character" in order to successfully portray one on stage, in a movie, or on TV.  Even a re-enactor must get into character to make history come alive for those  wanting a sense of what it was like during that period of history.

Same for writers, characters need to be believable, fleshed out, and have a distinct voice.  So as writers, we too have to "Get into Character" in order to successfully bring our characters and our stories to life! A flat character will have readers lose interest fast.

It's about understanding your characters and tapping into who they are and what they want. When I get stuck or sense my story isn't going in the right direction, I consult my main character and ask what is it that she really wants or what she is looking for.

Many writers do character sketches to help render their characters fully like a painter sketching out his portrait first then adding layer upon layer of color until it takes shape.    

So take a deep breath before you write and get into your character and see what happens ... 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Waiting for Approval

It didn’t dawn on me until a few months ago how much waiting I used to do for permission to write.  I wanted to hear the words, “Yes, Susan Girolami Kramer, you really can write and should write.” Then I just stopped waiting to hear these words and wrote, listening more closely to the writer within.  So these days I don’t have a problem saying I am a writer. 

This isn’t to say I won’t look for approval/permission now and again, always some of that left.  Sound familiar?  I’m sharing my experience not because it is anything new, but to hopefully help someone break their “Waiting to write” habit.

Yes, it is a form of stalling.  I used to be part of several writing groups, biting my nails, waiting for someone to crown me WRITER. I remember telling one of my writing groups that I wouldn’t attempt long prose like a novel.  After all, I hadn’t gotten the green light to write longer pieces, so I attempted poetry instead.  Found out poetry is way more difficult to write!! (I still had some of my poetry published.)

This very topic was in an email newsletter—diyMFA Writer Fuel—I received from Gabriela Pereira (go to to visit Gabriela’s brain-child to “take your writing education into your own hands”), Creative Director of diyMFA.  The headline read, “How do you know if you’re a writer?” 

Gabriela says, “Stop waiting for agents/editors/publishers/etc. to vet you as a writer.”  This is such a great quote I may have to place it somewhere to see it all the time.  She said it “boils down to a simple equation:  BEING A WRITER = GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION = DOING THE WORK.”  

So no more waiting, give yourself your own STAMP OF APPROVAL. No more looking around your critique group and hanging onto crumbs of approval that may fall to the floor.  It’s like with anything else, it is in your hands.  You write, you write.  You don’t, you don’t. I sure hope you do though …     

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Resolve to Keep Going

I apologize I haven't posted here since November.  And I won't waste time with excuses. Just know I have been writing and revamping my novel!

January 2013 will be on its way out shortly. For most, the New Year is a time for assessing their lives and looking at what they wish to change from the previous year. The diet and gym membership ads are plentiful and remind us of our abandoned resolutions; that we still need to lose that 20 pounds or maybe it's 30 by now.  

"Once in Blue Moon," you say in regards to actually keeping one of your 20 resolutions. Writing resolutions are no different.  

I witnessed the blue moon we had this past December and marveled at it. So too can we as writers and artists believe and keep striving at our work, even when we failed to keep certain writing goals or resolutions. Blue moons do occur after all.

Of course we keep our focus on our writing ever in view, no matter how distant it seems from accomplishing. I really didn't make any writing resolutions at the start of this year.  I only continue where I left off and trust that I will make some real headway this 2013.

Most resolutions made are way too many to do in one year; set so high you'd have to grow longer arms to reach; or sold at yard sales [exercise bikes or treadmills]. Just grab that pen or computer and start writing what has been swirling around in your head.  Yes, I know about the ideas that just won't take NO for an answer.  Resolve to let go of resolutions and see what happens!