Angie Dickerson is the author of women’s fiction and her debut novel, Friends at Forty, is the first in the Friends series with book two underway titled Friends at Sea. She is new to self-publishing and was previously a literature and creative writing teacher for fifteen years. Angie decided to risk it all and retire early to make her writing dreams a reality. She is, like her main character, a misunderstood forty-something wife and mother of three who has recently been demoted to the role of empty nester. Her novels are for anyone who’s ever felt lost and had the need to find their way again. She currently lives in a gorgeous, over-priced unit overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Newport Beach, California with her critic, editor, website designer and cheerleader-husband of twenty-two years. Is your recent book part of a series?

Time to chat with Angie!

My debut novel, Friends at Forty, is the first in the Friends series. It starts with a marriage in trouble after they inherit the painful role of empty nesters. The series is not to be confused with a trilogy. I have designed it so each book stands on its own without the need to read them chronologically. These will be the misadventures of married life, family ups and downs and much more. I am currently 40% through book 2 in the series titled, Friends at Sea. In this second book, Samantha and Daniel pack their marriage troubles and head for the high seas. The entire book takes place on a luxury cruise ship and has exciting ports-of-call adventures, as the couple continues their journey.

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What are the special challenges in writing a series?

The worst part about writing a series, at least at a fast pace and without the perks of an agent, professional agent or publisher, is that I have had very little feedback from the first book from readers. I am lucky to have a couple of wonderful book clubs reading my novel right now, but as I continue to wrap things up with book 2 I have to be confident that what I am delivering is what readers expect and will want to see from the next evolution for these two complex forty-somethings. But who knows? Maybe it’s all for the best that I don’t have lots of feedback. In that way I can just write the story the way I see it developing.


How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

The women’s fiction/chick lit genre absolutely choose me. I have many YA dystopian novels outlined and ready to go but this inexplicable attraction to flawed characters and marriage misadventures has a grip on me. I’m probably going to have to get countless of these women’s fiction novels out of my system before I even consider exploring other genres.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Every single character I create is autobiographical: based on someone I know well, someone I somewhat know, colleagues from my fourteen years in education, or my husband. The main characters are all mostly me: me on a bad day; me on a great day; me on my crazy; me at my best. The many faces of me.

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

“If our love life was a dishwasher, we could fix it!”

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I must always write scenes in order otherwise I make a mess. I am horrible about continuity. My girl may be wearing a red cocktail dress and drinking a Margarita at the beginning of a scene and seconds later the drink magically morphed into a beer and she’s adjusting her jeans. Ouch! Yeah, no, I could never write out of sequence.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Absolutely. I always outline. I had a creative writing professor who suggested that outlining can suck the creativity out of the narrative but I find without one my story meanders with little to objective or goal. I must know the main story arch. Now, once I start mashing those keys and scenes develop, “all is fair in love and war.” I don’t expect I’ll ever stop being surprised at the end of writing every chapter. They absolutely take on a life of their own while at the same time adhering to the big ideas, themes and story ending.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

Thanks to my loving, supportive and ever-present husband/in-house editor, I managed to finish my debut novel April 2016. I know where it to me I would still be editing and revising and editing over and over and over. Yikes! I also need to thank the wise words of Stephen King when he encourages beginning authors to just keep writing through “the crap” (I am paraphrasing here in other to keep this interview PG-13). Thank Mr. King!

AngieHave you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you?

Yes. I think every author does at some point. Mine came with every rejection notice I received from countless agents about how my main character was just not likeable. Apparently, Samantha Blake is the forty-something, mother, wife and empty nester you’ll love to hate. I think if you are bothered by Sam, I have done my job because, honestly, we are all so very annoying, aren’t we? One recent review said: The main character was annoying and loveable all at the same time.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

Night owl. My brain doesn’t function properly until after 6 PM. I need tons and tons of coffee, sugary snacks (lemon bars are a recent favorite) & music!

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I would say: To save an author, readers must write reviews. On Amazon and Kindle. On Barnes & Noble. On the author’s web page. On and similar blogger sites. On their Facebook page and other social media venues. Anywhere and everywhere the novel is listed. Review! Review! Review please!

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

At first, I was quite apprehensive and skeptical. But I read many expert articles suggesting any self-respecting author must be on Twitter, have a Facebook page, a professional-looking author website and be ever present on social media so I followed their advice. I can’t say enough great things about my experience with Twitter and the like. I was carefully to only “Follow” like-minded people who shared my passion for books and authors. This community has become an incredible asset for marketing. But the best thing isn’t what I get out of it but the great feeling you get when you can retweet another author’s work or novel and promote them. I always start my SM day by posting a reminder of the Twitter Author Challenge to promote three authors before you post—I’ve done it everyday and have quite a few “followers” turned “partners-in-crime” as we all help promote each other. The best of those examples is you featuring little-old-me on your site through this wonderful interview opportunity.


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Linda Abbott’s love for Sanibel Island shines through her debut novel, Ten Days in Paradise. Though she worked for many years as a professional writer—first as an award-winning journalist and then in public relations—Linda is a late bloomer to fiction. She found the muse while vacationing on Sanibel, where she wrote the opening chapters of her novel. Linda’s writing career took another turn when she founded Never Forget Legacies & Tributes to write life story books for individuals and families. She feels blessed to have two new careers and can’t wait to get started on her next novel. A Chicago native, she lives in Middleton, Wisconsin with her husband.

Time to chat with Linda!

Tell me about your book.

Ten Days In Paradise is a compelling and heartfelt family drama set on beautiful Sanibel Island.

The book opens with the Blakemore family arriving on Sanibel to celebrate their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. The mom, Judy, is worried about her husband’s strange behavior and inexplicable memory lapses. Her daughters Julia and Maggie haven’t spoken for months. Her son David, married with three young children, is ambushed by a powerful attraction to another woman.

And that’s just the beginning …

10_Days_ParadiseYou call yourself a late bloomer to fiction, can you explain?

I never even thought about writing a novel until well after my fortieth birthday. I grew up wanting to be Lois Lane (for those of you who remember Superman), not an author.

Looking back, about fifteen years ago someone asked me a fairly innocuous question that literally changed the direction of my life: “Have you read any good books lately?” At the time, all I read were newspapers and magazines like Time, Newsweek and Vanity Fair. Somehow I’d fallen out of the habit of reading fiction even though I’d spent my childhood devouring Nancy Drew. So I went to the library and checked out a great mystery by Elizabeth George.

I fell in love with books again. And at some point I started thinking about the process of writing the terrific books I was reading and was in awe. Though I had spent my career working as a writer – first in journalism and then in public relations – I was convinced that I could never write fiction. The idea of creating characters, dialogue and describing the sunset with colors that no one has ever heard was just too daunting. Plus my last creative writing class was more than thirty years ago, case closed.

But the challenge intrigued me. I bought a “how-to” book, it ended up in the closet for about a year because my job was very demanding. But the book did get tossed into my suitcase one year when I took a vacation to Sanibel Island.

I love the island, and it wasn’t until Day Four when I dragged myself in from the beach. I opened the book and did a simple writing exercise to create a scene. Much to my amazement, three hours later I had written fiction! I had characters, dialogue and a beautiful island setting. Little did I know that I had written what was to become the first chapter of my novel … and that I would spend the next ten years finishing it.

What are some of the lessons from your writing and publishing journey?

So many … here are a few of the most important ones.

Follow the dream in your heart even when you don’t know where it is taking you. If I had invested the time I put into writing and publishing my debut novel, I could have 1. started a small business; 2. finished a doctorate; 3. raised another child. But for some unknown reason, once I started my novel, I just kept going, as if some unseen hand were moving me forward. Unlike many authors, I never thought I had this amazing story to share with the world, I just wanted to finish what I’d started. There were periods of time I didn’t work on it for months, but then I got back to it again and again and again.

Challenges keep us vibrant and alive. I learned about writing, how to pitch agents, how a cover can make or break a book. I took classes in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop (which to me seems as complicated as flying a small airplane). I learned when things in my life weren’t going well I could get lost in my writing, plotting chapter after chapter, editing and revising, trying to get it right. I learned about the thrill of doing research and finding some detail that enlivened a character or scene or gave my words greater authority and credibility. I learned that your first bad review can be brutal and when you find a champion for your book – someone who encourages you well beyond what you’d ever expect – you thank the good Lord for sending them.

Fear is a dream killer. A year ago I was still on the fence about publishing because of fear – fear of failure, fear that that my novel wasn’t good enough, fear of rejection. I had the market cornered on fear : ) But I’m not alone. On my computer is a post-it with this quote: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is my mantra. When I do signings and presentations, my goal is to inspire people, we are all so much more capable than we imagine.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

Giving voice to the characters was the most enjoyable. I wrote Ten Days In Paradise using multiple viewpoints, which I’m sure I learned through osmosis reading Elizabeth George, my favorite author. She writes mysteries that read like literature, and has a gift for creating the most compelling and intriguing characters.

What was really surprising is that this seemed like the most natural thing in the world. So I became Liz, a feisty 76-year-old widow; David, who can’t stop thinking about Ellen;

Ellen, who falls for David just as hard; and Maggie, a hard-partying gay prodigal daughter.

The hardest part was plotting and deciding what was going to happen next. There was a pivotal moment in the book about David and Ellen’s relationship that took me months to decide which way it would go.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

While writing I had only a vague idea of my ending … so I’d have to say no. I didn’t even use an outline and that will never happen again! And although I think it’s important to have a general idea of where you’re heading, it’s also good to leave the door open because the writing process can take you places you never intended.

Early on, I gave my book the working title Ten Days In Paradise. Wasn’t convinced it was the one. One agent loved it, and over time it grew on me. Today I think it is the perfect title.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Perseverance is the key. You have to write on good days and bad days and stay focused on the finish line no matter how long it takes! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have a novel in the drawer they’ve been working on for years.

Really important: Build your social media platform long before publishing and if you’re an indie author, hire a professional editor. No matter what you think you cannot edit your own book. Make sure your book and cover is exceptional. Join a local writer’s group and get feedback from potential readers before publishing.

I saw a great quote on Twitter the other day. Professional writers are amateurs who didn’t quit.

If you are considering going the indie route, understand two things: There’s never been a better time to be an indie author and it takes a tremendous amount of work.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

Not a huge amount but I did online research on Indigo children and was delighted to find this New Age concept because it fit perfectly with my character Marianne and how she views her four-year-old daughter Emma. I also researched Alzheimer’s to make sure I was on the right track with the symptoms George was experiencing. On the topic of Sanibel Island, I have been doing that “research” for more than ten years of vacations. I also did research on the names of shells, shorebirds and shrubbery found on the island.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I am blessed with two writing careers I love. My ‘day job’ is helping families capture and preserve their memories and family stories in heirloom-quality legacy books. I started Never Forget Legacies & Tributes two years ago after running my own PR firm for fifteen years. I love this work, it is my passion. I used to write news releases that ‘lived’ for a day or two, the books I do for families will hopefully be read thirty to fifty years from now.

What have you done to market your novel and what did you find the most effective? The least effective?

Most effective: I started my Twitter account four months after I published, and have found it a fantastic platform for book promotion. I have a link that I exclusively use on Twitter, it has gotten more than 2,000 hits in six months and sales increased especially over summer.

I’ve used several paid book promotion sites such as kboards, EReaderNews, Digital Book Today, the New Kindle Book Review, Ignite Your Book and others. They’ve all been effective to varying degrees, with the winner being EReader News for the demographic of my novel, which is women ages 35 and older.

Least effective: A few of the paid promotion sites have been a little disappointing, you really need to find the best fit for your book and be careful where you spend your money. I’ve spend a lot of time vetting these sites and this is an ongoing process.

Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?

I did in the beginning. I ran Kindle Giveaways in my first two 90-day periods with KDP Select. I didn’t realize until later that it was a Giveaway or Kindle Countdown Deal, not both! I think I gave away about 2,500 books and it did really help to build sales.

With the exception of Goodreads, which is really a different approach, I’m not doing anymore giveaways. For one thing, I want to be paid. I can understand giving a book away if you have others for a reader to buy, but I don’t. For another, I’m in the camp of authors who think giveaways can result in not connecting with your target reader (and potentially bad reviews). Right now, I’m still in KDP Select and I’d rather opt for the Kindle Countdown Deal which allows me to retain a 70% royalty for my book when it is priced at or below $2.99.

Have you found the Kindle Direct Program to be worthwhile?

I think KDP Select is a terrific program.   I initially went in thinking I’d opt out after the first or second period, I’m in my third renewal with no plan to opt out yet. The Kindle Unlimited program accounts for roughly 30% of my royalties, and the expansion of the fund from $3 million to $11 million resulted in a substantial increase in my royalties for July and August.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

A cover can be a game-changer, it’s so important.

I designed my own cover. But as I mentioned I did take classes in Adobe Photoshop and InDesign so I could create a professional-looking cover. I spent two weekends looking at hundreds of images to find the perfect photo. But the time was well spent. The booksellers on Sanibel Island tell me my cover sells my book. (Which after spending so many years writing is quite the irony.)

My first cover, prior to publishing on Amazon, screamed “self-published” but I didn’t realize it right away. Thank goodness I came to my senses.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I think authors need to educate readers on the importance of reviews. I explain this whenever I get the opportunity. (Before I wrote my novel, I never even thought about writing a review for a book.)

We also need to let people know it’s easy, it doesn’t have to be long and we’re not looking for the kind of review you’d read in a magazine. Getting reviews is really hard, I spent the entire month of February pitching dozens of bloggers and Amazon reviewers. I am really proud of the fact I have 90 reviews but never in a million years did I think it would require so much effort.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

I still read them with one hand over my eyes, does that answer your question : )

Getting a bad review is tough, but when it happens you can’t just focus on that one and forget about all of the good ones. I recently read a terrific blog post by an author who wrote about his favorite bad reviews. One was “Too many words.” I couldn’t stop laughing, and yes, if you’re an author it helps to have a sense of humor.

And when that less-than-stellar reviews rolls in, remember, no two people read the same book.

On the other hand, a few weeks ago I received one of, if not the best, review I’ve ever gotten from Julia Grantham, author of Smitten. Everything I tried to convey in my novel was understood and appreciated. I’m still on Cloud 9. Being an author means you’re getting on a roller coaster, know it and try to enjoy the ride!

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in Middleton, Wisconsin with my husband Paul. I love where we live, but my dream is to find a way to spend the winters on Sanibel Island, which is located off the Gulf Coast of Florida.

I fell in love with Sanibel about fifteen years ago, it is such a special place for me. Walking on the beach, listening to the surf, watching shorebirds dance at the water’s edge, never fails to renew my spirits and belief in all that is possible, and this novel is proof of that.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Not planes I am a terrible flyer and a world-class claustrophobic. I am the woman in the airport swallowing pills 45 minutes before departure time.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

People who are warm, kind, caring and loyal.

Care to brag about your family?

I am blessed with a husband I love, we’ve been married for 34 years this month. (Oh that makes me feel so old!) Our son Charlie is a talented singer/songwriter and musician in Nashville. We’re a ten-hour drive away so we miss him, but want more than anything to see him achieve his dream to perform on a big stage some day.

What kind of movies do you like to watch?

I am a huge fan of classic cinema and film noir. I adore Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and so many others. My favorite movies not in order from that era are All About Eve, Double Indemnity, Laura, The Philadelphia Story and Casablanca. And any movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!

I hate to sound like my grandmother but they just don’t make movies like that anymore. The acting, dialogue, stories – the extraordinary talent of these actors and actresses who could often sing, dance and act – is a joy to behold. Love the history you can glean from a movie made in 1932. And the most amazing thing is how brazen some of those characters and story lines were. Conniving tarts, unfaithful husbands, boozing, brawling young people – what has changed?

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Love one another. Be grateful. Support the causes you care about.


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A graduate of Vassar College and Boston University, Amanda Gale taught high school English before she began writing women’s fiction. The four novels of her Meredith series explore love, growth, and the flaws that make us human. A lover of history, classic literature, and quiet nights at home, she lives outside Philadelphia with her family.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

I wrote the books one after the other and published them at the same time, so thankfully I was able to revise the earlier books if something in the later books needed clarification. For me, the greatest challenge was allowing each book to be unique while connecting them all with a common message. My series follows a woman through four stages of her life. She’s in a different mental place in each book, and the lessons she learns depend on where she is in her journey. One book may have a more ethereal feel while another is more straightforward. But the importance of each stage has to be clear as a reader moves from one book to the next, and it all has to come together in the end. Finding that balance took a lot of work.


What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

I’d say the greatest misconception is that indie authors bang out a book with no planning or editing and then spend ten minutes uploading it to a website before washing their hands of it. This couldn’t have been further from the truth for me. I was solely responsible for everything, from editing to working with the artist who was designing the covers. I accepted feedback and constructive criticism and went through dozens of rounds of revision before deciding the books were ready for the public. Once it was time to publish, I had to research all my options and meticulously format the files myself if I wanted the books to be professional.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I didn’t have titles in mind when I began writing, and I considered several titles before settling on the titles I chose. I don’t think I could have come up with appropriate titles until the series was finished. My story evolved so much as I was writing, and I would have undermined it by being rigid. Flexibility is important; you don’t want to write the story to fit the title. I did have an ending in mind when I began writing, but many of my characters changed in the translation from my imagination to the page. As a result, the plot also underwent massive changes, and I took the story in a very different direction than I had originally intended. I never forced or imposed something that didn’t feel right. That being said, I do need an ending to work toward. I feel lost if I don’t have a vague idea where I’m going.

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

Yes! As I said, I initiated a dramatic plot change during the writing process. This change necessitated that a character who should have been happy in the original version instead was left suffering. Though I am absolutely certain this was the right decision, a small part of me has dreamed about what would have happened had I stayed true to my original plan. To compensate, I’m planning a sequel in which the character’s story has closure. I think that will satisfy my need to rectify the injustice I inflicted on him.

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasnt right for the character?

The names were so important to me. I had been imagining the characters for years, but none of them had a name. When I began writing, I chose Meredith for my heroine because she needed something elegant, classic, and strong. It also had to lend itself easily to a nickname, and it had to begin with an M. (I always saw her with an M name.) Most of the names came to me right away, and they never changed. One or two I had to wrestle with for a long time, however. A couple of the last names gave me trouble. The only name I ever changed was that of an important secondary character, in favor of a name I liked a little better.  It didn’t work, though, because the new name simply wasn’t his name. I ended up changing it back.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Some of my characters are not nice people, and they behave badly. I like these characters. They’re interesting to me, and they were fun to write, maybe because it was a release for me, to write words on a page I’d never say to anyone in person. The one character I’m not fond of is well-meaning. She’s impulsive, though, and thoughtless, and she is more concerned with looking good and being funny than with considering the feelings of those around her. I have no patience for her.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I began by searching for an agent or publisher, but I soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to go the traditional route unless I sold the first book on its own and hoped the others in the series were picked up later. I wasn’t willing to separate them like that, so I decided to self-publish. It’s just as well because the best editing took place after I made the decision not to pursue traditional publishing. I didn’t realize at the time how much work I still needed to do. When I knew I was going to do it all myself, I sought reader feedback and made difficult choices that helped shape the books. I’m happy with my decision to self-publish because I had complete control over all the decisions. Also I was able to publish them simultaneously, which was important to me.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

I researched places I had never visited or had visited but didn’t know a lot about. If I was describing someone’s house or dress, I looked at houses or dresses online so I could have something visual to reference. In one or two cases, to make sure my facts were correct, I sought the help of friends who had certain professional experiences. Also, a couple of delicate issues are discussed in the final book, and I needed to know if these passages were sensitive to those who had been through it. I put a call out for people who could offer advice, and I received some feedback that assured me that my handling of these scenes was appropriate.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

I am always surprised by people’s reactions to one particular character. Some love him, and some hate him—and I never can predict which it will be. People also have different interpretations of the heroine’s interactions with him. When I wrote this character, I knew he would be somewhat controversial, but I never imagined the intensity of the emotions he’d elicit. At first I worried over it because I love this character, and I wanted everyone to love him, too. Eventually I grew to appreciate the fact that if he was making people feel so strongly, in either direction, I probably had done something right.

Were you born to write or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

When I was little, I wrote short stories and even began a couple of novels. In high school, I wrote poetry. Once I grew up, though, I thought that part of my life was over. I accepted that what tends to happen to children had happened to me, that the demands of adulthood had stifled my creativity and that I would never write any fiction ever again. I had been imagining characters for many years, developing plot lines around them, but I was almost embarrassed by it, and I never told anyone this was happening, even those closest to me. One day I decided to sit down and write out their story, just for myself, never expecting anything to come of it. Four books later, I realized I was still a writer after all and that my ideas actually had a purpose. In a way, the series happened not because I had a desire to write but because I felt compelled to bring my characters to life. I’m not sure whether being born to write made the characters come to me or whether being born to create characters made me a writer. Either way, once I began the process, I couldn’t stop. I was up all night writing and editing, I humbled myself asking for feedback, and I worked harder than I ever had. I hadn’t thought I was strong enough to pull this off. I think if anything makes me a born writer, it’s the willingness to make those sacrifices for the sake of the books.

We all know the old saying; you cant judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

So much importance. I always felt strongly that I needed original art for my books. They don’t fit neatly into one genre, and they don’t always follow traditional rules. I wanted something that would reflect them completely, something that would mirror the mood I’d like readers to feel when they read them. I found an artist whose work I love, and she did a beautiful job. The covers are everything I hope the books are—elegant but sexy, delicate but bold, and maybe a little mysterious. Also, I find personal satisfaction in the fact that I have something unique and special to represent my books after all my hard work.

How would you define your style of writing?

I’m heavily influenced by Victorian literature, so my writing tends to be more formal. It’s definitely accessible, though, and I think my dialogue is realistic for each character. I’d say that, like the heroine herself, the writing is proper but modern, and not without humor.

Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?

This is my favorite question because it so encapsulates my feelings about my characters. The characters are so much a part of me, and I think of them every day. I mourn the loss of the writing. My primary goal was to give them life and to make people fall in love with them the way I love them. One of the hardest parts of the process was moving on, recognizing that I had no excuse to read through the series again and that I had to let that part of my relationship with them go.

Whats the coolest surprise youve ever had?

The day after my grandfather passed away, I went to Barnes & Noble. I was walking by a table and saw the children’s picture book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by William Joyce. I had seen the book before but knew nothing about it, and for some reason that day I felt compelled to buy it. That day, I spent most of my time going through old photographs of my grandfather and thinking about his life as a young man. That night I read the book to my kids. I was stunned to discover that it was about a man who grows old as he writes the pages of his own book and returns home when he finishes the last page. He leaves his book behind, and it is picked up and read by a little girl. Later I learned that my grandfather had written a book about his life. This was only discovered after he had passed.

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?

In college I took a course called “Prejudice and Policy in Victorian England.” We read some of the most vitriolic works of the Victorian era and discussed why such intense fear of “the Other” was so prevalent. This class taught me not only the dangers of prejudice, both in one’s mind and in the law (the more obvious lesson) but also the importance of remembering the more shameful parts of history. It made me brave enough to discuss controversial topics and to reference words and subjects that are not polite. Honest, uncensored conversation is necessary if we are to understand ourselves, if we want to make sure the most horrific acts perpetuated by the human race are not repeated. I will always be grateful to my professor for teaching me that progress requires embracing all knowledge, no matter how unpleasant, not hiding from it.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

  1. Listen to each other.
  2. Act with integrity.
  3. Never stop learning.

Author photo: Lisa Schaffer Photography; Cover design: Adara Sánchez Anguiano



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KateJamesKate spent much of her childhood abroad before attending university in Canada. She built a successful business career, but her passion has always been literature. As a result, Kate turned her energy to her love of the written word. Kate’s goal is to entertain her readers with engaging stories, featuring strong, likeable characters. Kate has been honored with numerous awards for her writing. She and her husband, Ken, enjoy travelling and the outdoors, with their beloved Labrador Retrievers.

Lisette, thank you for this opportunity to be a guest at your writers’ chateau.

You are very welcome, Kate! Delighted to have you here.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Don’t give up on your dream!

There are so many viable options to getting your work published these days, you just need to keep at it and believe in yourself. If I have one regret, it is that I didn’t follow through when I first had the dream of writing. I got caught up in my professional life, and my first attempt, a half-finished manuscript, is tucked away in a storage box somewhere in our basement, possibly breeding some form of mold worthy of a sci-fi thriller.

Also, having someone who believes in you can be enormously helpful, even if you are a self-motivated individual like me. My husband buying me a personal laptop for my writing was the start of Silver Linings. I was wrongly convinced that I did not need another laptop, as I had a perfectly good one already. Psychologically, it made a huge difference. Thankfully, my husband has never said, I told you so—at least not directly!

This leads me to another bit of advice. If you have a “day job”, creating a clear separation between it and your writing may help, as a separate laptop for my writing did for me. As another example, an author friend works from home and has a home office. When she writes, she purposefully does it in a different room in her home.

Finally, read as much as you can, for enjoyment—of course—but also for learning! It’s a rare book these days that draws me in so much that I don’t at some level of consciousness analyze the writing to seek to improve my own.


Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I either got very lucky, my business background came in handy or, more than likely, it was a combination of the two. There is the artistic, creative side to writing, but there is an entire business side to it as well. Publishing is a business and for an author to excel, I believe they have to be able to understand and effectively deliver on both the creative and business aspects. Querying agents and/or publishers requires a combination of creativity and business acumen.

I was fortunate to have my very first manuscript picked up by a publisher. Although the publisher is small, and thus doesn’t have a large budget for marketing and promotions, they were a dream to work with both for editing and cover art/design. It also meant that my first book was in print and in book stores in about eighteen months from when I first sat down at my new laptop to start writing Silver Linings. The experience also afforded me the opportunity to learn a great deal about publishing, which I believe was invaluable in securing my contract with Harlequin.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to write for Harlequin, and have the privilege and pleasure to work with two of the most amazing people in the business: Victoria Curran and Paula Eykelhof.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

This is an interesting question for me, and perhaps you’ll allow me to go on a bit of a tangent with it.

I had to “retrain” myself when I started writing fiction. Most of us have heard the axiom that in business we should write to the average grade eight intellect. I consider that a sad and demeaning statement. When I was in business, I always encouraged our communications teams—everyone in the organization, in fact—to strive to release high-quality, well-written, well-presented material. Annual reports, marketing materials, routine correspondence and e-mails all reflect on the brand of an organization. I was a stickler for proper sentence structure, grammar, spelling and so forth. When I first started writing fiction, I had to consciously retrain myself, for example, to not use “proper” sentence structure, especially where dialogue is concerned.  We don’t speak in proper sentences, and if my dialogue was constructed in that manner, I can guarantee it wouldn’t make for an enjoyable read!

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

Perhaps surprise is not the right word, but I continue to be amazed by and appreciative of the informal feedback and more formal reviews that Silver Linings has been getting. Reviews mean a great deal to authors, and I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to write one.

I was very pleasantly surprised and honored for Silver Linings to have received first place recognition in both readers’ choice contests it was entered in. The fact that people are reading my work and enjoying it is a thrill. The positive feedback is something I will never take for granted.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

I am glad we’re not having this discussion in person at a writers’ workshop, as I expect some people may be inclined to throw things at me. I enjoy writing a synopsis. It may have something to do with my business background, but I enjoy switching gears and writing the synopsis. To me, writing a synopsis is also an organizational tool, as it is essentially my outline for the manuscript. Writing it, I challenge myself on the characters’ personalities and motivations, and the key plot elements, and then I expand and embellish as I write the manuscript. To be clear, with respect to this latter point, I am not referring to a two page synopsis, but rather a much longer version that my editor wants to see as a proposal for a book.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I generally write scenes in order from my synopsis. If I find that I am not progressing quickly through a particular scene, I may jump ahead. I do this for a couple of reasons. Inherently, I don’t like to waste time, and if I am belaboring the scene without making progress, that’s what I feel I am doing. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if the scene is not progressing well, there is a chance that it just doesn’t fit, and I have not yet admitted it to myself. If I jump ahead and finish the rest of the manuscript, I might find that it needed to be cut anyway. Once my first (rough) draft is complete, I go back and invariably add, remove, rework or reorder scenes before I venture to call it a completed first draft.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

All of the above! Okay, almost all. I was a full-time CEO when I wrote Silver Linings and my second manuscript. By necessity, that meant writing very early in the morning and late at night. I enjoy coffee, chocolates and wine. Add in tea (hot or iced) and more than likely one or more of those is within easy reach whenever I am writing. Music only enters the equation if my husband is home, as he loves to have it playing all the time.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

To the contrary! I believe the cover can have a huge impact on the success of a book, especially for lesser known authors. I believe most of us have picked up a book by an unknown author because the cover appealed to us. Although I don’t think people pass up on a book by their favorite author because the cover isn’t appealing, I do believe that some excellent work by unknown authors doesn’t get the same uptake as it could, if the cover isn’t appealing or appropriate for the genre.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Despise? No. Disrespect, most definitely!

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

We live north of Toronto, and we split our time between our home and cottage. We are fortunate to have two large, scenic properties, but if we were to move, my husband would want to be somewhere without snow! Texas and Arizona come to mind. Kelowna in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is a beautiful spot, too. I would need to have a large property. I like to visit cities, but I love nature and the outdoors, thus I would need to live somewhere we could have significant acreage.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

My husband is really great at surprising me. The converse is much harder to do, as I have to get really creative with how and what I wrap for him, as he has an uncanny ability of knowing exactly what it is.  A particularly nice surprise, and one that is related to my writing, had to do with my contract with Harlequin. I was on a ten-day “world tour” and in Dubai when I received the e-mail from my editor with the good news. I, of course, shared the news with my husband immediately (time difference be damned!), and he was very happy for me.

Five days later, I arrived home at about seven in the evening after a thirteen-hour flight from Hong Kong, and very little sleep during most of the trip because of the full schedule, overnight flights and numerous time zones changes. I walked in to candlelight, a bottle of champagne on ice, a wonderful dinner, and a beautifully wrapped gift with a huge bow on it. If you have read my responses to the questions above, you may have guessed correctly that the gift was a new laptop!










Amy Sue Nathan lives and writes near Chicago where she hosts the popular blog, Women’s Fiction Writers. She has published articles in Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times Online among many others. Amy is the proud mom of a son and a daughter in college, and a willing servant to two rambunctious rescued dogs.

Time to chat with Amy!

Tell us about your new novel!

The Glass Wives is about Evie Glass, a divorced mom, who invites her ex-husband’s young widow and baby to move in after he dies in a car accident. The story focuses on the problems, and hopefulness, that comes from creating a brand new kind of family against all odds.


How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

More often that you’d think! I have a habit of closing my eyes and typing away when I’m really involved in a scene that I’m writing. When that happens I’m really not in control of where the story goes. I have learned to let my characters be themselves and go back to edit or revise their words and actions later. I learn more about the story I’m writing when I let my characters do most of the work!  In The Glass Wives I never intended for one character to befriend another, yet she did, no matter how much I protested. In the end there were very good reasons for this alliance, but I didn’t know about them at first either!

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

What I like the least is not being able to get the ideas out as quickly as I’d like. I can know the entire story in my head, but know it’s vital to get it written, and as I write, things change, but I just want to GET IT OUT!  I think what I enjoy the most is the actual deliberate, laborious writing where every word is chosen carefully and every nuance of a scene is intentional.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Yes! I always know the end, or I think I do. Strangely, what was the end of The Glass Wives for a long time is now a scene in the middle of the book.  The ending after that one no longer exists, and the ending as you can read it, was once about page 100.  But—I did know the ending when I started. But the ending changed!

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I try to find a happy-median between the two. If I don’t edit at all, I might not remember things that pop to mind. If I edit too much, I have a polished chapter or two or three, but that’s all.  I make a lot of notes as I write so I can remember to go back to certain spots. Then I can move on because I know I won’t forget.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

My advice would be to be proud of yourself without being boastful.  Enjoy yourself while being responsible. And keep writing. Book #2 won’t write itself. (I tried. Nope, it doesn’t.)

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

Absolutely! I spent a few years learning all about publishing as I was writing. I figured out the best route for me was to find an agent and publish traditionally.  I queried agents for months while still revising based on some feedback.  After I signed with my agent, his feedback meant more revisions!  After a year of revising the book and freelancing writing and editing and raising two kids, my book was ready to go out on submission to editors, and it sold to St. Martin’s Press.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I have one or two critique partners who read everything from my ideas to my first draft to my polished pages. For me, these are published writers who know me and my writing very well, who understand what I need when I ask them for specific feedback, and who are honest.  I think the most important thing is that I respect what they say 100%, whether or not I agree with it.

Have you ever wished that you could bring a character to life? If so, which one and why?

What a fun question and I assume you mean my characters!  I’d bring Evie to life because she bakes and I don’t. I’d love to get my hands on some of the cookies she is famous for in the novel.  Other than that, I’d like to meet Sandy who’s a minor character because in my mind he’s a cross between George Clooney and…well, no, just a Jewish George Clooney. That’s reason enough, don’t you think?

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in the suburbs of Chicago. In a dream world I’d live in Montana, near a lake and a mountain, in a big log cabin. In my real world, if I ever move, I’ll probably head back East. I’m originally from Philadelphia.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Trains. I don’t have to drive but we get to stay on land.




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