Spotlight: Robin Gainey -- Get the Story on the Page

 
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Robin F. Gainey grew up in a household full of pencils, erasers, Underwood and Royal typewriters (one of each), and cases of liquid paper.

Raised by her author-grandmother and an extended family of eleven women and two men, there was always something to write about, much of it hidden from the naked eye. Throw in a secret side of the family recently revealed and we now have a multi-volume saga with a predominant theme: Transformation. 

“Write what you know” is mostly what Robin does. And, what she doesn’t know she makes up. It’s fiction, after all…


What project are you currently working on?

Now working on two things at once: a stand-alone screenplay and what I hope to be the final edit of my third novel, slated to finish both by early spring.


What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your most recent book or working on your most recent writing project?

The messages writers convey in each novel are most often messages designed for themselves.
 

"The messages writers convey in each novel are most often messages designed for themselves."


How does it feel to send LIGHT OF THE NORTHERN DANCERS out into the world? Have your feelings changed since JACK OF HEARTS was released?

Letting go of that final galley is the worst. I don’t think it will ever change. Maybe trite, but the book truly is like a child. At some point you must let it go, knowing it will never be perfect. If perfection existed, why keep writing?


Has your writing process changed since you finished LIGHT OF THE NORTHERN DANCERS? What do you do now as a writer that you didn’t do or wouldn’t have done before?

My process changed after the first novel, JACK OF HEARTS. I used to re-read the chapter before, every time I started the next, and get caught in editing.

Now I right through to the end, never going back until that last page. What may lack in continuity at times, is made app for in speed.

Get the story on the page, then craft the words.


What do you consider your biggest writing success right now, at this very moment?

Having LIGHT OF THE NORTHERN optioned for a limited TV series. It’s a great validation that my story touched people who are willing to work very hard to bring it to life on the screen.

The adaptation process is not for authors of faint heart, however. LOTS of changes to the story; additional characters and story lines; different ending. All come with valid reasons.

I have learned to step out of the way. My goal is to get the story on film. What screen version is as good as the book, anyway?


What challenges or fears do you face in your writing routine and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them?

My challenge early on was discipline.

Bryce Courtney taught a workshop I once attended who said that the most important aid to writing was “Bum-Glue.” Sit down and stay there. Write even if you don’t know where the story is going. It almost always knows the way even if you don’t.

The other best advice came from Dorothy Allison, whom I was also blessed to have as a teacher. She said, “Remember, darlin’, no writer is born with the knowledge. Get out there and learn!"
 

"Success happens only if you feel it will." 


If you could go back 10 years and give your future writing-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

SUCCESS HAPPENS ONLY IF YOU FEEL IT WILL. Sit down, put those fingers on the keyboard, and take a breath. As Nietzsche said, “The hardest thing is to begin."


What were the highlights of your editorial work with Free Expressions or attendance at a workshop? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?

The Free Expressions Workshops are the very best you can do for your writing. Thoughtful critiquing, a staff clearly invested in the author, and the instruction, supreme.

Don Maass is one of the very best instructors available. Run, don’t walk, to the next workshop. You’ll never regret it.


What advice do you have for writers in terms of seeking out editorial services or determining what workshops or conferences would best suit their needs?

Word of mouth is the best informant for workshops and conferences. Ask those who’ve attended. Look for reviews. Editorial services are an absolute must. Writers fall in love with their words. A non-biased intermediary must be enlisted.

My experience is that you get what you pay for on this note. That being said, a distinction exists between line editing and story editing (character, chapter, and story arc) and development.

Again, research reviews for certain editors, ask for references, and query those references. Don’t throw money at someone you haven’t investigated.


"Writers fall in love with their words. A non-biased intermediary must be enlisted."


What does your dream writing retreat look like?

Luck enough to already have been discovered: my boat in Canada, three months a summer, mostly alone. WRITING HEAVEN.


What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?

Already mentioned: I boat.

My third novel is partially set on a boat up in Canada. Also, I am a chronic walker, about five-to-seven miles a day. Clears the mind allowing ideas to enter. I spend a lot of the walk speaking to my assistant, Siri, recording my thoughts!


BONUS QUESTION: If we didn’t ask you something that you wish we had, what would it be, and how would you answer?

What do you think is the “why” of story-telling?”

Each generation benefits from those tales once told around ancient campfires: did you hear the one about the guy who wandered into the woods and night?

Stories have very literally keep humanity alive…or at least aided in Natural Selection. ;-)


FAST FACTS

What are you currently reading?
IMAGINE ME GONE by Adam Haslett

If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST by Gene Stratton Porter. An old but a goody. The mystical wood!

Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
I make up a playlist for each novel as I plan the outline. Helps me get out of the now and into story.

Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing?
Caffeine in various forms…never discount dark chocolate….

You can find out more about Robin at her website, http://www.robinfgainey.com.  She's also on Twitter as @caesarsdog tweeting as Shimoni, the canine hero of her first novel. 

Spotlight: Holly Hughes -- Every Journey is Different

 
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Once upon a time, Holly was a television and film producer who worked with tons of important people before they were so important. She is much happier being a writer. Her writing appears in Time.com, Kveller.com, Expressing Motherhood, and Glitterbomb. She's an active member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and is currently working on her debut novel, DEAR DEAD DRUNK GIRL. 

You write on your website about the long twists and turns to finding your agent. What advice would you give authors just starting this process?

I want to be clever and optimistic here, but the truth is, every journey is different. Don’t compare yourself to others. That’s a one-way ticket to feeling like crap, and feeling like crap sucks. 

Here’s my truth:

I wasn’t as good a writer as I wanted to be. I took classes where I could, at schools, with mentors, online, and at Free Expressions workshops. I worked really hard and slowly got better. More and more ideas flooded my mind, and I wrote most of them down.

Not everyone likes my stories or my writing. They probably won’t like everything you do, either. So what!

Tell the stories you want to write. Tell them the best way you know how, and then learn how to tell them better. Get your stories critiqued then submit. I’m a big fan of Twitter contests because of the friends I've made and the doors those contests opened.

When you get a rejection, it’s okay to feel sad, mad, pissed, upset, disappointed, foolish, confused, and whatever other emotion comes up for you, but don’t let temporary setbacks stop you.

1. Keep writing and write better.

2. Submit, submit, submit.

3. Repeat 1 & 2.

 

"Every journey is different. Don’t compare yourself to others. That’s a one-way ticket to feeling like crap, and feeling like crap sucks."

 

How important is your writing community to you? How did you find your community?

If I didn’t have my writing community it would be impossible for me to write. I met friends at workshops and writing classes. Others came into my life online and via Twitter. Some were made at conferences like SCBWI.

Some friendships last. Others become virtual support. A few fade completely. My community is my sanity and buoy.

It’s not humanly possible for my husband to offer the understanding and constant support I've needed over the years to continue. My community cheers me on and holds my hand. They’ve helped me through depression, illness, and rejection. They’ve cheered for each one of my publishing victories. They’re my critique partners and Beta readers. 

Friendship isn’t a one-way street, and I do all I can to support friends in all stages of writing and publishing.

 

"My community cheers me on and holds my hand."

 

What challenges or fears do you face in your writing routine and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them?


My writing routine is deadline driven. I know many, if not most, agents and editors will tell the unagented writer to enjoy life without deadlines. But not having a deadline is like hiking without a destination for me--annoying.

I set a goal and work toward it. Before I opened my healing practice (www.hollyhughesintuitive.com), I had my ass in my chair writing practically five days/week. Now with clients and freelance work, I’ve had to become more flexible about the hours I work, but I haven’t given up the deadlines.

One summer I calculated how many words I needed to write to have a first draft done and worked toward a daily and weekly word count. Other times, like now for instance, I have a deadline to get through editorial notes, two essays due, and twenty to forty pages for a workshop I still need to write. Not sure I’ll manage all of it, but I’m going to try.

There were periods when depression overcame me, and writing was impossible. Of course, I never realize I’m depressed at first, so I usually get annoyed at myself for my lack of creativity. During hard times, I slow way down. I don’t enjoy it, but it’s necessary.

During the creatively barren times I talk to my writer friends, read, watch movies, and look for something to inspire me.

 

If you could go back ten years and give your future writing-self one piece of advice, what would it be?
 

Talk to Lorin the first time Tracey Adams suggests it!

 

"Be kind to yourself if family or paid work take time away from your writing. Life happens. Just promise to never give up and never stop trying to be better."

 

What advice do you have for writers who are juggling work, their personal lives, and writing?

Advice? Don’t beat yourself up if your writing journey isn’t going the way you want it to. And be kind to yourself if family or paid work take time away from your writing. Life happens. Just promise to never give up and never stop trying to be better.

 

What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?

If I only fed my writing I’d still be hungry. It’s important to feed my whole artistic self. For me, that includes being around creative, smart people. I love being around those who challenge my ideas, listening to conversations, and learning.

It’s nearly impossible for me to be creative without also being physical. If I’m not dancing and doing yoga a few times a week I don’t feel right in my body, and neither does my brain.

When I feel a lack of creativity, looking at art and listening to music often inspire me. And writing workshops are the best way to ignite a creative fire.

 

FAST FACTS

What are you currently reading? 
There are four books on my night stand: THE HATE YOU GIVE by Angie Thomas, GOOD BEHAVIOR by Blake Crouch, REFUGEE by Alan Gratz, and THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF CAVALIER CLAY by Michael Chabon.

If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be? 
That’s an impossible question for me. I love historical fiction, but don’t think I’d like to live in a world without good hygiene or clean water. I love the thought of seeing angels and other creatures, but I couldn’t limit myself to one book of creatures so I’ll stick to the worlds I create. :)

Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence? 
I write to music, but it has to be music only. No lyrics. I have a tendency to hum as I type, and if I hear lyrics it takes my creative voices away and fills my mind with other people’s stories. The music I listen to changes with each story I write, they all deserve their own soundtrack.

Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing? 
Ahhh, a cup of coffee in the morning for sure. Green tea in the afternoons after I’m done writing to help quiet my mind and shift back into parenting. Booze, not so much. The first cup of coffee is the most important beverage for me of the day.

 

You can find out more about Holly at her website, writerhughes.wordpress.com. Her blog has a page with a list of all her writing credits and links to them all. She's also on twitter as hgirlla

Spotlight: Susan Clayton Goldner -- Write the Very Best Novel You Can Write

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Susan Clayton-Goldner is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest.

Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

REDEMPTION LAKE, released earlier this year, is the first book in a series of three books using the same detective. The second book, WHEN TIME IS A RIVER, was just released this month. She's working on the third book, RIVER OF SILENCE, and hopes to have it to the publisher in October. 

When she isn’t writing, Susan spends her time making stained-glass windows and quilts. She says those two activities are similar to writing—telling stories through glass and fabric.

 

"Be tenacious. Write the very best novel you can write, get it edited and critiqued by other writers before you attempt to publish or do an agent search."

 

What is one of the most surprising things you've learned about yourself or your writing?

I’ve learned that I must be obsessed with the reinvention of self, of finding a way back to something lost, and the process of forgiveness and redemption. These are the recurrent themes in my work.



Aside from the release of REDEMPTION LAKE, what do you consider your biggest writing success right now, at this very moment? 

I'm trying to write faster now that I have a publisher for my work. I set a goal of at least two-thousand words per day. 
 
I've discovered if I take a few moments to think about the scene I'm going to write, jot down the scene goal and how it moves the story forward as well as the characters involved and what they want, that everything comes together. If I make their “wants” opposing, then conflict becomes the natural outcome.



What challenges or fears do you face with writing and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them? 

I’m retired and so I have time to write, but often the business of life gets in the way. Giving myself the 2,000 a day word goal has helped tremendously. 



If you could go back ten, twenty, thirty years and give your future writing-self one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Be tenacious. Write the very best novel you can write, get it edited and critiqued by other writers before you attempt to publish or do an agent search.



What were the highlights of your editorial work with Free Expressions or attendance at a workshop? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?

I attended two BONI workshops at Hood River and hope to attend more. They were fabulous and changed the way I approached my stories in so many ways.

I worked on A BEND IN THE WILLOW and REDEMPTION LAKE with Don and his staff and I sincerely believe they are published today because of the many things I learned at the BONI. It’s expensive, but well worth the money.

 

"Writing involves rejection. It is inevitable. And the only way to deal with it, is to rewrite and try again."

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that's helped you as a writer?

It wasn’t really a piece of advice so much as it was his example.

A grenade blew up in my father’s hand during the war. It left him without most of his right hand and with a very crippled leg that required him to wear a brace from ankle to high thigh. He was a carpenter and I watched him struggle to get work, being rejected again and again. But eventually he overcame his many obstacles and became a pretty damn good one-handed carpenter.

If he could succeed by not giving up, I could do the same. Writing involves rejection. It is inevitable. And the only way to deal with it, is to rewrite and try again.


What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?

I make stained glass windows and quilts. In many ways they are similar to writing in that they tell stories through fabric and glass.


FAST FACTS

What are you currently reading? 
I'm currently reading Kristin Hannah's THE NIGHTINGALE

If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be? 
The world of Atticus Finch in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence? 
I prefer to write in silence

Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing? 
I often get so engaged in the process of writing that I forget to eat.

You can find out more about Susan at her website, www.susanclaytongoldner.com and her Facebook page. Her books are available from Amazon