Yesterday I was interviewed by the area public radio station. We talked about my novels, but the interviewer also focused on how the books were conceived and how I achieve the details that were including in the writing. His questions challenged me because I’ve ever discussed such things before–especially on the fly. Most of all, I wanted to sound like I had something on the ball as a writer.
If I had given the interviewer a truthful answer, I would have told him I truly don’t know how writing these books first started. Apple Pie and Strudel Girls came on the heels of having a disappointing experience with another woman who wanted her strange story of meeting a witch made into a novel. Originally, we decided to co-author the book, but in the end, she put her name on the book cover. As I didn’t earn any money for my writing and most of all fleshing out a story that was a page-turner, I felt I had been duped. The good news of the experience is I showed myself I could write over 50,000 words. Up until this point, my longest piece was a three thousand word special report I did for a business magazine.
After that disappointing experience, I decided to embark on my own, and to my surprise, I wrote a pretty good story about girls who grew up during the war years. What I didn’t realize was I needed an editor and excellent proofreader. I wish I would have considered that piece out of the gate because now I see mistakes that were missed, and frankly, I’m a little ashamed the book was published with these boo-boos.
But, back to the interview. Just how did I conceive the story and why did I choose this time period? After pondering for a few seconds, I realized it was my curiosity and love of history that drove me to want to know more about a time period when young people didn’t believe they would have a future. When bombs fell on houses in England and when one man literally enslaved every country in Europe, I wondered how people survived such horror.
With that said, I also learned I had to concentrate on the day-to-day lives these characters were living as the world events shaped their lives in a way they never conceived. This part was easier because the characters began talking to me as I developed the story. They interrupted my sleep, shopped, vacuumed, and yes, I did admit this to the interviewer. I wonder now if he thought I was schizophrenic–but this was a true fact. These pesky characters whispered in my ear until I wrote down what they told me.
The interviewer also thought it was interesting I kept an Excel Spreadsheet to keep track of the timeline. Using this tool saved me from repeating the same research in subsequent novels.
Character sketches were also helpful. Then there was the research of reading journals and personal accounts of real people who expressed how they felt when bombs were falling on their neighborhoods while they huddled in bomb shelters. I read accounts of men in battle, and got a taste of the fear they endured as they did things they never dreamed they would have to do. There is no glory in war, just dirt, grime, death and suffering. I also read letters written by women who were waiting for their men to come home. These real-life accounts helped me to immerse myself into the time period, as well as the lives of people who survived the horrific 1940’s.
The experience of speaking with an interviewer on the fly kept this author on her toes, but I would welcome the opportunity again and again. It was fun to think on my feet and project myself as a credible writer. The show will air on Thursday at 8:00 a.m. on 91.1 FM – WGTC. In the meantime, I’ll just write.