13 Blogging Ideas for Novelists

As I keep learning about publishing and writing, I continue to deepen my debt to a few people in the writing world.  Today I’m nodding again to Michael Hyatt.  He posted a great list of blog ideas for novelists.

Send your novel-writing friends to this if they’re interested in developing or continuing a blog.  I’ve listed the first 5 ideas, and you can click below to keep reading.

  1. Excerpts from Your Novel. This is probably the easiest. It has the added advantage of allowing us, your potential readers, to “sample the brew.” Just write a paragraph to set up the excerpt. Oh, and be sure to link to your book, so we can buy it (duh).
  2. Backstory of Your Novel. Tell us why you wrote your novel. How did you settle onthis story? How did you come up with the main characters? Why did you chose the setting you did? What research did you have to do before you could start writing?
  3. A Behind-the-Scenes Look. Give us a sense of what it is like to be a novelist. How did you feel when you finally landed an agent? What does a typical writing day look like for you? What’s it like to see your book in print and hold a copy in your hand for the first time?
  4. “Directors” Notes. This is the kind of thing you occasionally see with extended versions of movies. Explain why you chose to start with a particular scene. Talk about the scenes you had to delete—or those you had to add to improve the story. Don’t underestimate the curiosity of your readers.
  5. Interview with Yourself. Authors often complain that professional reviewers haven’t read their book or don’t “get it.” Fine. Who knows your novel better than you? No one. So interview yourself. Have fun with it. What questions do you wish you would be asked?

To read the rest of Michael’s list, click here.

Interview With Heidi Durrow & Book Giveaway

I’m pleased to give you an interview with Heidi Durrow, author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Girl Who Fell From The Sky.  Heidi shares stories with others in great ways, and she’s given thoughtful answers about her first published novel.

Also, I didn’t ask about this in the interview here, but Heidi created in 2008 and continues to offer the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival.  In addition to this interview, you can learn about Heidi’s work at her website by clicking here.

MW: Give us an idea of who you are.  That’s broad, but you’re an author and who else?

HD:  I’m a writer, and podcaster and festival producer and avid bendy-straw user, and Moleskine junkie, and storyteller.

MW: I think, in part, this story is about a well-loved girl growing up through pain.  Would you comment on the ways Rachel was offered love by people in her life?  How were those people part of her growth or development or healing?

HD:  Rachel is very loved and so differently by all the people in her life.  There’s her aunt who loves Rachel as if she’s a reflection of her young self and wants to get it right to give Rachel every possibility. There’s Grandma Doris who loves Rachel hard; she’s super-strict and believes that her strict rules express her love.  And there’s of course her mother whose love is about keeping her safe.  For Nella, loving her daughter means keeping her safe from every danger there is.

MW: What do you think your story says about memory and remembering?  Certainly it is a story that must simply be read, but if it says something about how we remember, what might that be?

HD:  It is very much a novel about the need for remembering.  The story begins with Rachel denying her own memories of her life before the tragedy in which her family perishes.  Forgetting–at least in Grandma’s mind–is the best way to move forward.  And yet, Rachel discovers that her memory of her mother and siblings will not be denied.  Essentially, she learns that it is only by acknowledging the truth of her past that she is able to move forward.  The line between her past and future isn’t that stark.

MW:  Writers draw from life, their own and those of others.  To what extent did you draw from your life’s details, and what was it like emotionally to pull from your story to write Rachel’s?

HD:  The things that happen to the characters in the book didn’t happen to me or people I know, but the emotional touchstone is very much a part of my own experience and that of those I know.  It was extremely difficult for me to write the book — there is a lot of pain and grief in the story and it was what I was feeling as I wrote it.  I’m in a different place now in my life and the new book I’m finding also has a very different emotional feel.

MW:  Several of your characters enable Rachel to live in response to being abandoned or left by some of her family.  Which character would you be most likely to tell a problem to and why?

HD:  I would definitely confide in Brick.  He’s so absolutely loving and non-judgmental.  Here’s a character who has only known abandonment and abuse and yet, he’s always open to love.  That’s his default even though it could be a horrible risk.  I don’t know if he would know how to solve every problem folks share with him because he is so young, but you certainly wouldn’t feel alone in a dilemma with Brick on your side.

MW:  You use multiple viewpoints effectively in the novel.  They enrich the work and help me see the story from several angles. What aided you in writing the novel that way?  How did you organize yourself while writing?

HD:  I started the novel with just Rachel’s voice.  I soon realized that she was an unreliable narrator and I needed add other voices in.  The voices entered the story quite organically as I needed them.

MW:  Talk about Roger.  We get powerful glimpses of him.  Why do you think he made some of the choices he did?  Do you think he loved his family, his daughter?

HD:  Roger loved his family and his daughter, but he just didn’t make the right choices.  He is an alcoholic and made some very bad choices under the influence.  But then even once he’s sober (after the tragedy) he still decides that the best way to be a father is to be absent.  I think that’s a coward’s choice.  I think Roger could have learned to be a good father–he was learning to be a better man.  Unfortunately, many fathers make the choice to be absent (or present only monetarily) and we as a society should address this head-on.

MW:  How has your novel encouraged or provoked language about race?  Have you been able to carry on, or participate in, conversations from the story, if I can say it that way?

HD:  It’s been very exciting to talk to readers about the book and inevitably about race and culture and what it means to be American.  Having the story in their hand gives them a kind of permission to talk about these difficult issues and I think most people feel a great relief.  I’ve had some exciting conversations — no answers — but I think the first step is always trying to come up with new questions about the issues — then maybe we can have new thoughts.

MW:  What are you reading these days?

HD:  I’ve been doing a lot of non-fiction reading for the new book about the theory of sudden change, evolution, Victorian spiritualism and the Impressionists. You’d be surprised how much all of those subjects have something to do with each other.  It’s surprising me as I write.

MW:  Are you working on projects you can talk about?  How can readers keep connected to you?

HD:  I’m working on a new novel inspired by the life of a Victorian era mixed-race trapeze artist and strongwoman who was super-famous in her time but is unknown today.  (Degas did a portrait of her — one of his most famous.)  I love to hear from readers.  I will continue with more readings and speeches on the road in 2012.  My appearance schedule is on my website; if you join my mailing list you can get an update every 6 weeks.  And you can also find me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/author.heidi.durrow) and Twitter (@heididurrow).

Now for the giveaway.  Leave a comment about why you’d like to get Ms. Durrow’s book.  I’ll choose a winner from the comments after midnight, CST, Wednesday.  Maybe you can give a gift in the form of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky.  Either way do get your hands on this book.

Marisel Vera, Author of If I Bring You Roses, 3 of 3

Marisel’s debut novel is available.  I’ve shown you a few pictures from her first book signing, which was last weekend.  I’m thankful she has given us these three posts about herself, her novel, and her experience as a writer seeking publishing.  If you’re available, come out and meet Marisel with other friends, fans, and readers on August 28, 2011 at 8 pm.  She’ll be at The Nervous Breakdown Reading Series co-sponsored by Sunday Salon Chicago.  The location is Katerina’s, 1929 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago, IL.

This is the last of a three-part blog series featuring Marisel, and today she discusses her experience pursuing publishing…

What a writer needs most is Faith. I had a huge crisis of faith some years ago which I wrote about in a blog post Forgive Me, For I Have Doubted.  Your readers can read it on www.shewrites.com or www.mariselvera.com. It was the moment when I just had to say I am going to keep trying, even if I never get published, I am going to keep trying. From that point on, I never looked back.  That same year when I sent off my manuscript to an agent, I got an encouraging letter back.  That agent, Betsy Amster, is now my agent.  She didn’t take on my novel then but it fortified my determination to continue.  My husband has been financially and emotionally supportive throughout the whole process and our children became English geniuses so I’ve had the luxury of in-house editors for blog posts, etc. I have direct access to Puerto Ricans and especially to my mother and godmother who shared many details about growing up en el campo. I also conducted extensive research in all things Puerto Rican.

In addition to faith, I believe a writer needs to learn the craft of writing fiction.  An MFA is nice but if you can’t do that—I didn’t have that opportunity—then take writing classes, a writing workshop with a writer you admire (I did that with Jonis Agee and Cristina García), get some writing books, find a few fellow writers whom you trust and critique each other’s work in a constructive way.  Last but not least, the big D.  Discipline. Schedule time for writing and force yourself to do it.  It’s not easy in the beginning especially if you have a full-time job and/or small children.  When my children were little and I was living inOklahoma without my sisters to babysit, it was so hard!  One day I read about how Toni Morrison as a young writer was writing with her child on her hip and the child spit up on the page.  She didn’t want to lose her thought so she wrote around the spit-up before she cleaned up the child.  I found that so encouraging! I was a writer and I would write and I would do what I had to do to write and nothing would stop me.

Michael, I’d love to hear from your readers and especially book club groups. I’m open to meeting with book clubs especially in the Chicagoland area and having video or phone chats with others.  My website is www.mariselvera.com.

As I said, Marisel would enjoy meeting a few of you at the Series this Sunday.  And finally, if you’d like to see a dramatic reading of a chapter from If I Bring You Roses, it’s in the link below.

Marisel Vera, Author of If I Bring You Roses, 2 of 3

As I said in my last post, I met Marisel Vera at the Printers Row Literary Festival this year, where we connected briefly over her debut novel.  The book is available.  I’m very thankful to put her before you on my blog and suggest that you go and get If I Bring You Roses.  

In today’s post Marisel tells us a bit about who she’d like to pick the novel up along with some insights into her background and how she came to writing.  Below I mention how you can see her this weekend…

It’s true that I’ve had a few friends and relatives look at me a little differently after reading If I Bring You Roses but, so far, everyone is cool even my born-again Christian relatives.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about being nervous of the novel’s publication in a blog post for www.shewrites.com which I titled Taking My Clothes Off in Public. Mostly likely, the majority of my relatives won’t read my novel and if they do and make a comment, I’ll just shrug my shoulders and say, “It’s literature.”

I would love for If I Bring You Roses to be taught in Eng. Lit classes in Chicago public high schools especially Roberto Clemente High School, my alma mater.  That would make me SO happy.  Perhaps some of your readers are teachers and could choose it. (Hint.)  It thrills me to say that it will be taught in a Latino Studies class at Vanderbilt University next Spring. This October, If I Bring You Roses will be taught in four classes at the College of Lake County in Grayslake,IL.  I plan to go in one day and answer questions from students.  I’d love to go to Clemente or other inner-city schools and talk to students too.

I believe that one of the reasons that it took me so long to pursue my dream of writing a novel is that although I read voraciously since I was eight years old, I never read a book written by a Latina or Latino writer other than Down These Mean Streets so it never occurred to me to think of it as a possibility. All the books I read on my own or were assigned in my classes were written by Anglo writers. Any one who is the child of immigrants knows that while your parents might encourage education, they want you to get educated so that you can get a traditional job like a teacher or doctor or nurse. No one ever said to me, Marisel, you have talent. I think you could be a writer. I think it makes a big difference in the life of a kid from the ghetto or inner-city, for an adult to say, Marisel, you can do it!

And I want you to know that you can meet Marisel.  She will be meeting friends and readers, signing books if you have them on August 28, 2011 at 8 pm at The Nervous Breakdown Reading Series co-sponsored by Sunday Salon Chicago.  The location is Katerina’s, 1929 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago, IL.