Interview: Martine Fournier Watson, author of THE DREAM PEDDLER

by Dan Stout in


As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.

Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Martine Fournier Watson , author of THE DREAM PEDDLER, a work of literary historical fiction releasing from Penguin Books on April 9th, 2019.

About the Book:

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Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.

Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.

Interview excerpt:


Where did you get the idea?
I was a huge fan of L. M. Montgomery growing up, and my favorite heroine was Emily of New Moon. Emily wants to be a writer, and in the final book of the trilogy she writes her first novel but is unable to sell it, so she burns it. All the reader ever knows about this book is that it was a modern-day fairytale called A Seller of Dreams. Since I could never know any more than this, my curiosity about the burned book eventually led me to write my own version.

What’s the story behind the title?
I really owe the title to L. M. Montgomery as well, but hers felt a little too formal to me, so I tweaked it.

How long did you take to write this book?
The first draft took about six months, and then I spent maybe another eight months or so getting feedback from beta readers and revising. Finding an agent took a long time! Over eighteen months and a grand total of one hundred and nine queries. Once on submission, it didn’t take dreadfully long to sell—maybe about five months.

 

What kind of research did you do for this book?
My research was in two parts. I wanted to know as much as I could about the dreaming process and what kinds of things are possible in terms of influencing our dreams and remembering them. This was fascinating, because I discovered all the things I’d written that felt far-fetched to me are actually quite plausible!

 The other branch of the research was understanding farming communities and how they operated during the early part of the twentieth century. Not quite as scintillating, but in order to make the characters and their way of life tangible, I really needed to have all the details, even down to what crops would have been planted or harvested at which time.

 

 What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
Quite a lot! I tend to be a wordy writer, and much of my editing time is spent pruning my prose. The basic plot of the book never changed, but I definitely deleted a few scenes as well. They were originally there to give the reader a little more context and backstory for some of the characters, but in the end they weren’t necessary, and they just weren’t interesting enough.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I am a pantser all the way. The process of discovery is what makes writing so joyous for me. I think if I always knew exactly where my plot was going, I would grow bored.

 

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
Definitely the drafting, although it wasn’t always that way. I was in my thirties before someone enlightened me about how first drafts are supposed to stink. Once I started drafting more quickly instead of stewing over every word, it became my favorite part of the process. I love the feeling of a great idea for a scene popping into my head and rushing to get it all down.

 

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
It depends on the book, but editing is always hard for me. Once I’ve written the book, I’m afraid to look at it again, to be overwhelmed by the mess, and I really have to talk myself into it. With my current project, I also did myself the great disservice of writing it out of order as scene ideas popped into my head, having only a vague idea of how they’d fit into the storyline. Organizing that jumble of scenes into a coherent narrative, linking them up with new writing, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a writer.

 

Can you share your writing routine?
I don’t have a routine, and I write anywhere and everywhere. I have to keep paper and pen handy everywhere I go! I love best to write outside, usually sitting on our back porch, but if it’s too cold you’ll usually find me on the living room sofa.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
I wish I could be more helpful on this, but writer’s block isn’t something I have experience with. My head is always swimming with ideas. I do get “blocked” in terms of being afraid to sit down and do the editing work, although that’s not really the same thing. And there isn’t any magic cure except to force myself to get started. It’s like a dive into cold water—the anticipation is bad, but once you’re in it’s glorious.

 

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell her that thing about how first drafts are supposed to be terrible.

What’s your favourite writing advice?
Ignore all the advice and trust your instincts.

About the Author:

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Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

 

Connect with Martine:

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Buy THE DREAM PEDDLER

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by Dan Stout

interview: Eva Seyler, author of The War in Our Hearts

by Dan Stout in


As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.

Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Eva Seyler , author of THE WAR IN OUR HEARTS, a work of historical fiction releasing from Authors 4 Authors Publishing on March 24th, 2019.

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About the Book:

France, 1916: Estelle Graham faces a nightmare. Expecting to meet her beloved husband and bring their newly adopted daughter home to Scotland, she instead finds him gravely injured and unconscious in a casualty station. As she fights for his care, she takes solace in his journals and letters.

In a farmhouse in Somme, Captain Jamie Graham is forever changed when he meets young Aveline Perrault. Both of them broken and walled off from the cruel and cold world around them—made even crueler and colder by the Great War—the pair form an unlikely bond. She finds in him the father she never had, and with her love, he faces the pain from his own childhood.

Discover the depth of love and faith in the face of brutality and neglect as they learn to live while surviving World War I.

Interview Excerpt:

Where did you get the idea for THE WAR IN OUR HEARTS?
I’ve felt for a long time that there wasn’t enough WWI fiction out there, and as I was thinking about what I should write, I got a visual in my head of a red-headed girl standing in a barn. That was Aveline, and when she had some trouble, Captain Jamie Graham came to her aid.

How long did you take to write this book?
It took almost exactly nine months from writing the first words to beginning the querying process, and another six months to complete the edits and proofreading.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
Honestly I felt like I was drowning sometimes, but the upside is that I’ve learnt so much I can continue to write about WWI and already have the basic history of the era covered in my head. For TWIOH particularly, I needed information about trench warfare more than anything else. Eye-Deep in Hell by John Ellis and Hot Blood, Cold Steel by Andy Simpson were both amazing resources.

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
Mostly self-indulgent snogging scenes that didn’t do anything to move the plot forward. I also took out a lot of rambling and irrelevant nonsense about Captain Graham’s time training troops in Aldershot.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser. When I have a solid idea where the story is going, then I make my detailed timelines and write my character sketches and all that technical jazz.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
I like the polishing part, when I have the bulk of the story in place and I get to rearrange and reword and weave everything together into a harmonious, well-crafted whole.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
Turning it over to beta readers before it’s reached a state of perfection.

Can you share your writing routine?
I write whenever and wherever I can. I use Google Docs, so I can (and do!) write on my phone or iPad in the car, sitting around waiting for people, relaxing the the bath, whatever. I also try to make time at my computer at least once a day for concentrated writing time with an actual keyboard under my fingers.

I write by hand sometimes early in the process, and I take most of my notes and do my character sketches by hand too. Usually about halfway through writing a novel, I’ll print out the initial draft and annotate it by hand (adding scenes, indicating rearrangements, making notes of things that are still needed and where they should go) before completely re-typing the work from scratch.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
If I can’t think of anything new to write that’s relevant, I’ll go back and do some editing, or draw pictures of characters/scenes, or pick my friends’ brains for ideas.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Probably I would tell it, “Someday you’re going to write fanfiction and it’s going to change your life. You think that’s something to scoff at now, but you just wait and see.”

How did you get into writing?
I’ve been writing since I was little, but I never really FINISHED anything until roughly 2008, when I wrapped up a novel I’d started a couple years prior, and after that I quit writing completely until 2016, when I got sucked into writing fanfic and realised I missed writing a lot and wanted write my own book.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m teaching my human children, eating chocolate, cooking or baking, wasting time on Twitter, or making weird shrieky noises every time I see my non-human children.

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About the author:

Eva was born in Jacksonville, Florida. She left that humidity pit at the age of three and spent the next twenty-one years in California, Idaho, Kentucky, and Washington before ending up in Oregon, where she now lives on a homestead in the western foothills with her husband and five children, two of whom are human.

Contact Eva:

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Twitter (I’m most active here!)

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by Dan Stout

Interview: Andrea Rothman, Author of THE DNA OF YOU AND ME

by Dan Stout in


As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.

Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Andrea Rothman, author of THE DNA OF YOU AND ME, a literary romance releasing from Harper Collins on March 12th, 2019.

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of Andrea’s novel, and it’s fantastic. You may know that I have a special interest in STEM related fiction, and the setting combined with the exquisite prose meant this novel is right in my sweet spot. Check this one out— it’s wonderful and well worth your time!

 

About the book:

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Ambitious young scientist, Emily Apell, joins a renowned research lab in New York to study the sense of smell. There she meets Aeden Doherty, a senior colleague. Their relationship is complicated by external events. Eventually Emily will have to choose between her research and Aeden. Years later, about to receive a prestigious award for the work she carried out in the lab, Emily looks back upon that choice.




Interview Excerpt:

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did a lot of research about Anosmia, defined as a long-term inability to smell. The research in the lab, carried out by the characters in my novel, is about smell.

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
Thankfully nothing. By the time my editor read the novel it had gone through so many revision nothing was lacking or in excess. The material flowed.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Both: a pantser at the very beginning of the work and a plotter towards the end.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
As much as I like not knowing where I’m going (see my answer to previous question) I also sometimes find it a little nerve-racking when things seem to be going nowhere, and it happens all too often in the writing process, especially with fiction.

Can you share your writing routine?
I write creatively only in the morning, from around 8 to 12. I need absolute quiet and I usually write at my desk at home or in a quiet office space. It’s nearly impossible for me to write imaginatively in a Starbucks for instance.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
I’ve had writer’s block very often in my life, I think most writers experience this a lot. To overcome it I usually just lower my expectations and write whatever comes to my mind, just try to fill the page with words, trying to keep my ego out of it. I think most writer blocks are a problem of the ego and having high expectations about the words and the material before the work is even done. Beginning writers rarely have writer’s block.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Follow your heart and trust yourself. It will be okay. If you love the material enough, a book will eventually take shape.

What do you hope to achieve with your novel?
I hope to transport the reader to another place; different to anything they’ve ever known. And I hope that he or she will keep thinking about the characters, their drama, what they could or couldn’t have done and the choices they could have made, long after they’ve finished reading the book.

About the Author:

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Before turning to fiction writing, Andrea Rothman was a research scientist at the Rockefeller University in New York. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and was fiction editor for the literary journal Hunger Mountain. Her first novel is “The DNA of You and Me.” Her short stories can be viewed at www.andrearothman.com.





Contact Andrea:

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Buy THE DNA OF YOU AND ME


by Dan Stout

interview: Michael R. Johnston, author of THE WIDENING GYRE

by Dan Stout in


As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.

Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Michael R. Johnston, author of THE WIDENING GYRE, a work of science fiction releasing from Flame Tree Press on March 14th, 2019.


About the Book:

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Once a war hero of the Zhen Empire, Tajen Hunt has become a freelance starship pilot, scrabbling for a living on the fringes of the Empire.  When his estranged brother is murdered, Tajen discovers that he was killed by Imperial agents.  Betrayed by the Empire he used to serve, Tajen gathers a crew and sets out to finish his brother’s quest—to find the long-lost human homeworld, Earth.  What they discover will shatter 800 years of peace in the Empire, and start a war that could be the end of the human race.


Interview Excerpt:

What’s the story behind the title?
When I was first drafting the story, I called it Things Fall Apart, because the story is inspired by Irish history, and that’s one of my favorite lines from the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, in his poem “The Second Coming.”

Then I remembered Chinua Achebe’s book of that name, and I decided to change it to The Widening Gyre.  Some friends didn’t like it, and I let myself be talked into changing it yet again.  But then my editor, Don D’Auria, said he preferred The Widening Gyre, and since I did, too, I happily changed it back. 

How long did you take to write this book?
I began writing it in July 2012, began really taking it seriously after I attended the Viable Paradise SFF writing workshop in October of 2013, and finished the first draft in July 2015.  I did some rewriting, and started submitting it to various agents & publishers in January 2016.  I got the acceptance from my publisher in May 2018.

 

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did a lot of reading on Irish history, as well as researching the dismantling of the British Empire. 

 

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
There was an extended “dream” sequence in which Tajen had a conversation with an AI, unaware of what it truly was.  But it wasn’t working, and as written it blurred too many lines, so I took the AI out and replaced it with a simpler scene. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m much more of a plotter.  Maybe it’s my English teacher training, but I can’t get traction on the story until I first work out the characters, and then outline the basic plot.  I still get a lot of ideas to add in as I’m writing, and some things change in the process, but I definitely plan the shape of the story before I begin drafting. 


What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
I like the point where I’ve nailed down the plot, I know what’s going to happen, and I can just write.

 

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
Getting the outline done.  Making sure that the plotlines not only make sense, but are interesting.

Can you share your writing routine?
I still have a day job as a high school teacher, and a child in grade school, so I have to write when it fits.  During the school year, I try to write every night for at least an hour after my daughter goes to bed.  During breaks from school, I write throughout the day--most of the work on The Widening Gyre was done during the summers.  That said, I am working on ways to increase writing time, such as giving up some of the television I used to watch, among other things. 

What are you working on right now?
I am working on a couple of things.  First up is the sequel to The Widening Gyre, titled The Blood-Dimmed Tide.  I’m also working on the plot outline for a new IP, another space opera set in a place I’m calling the Boundless Empire.  And finally, I’ve got an epic fantasy that I’d outlined, but which I took back to the drawing board to replot, because I love the characters and the basic idea, but a lot of my original outline doesn’t work.


About the Author:

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Michael R. Johnston is a high school English teacher and writer living in Sacramento, California with his wife, daughter, and more cats than strictly necessary. His debut Science Fiction novel, The Widening Gyre, will be released 14 March 2019 by Flame Tree Press. He can be found at mjohnstonbooks.com and Twitter @MREJohnston

 
by Dan Stout

Interview with Erin Bartles, Author of WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS

by Dan Stout in


As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.

Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Erin Bartles, author of WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, releasing from Revell Books on New Year’s Day, 01/01/19.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

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The story begins when journalist Elizabeth Balsam is tasked with returning a box of never-before-seen photos of the 1967 Detroit riot to a relative she didn’t know she had. Elizabeth wants to use them to further her flagging career. But as she connects with her long-lost great-aunt in the family’s 150-year-old farmhouse outside of Detroit, she begins to uncover the stories of two women who lived in that very house a century apart, who were involved in the Underground Railroad and the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. What she discovers about her family’s past has repercussions for her own future.

Interview Excerpt:


How long did it take for you to write WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS?

The first inkling of the idea came in 2011 or 2012. I researched for all of 2013. I drafted it in 65 days at the beginning of 2014. Then it was revise, revise, revise. I signed with my agent in 2015. We went on submission in 2016. In 2017, I signed my publishing contract. And it finally hits shelves January 1, 2019. It’s been a long road. 

How much research did you do for WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS?

I read well over a thousand pages on women in the Civil War, Michigan’s involvement in the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, funerary practices in the Victorian Era, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, Jim Crow, the development of the city of Detroit, civil unrest and the Detroit riot of 1967, and more. I also watched documentaries, listened to podcasts, and interviewed people who had lived in Detroit in the 1960s.

 
How did you get into writing?

I was an English major, so I adore great writing, be it novels, poetry, plays, short stories, or essays. After reading other people’s novels for work for about a decade, I think it was inevitable that I would try my hand at writing one.

 What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Finding time. I work full time. I’m a mom. I have a house to keep up. Etc. Finding time is always, always a struggle. But if something is important to you, you make it work.

Find WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS on Amazon.

Full interview here: DebutAuthors19.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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ERIN BARTELS is a copywriter and freelance editor by day, a novelist by night, and a painter, seamstress, poet, and photographer in between. Her debut novel, We Hope for Better Things, is scheduled to be released in January 2019 from Revell Books, followed in September 2019 with The Words Between Us, which was a finalist for the 2015 Rising Star Award from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. Her poems have been published by The Lyric and The East Lansing Poetry Attack. A member of the Capital City Writers Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, she is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine.

Connect with Erin:

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by Dan Stout

Author Interview with B.P. Donigan, author of FATE FORGED

by Dan Stout in


As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.

Today, we’re kicking off the series with a conversation with B.P. Donigan, author of FATE FORGED, an urban fantasy from Red Adept Publishing, releasing 12.18.18


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Growing up on the streets of Boston, Maeve O’Neill learned to rely only on herself. Paying bills isn't glamorous, but her life is on a better track—until she starts having agonizing visions of torture. Desperate to rid herself of the paralyzing episodes, she follows her visions to the scene of a murder. Instead of answers, she gets an unexpected gift from the victim: Magic.

With the unwanted power, Maeve becomes the access point to all of Earth's untapped magic. Now, powerful enemies are after her and staying alive means striking a bargain with an untrustworthy ally with a long-shot plan. Maeve has to keep the magic in check until she can get rid of it, but her control is slipping and everything could go wrong. If the plan fails, her unlikely ally betrays her, or her enemies catch her, she'll be handing over all of Earth's magic...and her life.

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Interview Excerpt:


How long did it take for you to write Fate Forged?

I first sat down to write a novel four years before Fate Forged was published. The first year was all about learning how to write a novel. I've always been an avid reader, and I knew what I liked, but I had no idea how to plan, plot or pace a novel. An entire second year was spent editing my work in progress and then getting beta readers and critique partners.

 

How much research did you do for Fate Forged?

I researched everything! For the story itself, I had to map out the character's road trip, and Google search weapons, how to realistically kill someone in hand-to-hand combat, and watch lots of videos online just to make a coherent fight scene. For a while there, I was pretty sure my internet searches were going to flag an FBI raid on my house.

 
Did anything change significantly in your book during the writing or editing process?

A: Yes! Many of the character's names changed, and the title of Fate Forged used to be The Lost Sect, which I liked, but the publisher didn't think had enough depth. After some soul searching, I decided "Fate" was a thread that will reach across the entire series, and then I attempted to find a title with the word Fate that didn't sound like a romance novel! To make it all cohesive, I ended up coming up with titles for the first three books (as well as the Series Title) so the extra effort was worth it.

 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Plotter all the way. I’m always looking for better ways to plan out the plot, the characters and pacing. For me, it’s so much easier to write creatively if I know the bones of the story are solid.

Find FATE FORGED on: Amazon | Kobo | Red Adept Publishing | B&N | GooglePlay

Full interview here: DebutAuthors19.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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B.P. Donigan was born and raised in Wasilla, Alaska (which would later become famous thanks to one infamous politician who could see Russian from her house, but at the time was about as rural as you can get).

She attended college in rural Idaho earning a degree in Print Journalism, and then not-so-rural Utah earning a degree in Marketing, and finally moved to very-not-rural Boston where she lived and worked for ten years. After paying her dues to the Extreme Winters, she resides now in sunny California, with her two kids, two fish, two dogs… and one amazing husband. Like any good superhero she spends her daytime building her cover story behind a desk, and her nights saving the world (on paper, at least).

by Dan Stout