The Writing Process Blog Tour

 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Whether it was songs about homeless people I’d see through the car window of my mother’s gold Windstar minivan, or stories on time travel I’d write sitting in the back of math class, as the rest of the students evaluated expressions and fractions.

On November 14th 2013 I published my first book, Tales of a Sevie, a story on the highs and lows of junior high school, told through a series of handwritten notes passed between friends. It is the first book in my series Life As We Note It. Through this publication, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and connect with dozens of authors and writers of every genre from all around the world. One of those lovely writers is Nancy Petralia, author of Not in a Tuscan Villa which she wrote with her husband John about their time spent in Italy. I’m so grateful to have worked with Nancy through social media and am thankful she invited me to join her in this blog tour on the writing process. Read more about Nancy and John on their blog http://notinatuscanvilla.com/blog-3/.

The Writing Process Blog Tour is similar to a chain letter in the fact that it creates a domino effect as it links and passes from writer to writer through their blogs. It’s a chance for writers to connect, support one another, and talk about how and what they write, all by answering FOUR basic questions about the writing process.

Here we go! :)

1.)   What am I currently working on?

I am actually trying to juggle 5 projects at this time and am in the beginning stages of all of them. I’m working on putting together 3 books of poetry (one geared towards teens, one for college students, and another for young adults). I’m also putting together an experimental art book that will be a collection of quotes, poetry, journal entries, and paintings, while also working on The Middle Class, the second book in the Life As We Note It series.

2.)   How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’d like to think my latest book, Tales of a Sevie, has a very unique and substantial voice of young teen girls. I also think the format differs from a lot of other middle grade books, being that it is told from the point of view of 4 best friends and their handwritten notes to one another.

3.)   Why do I write what I do?

I have a special attachment to the teenage years because I think it’s such a fascinating time of transition. While being pumped up on hormones and extreme emotion, we often have to deal with situations we probably aren’t mentally mature enough to handle at that time. I think teens have a lot to say, in a different way than adults do, and I’d like to keep those voices alive.

4.)   How does your writing process work?

Honestly it’s been different for every book I write. Often an idea of mine will be inspired by a dream. First thing the next morning I’ll began outlining. Other times I’ll outline and plan in my head for weeks, sometimes months, without writing a single word down. Then, when I’m ready to write, I’ll dive right in. The only real constant I’ve noticed in my writing process is all of my work is very character driven. I tend to develop and get to know my characters before anything else. Once I’m clear on who they are, what they do, and what they want, it’s easy for me to develop a plot from there.

As I mentioned earlier, The Writing Process Blog Tour is about connecting with other writers. I have asked Carol Cooper, Mark Weir, and Gertrude Martins to grab the baton from me to continue this tour. You can read more about them below.

Carol Cooper

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Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist and author in London. Her racy romantic novel One Night at the Jacaranda comes after a string of non-fiction books, including an award-winning medical textbook (2013), co-authored with colleagues.

Her blog Pills and Pillow-Talk  http://pillsandpillowtalk.com is about what she does when she’s not being a doctor. Carol enjoys living abroad and loves to travel. Other loves are her cat and her new husband, not necessarily in that order.

Mark Weir

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Even as a small boy Mark always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until he reached middle age that he took it seriously. Mark started to write and found that he couldn’t stop. He wrote for two hours a night and longer on the weekends. Soon, he had enough material for four books and began the publishing process. His new novel, Randall Crane and the Whitechapel Horror, is due out in the late spring in e-book format and paperback. You can read more about Mark and his books on his blog http://markweirauthor.moonfruit.com/blog/4583196172.

Gertrude Martins 

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Gertrude Martins is an Indo-Canadian who’s resided in Canada for the past twenty-seven years. In Toronto, she’s worked as a vice principal and for the Toronto Catholic District School Board for twenty-one years. She’s since been retired for three years, giving her the time and discipline to fulfill her dream of writing. Gertrude often writes under the pen name Geetha Patel. You can find more information on Geetha and her first novel Song of the Koel on her blog http://www.geethapatel.com/news–blog.html.

 

Please look for Carol, Mark, and Gertrude’s posts next Monday May 5 on their blogs to read about their work and their routines when it comes to the writing process.

Interview with John and Nancy Petralia

Happy Wednesday! Today my honorary guests are John and Nancy Petralia, authors of Not in a Tuscan Villa. The book is the story of two sixty-somethings who abandon a comfortable retirement to move to Italy for a year. The experience-good and bad-recaptured their youth, reinvigorated their romance, and gave them a new perspective on America and how they want to live the rest of their lives.

Personal: Getting to know the Authors:

How long have you been a writer? Best

J&NP: This is our first book. We aren’t writers by profession. It took us about 18 months to complete Not in a Tuscan Villa.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

J&NP: I guess we enjoy commenting on life around us. Living abroad, your perspective is quite different. You can’t help comparing the foreign place to what you know in America. And the insights it gives you–about culture, family, relationships, and yourself–are things we like to share.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre?

J&NP: We’re non-fiction writers. Nancy, because I’m no good at making up stuff, and John because it fits his commentary style.

What inspired you to write your first book?

J&NP: We figured out how to have our dream of living in Italy for a year, as ordinary citizens. When we came home, the experience had so changed the way we wanted to experience the rest of our lives that we wanted to share it. We NEEDED to share it.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not?

J&NP: It’s not a travelogue. It’s not like Under the Tuscan Sun or some other book about buying a run-down house in the country and fixing it up with funny workmen. It’s not about picking grapes and olives and eating out under the stars. It’s about real life in Italy, where you have to negotiate the everyday mysteries of train ticketing, public and private bureaucracy, getting the cable fixed and the internet installed, and you might end up in the hospital–twice. It’s about looking for ways to make friends and become part of a local community, and the rewards of rediscovering your romance.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

J&NP: We love and are inspired by Bill Bryson. What travel writer wouldn’t be. He’s adventuresome, insightful, irreverent, and hilarious. He’s also a VERY skilled writer who knows how to weave a complex story and deliver a punchline. We learned a lot about writing by reading and analyzing his work.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

J&NP: “You are what you read.” It’s the motto of our book club.

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

J&NP: Italy of course, but we still want to go to South America, spend more time in Spain and some of France. The Balkan cruise to St Petersburg is on the list. It’s actually a long list.

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Books, Writings, and Routines:

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

J&NP: We found the discipline of the library writers’ group helped us finish the book. We had to show up each week with four pages each to read. Sometimes we wrote quite a bit more, but we always had to have at least four.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

J&NP: Whatever your dream is, to live abroad, to climb a mountain, to try your hand at sculpture, whatever. JUST DO IT. The experience will change your life in ways you never expected and energize the rest of your life.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

J&NP: Learning how to craft a story. We had lots of source material, but creating the story arc, within the chapters and throughout the book was the hardest part. We cut, rearranged, edited many times to get it where we wanted. Also, figuring how to start was difficult. The approach we finally took was suggested by a critique at a writers’ workshop.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

J&NP: Figuring out how to write it together. We settled on alternating chapters and forcing the styles to be different. Nancy’s style is more narrative, and John’s is more commentary, closer to that of an essayist. In both cases there’s an intentional attempt to emphasize our personality quirks so it’s obvious who’s speaking.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

J&NP: We could read four double-spaced pages each at our writers’ group. In the beginning we would write to the four pages each week. Eventually we learned that we needed to tell the STORY in whatever space it took and just read four of the pages. But the discipline of producing every week drove us to completion.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

J&NP: Since the book is a series of essays, we had to figure out the point of each chapter and then how they fit together to tell the overarching story. We find ourselves in situations and then develop the story around those situations.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

J&NP: For us it was just the opposite. The stuff was inside us and had to come out.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you? If you did not design the cover yourself who did and how and why did you select that designer?

J&NP: The publisher provided a designer who’s done over 600 books. She’s a fabulous artist and extremely creative. She used several of the photos Nancy took as the basis for a variety of different approaches. We fell in love with the one we chose.

Not in a Tuscan Villa cover

Marketing & Book Signings:

What ways have you marketed your books?

J&NP: Book signings, lectures about related topics. We’re also interested in reaching book clubs and Italian cultural groups.

Where and how are your books sold?

J&NP: Amazon, some B & N, independent bookstores. Amazon has recommended it on their Hot New Releases list and in their email marketing.

What do you do to get book reviews?

J&NP: ASK everyone we can reach who’s read the book, to post on Amazon and Goodreads. A few will actually do it. Sent copies to professional reviewers.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales?

J&NP: We have a personal email list of about 300 people. I’ve sent announcements to them about the initial publication, the Kindle release, and will send one about holiday purchases. That spiked the initial sales for both the print copy and Kindle version.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

J&NP: Don’t know yet. We’ve given some to reviewers and will try the Goodreads giveaway program. But other authors have told us this wasn’t particularly helpful in generating sales. We don’t fit the profile of authors who are promoting a series or plan to write many more books, so I don’t know how useful it would be.

Tell us a little about your latest book signing. What all did it entail? How long did it last?

J&NP: We spent a few minutes introducing ourselves and why we wrote the book, then each of us read a short section. Our library time spanned two hours so we repeated that process at the top of the second hour for those who came in later. We answered a lot of questions in both venues.

We coupled it with a reading or Q & A from book clubs so it lasted 1-2 hours.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

J&NP: Read. And not just the genre you want to write in. If you want to be a good writer, read people who are great. Invest in learning to write better. We started with our writers’ group, but also went to a writers’ conference, had two professional critiques, and had the manuscript critiqued by a carefully selected group of avid readers, including a former professional editor for a major publishing house. Use professionals for editing, cover, and your interior design.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

J&NP: Open your mind to another view of the world. Take the time to SEE, not just observe the world around you and consider what that means.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively over the years as a writer?

J&NP: We’re much better writers than when we started. And much better readers. Writing makes you a more critical reader and vise versa.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

J&NP: We write non-fiction so it’s about turning what happened into a story.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

J&NP: Stream of consciousness–getting it down the first time.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

J&NP: Go for your dreams earlier. Don’t get hung up on all the reasons why you can’t do it.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

J&NP: Visit the FB page for Not in a Tuscan Villa. Visit our website, NotinaTuscanVilla.com. And Nancy’s Goodreads author page. Send us an email or post something…we love to hear from readers.

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*Extra Credit Questions*

Is Not in a Tuscan Villa a memoir? DSC03549_2

J&NP: Not exactly, although it is our recollections of things we experienced during our year in Italy. We like to call it “adventure learning.” The adventure certainly changed us, and we take the reader on our journey of discovery. We take turns with the chapters which is something different.

How have you changed from the experience?

J&NP: We came home wanting to recreate the daily experience we had in Parma–and to relocate to a city. Both consciously and unconsciously we’ve applied the lessons we learned to our search for a new hometown. To our surprise, the place we chose has even more of them than we originally thought so we’ve certainly internalized a new perspective.