Monday, March 08, 2010

Author Chat: An Interview with Becca Wilhite (With a Giveaway!)

Valentine's Day is long gone, but that's no reason to stop the love from flowing here at BBB. My contact at Shadow Mountain is generously provided me with one copy of Becca Wilhite's new novel, My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions, to give away. It's a sweet, funny love story that will just make you happy (you can read my review here). Check out my interview with Becca. Then, peruse the instructions and sign up to win. Easy cheesy, as my kids would say!

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Me: Welcome to Bloggin' 'bout Books, Becca. I'm so glad you're here! Tell me about your path to becoming a published author.

BW: I love books. I have always loved books, and I've been a crazy reader as long as I can remember (a trait I've passed on to 75% of my children). When I was in college (totally not studying any sort of writing) I wrote a ton - in journals (which I kept) and letters (which I didn't). Many years later when I decided to write a Whole Entire Book, I worked on it for several years, on and off, between hobbies and parenting and a great deal of cooking. When I thought the book was finished, I bound a few print-offs and handed them around (to friends who are readers, to High School kids, and to a couple of Junior High literature teachers, who passed them around in their classes) and waited for feedback. Most of the feedback was of the "Oh, look! It's not awful!" sort - kind, even if it's not very helpful. (But really? That's helpful, because I am never quite sure if what I write is awful or not until someone tells me. I'm working on that.)

Then I sent out a few query letters. (That still makes me shudder.) Nothing. I decided that maybe I needed to have a small press look at it, that maybe they'd be more likely to read/like/publish my manuscript than a Big National Publisher. So I sent the manuscript to Shadow Mountain, where it got plucked out of the slush pile and, eventually, became Bright Blue Miracle. I'm told that rarely happens, and so I know enough to be grateful. I love Bright Blue Miracle, and I think it's good, but there's a balance of talent and luck in this game, and I'm grateful for the luck part.
Me: You write books for the young adult market. How do your books differ from others on the YA shelf?

BW: I have this theory (possibly I have several) that you'll find what you're looking for, with school, with friends, in life. I'm looking for things that make me laugh. Make me smile. Make me think about important things. Make me feel good. So that is what I write. There are a great deal of important things I don't choose to write about (because other people handle the serious important stuff so much better, so I'll just read their books). So maybe what I write (that's different from much of what's on shelves these days) is light, fun, positive stories. Sort of like frosting (really Good frosting), but without the sugar headache.

Me: You sort of already answered this, but one of the best things about your stories, in my opinion, is that they're not only clean, but also positive and happy. In a market saturated with dark, depressing fiction - vampires, werewolves, the apocalypse, and so on - why did you choose to write lighter, happier books?
BW: It sort of goes back to looking for what I want. I love to read a good scary book now and then - but I don't want to live with it for months and years at a time. Writing a book gets inside your head, and it takes half of forever. I choose to fill that time (and therefore my books) with things that will make me laugh (rather than shudder in fear or hide in the bathtub).

I like happy. I like fun. I like to shake my head in wonder about how people can do bizarre things. I like to laugh.
Me: The "About" section on your blog is very skimpy. Please expound on the following: WIFE, MAMA, WORDS, FOOD, SHOES

BW: I have the greatest husband in the world. He is kind and talented and patient and funny. And lest we forget, really good looking (which I recommend in a husband, if you can possibly make it happen). He takes great photos (that make me look seventeen percent more awesome than reality, and I so appreciate that seventeen percent). He works hard to support our family, and he's totally behind it that I choose to stay home and be the Mom and write books.

Because being the Mom rules. Seriously. We have the four greatest kids ever. All far above average. :) Want to know about them? Here's a taste. Kid 1: Teenage actress, sparing me the drama. Kid 2: Self-motivated violinist and chef. Kid 3: Voracious reader and diva. Kid 4: Sweetest boy in the world (and that's clocked, not just my opinion). What's not to love?
The "words" part is about loving to talk, write, read, listen, sing, write, study, blog, and write.
Okay, about food. I love it. Lots of it. I love healthy foods, but I have plenty of food vices, too. I love butter. A great deal of butter. I love white flour and sugar, too. I'm a pretty good cook, and hot breakfast and family dinners are mostly standard (even though we're in the zone of teenagers). When it comes to food I'm not too hard to please, and there's almost nothing that's not worth the time or effort to make. (Almost. Except Potstickers. Because the ones from Costco's freezer are just about as good as the scratch kind, so I should save myself the whole day and just use those.)

Shoes would be my fetish, if I could afford a fetish. Shoes and purses. Alas, no fetish yet. But a girl can dream...

Me: LOL. What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? Who are some favorite authors?
BW: Mmm. Reading. My favorite. I've been hanging out in the YA section for many years, and love a great YA read. I kneel at the feet of Sharon Creech. I have never been disappointed in her work. I love reading out loud to my kids, and Harry Potter (with all the voices) is a favorite of ours. One of the best things I've read in the last 10 years is Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief." Wow. Everyone should read that (and I never make demands like this). Also, I think I might be in danger of worshipping Kate DiCamillo. She is exceptional in her diversity, and every single thing she's ever written (probably including grocery lists) is excellent. I could go on like this forever, but I won't. But if you want more of this sort of thing, come visit my blog, because I talk about this stuff now and then.

Me: How do you juggle the many roles you play (wife, mom, homemaker, writer, etc.)? How do you prioritize all the demands that are placed on you every day?

BW: Want to know a pet peeve of mine? The phrase "I don't have time" - because, duh. Time is all we really have. And we all get the same 24 hours, every day. What we choose to put in it is, more or less, up to us. So I prioritize. It's sort of a pyramid thing, you know? The big chunks of important stuff are family related. The house-y stuff takes a majority of the day (cooking, driving kids around, laundry, cleaning when I can no longer avoid it), and I try to spend good time every evening with my sweet husband. But that little tip of the pyramid, that time when nobody needs me, that's the writing time. Sometimes that is the hour between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning, and some days it's shoved aside for something else (like sleep). Sometimes I have to choose between writing and exercise (and it's sort of a toss-up, to be honest). When I'm writing, I don't answer the phone (because that's what voice mail is for) and I turn off the sound on the computer (because email is a siren call, and I only allow myself an occasional peek once I'm lashed to the mast, like Ulysses. Okay, really, I allow myself to check email after I've written a certain number of words or a great scene.)

Also, maybe you're assuming too much when you ask how I handle all the demands "every day." Because there are days when I'm Only the Mom. And days when I'm a writer for lots of hours. And days when I lie in my bed like a lump, emerging only to refill my dish of ice cream. I give it a try, this being all things, and I try not to beat myself up when it doesn't all work perfectly.

Me: What are you working on now?

BW: I'm doing fun blog interviews for My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions, and that is awesome. I'm writing at a few things, hoping my muse will sing in my ear about her favorite. I have a few first drafts that are hiding until I'm brave enough to re-read them and see if there's anything there worth revising. I'm also doing a little community theater with my kids. We're all in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and if I may say so myself, we're tremendously cute. (You can just take my word for that.) I also do a little PTA, and some church service. So, keeping busy.

Me: So far, you've written two romances. Do you think you'll stick with this genre or venture out into others? Why or why not?

BW: I love love stories. I think no matter what I write, there will have to be some sort of lovey stuff there. Want to know a little-known fact? Bright Blue Miracle didn't used to have the romance element in it. Before there was the Trevor character (suggested by my Publisher) the love-story angle of that was just the girls, learning to love becoming sisters. But I'm pretty sure I'll keep writing the happy, positive stuff, because that's what I know. (Insert bubbly cheerleader icon here.)

Me: Finally, I ask this of every author I interview, simply because the answers are fascinating in their variety: How do you write? Do you force yourself to write every day or wait for the mood to strike? Do you outline your books or just start writing? Is there anything you HAVE to have while you write (music, food, something to drink, etc.)? Where do you write? How do you come up with your ideas and what do you do with the ones that don't pan out? What makes you unique from other writers you know?

I write on the family computer, in the family office. Which means that before I can get going, I need to log a kid off Facebook, restack the violin music another kid left on the desk, put away the crayons, and wipe away all manner of stickiness from the mouse. I try to write something every day, and in order to do that and not go crazy, I have learned to allow myself to write things that aren't very good. Because it's a ton of stress to think that something publishable has to come out of every writing session. I'm sure there are writers who can create brilliant first drafts, month after month, but I wouldn't want to have dinner with any of them. :)

I am not an outliner. I'm more like a toddler, picking out shiny sparklies from a tray. "Ooh," I say. "That's pretty. Let's have that." And then I stare at the screen for a while, and write another little scene, until I say, "Hm. That's a nice one, too. Let's put that in the pile." (I thought for years that was an original thought, but I must have heard it somewhere, because Ann Lamott uses a very similar image in her amazing writing book "Bird By Bird.")
I can't listen to music while I write, because I have no ability to stay on task. I'll start singing along, or I'll write the words of the song into my dialog. That is not as good a plan as it sounds. So, quiet is good for me.

Sometimes I'll give myself a treat - like a little dish of grapes or some over-sugared cold cereal (without milk) that I can nibble on. But I save the good snacks (like expensive cheese, or anything spread with a great deal of butter) for when I've reached the goal.

The goal is generally 500 words a day. Many days that comes pretty fast, and I can do it twice, or three times. Other days, it's a big pain to just make the words come. But I generally keep all the writing, even the dumb stuff. I have files full of words that don't make the cut. Inside my computer it doesn't even make a mess. And who knows? Maybe someday I can salvage something from the "chucked" pile. Because, the thing is, the more I write, the better I get at it. This is true for everyone. The act of writing makes us better writers. That's why the second draft is better than the first, and the eleventh is even better. So maybe there are pieces of stories that I can revisit and shine up to become something great.

I don't think I'm that much different from other writers I know - we're all just regular people who like books, and through some combination of work and blessings, we get to make books for other people. I am lucky to have met some really fun and interesting writers, and have a few that I count as close friends. Which is, you know, excellent. I think I'm like most writers in that I'm not really sure what I do is good until someone else tells me it is. Writers are, in general, totally insecure. Weird, huh? Also, I love positive feedback, but the negative weighs lots more - so if I receive a bad review somewhere, and accidentally actually READ it, I need to hear about a hundred people (who are not my husband) tell me I'm witty and charming before it evens out. But I'm working on getting over that one, since it's idiotic. Baby steps.
Me: Thanks so much, Becca!
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Okay, if you want to win a copy of My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite, all you have to do is make a comment on this post. I'm not even going to make you answer a silly question this time. Please leave an email address in your comment if you don't have a public blog - you can't win if I can't reach you. The deadline to enter is March 20. Contest is open to U.S. residents only. Good luck!

22 comments:

  1. Very nice interview. I enjoyed it. Love the pretty toes on Bright Blue Miracle. Every girl should have a nice pedicure! Enter me in the giveaway with this email address please.

    janezfan (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  2. Awesome interview! Becca is very cool. =)

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  3. Great interview, I really enjoyed it. I'll be putting her books on my "to be read" list. :)

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  4. Fanatastic interview. I love the cover with the blue toe polish. It pulls you in and makes you want to read Bright Blue Miracle. I love to read the little facts about authors and how they write or how they come up with the concept. I thought the inteveiw was delightful. Thanks for the great giveaway and pls add my name.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

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  5. Nice interview. Love the blog.
    nancymagel (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  6. Lovely interview and the book looks charmingly delightful. Please enter me. :-)

    whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

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  7. I like the idea of happy, feel good reading. It's so hard to find books that are really special like that. So much that I read is "interesting" or "educational" or, frankly, worthless but I've started it so now I'm going to finish it, but to find something that leaves me smiling would make me happy. Maybe this author will be one of those. I'm happy to learn about her. Please enter me in! jsehmke@gmail.com

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  8. Sounds like a good book. I'd love to check it out.
    My email address is on my blog if I should happen to win this.

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  9. Okay, totally unrealated to the post, but *gasps* you're currently reading Michael Grant's Lies!!!!

    Not fair!! How did you get hold of it?

    You going to give it away when you're done!?! Oh please do let us know! :D

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  10. I can tell I'd love this one!

    jenstusue AT yahoo

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  11. Just found your blog and loving your book reviews! I have so much trouble picking a good book...but this one sounds uplifting! Love that! Please enter me:

    pml_leonard@yahoo.com

    Thanx! :)

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  12. I would love to read this book :)
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

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  13. great interview! love this blog!
    alease5972(at)gmail(dot)com

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  14. But I love silly questions! :P

    towerofbooks(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. I just found your blog, and i LOVE it!! the interview was awesome and i want to read all her books now! please enter me to win the book: lindsey_slater@yahoo.com

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  16. I wanna win! (You know my email.) :)

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  17. Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance.

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

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  18. Her life sounds a lot like mine! I really enjoyed this author chat. Too bad the giveaway is not for Canada also.

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  19. This interview was great! I think I'm like her when it comes to writing...when I do write, I just throw a bunch of things out there.

    infinitemusic19 at gmail dot com

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  20. Squeaking in just under the deadline! :) stephaniedekeyser AT gmail DOT com Thanks for the interesting author chat, I really enjoyed that! :)

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  21. My friend asked me to read this book because she said it describes her life perfectly. I would really love to win this book so that I have the opportunity to read it.
    snjett@gmail.com

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  22. awesome!thanks for sharing.
    Be sure to check out my new book as well!

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