Monday, July 5, 2010

Spotlight Author with Lisa Wingate

Hey baby let's go to Vegas!!! And that's where I am off to! Wish it was a planned vacation instead of an obligation... but that's the way it goes. So before I head off, I thought I would take a few minutes to share with you, my interview with this weeks spotlight author, Lisa Wingate.

Tell us about your latest release...

A: Beyond Summer is really a story pulled from today’s economic headlines. In a time when reversals of fortune have become common, due to mortgage problems and over-extended family budgets, many people are finding themselves in circumstances and living situations they never expected to face. In the previous book in the series, The Summer Kitchen, the Blue Sky Hill neighborhood was under siege by unscrupulous development companies. I wondered whether some of the CEOs of those companies, who collect paychecks while remaining comfortably above the dirty work, could really understand the devastation their faulty mortgages might cause to a family of moderate means. Then, it occurred to me to wonder what would happen if one of those comfortably-wealthy families lost everything and found themselves with no place left to live but a tiny house in Blue Sky Hill, right across the street from one of their intended victims. If identities weren’t revealed, would the families become friends? Would they begin to lean on one another and care about one another? What would happen when the truth came out? Beyond Summer is a story about families, friendships, and about community--how we find it, what it means, and how strong communities help us to survive in difficult times.

What are you working on now?

A: I’m currently working on the first book in the new Moses Lake series for Bethany House. Larkspur Cove will be released in Feb, 2011. This summer, I’ll also be putting the final touches on the next book for Penguin Putnam, titled Dandelion Summer (July 2011) , which will follow Beyond Summer in the Blue Sky Hill series.

Some writers say that they have a story that has to be told others say that the characters come to them and demand that their story be told... how does it work for you?

A: For me, it depends on the story. My story ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, but always from something in life. The nugget of a story can be as simple as a snippet of overheard conversation or a news story. It can be as complex as a life story shared by a reader, or an interesting person I’ve met in my travels. Some stories begin with an idea for a character and some begin with a situation, and the characters develop as a result.

Does a lot of planning go into your work or are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl?

A: I never know at the beginning exactly how the story will end, which isn’t to say that writing is a completely blind journey. Writing each book is a bit like crossing the mountains with a pocket map. On the map, I can see major landmarks, a path from one landmark to the next, and an eventual ending point on the other side of the mountains. Like all climbers, I begin the journey with excitement, enthusiasm, and my lungs full of air. At a few thousand feet, the air gets thin, I’m tired of climbing, and I’m wondering if the map will take me where I need to go. By then, I’ve encountered a dozen unexpected roadblocks, and at least as many wonderful surprises. The story experience is becoming real, and full, and tactile. The characters are taking over, and I want their journeys to end someplace wonderful. I know that if I can just reach the crest of the mountain, I’ll be able to see the finish point, and the journey down the other side will be incredibly satisfying. Finally, the characters and I sprint down the other side of the mountain and celebrate the end of the journey together.

Of course, in reality, this celebration is just me at my computer, surrounded by imaginary people, so all that cheering probably looks ridiculous. Luckily, I’m usually alone when it happens—except for the characters, of course, and they completely understand.

If you had to pick one character in your books, who would be your favorite? And why. Or if you don't want to pick a favorite... which one do you connect with the most? And why?

A: Grandma Rose in my first book, Tending Roses, will always be my all-time favorite character. Not only has the book been reprinted fourteen times, remaining in print for ten years, but the character of Grandma Rose was based on my grandmother, and her stories are my grandmother’s real stories. That character and that book will always be close to my heart, and the fact that readers have embraced it makes it so much more special.

Who has inspired you and your career as a writer?

A: A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, put that idea into my head one day when she found me writing a story at indoor recess. I was new in the class and too shy to ask anyone to play a board game with me. Mrs. Krackhardt read my story and told me I was a wonderful writer, and then she read my story to the class. After that, I was hooked. I loved the way it felt to create a story and share it with people. When Mrs. Krackhardt wrote on my report card that she expected to see my name in a magazine one day, she affirmed what I already knew. I wanted to be a writer!

How long was your road to publication?

A: I’ve always loved to write, but I didn’t get serious about freelance writing and selling until after I’d graduated from college, married, and started a family. I can lay some of that off on a busy job as a technical writer and sleep deprivation from having young children. I wrote and sold various smaller projects in between naps, diapers, and play groups. Finally the point came when the boys were more independent, and I started thinking again about that desire that began in Mrs. Krackhardt’s class. I asked myself what makes a story last, what really makes a story worth telling and worth reading? I wanted to write books that meant something, that explore the human soul.

During that time period, I came across a notebook in which I’d written some of my grandmother’s stories. I’d never known quite what to do with those stories, but I knew they were significant in my life. When I rediscovered the notebook, I had the idea of combining my grandmother’s real stories with a fictional family who are like and unlike my own family. That little germ of an idea became my first mainstream novel, Tending Roses.

I spent about a year writing the book, mostly while the boys were napping or playing. When it was finished, I edited it repeatedly and then sought agents for it. I did that in the typical way--researched, used Writer’s Market, and sent queries to the agents. While I was trying to sell Tending Roses, I wrote a second novel called Texas Cooking. Lisa Hagan of Paraview Literary agency sold both books to NAL Penguin Putnam around eight months later.

What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A: Sending stories out into the world and then hearing from readers. When something you’ve written connects with the life of someone you’ve never met and has a positive effect, it is the most incredible, blessed, indescribable feeling.

If there was one peice of advice that you could give an aspiring author to help hem get their career started, what would it be?

A: First, finish a novel. It’s almost impossible to sell a partial if you’re unpublished. Polish it and send it out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in your desk drawer. While you’re waiting for news, write another book. If the first one sells, you’ll be set for a two-book deal. If the first one doesn’t sell, you have eggs in another basket. Don’t take a critique too seriously if you hear it from one editor/agent, unless there’s an imminent contract involved. Editors and agents, just like the rest of us, are individuals. What works for one may not work for another. If you receive the same comment from multiple sources, consider revising your manuscript before you send it elsewhere. Be tenacious, be a thick-skinned as possible, keep writing while you wait for news. Never stop creating new material—that’s where the joy is, and if you keep the joy of this business, you keep the magic of it.

Out of all of the recipes that you have in your books... what is your favorite and would you be willing to share one of them with us?

A: My grandmother’s banana oatmeal cookies. She loved to spend time at the local grocery store, digging through rotten fruits and vegetables, gleaning freebies that the produce man was about to throw away. Rotten bananas were an especially treasured find. She often used them to bake these banana oatmeal cookies, which she invented, and was very proud of because the only thing that “costs” (is expensive) in the recipe is a few chocolate chips. In THE LANGUAGE OF SYCAMORES, granddaughters Kate and Karen renew their childhood bonds by attempting to bake a batch of Grandma’s banana oatmeal cookies. At my grandmother’s funeral, my cousin, Judy, baked my grandmother’s cookies. Judy probably paid for her bananas, but as we ate the cookies we all smiled and thought of long afternoons with Grandma. No matter where you are in life, there is something timeless about the taste and smell of a recipe your grandmother always made.

1 cup flour

½ cup mashed ripe banana

1 1/4 cup sugar

1tsp baking soda

½ tsp cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats

½ cup soft shortening or stick margarine

3 Tbsp milk

½ package chocolate chips (or raisins—healthier, but we kids were always disappointed when the black things in the cookies turned out to be raisins ;o)Mix ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, until lightly browned on top.

Thank you Lisa for sharing your time and wisdom with us here at Micole Writes Romance. It has been a pleasure having you here. If you are looking for Lisa's books, you can find them anywhere books are sold, or read sample chapters at . Her fourteenth book, BEYOND SUMMER is hitting the shelves today, July 6th!

Make sure to look for it. Thank you all for stopping by.




KDS said...

Lisa--I loved Texas Cooking so much! The plot was intriguing, the romance rang true, and it literally made me laugh out loud. (I have family from Texas) lol ;) It remains one of my all-time favorite books. Thanks for the good advice you gave to aspiring writers and thank you for writing wonderful books.
Micole thanks so much for interviewing Lisa!

KDS said...

Oh and thanks also for recipe--we all need good recipes for ripe bananas. I'm going to make the cookies this week. Micole I'll share the cookies with you.

Sheri Humphreys said...

I'm so glad I stopped by Micole's blog today. I've never read a Lisa book, but I intend to get one today. I clicked over to Amazon and looked at several books and reviews. I'm not sure I've ever seen so many 5 star reviews! I'm pre-disposed to like it based on reviewers' comments, and based on the books' descriptions, I'm pretty sure I won't be disappointed. Sheri

Micole Black said...

KDS... thank you so much for stopping by. I'm glad that you enjoyed it! ;-)

And I would love it if you shared the cookies with me! ;-0



Micole Black said...

Yes you must pick one up in deed Sheri! Thank you for stopping by! I am glad that you could make it!

Big hugs!