Today I spoke with a woman who is balancing several projects, all in various stages. Help me to welcome the very talented (and very busy) Nancy Christie.
IDI – Nancy, Let’s start at the beginning. When did you have your Eureka moment? When did know that you were born to be a writer?
NC – That’s an interesting question and the truth is that I didn’t have a Eureka moment regarding being a writer so much as a couple of mini-Eureka moments regarding making a living as a writer. I always wrote — my mother had kept the first story I wrote when I was in second grade — but writing was such a natural thing for me that I never thought about it. It was like breathing. But the idea of being published or earning money from my writing — or, for that matter, being a published writer — just didn’t seem likely. And then, back in the eighties, I started writing for a local newspaper and couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do something I’d do anyway. The fact is, though, being a writer is so much an intrinsic part of me that I don’t know where Nancy-the-person stops and Nancy-the-writer begins.
IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek?
NC – I’ve got a couple of different projects. One is my second short story collection, called Peripheral Visions about people who are making decisions and living their lives on their own terms, regardless of what others might say. The book title comes from the title of one of the pieces, about an elderly woman finally free to follow her dream, and what happens during her journey. Here’s an excerpt:
“Shoot.” Lena caught sight of the sign pointing the way to the rest stop off I-77 almost a fraction of a moment too late. She turned the wheel sharply, the right tire of her old Ford kicking up bits of gravel from the shoulder, before navigating safely onto the asphalt turnoff.
Shaking slightly, she slowed the car to a more sedate twenty-five miles an hour before brushing the perspiration from her wrinkled forehead.
“That was close,” she said no one in particular. Talking to herself was a habit she had acquired since her mother’s passing. The young think old people talk to themselves because they are going senile. But when there is no one left to talk to, you have to talk out loud. Otherwise, the silence can be deafening. And after decades as a practical nurse where she routinely carried on conversations with patients simply to ease the sterile loneliness of the oncology ward, Lena knew the value of the spoken word—even when there wasn’t anyone around to answer.
She glanced into her rearview mirror, hoping the highway patrol car that seemed to be shadowing her hadn’t caught her latest misjudgment. That’s all she would need: flashing lights, a request that she show her driver’s license and then a trip to the police station where they would no doubt confiscate her car and contact her niece, Claire.
Claire. By now, Claire might have figured up what Lena was up to, but she still wouldn’t be sure exactly where her aunt had headed. For who would expect an elderly woman who had never driven beyond the Kingsville city limits to drive the 900-plus miles from Ohio to Florida? Not Claire, that’s for sure. Claire would have expected Lena to be looking forward to her move to Golden Glow, to being the sane, sensible, and highly predictable maiden aunt she had always been.
“Not this time, though,” Lena said aloud, as she checked the parking area for other cars, including any with the telltale light bar mounted on the roof. “For once in my life, I’m going to do I want to do, instead of walking a straight line right up to the end.”
That’s the biggest problem with the world today, she thought to herself as she gingerly slid from behind the wheel, carefully stretching her back to work out the kinks. The pain that had plagued her spine was even worse, undoubtedly aggravated by too many hours behind the wheel. She moved her body slowly, continuing her conversation aloud. “People walk around with blinders on just like horses, their eyes glued on the goal, the ‘Big Picture.’ There’s no sidestepping, no walking off the beaten path, no road less traveled. You get ahead that way, it’s true. But what if where you end up isn’t where you should have gone?”
I also have one novel I am shopping, a second one ready for the next round of revisions and a third about half-way through. (I am a multi-tasker!)
IDI – Beta readers. Do you use them as a part of your revision process and how valuable do you find their feedback?
NC – I had never even heard the term “beta reader” until my second book, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories. My publisher, Sally of Pixel Hall Press, suggested I use them to get some feedback on the stories and they were very useful. You need to have fresh eyes looking at your work because, by the time it has gone through multiple revisions, even you don’t know what’s there! So my beta readers were a huge asset, so much so that I am looking for beta readers for my novels, even though we haven’t reached the publication stage yet.
IDI – What works for you? Give us a rundown of your ‘writing process’ from beginning to finished product.
NC – I’d love to say “I do this and then that and then here’s the work, all done and tied with a bow” but that’s not the case. Since I write for a living — magazine and corporate work— I have to shoehorn in my non-income-producing work, aka my fiction, in my schedule, usually early in the morning before I work out and start my official writing day. Life’s a little more complicated now, too, since I am care-giving for my 93-year-old father who lives with me and has some serious health issues. So I have perfected the art of “pick up and write” meaning that, if I have a spare 10 minutes, I work on whatever I can wherever I am. I also work in my head, so to speak: figure out character conflicts or come up with dialogue while I am running or shopping or mowing the grass or folding laundry. So my writing process is pretty much write all the time in one fashion or another.
IDI – Haha! There is no such thing as ‘done and tied with a bow’ in writing!
There is a lot of commotion about the effect eBooks are having on brick and mortar booksellers. Do you think eBooks have reached their climax or do you believe they still have room to expand in the market?
NC – I have read so many conflicting comments — they are a mature market, they are still in the growth phase, people want more e-books, people want print books — so I won’t hazard a guess. But I do believe that brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries play a critical role in our communities. They provide a place for readers and writers to meet, talk, share and discuss. That being the case, it’s up to us — the writers and readers — to support them and the stores and libraries to diversify their offerings and events to attract more patrons. For example, my local Barnes & Noble is once again hosting my “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day event in December —something I really appreciate!
IDI – Do you have a blog and if so, what types of posts would a visitor find on it?
NC – A blog? How about four! (Once I started, I got carried away.) My Make A Change blog is designed to inspire people to get out of the ruts and make the changes they need to live a happier, more fulfilled life. My One on One blog is strictly interviews with authors — one author per month, with each interview posted in two parts. Focus on Fiction is all about fiction writing, with an emphasis on short fiction, and features interviews with writers and editors as well as articles on fiction writing. The Writer’s Place is a little of this and a little of that: tips on both the creative and business sides of writing, interviews and guest posts from other writers, and just whatever thoughts or drifting through my head about writing.
IDI – Four? I’m impressed (and a bit jealous). I’m lucky to keep up with one.
How much time/effort do you give to social media as a means of self-promotion?
NC – As much as I can which isn’t nearly enough. While I’m on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest or on Twitter (@NChristie_OH), there are still things I don’t know how to do on social media, and I shamelessly steal from other authors when I see what they are doing.
IDI – We all know that marketing falls (mostly) on the author. Aside from social media, what forms of marketing have you engaged in? Book fairs, signings, podcasts, et cetera… Have you found them beneficial?
NC – With my current book, I am more limited when it comes to in-person events, because I can’t travel too far, given my care-giving responsibilities. (With my first one, “The Gifts of Change”, I crisscrossed the country as much as I could — easy enough since I have family members and friends in different states!) But I do as many events as I can, regularly send out media releases, and answer every request for interviews that come my way! On my website, I have a main BOOKS page plus one for each book, with sales links and reviews as well as an Events page so site visitors can see what I’m up to. Coming up, I have a couple of multi-author events (great fun for networking with other writers!), book-signings and a couple of workshops. Still to come: doing podcasts and Skype interviews!
IDI – In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?
NC – That all they have to do is write and the world will beat a path to their door to buy their book. Another misconception: their work doesn’t need edited. A third: the publisher and/or agent is supposed to handle all the marketing. A fourth: their royalty checks will push them into another tax bracket. Ah, to be so naïve…
IDI – What do you do when you’re not writing?
NC – I’m never “not writing.” In that respect, I haven’t changed much since I was a kid and played “let’s pretend.” I just wish I had the time to do all the writing I want to do.
IDI – Fun question. Your last book is racing up the best seller list. You’ve been invited to a sit down with Oprah. Describe your reaction to the news and your preparation for the show.
NC – Get my hair, nails and makeup done. Drive my friends crazy trying to figure out what to wear. Read the book again because by now I have forgotten what was in it. Wonder if Oprah made a mistake and meant to call a different Nancy Christie. Practice answers to questions she might ask and obsess over what questions she’ll ask that I didn’t think of. Remind myself that, no matter what happens — I’m a huge success or a huge flop — it will be good fodder for my fiction.
IDI – What does writing do for you?
NC – It gives me a place to hide when things are too hard to face, to practice for life events that may be coming my way and to deal with those events that took place. It pushes me forward and pulls me back.
IDI – Nancy, one last question. How do you define success?
NC – Not in monetary terms, certainly. Success is when readers tell me that something I wrote touched them or that I got it right (even if I never personally experienced it) or that it made them view their own life or options in a different way. What else could a writer hope for?
IDI – Very well said. Thank you for appearing with me today. It means a lot to me especially knowing how tight your schedule is, I admire your drive and discipline. Best of luck with all of your upcoming projects. Maybe we’ll see you back here when the next book hits the shelves!