Since publication of The Last of the Blacksmiths, I’ve been on the talk circuit. At last count, I’ve given over fifty talks, about my novel and about related topics like German genealogy, writing family history, and so on. I’m working on a novel now about the Scottish immigrant experience.
Is there any advice you can give other authors?
In an early writing class I took, students kept coming up with reasons we couldn’t make progress on our books. Our teacher, author Skye Moody, kept saying “Just get the story out.” That really helped, to trust the creative process and go for it.
I write regularly, it’s my day job. I can write at the computer, but longhand is my preference for a first draft. I work from an outline, but generally write my way from point A to point B as a process of discovery. My favorite part is revision, discovering themes and going deeper into the story.
How do you get your inspiration?
When I start out, I have some nagging question that grabs hold of me and won’t let go until I dig in and start writing.
How do you do your research? Do you pretty much stick to the Internet or consult experts or librarians?
When I’m writing historical novels, I visit museums and archives and take photos—of places, artifacts, interpretive signs, etc.—to work from once I’m back home. To write The Last of the Blacksmiths, I took a 4-day blacksmithing class to get a glimpse of what my protagonist experienced.
What was the most interesting factoid you learned while researching your book?
How the fast pace of change in the 19th century was as life-altering for people back then as the fast pace of change is for us today.
Have your reading tastes changed since you became an author?
My tastes haven’t changed, but now I give myself permission to stop reading a book if I’m not enjoying it.
Are there any bestselling authors you hope to emulate?
Sure, I’m always aspiring to emulate authors I love to read, like Lauren Hillenbrand, Barbara Kingsolver, Daniel James Brown, Andy Weir.
What promotional tool has worked best for you?
I threw a big launch party, with German wines, blacksmith demonstrations and horse-drawn carriage rides, which generated word-of-mouth buzz, and have a growing list of talk topics on my web page. Every effort, no matter how small, pays off one way or another.
Which promotional tools have been the least effective?
I write a column for my local newspaper about writing, where my byline states the title of my book, but that visibility seems to have generated next to no sales.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started publishing?
For me, becoming a published author has opened opportunities to learn and teach and share and travel. I thought it would just be a book, but it’s been so much more than that.
Do you have any fun stories to share from author events or interactions with fans?
Soon after the publication of my novel, I was invited to do a radio interview. Months later, I received a phone call from someone who’d heard it. “I was at work, and that interview was just fascinating,” the listener told me. “I made a note of your name, hoping you’d come speak for my Rotary Club in Ellensburg. Would you consider speaking for our September meeting?” Since I said yes, they also arranged for me to give a talk that same night at the library. Let me add, I love getting fan mail. That’s the greatest.