"Getting to know you, getting to know all about you
Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me
Getting to know you, putting it my way but nicely
You are precisely my cup of tea" - Rodgers & Hammerstein
But we know each other. We care for each other. We grieve and celebrate and "atta girl" together. We have each other's backs. We know the names of Kate's dogs and we worry about Mr. Curtis's health and I have laughed so hard at Pamela Tracy's stories about her family that I'd never have the courage to look them in the eye if we did meet--I'd fall apart.
We were quieted and saddened by things that have happened lately. We already miss Muriel Jensen, who's decided she wants to retire of all things. Personally, I think she won't hold out and there'll be more of her warm and wonderful books to read somewhere down the line, but so far, she's not giving in.
So, where are we going with this?
Helen DePrima and I, who share this day each month, were racking our brains over what to write about. Even though we are friends who know things about each other, we've never met. In the interest of knowing each other better, we decided to ask each other some questions.
So put us around a nice cozy fireplace and we'll talk. We're in New Hampshire, where Helen lives because (1) I don't have a fireplace, and (2) it's hotter than Hades here in Indiana right now so I can't even imagine one.
Helen, I said, what's your favorite thing about yourself?
She thought about that a bit. Had some tea and cookies and stared into the fireplace. And said, "My favorite attribute about myself is my persistence. I never give up. Like everyone, I've been through some rough spots in my seventy-plus years -- jobs I hated, a grueling stint of terminal care for my beloved aunt, the horrors of addiction in my family, the ordinary wear-and-tear of a fifty-year marriage. My sheer cussed stubbornness has served me well as a writer. I collected enough rejection letters to paper a small room, and I self-published my first novel passed before my agent connected me with Heartwarming."
I think we understand about those rejection letters!
So then, I asked, what's your least favorite thing about yourself?
Her answer was instant on that one, a little wry. "I'm a world-class procrastinator, sliding under all sorts of deadlines in panting disarray. I so admire people who live orderly lives as if a mean dog isn't nipping at their heels, but at my age, I'll probably never join their ranks."
What did you wish you had known before starting?
"I had no clue what I was getting into when I started my first novel (still under the bed.) I did know I was enjoying the process more than sex or chocolate; the story seemed to flow with a life of its own, with only a little guidance from me. When I wrote The End, I was sure agents and then publishers would trample each other to acquire the rights, followed by film offers . . . After the first dozen or so rejections, I settled down to the gritty business of interesting agents in my work. The turning point came with a free ebook: Write A Great Query Letter by Noah Lukeman. I had been doing everything wrong; when I followed his advice, I started getting positive response from agents, including the endlessly patient and supportive Stephany Evans at Pande Literary.
She went on to explain what what she was glad she didn't know.
I guess I'm glad I didn't know how rocky the path to publication would be, but I would still have taken it. I've learned so much from my agent, from free-lance editors, and from the editors at Heartwarming. It's been a wild ride so far, but I wouldn't have missed a single step along the way.
Where do you see your writing career in ten years?
I do get a chuckle from this question, considering in ten years I'll be eighty-three. If I'm lucky -- although I come from long-lived stock. I'd like to think I'll still be writing; certainly new plot lines keep popping into my head, and I'd love to revisit the mystery series that never saw publishing daylight. I've been deeply involved in New Hampshire's political pressure cooker and can think of several scenarios that could be the bases for thrillers. I've sailed the Maine coast -- maybe a family saga set in a harbor town. And I know the West will always call my name.
Before the fire burned down and the teapot and the cookie tray were empty, Helen turned the questions on me.
Liz, how long have you been writing for publication and how did you break into the field?
I started writing a newspaper column at the end of the 1980s. My first book was published in 1999. At the newspaper, I bugged the editor until he let me try it. The book? Just like everyone else in those days: hard copies and SASEs!
Do you find yourself using friends and family as prototypes for your characters?
Not really. I use names and locations, and one of my best friends was one of the girls in my women’s fiction title, The Girls of Tonsil Lake. She knew herself right away and I was afraid she’d be mad, but she wasn’t.
What has been the best/worst day of your life? (This really interests me even though I can't answer for myself.)
Best days keep happening. Last week, Duane and I were talking and celebrating the fact that the day had been perfect. I can’t actually say what makes a day that good, but I sure do feel blessed to have them.
Worst day? I don’t know and I’m afraid to say. I’ve had losses—I’m 66, after all. There have been hard marriage days, hard parent days, days when I just couldn’t stand myself for whatever reason. I guess the worst day—and I hope it never happens—would be when I couldn’t convince myself it was just one day.
Thanks for listening! We hope you've enjoyed the conversation!