Monday, March 3, 2008

Guest Author: Ruth Axtell Morren

Welcome, Ruth! The Rogue’s Redemption is one of your recent releases. I loved the historical aspects—very noticeable in the dialogue and “vocab” words.

Tell us where you got the idea for this book.

While I was writing the book before it, Dawn in my Heart, I had a bad guy. In one of the last scenes of the book, I suddenly realized this guy, whom I hadn’t paid much attention to beforehand, other than making him a schmuck, was redeemable. I suddenly wanted to tell his story.

What is your favorite historical period/setting to write in and why?

Regency, only because I love Jane Austen, probably have since I was in high school and discovered her, as well as Baroness Orczy and The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Georgette Heyer and her books. This period is closely followed by late 19th century/Victorian—again, because I came of age with Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Not so much writer’s block, as just facing that everyday challenge of sitting down at my desk and writing that first draft. Also, what I think is every author’s fear (I recently read Sandra Brown mention it in an interview), “Can I really do this one more time?”

What is the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your writing journey), i.e. plot, POV, characterization, etc? How did (or do) you overcome it?

When I first started, eons ago, I think it was plotting. Characterization was the most fun; I loved dialogue (still do). It was just coming up with that story line… I think reading books on the craft of writing helped; also multiple critiques, judges’ comments, etc. Nowadays, it’s trying to capture the essence & uniqueness of the story during that first draft stage (Nora Roberts’ comment about treating every book as absolutely your very first one helped a lot with this.)

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

Until recently when we lived in a huge house in Maine, I shared a spacious office with my husband. Then we moved to the Netherlands, where space is at a premium, so I have a tiny corner of my bedroom. Ah well, as long as the ideas keep coming….

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

During the first draft stage, I shoot for ten pages a day. But I don’t sweat it too much if I don’t make the mark, as long as I write something (more or less five days a week). With 3 children, you can’t be tied too much to a rigid schedule.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Wake up and begin praying (these days usually in bed). Then read the Bible, then breakfast, a few clean up chores, then shower & dress, then on good days, by 9:30 or 10 a.m., sit down at the computer and begin writing. And keep writing until either I hit my page quota or I know I’ve reached my limit and nothing ‘good’ is going to come out. Then I go for a long walk. Usually, that starts the creative juices flowing again. A lot of the real work, however, doesn’t happen at the computer. It happens during my walk, or, at 3 a.m. when I’ll wake up and my mind will fill with scene and dialogue ideas. Or at 5 a.m… I know then it’s useless to try to go back to sleep until I groggily jot as much down (sometimes in the dark) as I can. Otherwise, by morning, it’ll be gone.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

Ideas can come from anywhere, during researching as mentioned above, from dreams, from a secondary character in a WIP. If they’re sustainable, the idea will usually start taking shape into a full story within a matter of days, and I have to interrupt the current WIP enough to just go with it and jot down any ideas/scenes/dialogue that come to me. Then I put that away in a folder until I can come back to it. When the time comes, I write a proposal (first 3 chaps. + synopsis). If my editors approve it, then it gets contracted & scheduled. When I begin working on it under deadline (trying to allow myself 6-7 months for a single title; 4-6 mos. for a category length), I do the historical research and begin plotting as I do this, and keep sketching out any scenes/dialogue that come to me during that stage. When I reach some sort of critical mass, I know it’s time to start writing at my computer. That’s when I try to discipline myself to the 10 pp/day. Then once that first draft is finished, I go over and edit it a couple of times, then email it chap. by chap. to my critique partner. When I go over her suggestions, I still read through it a few more times (depending on deadline pressure by this time) before emailing the whole thing to my editor.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Only do it if you can’t imagine not writing (regardless of whether you ever sell your work or get any recognition for it)

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Very little, having neither the time, budget nor much talent in that area. Recently, I’ve felt that I also have to hand the whole “promotion” thing over to the Lord. It’s up to Him to give my books favor; to open up promotional opportunities, etc. And He has been doing this, usually in ways I didn’t expect.

Oooh, I love that answer. We could kill ourselves trying to market, but in the end, it has to come down to God’s favor on the writing He’s called us to do. Do you have any parting words of advice?

I’ve just been reading Karen Hancock’s writing blog and she has some very good advice about keeping it all in perspective—it’s for God’s glory. When that gets out of whack, it all suffers.

Thank you for visiting, Ruth. It's been a pleasure learning about you and your writing life. We wish you all the best.

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