ANNE HAMILTON FOWLER – Memoir Author With an Inspiring Story

Anne Fowler, only child of Audrey and Stewart Hamilton, was raised in Toronto, where she attended Leaside High School and Toronto Western Hospital School of Nursing. In 1962 American Airlines beckoned her to Dallas, Texas, and life in the sky as a flight attendant. Twice divorced, Anne first married a young minister from Louisiana and then long-time best friend Dr. Bob Fowler of Toronto. They raised a daughter and son who later produced one grandchild each… a grandson and granddaughter. In 2001, Anne retired, closed her company Hamilton Enterprises and left behind a thirty-year career in Human Resources. She relocated to El Progreso, Honduras, to volunteer at a clinic where ophthalmic and dental care are provided for patients who lack the funds to be treated elsewhere. During this time, Anne developed the Visiting Doctor program for international ophthalmologists, started the Healthy Living Education project in local elementary schools, and helped with a variety of clinic and community activities. In 2005, after purchasing property in the small north coast village of El Porvenir, she built Hamilton Benest House, a home that provides accommodation for visiting dentists, doctors, teachers, and other volunteers. Her major program in 2021 is Phase Two of the Healthy Living Program. This annual dental program, conducted by two Canadian dental teams, provides dental care for over 1,000 elementary school students. Anne’s programs continue to thrive, and she is still developing community initiatives designed to improve the lives of Hondurans. Anne divides her year between El Porvenir and her Haliburton cottage north of Toronto

I began writing my memoir I’ve Worn Many Hats the summer of 2019 when two of my best friends moved out to British Columbia. I knew there would be a big hole in my summer at the cottage, so on a dare, I started writing. The process turned out to not only alleviate boredom during Covid lockdown but provided a benefit I couldn’t have foreseen; it forced me to look at some “incidents” in my life. Incidents which I had never really faced and a process that would have given me true closure. A blurb about the “plot,” which covers 81 years of my life, appears on the book’s cover.

Is there another book in my future? Probably not. Although it’s been suggested by readers that I develop a storyline “spin off” from one of “my adventures,” not sure that I have the stamina! I am still pretty busy half the year managing and developing new projects in Honduras, the current one being a community mobile library. The other half, I am acting like a true retiree sitting on the dock at my cottage or murdering the game of golf!

One of your questions that I WILL answer is whether or not an association membership helped me or my writing and the answer is yes. A little bit of back story here… up until last Spring, I always told everyone that “I would join Facebook over my dead body.” My family said I had to do it for marketing purposes, so I did. But where to find “friends”!!? I scoured FB lists and friended hundreds of writers/authors because I believed that they “might” be a help in my finishing the book and could give me advice. The resulting support proved to be a really interesting experience; surprising and somewhat overwhelming! I heard so many stories about other authors’ experiences trying to write during Covid I entertained the possibility of writing another book titled “Writing in The Time of Covid.” I have joined many authors groups on Facebook. I have been invited through these memberships to participate in a number of things, such as author takeover days, interviews, and numerous blogs. Feedback has been positive with many questions asked (especially about my work in Honduras) and has undoubtedly increased book sales. Although frankly, making money was not the primary purpose of writing, any profit will go towards my Honduran projects. The book was self-published on Amazon this past October. Here is the publishing info

My contact information:

Web site: https://anne.honduranhope.net

Email: anne.fowler@xplornet.ca

Facebook: Anne Hamilton Fowler

Link to a video interview that I made in Oct/21: https://youtu.be/Zs-SZXzH6Lg

For Canadian readers:  Paperback – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1778350321
eBook – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/BO9HDN55FV
For US readers:  Paperback – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1778350321
eBook – https://www.amazon.com/dp/BO9HDN55FV

 

4 Comments

  1. Anne Fowler

    Thank you Michael. who knows, after I settle back into cottage life for the summer, I may regain my inspiration!!!

    Reply
  2. Anne Fowler

    Thank you Gail! I appreciate your support and comments.

    Reply
  3. Gail

    I’ve Worn Many Hats is a fascinating story about a fascinating person who continues to make the world a better place!

    My hat off to you Anne Fowler!

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    you are a truly humanitarian person and personify the best in us. God bless you for your work and best of luck to you in your writing. I hope you do decide to write that next book based on one of your adventures.

    Reply

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LINDSEY KINSELLA -Scottish Writer and Author of Science Fiction

While a qualified and experienced naval architect and an avid car enthusiast, he always reserved space in his life for a deep fascination with paleontology. This drove his writing process as he strove to write tales of the rich and complex history of life on Earth.”

 

 

My current book is The Lazarus Taxa—a tense, science fiction thriller.

“67 million years in the past. Deep time—the true final frontier. But all is not as it seems. Which should be feared most—the dinosaurs… or the people? The Lazarus Taxa follows the first scientific expedition through time to the Late Cretaceous.”

The Lazarus Taxa is available now, having only been released at the start of the year. It can be found on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1739750012/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_i_RXG3N1BFQ5FMC8F1E7Q6

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes! While I only have the one book published, my works in progress span sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. I tend to write a story and then worry about what genre it might fit into later, resulting in some “genre-hopping.” I like to experiment with different styles, audiences, and tones; I don’t think any of my current works bare much resemblance to one another.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Simply finding the time! Between looking after two children, working full time as a naval architect, and restoring classic cars, it gets a little tricky to get the chance to just sit down and write. Fortunately, I’m somewhat of a night-owl, so late nights are often my writing hours.

How long did it take you to write your first book? From writing the first line to publication took me almost two years. Being my first novel, there was a steep learning curve and many, many re-writes. I think I have my process dialed in now, so I’m hopeful that future projects can be turned around somewhat quicker!

How do you come up with character names? I draw a lot of inspiration from real people. For example, one character in The Lazarus Taxa, Dian, is named after Dian Fossey—I felt both the real life and fictional Dian stood for very similar ethics.

Strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? They most certainly run the show. One of the most important aspects in character writing, I find, is that characters should make mistakes and bad decisions because that’s exactly what real people do. Sometimes they’ll act rashly, or even cowardly—sometimes they’re just plain stupid. These are core parts of what makes them believable.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Call me a sadist, but I’m probably more likely to kill off a popular character! Sometimes a death is simply a way to demonstrate danger or to cleanly clean up a character who has served their storytelling purpose. Often, however, a death is used to drive the plot as a motivation to the main characters. The reader has to feel that motivation, too, so the reader should care about that character as much as the main character does.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? I do, but never an entire character. I’ll take the characteristics of certain people and blend them together. It helps to create believable characters; it’s far easier to imagine how a real person might react to the situation you have placed them in.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I definitely outline; in fact, I tend to do that long before beginning to write a book in earnest. My phone is filled with skeletal outlines of novels which I note down as they come to me. By the time I sit down to write a new project, I already have a pretty good outline.

What kind of research do you do? It depends on the story, but certainly, there was a lot of paleontological research involved in The Lazarus Taxa. It was important to me to present up to date representations of dinosaurs and not just Hollywood monsters. Hence, months of research went into these animals. Of course, being somewhat of a natural history geek, I had years of pre-existing research to build on.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I tend to prefer fictional settings. Perhaps it’s just laziness, but I find researching whether a real life village has, for example, a train station or a hospital in order to fit the story rather tedious. If it’s a place I’m not personally familiar with, it becomes an easy way for plot holes and inaccuracies to creep in. If it doesn’t add to the plot, I’ll avoid real places where possible.

Of course, much of my work in progress is set in the real town of Lyme Regis, but that’s a rare exception.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have more book ideas than I know what to do with, so I think I will continue to write for some time. My current work in progress is a quirky, family-friendly fantasy novel that I hope to release early next year.

After that, I’ll have to choose between a sequel to The Lazarus Taxa and one of my many scribbled outlines!

 Do you have any advice for new writers? I’d say I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, if you have an idea, just write it! It sounds so simple, but for years I sat on what I thought were some great ideas for a story. I convinced myself that putting them in a book was unrealistic, and it took the sheer boredom of lockdown for me to pull the trigger.

Secondly, a professional editor is priceless. Not actually priceless, they’ll definitely put a price on it, but a good editor can be the difference between a good and a bad book. There are so many norms and conventions within novel writing that, as a first time writer, you simply won’t be aware of (I certainly wasn’t).

How do our readers contact you? Facebook is my primary method of communicating with my readers. You can follow me at the link below

https://www.facebook.com/LindseyKinsellaAuthor

3 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Lindsey! Sorry I’m so late reading your interview, but glad I did. And yes, if you have an idea, write it! Good advice, but hard to do sometimes. Much success!

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got a lot of good ideas and a lot of drive, Lindsey. Those are certainly two things that make a good writer. Love that tag line about which to fear more, the dinosaurs or the people. Good luck to you.

    Reply

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CARL VONDERAU – Award Winning Author

Carl Vonderau is the author of MURDERABILIA, which won The Left Coast Crime Award for Best Debut Mystery and the San Diego Book Award for Best Mystery/Suspense. Like the protagonist, he has been a private banker and was raised in a Christian Science family. On the other hand, his father was never a serial killer whose photos launched the “murderabilia” market. Carl has worked in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and North Africa. He is now a full-time writer. He has another book in submission with publishers.

Carl is the president of Partners in Crime, San Diego, a chapter of Sisters in Crime. He is also a partner at San Diego Social Venture Partners. This organization mentors other nonprofits to reach the next level. Carl lives with his wife in San Diego, and they have two grown sons.

WHERE ARE YOU IN YOUR WRITING CAREER? I have been writing for thirty years. I guess it takes some time to become competent. My money-making career was as a banker. That’s why the characters in my books are in the financial industry.

My debut novel, MURDERABILIA, is a thriller. Unfortunately, the publisher, Midnight Ink, closed its doors. I’ve reissued it with Amazon with a new cover, so it is readily available again. A number of publishers are considering my second book. It’s a nervous time until someone decides to buy it.

I’m currently working on a third novel which is stand-alone domestic suspense.

WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS? I begin with a premise and then try to outline 30-40 scenes. I usually structure around an inciting incident and 3 acts. Then I start to write by hand. I do this on a legal pad and like to work at coffee houses. The objective is to write as fast as possible. When I have at least 3-4 pages, I’m relieved because I know I’ve got something that can be a scene. When I’ve finished the scene by hand, I try to type it into my computer within 24 hours. In that process, I will add parts like gestures or settings, or senses. I’ll also take out writing that doesn’t work. Sometimes while I’m typing, I see that the scene doesn’t really begin until the middle, so I leave out the first part.

I’m continually trying to improve my process. For the latest book I’m working on, I used Plottr to map out the scenes. Then I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time and wrote like a madman to get down 57k words. I’ve never written even close to that much so quickly. This process has enabled me to get a very rough draft faster than I have ever gotten one before. Just don’t ask about the quality. Now I’m going back to each scene to make sure it deserves to be in the book. If it does, I revise it.

I write a few hours every day, taking breaks throughout. One of the most creatively productive things is to finish working on a  scene and then do something else like exercise or the dishes. This gives me distance and allows the scene to reverberate in my subconscious. I usually get a good idea while I’m away from my laptop. The shower is great.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO GET PUBLISHED? A lifetime. My kids are in their thirties, and I began writing when they were very young. I was also working, so writing became any snatch of time I could steal from the day. We moved from Chicago to Montreal, and I had to work and learn French. But I always made some time to write. The lesson I got from these years is that, even if you only have 15 minutes, you can scratch out some words. You just write as fast as you can. That’s part of the reason it took me so long to write my first book.

That first unpublished novel took 15 years. I didn’t have a writer’s group or mentor, so I just stumbled around. The novel was set in Colombia. It didn’t all go into the drawer. I used some of it years later for a short story that went into the San Diego Sisters/Partners in Crime anthology, CROSSING BORDERS. I started on another novel after we moved to San Diego. That took about five years. It was also unpublished. But by then, I had discovered writing conferences and writing coaches, so I got better.

MURDERABILIA took about four years to write. There were more than 20 revisions. But this time, I got to work with Jacquelyn Mitchard as a content editor and learned a lot. Then I had to find an agent. I took a course on crafting elevator pitches. I used what I came up with to land an agent at the San Francisco Writers Conference. It took more than a year for the book to finally come out in print. It won a Lefty and a San Diego book award. Not exactly an overnight success.

There are a couple of big things I’ve learned over all this time. The first is that tenacity is more important than talent. The other thing is: Get feedback from a writer’s group, courses, conferences, or a writing coach. The book never works as well as I think it does.

HOW IMPORTANT IS SETTING TO YOU? I think setting is extremely important. It is not only the physical details and sensory feel of where the book takes place. It is also the culture that surrounds the characters. I like to go to the cities where my books are set. In my first book, I went to Colombia and walked the streets of Bogota. I wrote down impressions in a notebook. Most of it I didn’t use. But some of those details really helped create a sense of place. For MURDERABILIA, I used details from Colombia, Algeria (where I’d traveled on business), San Diego, and banking. I got help from friends in Tijuana for the book currently in submission. They took me to places where I could set scenes. Then I combined what I’d seen into some fictional locations. I also used notes and pictures. I want the setting to evince who my characters are and how they feel.

CONTACTS

  • carlvonderau.com
  • Facebook: 1)Carl Vonderau, 2) AuthorCarlVonderau
  • Twitter: CarlVonderau
  • Instagram:Carlvonderau

 

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    What an inspiring account of the tenacity of being a writer. My congratulations on finishing the 57000 words in NoRhyMo. That’s quite an accomplishment in itself. Best of luck to you. Keep writing.

    Reply
    • Carl Vonderau

      Thank you, Micheal. The most important things are to put in the hours and to get feedback. Thanks also to you George for giving me some space on your blog.

      Reply

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VICKI BATMAN – This Author is Suffering a Case of the FITS

Hi, everyone! George invited me to return to his blog and write about… I was clueless. My most recent mystery came out last February. Since then, I’ve been working on three short stories that give me fits. I’ve written a lot of shorts; however, I’ve never had the troubles I’m having now. George said, “Write about the fits.”

 

I like to write romantic comedy; in fact, most everything I’ve done has been in the romantic comedy genre. Short ones. Long ones. Mysteries. Now, I’m working on three shorts to combine into my Sommerville days 2 collection. I don’t remember the other stories giving me fits like these.

Pixie Trixie-Is a twist on the Cinderella story trope. When our heroine’s best friend gifts her a beauty package with stylist Pixie Trixie, our heroine is extremely wary about trying something new but is persuaded. “Everyone raves about this place.”

Our heroine is moving forward, trying new things, and even falling in love. So, what’s the problem, the fit?

What does one do when the story isn’t funny like the others I’ve written? My romantic comedy reputation is at stake. OR is it? Can I let one story not be as funny? Or find a way to punch it up?

What are your thoughts?

Blogger Intrusion: Use the comment box to share your thoughts!!!

Kissing School-There’s no problem here with funny. The story’s first line is “Skip told me I’m a terrible kisser.” What kind of guy says that to his sweetie? (BTW, an untold fact: a date did say that to me. In my defense, I’d only been kissed twice. LOL.) This despicable boyfriend isn’t popular with the heroine’s BFF. He regifts his girlfriend a twinset, the color of smashed moldy peas, one his mother wore. Goes to Paris with his mother.

The solution? The BFF suggests Kissing School with online lessons and a meet-up with the “facilitator,” the BFF’s hunky cousin. Oh boy.

My fit with this story is just the other day; I thought everything was perfect, and then, I found a timeline error. Easily fixed, but my head is saying, “what else is back there?”

What are your thoughts?

Remember Me? I need to hit the ending so I can get this story finished. But so far, nothing spectacular is coming in.

Our heroine overhears her boyfriend’s phone conversation with his buddy, saying he wants to “hook up” with her before dumping her. She is pissed and is prepared to bolt four miles in cowboy boots at midnight. As she slips on her boots, she sees his BMW car keys and “appropriates” his treasured ride.

With the help of her old friend contractor, she arms herself with a “toolbox” to deal with the jerk. Naturally, our heroine will utilize her “toolbox” after confronting the ex and ride off into the sunset with the contractor.

I’m a pantser, meaning I write from the seat of my pants. Usually, divine inspiration explodes in my brain, and voila! The ending. Only this time, yeah, I have nothing.

My fit? This is my toughest story. I might have to write anything and revise, revise, and revise more to shape it into something worthwhile.

What are your thoughts?

 About Vicki Batman: Funny, sweet, and quirky, Vicki Batman’s stories are filled with hallmark humor, fun, and possibilities. She has sold many award-winning and bestselling romantic comedy works to magazines and, most recently, three humorous romantic mysteries. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom Ever. And adores Handsome Hubby.

About Temporarily Out of Luck: Great job. What man? And murder. Newly employed at Wedding Wonderland, Hattie Cooks is learning the industry from a woman she greatly admires. When her former brother-in-law is found dead in his luxury SUV, all fingers point to Hattie’s sister, who is planning her own I Dos.

Detective Allan Wellborn is caught between a rock and a hard place—Hattie’s family and investigating the murder of a well-connected Sommerville resident. The same loser was once married to Hattie’s sister. Determining who’s the bad guy—or gal—isn’t going to be easy and sure to piss off someone.

Can Hattie beat the clock to find out who murdered Tracey’s ex before she is charged with the crime and her wedding is ruined?

Excerpt:

In my Book of Debts, I didn’t owe him one iota. However, I could hear my mother in my ear, trotting out a page from the “Right Thing to Do” lecture. What Stuart’s mom did broke all wedding protocol, and Allan doing his saintly thing, told her he would help, which translated meant he desperately needed somebody else’s help.

“Fine. I’m in, but you owe me more, like a date to the”—I grasped on the first thing that popped in my head—“opera.”

“Opera? Since when do you like opera?”

I held back a giggle. “Since yesterday.”

Allan blew a huge sigh. “Done.” He paused. “Opera?”

Find books by Vicki Batman at: https://www.amazon.com/author/vickibatman/

And: https://www.vickibatman.blogspot.com

5 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got three winners there, Vicki. Just take some time to figure them out. (Every pantser’s dilemma.) I’ll offer my two cents, since you asked.
    Pixie Trixie– I’d have the place actually be terrible. Everybody raves about it because, like the Emperor’s New Clothes, they’re afraid to admit what they really think for fear of being labeled dumb or having someone say, “You just don’t get it.”
    Kissing School– Any guy who’d say that to a girl has to be an idiot, and a cruel idiot at that. She should present him with a gift that has a mirror on one side and a picture of someone’s posterior on the other and say, “Take your choice.”
    Remember Me?–How about having your heroine take the car only to subsequently find out that the BMW is about to be repossessed and she arranges to “return” the car just as her ex shows up so he can be confronted by a big bruiser of a repossessor?
    Anyway, best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Vicki Batman

      Hi, Michael. Your “three winners” comment is much appreciated. I am considering your advice for Pixie Trixie. Kissing School lessons force the heroine to stop thinking of the jerk as her beloved and look at someone knew. I just worried I’d overlooked something. And it is sooo funny. As for Remember me? I will look at the repossessor idea. Thanks so much for your insight! VB

      Reply
  2. Marsha R. West

    Hey, Vicki. Yikes! You seem to be writing all three shorts at the same time. That would make me nuts. You are a clever writer and while you are known for romantic comedy, your fans will forgive you one that’s not as hysterical as your others.

    Reply
    • Vicki Batman

      Thx so much Marsha for the advice. Im using read aloud feature in word and thats helping. Hugs. Vb

      Reply
  3. Vicki Batman

    Thank you for hosting me today, George. I hope I find some answers for my fits!

    Reply

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Posting Change June 2022

Folks,

Beginning June 2022, I will post guests on Mondays only. Thursdays will be open for my posts.

My blog is a fun and invaluable learning tool for me. Since I started hosting authors, I’ve posted twice a week, Monday and Thursday. Putting it all together takes more time than I ever imagined. It’s been almost impossible for me to post material I want to share.

I recently wrote a post about Lucia Berlin and her wonderful novel A Manual for Cleaning Women. I didn’t have an opening until four months out.

This change will give me more time for my work. Recently A Tale of Robbers and Cops came back from my developmental editor. Believe me; I need lots of time to clean it up.

Take Care & Stay Safe

Yôotva – Thank You

George

 

 

4 Comments

  1. George Cramer

    Folks,
    I crashed and burnt my laptop and will be unable to update posts for at least a couple of days. I apologize for any inconvenience and will update post when I can get back online.

    My email is down as well and any messages to gdcamer@msn.com will bounce. Using old college email for now, gdcramer073@gmail.com

    Reply
  2. Violet Moore

    “The day I discovered creative writing, my life changed. A day never goes by that my mind isn’t writing or rewriting a scene. I’m addicted.” -George Cramer

    Good to know George you will soon be sharing this healthy addiction.

    Reply
  3. Linda todd

    I like your idea and look forward to hearing what you have to say. Good luck with the change.

    Reply
  4. Ana Manwaring

    While I love your interviews, George, I look forward to YOU! Thanks for all your great posts. And if you want a Beta Reader, just ask!

    Reply

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ALFRED J. GARROTTO – Former Priest – Novelist / Screenwriter / Manuscript Editor / Author

I’m a native Californian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. My life path has included Catholic ministry, marriage, children, and a grandchild. The writing bug bit me somewhere along that path, and I’ve published 16 books ranging from spirituality to romantic drama to a trilogy based on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

 

Please tell us about your book and blurb and any comments about any other of your books:

Inspector Javert: at the Gates of Hell (Book 3 of the Wisdom of Les Misérables Trilogy)

Inspector Javert’s central theme: “What happens in the next instant after the heart beats for the last time.” Javert gazes into the River Seine. What future has he after freeing his enemy Jean Valjean? Rather than face his options, he leaps into the river.

  • Book 1… Lessons From the Heart of Jean Valjean (nonfiction)
  • Book 2… Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words

Do you write in more than one genre? I write both fiction and nonfiction. Topics range from romance/action to the arts and spiritual themes.

What brought you to writing? After a 20-year career in Catholic ministry, the writing bug bit.

Tell us about your writing process: I am gifted with (a) a love for the craft and (b) the ability to focus on the task at hand and stay with it for long stretches of the day. I don’t set goals about page count; I just stay with the process.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Most challenging is never allowing myself to fall in love with the draft I’m working on. Writing Inspector Javert brought that lesson home. At draft 10, I said, “Done!” The final book took 20+ drafts.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Without a doubt, my most important association throughout my career has been with the California Writers Club (Mount Diablo Branch). I tell people, “As a writer, it’s the only place I can go where people know what I’m talking about.”

Who’s your favorite author? If I have to pick one, it is Victor Hugo. He was such a complex human being in his personal life. That very complexity fed his mammoth ability to create the most varied and unforgettable characters.

How long did it take you to write your first book? My first three books came out as a series under the name Adult-to-Adult (Christ in Our Lives, Christians and Prayer, and Christians Reconciling, Winston Press). I drew upon material I developed during my ministry years.

 How do you come up with character names? When writing fiction, names just seem to come to me. This may sound sappy, but the characters tell me their names.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? My characters run the show, whether they behave themselves or misbehave. To me, a novel is boring if everyone “does the right thing” all the time. Characters must behave like real people. They can sin and repent—or not. There must always be a measure of growth as the story arcs to the end.

What’s the most challenging thing when writing characters of the opposite sex? As a male writer, it’s always a challenge to climb inside the mind and body of a woman character. In my trilogy (A Love Forbidden, Finding Isabella, and I’ll Paint a Sun), all the main characters are women. As is the protagonist in The Saint of Florenville. I’ve never heard a complaint from female readers that I “didn’t get it right.”

Do you ever kill a popular character? A protagonist, no. Supporting characters might need to die. Hugo modeled this in Les Misérables. At the barricade, the boy Gavroche dies first. Then his sister, Eponine, dies in Marius’s arms. Enjolras, the rebel leader, dies. Everyone dies except Jean Valjean and Marius.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? Inspector Javert: at the Gates of Hell offers a good example. Javert’s ordered life turns upside down when he allows doubt to creep into his soul. Could a lifelong criminal be capable of goodness? That crack in Javert’s armor demands recognition. He might have gotten it wrong all his life. In an instant, the entire structure of his life falls apart.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? A hybrid “pantser.” I begin a novel with an idea arc. I don’t create an outline. I count on the characters to surprise me by doing something I didn’t see coming. In my Les Mis trilogy, I had to follow the plotline set by Hugo. E.g., Javert can’t be a warm-hearted, fun-loving cop. Nor could Jean Valjean act out of character. I worked within the parameters of Hugo’s storyline. After Javert’s death, I had complete freedom to do anything I wanted.

What kind of research do you do? Primarily, I focus on getting the historical time, place, weather, etc., as accurate as possible. It helps if I’ve actually visited the places where I set my story. For example, I’ve been to Paris four times over the years and have a feel for the local environment as I experienced it.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? It depends on the story. Inspector Javert bound me to get the time and place right. In another novel, I built my own world. Whether setting a story in San Francisco (I’ll Paint a Sun) or Peru (Circles of Stone and Down a Narrow Alley), I needed to get it as right as possible, though I’ve never been to Peru.

What is the best book you have ever read? Les Misérables. All 1,200 pages of it.

Do you have any advice for new writers? First, stop talking about writing and just do it. Don’t let your first draft be your last draft. Have faith in yourself and do the work.

Second, find a compatible writing community for moral support and learning the craft of writing. Third, have fun. Writing doesn’t have to be torture—if it is, don’t do it

If none of this appeals to you, find something else you like to do.

How do our readers contact you?

13 Comments

  1. Mary Burkhard

    I have read no more if your books, Al, so my former comments will have to stand…
    Stay cool…
    Mary

    Reply
  2. Fr. Gilbert Romero PhD

    The priesthood functions in many ways. If it were a tree, it would have many branches. One branch could be authorship. Good that you turned to writing.

    Reply
  3. Natalie Middleton

    Al, the interview was so well done. My two favorites, “The Saint of Florenville” and “Javert At the Gates of Hell”. I am so proud of you.

    Your loving sister,

    Natalie

    Reply
  4. Thonie Hevron

    Afred, a fascinating interview about your process. Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
    • Alfred J. Garrotto

      Thonie, thank you for your kind response to my interview. I’d be interested in knowing if you are a writer and what you write.

      Reply
  5. Judith Ingram

    An interesting and helpful interview for writers of any genre. Al seems to have touched on them all! Good advice about not falling in love with your draft(s). It’s hard to let go of those scintillating paragraphs that add nothing to the story. Congratulations on completing the final book in your beloved trilogy, Al. Much success!

    Reply
  6. Linda H

    This was a fantastic interview with an eloquent man who writes not just with blood, sweat, and tears, but also with full heart. As a prolific author who writes in many genres, researches fully or meanders around the world to place his stories just so, you have just completed an amazing interview that we can all learn so much from! Thank you in a million ways.

    Reply
  7. Rudy De La Cerna

    Good to be in touch since we both have the same seminary and parochial experiences and find anew ministry ! Good job!

    Reply
  8. Sister Alice Marie Daly IHM

    Hello George,
    I am very impressed by the Lenten Series of Alfred Garrotto that I have requested and received here in Philadelphia for the past several years. It is a wonderful series we use for our Faith Sharing groups during Lent. Some groups do continue on a monthly basis after Easter. It has been a wonderful instrument for group sharing and praying together. I am most grateful to Alfred for including us in his wonderful outreach for this opportunity to come closer to God and each other.

    Reply
    • Alfred J. Garrotto

      Sr, Alice:
      Thanks for reading this interview. And for the plug in favor of our Advent and Lenten series.
      I hope you’ll read Inspector Javert.

      Reply
  9. Michael A. Black

    Excellent advice, Al. You have a unique and interesting outlook on the writing process. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Alfred J Garrotto

      Thank you, Michael. Writing offers us a life of amazing adventure and risk. Putting ourselves out there in our writing makes us vulnerable to the slings and arrows of reader response. The truth is we cannot not write, come what may.

      Reply

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