Working with author Donna Everhart has been a true joy. I loved reading her book A BLACK WATER SEASON and was equally pleased when our BookHive beta readers were equally enthralled. Please check out the interview below as she discusses her writing process and that delicious moment she was picked up by a publisher for the first time.
JB: You tested your manuscript A BLACK WATER SEASON with BookHive about a year ago. How was that experience for you?
DE: It was a great experience and very valuable to me as a writer. With BLACK WATER I’d been writing in a genre I’d never written before, a suspense or crime novel – honestly, I wasn’t sure which. I had a lot of doubts about what I was doing and the way I was doing it. And, I’d only ever written in first person POV. This was written in third, plus I was writing from two points of view, the protagonist and the antagonist. It was a tremendous relief when the story resonated so well with the Test Readers. And when I got such a detailed report, with the important pieces consolidated and the suggestions for areas to work on, it was so helpful. And then I got Author of the Month, so, I was really excited about that and felt all that angst had been worth it!
JB: Can you walk us through if you made any changes based on the testing? Also, your agent was about to submit the manuscript, right?
DE: I did make changes – using at least three or four suggestions which had been highlighted as being the key areas given the testing results. With that done, and the manuscript edited and as clean as I could get it, I sent it to my agent. With the holidays coming quickly I wasn’t sure when I’d hear back, but I got his email around the first of December, and he was quite enthusiastic about it.
JB: How did the submission process go? Please elaborate on your other manuscript being picked up.
DE: After the holidays, in mid-February, my agent, John Talbot, sent BLACK WATER off to several editors, one of them was editor in chief of Kensington Publishing Corporation, John Scognamiglio. John S passed on BW, but indicated he really liked the writing, and would be interested in seeing something else. This is when my agent, John T, saw a connection with Southern Fiction and John S’s portfolio of authors. So, he sent him THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE. This information was shared with me and I tried to not drive myself crazy thinking about everything that was going on. About six weeks later I received an email from John T. When I finally opened it, the first line was, “We have an offer on DIXIE DUPREE.” By 9:00 a.m., he and I had talked, and later on that afternoon he emailed me and said, “We have a deal.”
You wonder how you’ll feel when you go through “the dream” actually happening. I know I’d spent a lot of time wondering exactly that and the feeling is almost strange, surreal. You read the words and they register – sort of. It takes a while for it all to sink in, and then, you still end up reading THE EMAIL over and over, just to be sure you’ve wrung every single emotion out of your body. Then you go lie down.
JB: Tell us about your writing process. How often and when do you write? Are you in a writers group?
DE: There’s no set schedule, no specific process. Although, for my latest WIP, I did an outline. On. The. Floor. I’m a true pantster, but oddly, so far, I’ve stuck to it. In general, I write all the time. Although, today for instance, I really need to be working on the latest WIP, and instead, I’ve been reading emails, doing yard work and a few other chores. Usually if a day goes by and for some reason I don’t write – which is unusual, then I try to make up for it the next day. I do try to set a minimum goal of that magical one thousand words a day. I also know that even if I don’t get to that, and only achieve, say three hundred, I don’t worry about it. It will get done, one way or the other because, hey. Debut book. Wouldn’t I like to keep on keeping on now THAT’S happened? Yes. So, that means – write another book!
JB: What’s it been like working with an editor in preparation for your books release?
DE: There’s something very special about this. You’ve got this person, this advocate, who reads your stuff, and can see “things” you don’t. They have their eyes on a lot of writing, day in and out, which makes them Subject Matter Experts, on what works, and what doesn’t. As writers, we tend to get down in the weeds, while an editor is able to step back and envision what he’d like to see – a manicured lawn. Only wait, there seems to be a weed problem there, get rid of those, and oh, there’s a bare spot on that section, can you lay some sod in? You get the idea. They can see what we don’t and help give direction on what to fix. It helps to have written the sort of story they love beforehand, and to have the manuscript in good shape. This was the case with DIXIE DUPREE, and that is something I’m proud to have done. Despite that, there were still areas that needed to be expanded on, and having the fresh input from a skilled editor is what can make that come clear and make all the difference in the world.
JB: Do you ever get writers block? If so, how do you break out of it?
DE: I have, at least I think that’s what it is. It’s what I call being stuck. When I’m stuck, I know it’s really because I don’t know what’s supposed to happen, or I’m struggling to find the right way to describe something in a fresh way which works with the current “voice” of the main character, or just the right way to describe a setting. When I get like that, I tend to tweak what I already have written and move sentences around. The very best thing I can do is to leave it alone – at least for a few hours. I’ve found that a good majority of my writing issues have been resolved during my runs. And there’s actually a study on exercising and solving problems. I want to say it was done by Duke Medicine. All I know is going for a run has helped me almost every single time.
JB: Why do you find working with beta readers through BookHive a valuable part of the process?
DE: They are “real” readers, and by that, I mean the only difference between them and those who go into a bookstore to buy a book is they are engaging at an earlier point in the process, when they can actually affect the direction of a story. Imagine the times we’ve all read that one book – or more – and said, “I wished the author had…” Or, “why didn’t the author see the character needed…” I know I’ve had those thoughts. This is a win/win for both sides, in my opinion. And, they are a potential future audience.
JB: Are you already thinking about marketing the book? If so, what are you doing? I’m curious about the role of the publisher, but also of the author in launching.
DE: I am thinking of ways to begin to help build the buzz ahead of time. Things like sharing about the book deal on my blog is one thing, and I’ve started to share on other sites as well like Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the North Carolina Writers Network, all of which I’m a member. And here, right now on BookHive too! I plan to overhaul my current website to better position it to promote my work. Right now I only have the blog page and an About page, and I need a few more “tabs” for things like Events, Contact, Books (eeek, notice the PLURAL on Books – dreaming BIG!) etc. The publisher will do what most publishers do when the time is right, which is to seek input from various media sources for opinions about the book, etc., and to help coordinate book signing events, etc. On my end, I’m going to have a launch party here in town, and I’m going to offer to speak at local book clubs, schools, libraries, wherever they’ll have me!
For the latest news on Donna – please follow her on Twitter @wordstogobuy and check out www.donnaeverhart.com
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