Good news! Christine Whitehead, who had previously tested her book on BookHive, has signed with Brower Literary. Christine is a native of New England, who practices law and is a lover of horses.
Her upcoming book, Hemingway’s Daughter, is a historical fiction novel about the life of author Ernest Hemingway and his fictional daughter. In celebration of her signing with Brower she has provided the following interview:
KB: Could you tell us a bit about your personal approach to writing?
CW: In all three of my books, I knew the beginning and end of my story. I don’t plot out each scene; I don’t use notecards; I don’t have an outline. I do have in my mind key scenes that are going to move the action forward or the character development forward and I do tend to do some editing as I go along. I’ll usually write and then review what I’ve written the previous day to see if it still seems adequate and if it’s going in the right direction. Some days it all works really well and some days you read what you wrote the previous day and it’s terrible!
The books I write are the books I’d like to read and, that being said, I like to start with my main character having problems and I like to leave her at a better, more hopeful place at the end.
KB: Your upcoming book Hemingway’s Daughter is the third book you’ve written. Was there anything you felt was significantly different this time around as far as the process?
CW: The process with Hemingway’s Daughter was actually very different. I was limited by the need to interface with Hemingway’s life and I was bound by the actual facts. However, that also was very freeing. Readers already know what Hemingway looks like. They already have an impression of him. And, in a certain way, by having the limitations of time and locale as to his interactions, I was able to focus significantly on Finn, his daughter, in developing her challenges in love, as well as in career, particularly since she was trying to establish a legal career in 1950 and as a woman it was very difficult.
My previous two books were contemporary and this one is historical fiction, taking place from approximately 1935 to 1960. That felt different. I had to do research to be sure that I wasn’t using out-of-place slogans and particularly I had to be aware of World War II and its impact on college life and day-to-day life as the book progresses. While I had more freedom to simply run with my plots in my previous two books, Hemingway’s Daughter, in its limitations, nevertheless felt almost like a passion project, because I was completely connected to the material and the characters.
KB: What was the editing process like for you?
CW: I don’t tend to love the editing process. This is particularly the case if you have to make a major change that is going to impact every aspect of the book. You can imagine how that goes; but sometimes it’s necessary. That being said, I do like suggestions that editors make for deepening a character, deepening motivation, which results in a far better read I’m sure! When Kindle Press selected my second book to be published by its private press, their editors from Kirkus went through the book and I discovered that I apparently have no clue how to use a comma! That was pretty humbling but also interesting. Editing though makes your book better and cleaner. From that point of view, I love it.
KB: Can you tell us how your experience with BookHive went?
CW: My experience with Bookhive actually exceeded my expectations. I knew I would have beta readers giving feedback, but I wasn’t aware of how pointed the feedback would be due to the questions that were being posed to the beta readers. It was beyond thrilling to have 10 anonymous readers, who had no previous interest in me or my work give their honest opinions. That itself was terrific and scary. I received very organized and helpful feedback with the backup data and all in the timeframe Bookhive established.
However more than that, it’s data that truly you could use. When I learned that 3 of 10 people found my first 10 pages didn’t really hook them, I knew I had to do some work there. Even if 7 were willing to keep going, I thought 3 was too big a percentage to not address the first 10 pages. It was very helpful to see which characters the readers became attached to and how they reacted to the interplay of reality, i.e., Hemingway’s real life – to the fiction of my make-believe daughter. The experience was both affirming and extraordinarily helpful in me keeping the focus on what I was doing well and what I could do better. I’d recommend Bookhive to any writer.
KB: Congratulations on signing with Brower Literary. How did you decide on this agency?
CW: I received offers of representation from two agencies. I did some research and I spoke to people in the literary world who know more than I do. It was suggested that there is no substitute for an agent who is enthusiastic about the book. I spoke to the agent from Brower Literary. She knew the book inside and out and was completely connected to it. Even better, she was as committed as I am to get it out to a wider audience. The other agency and agent seemed just wonderful as well, but I didn’t feel the same level of enthusiasm that I felt from Brower.
Again, when I spoke to people I trust, they noted that it’s still hard to get published even with an agent, but if the agent can’t say to an editor that “you are really missing the boat if you don’t take this book,” with true and sincere enthusiasm and devotion to the concept, it is a very easy thing for an agent to decline. I made my decision based on the reputation of the agency, which was solid, and my particular agent’s total commitment to this book and drive to have it succeed.
KB: Any advice for those about to go through or currently going through the process of producing a book?
CW: The best advice I can give a writer working on a book or trying to get their book published, is to just keep going to conferences; keep improving your skills; and don’t lose faith in your product if you think it’s a good one. The rejections become almost overwhelming, and it’s pretty easy to decide that this is never going to happen.
I’m hoping that Hemingway’s Daughter ends up at a mainstream publisher, primarily because the distribution and exposure will be wider. My first book was self-published and I started from ground zero. Had I known how difficult it would be, I might not have done it. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to expose it as much as I could. I spoke at local libraries to get the word out. I was interviewed by local newspapers and it did nicely. My second book, published through Kindle Press, got a jumpstart because of that. It had a much wider audience immediately, which has pulled book one along. Within four months I had 118 reviews. It took me almost six years to get that number of reviews on book one. I’m hoping I’m on an accelerating trail and that Hemingway’s Daughter will do significantly better if we can get a traditional publisher. However, I have loved my books and my characters. I know my limitations as a writer, so I am not in love with my own writing in that way, but I love the stories I am telling. I always felt that if I could find readers or they could find me, they would like my books.
KB: Why Hemingway? How did you get inspired to write this book and what do you hope readers get from your story?
CW: Where to begin with my love of Hemingway?! I fell in love with his persona, which is not always a pretty one. I then began reading all of his books. The addiction was fueled. I think he is extremely complex, not completely what his image is – the macho drunk, brilliant in flashes. That’s part of him but the other part is of a gentle, shy man who just wanted to write, probably drink, and be with his animals. He loved his three sons, but he always wanted a daughter. I wondered if he had had a daughter if it might have softened some of the edges. In the book, which is written in the first person by his daughter, we learn how subtlety she did influence his writing – or at least in my imagination she did.
I hope that readers get several things from the book. First, I think it’s just a good story. Second, they will learn about what it was like becoming a lawyer in 1950 and how far women have come, at least in that profession, since that time. Third, I hope people become a little inspired to read more Hemingway. Each chapter starts with a quote from one of the books and gosh they are good. Perhaps I’m just a besotted fan but I am hoping that other people fall in love with him, his fictional daughter, and their struggles, both separately and together. His courage was not fake and it is inspiring on a number of levels.
Thank you to Ms. Whitehead her time and support of BookHive and her meaningful responses. Visit her website here: http://christinewhitehead.com
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Kim Batchelor is a recent graduate of University of Michigan and avid consumer of media. She is the Buzz Intern at BookHive and is working on creating her own blog.