Wednesday, June 6, 2012

TBR welcomes Heather Spiva

TBR: Welcome to TBR, Heather. Will you share a little bit about yourself?
Heather: Thanks again for this great blog, where the authors get a chance to talk about their own works! I love it. As for me, I wanted to be a writer since I was ten years old or younger. I’ve always loved reading, which naturally led me to wonder how one goes about writing a book. I still love reading today, and also still wonder how one goes about writing a book! No really, it’s amazing how words can come together and create an actual story. I’ve loved middle grade fiction since I could first read it, and still love—and prefer—it today. Though, I absolutely love women’s fiction and a good cozy mystery … maybe one day. I’m also a wife, a mother of two young sons, and when I’m not reading or writing, love to sell vintage clothing.

TBR: Tell us about The Puzzle Master and where it's available.
Heather: The Puzzle Master is one of those stories that came to me –practically downloading itself into my mind –and kept pushing me to write it, to where I had to do it or be harassed until I did. My youngest son, when he was around three years old said to me, while we were putting together a puzzle, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could go inside the puzzle?” Well, geez, yeah. It sure would! There was the idea, and then the characters came shortly after. Within three weeks, I had written out the rough draft. You have to understand that this never happens. Stories don’t just download themselves. However, this one did. And the story was so there, that it came tumbling out in a matter of 18 days or so. The Puzzle Master is available on Amazon on Kindle, and by the time this interview is out, it will be available in book format as well.

TBR: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Heather: Twelve-year-old Marshall Thompson's favorite place in the world is Luke's Junk Store. With one more trip in before school begins, he's intent on finding the perfect thing to take with him on his first day back. But his "great find" ends up being a girl -- and a friendship begins that will change him forever.

TBR: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Heather: I’m definitely a plotter, yet very minimally a plotter and I’m simultaneously a pantser.  As a basic outline, I write once sentence for each chapter, of the main gist of each chapter. i.e. what’s going to happen, or what will occur, what the protagonist will learn, etc. But, I leave it open for my pantser side to come in full swing when the story takes over and begins writing itself. I need a little bit of both to complete the work.

TBR: How do you develop your characters?
Heather: Again, usually I write an outline. I need to know my characters before I write what they say, know how they act, or what their favorite candy or color is. If I don’t, I find that my characters lack depth, don’t seem real, or –which happens a lot—I end up combining several characters into one which really messes up my story. Of course, an outline is just that: an outline. So, characters do change, some shift into a slightly different role as the story progresses, and others end up needing a complete revision. Development is crucial though. Because readers know if they can relate to your protagonist, or not; if your character is all fluff and cheese, or the real deal. And I want my work to be the real deal!

TBR: While creating your books, what was one of the most surprising things you learned?
Heather: I’ve learned through this book that even though sad themes in books are sometimes really sad, they are also a part of life and very necessarily a part of my work. Yes, it’s a little confusing when you cry at the end of a story, because in reality, we like happy endings. But, sadness prevails around us; it’s a part of life; it’s what makes us learn and grow. And while happy is good, happy can also be too sappy to appreciate the story. I didn’t want that in The Puzzle Master. I wanted real-life. And also, if the reader cries at the end –or middle—of the story, I’ve done my job as a writer!

TBR: What's next for you?
Heather: I’m still very interested in being traditionally published, because I still see that as the “official stamp” on the world of being an author. I have yet to acquire that accolade, though I have been published in “real” books as part of anthologies, etc. Self-publishing was more of a “let’s see what happens here” and “I wonder if I can do this” type of thing. I like it; I like having full control of everything. And yet, it is very overwhelming because of that very thing. What’s next? Well, I’m still writing. The Puzzle Master was my eighth of nine books I’ve already written. Some are collecting dust, some will probably never see the light of day again, and others, I hope to have traditionally published. The only reason I felt this book should be published was because it was one of the “better” ones. I can’t recall who said this, but it’s true for me as most authors: You’ve got to write about a million words before you really know how to write. The rest of it is just rubbish. This book was around the 900,000 written-word mark, and it wasn’t so trash-like. I felt it was worth publishing.

TBR: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Heather: The best compliment I received was a reader comparing my book to Bridge to Terabithia. This reader said my book was as good as that award-winning book! Wow. I’m still shocked by that comment today, but am deeply appreciative. It makes my day every time I think about it.

TBR: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Heather: I read so much, all the time, and a little bit of everything too. I have some favorites that a lot of people have, because they really are good writers: John Grisham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Madeline L’engle. I try to read a variety of genres –all the time—because I find that if I read only in my genre (children’s fiction) I tend to write a lot like the book I just finished. (Eeek!) So, by staying diverse, yet still reading some books in my genre, I feel like I can keep my voice, but also enjoy reading, as well as learn about writing from other fantastic writers. I have to keep learning to be a decent writer.

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
Heather:  Readers can find me blogging every now and then at my blog. It’s usually about once a week. But, it keeps me writing … especially when I find I can’t sit and write that story I’m supposed to be writing! It’s great exercise; it keeps me meeting new people, other readers and writers, and connects me to my world of writing, which I absolutely love.

TBR: Thanks so much for visiting TBR, Heather. All the best to you.


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