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Debut Author Interview: Andrea Rothman

Meet Andrea Rothman
Before turning to fiction writing, Andrea Rothman was a research scientist at the Rockefeller University in New York. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and was fiction editor for the literary journal Hunger Mountain. Her short stories can be viewed at www.andrearothman.com.

Andrea is the author of The DNA of You and Me, out today!

In The DNA of You and Me, ambitious young scientist Emily Apell joins a renowned research lab in New York to study the sense of smell. There she meets Aeden Doherty, a senior colleague. Their relationship is complicated by external events. Eventually Emily will have to choose between her research and Aeden. Years later, about to receive a prestigious award for the work she carried out in the lab, Emily looks back upon that choice.

Let’s get to know Andrea and her debut novel!

Tell us about yourself, Andrea.
I’m a wife and a mother of two teenagers. We have no pets though I would like to have a dog. I’m thinking about it. My day job is to write. After two o’clock it’s all about the kids and the house and reading a lot. I’d like to apply for a teaching position but worry that it will interfere with everything else I have to do.

How did you get into writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, I kept notebooks and I read all of the classics. I only started writing seriously (with discipline) as an adult, after I left science—I was a research scientist for many years.

Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
Lately I’ve been writing essays about different topics, mainly science and nature.

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
I’m scared of heights. I can’t stand at the edge of a building without feeling I’ll fall off.

Which book influenced you the most?
So many, but the most recent book was the novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I think it’s a masterpiece, a brilliant exploration about relationships, mortality, and being human.

How about The DNA of You and Me? What’s it about?
Thematically my novel is about choice: the choices we all make in our lives and our pondering them years later. The novel is a retrospect, told from the perspective of a female protagonist, Emily, looking back upon the period she spent in a research lab, and her relationship there with a colleague by the name of Aeden.

What’s the story behind the title?
Interesting that you ask! The original title of my novel is Pathfinder, but my publisher changed it because they thought people would associate the title with the popular car: Nissan Pathfinder. We brainstormed for a while for a new title, until my editor came up with The DNA of You and Me. Everyone liked it, including the marketing team.

Tell us about your favorite character.
Aside from Emily my favorite character is Aeden without a doubt. He can be headstrong and manipulative but he is also a smart guy with a big heart, who understands that love is more important than success.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d go to Coney Island with Aeden in the summer and have milkshakes by the beach.

How long did you take to write this book?
From conception to publication (actual pub date), it took ten years.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did a lot of research about Anosmia, defined as a long-term inability to smell. The research in the lab, carried out by the characters in my novel, is about smell.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Both: a pantser at the very beginning of the work and a plotter towards the end.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
The beginning. I love the process of not knowing anything, of discovering things little by little, allowing the words on the page to speak to me and tell me their secrets, the things I haven’t said that need to be written.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
As much as I like not knowing where I’m going (see my answer to previous question) I also sometimes find it a little nerve-racking when things seem to be going nowhere, and it happens all too often in the writing process, especially with fiction.

Can you share your writing routine?
I write creatively only in the morning, from around 8 to 12. I need absolute quiet and I usually write at my desk at home or in a quiet office space. It’s nearly impossible for me to write imaginatively in a Starbucks for instance.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
I’ve had writer’s block very often in my life, I think most writers experience this a lot. To overcome it I usually just lower my expectations and write whatever comes to my mind, just try to fill the page with words, trying to keep my ego out of it. I think most blocks are a problem of the ego and having high expectations about the words and the material before the work is even done. Beginning writers rarely have writer’s block.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Follow your heart and trust yourself. It will be okay. If you love the material enough, a book will eventually take shape.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Two unpublished (a memoir and a novel) and around six unfinished novels. I also have many completed short stories I have yet to polish and submit for publication.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on my next novel, trying to figure out exactly what it’s about and to nail down the narrative voice. This is usually what sets the tone for me and leads the way. In terms of plot, I think I will be planning ahead with this new novel much more than I did with The DNA of You and Me.

What’s your favorite writing advice?
Have faith in yourself, and don’t discard what comes to mind just because it may seem crazy or depressing or unlikeable. Usually this is the stuff of genius/the stuff that is uniquely yours and no one else’s. That is what will define your voice.

And where can we find you?
Website: www.andrearothman.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrearothmanauthor/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/rothmaa
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/andrearothmanauthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17662282.Andrea_Rothman

Debut Author Interview: Dan Stout

Meet Dan Stout
Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan’s stories have appeared in publications such as the Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Mad Scientist Journal. His debut novel Titanshade is a noir fantasy thriller, available from DAW Books. To say hello, visit him at www.DanStout.com.

Dan debut novel is Titanshade, out next week!

Titanshade is fantasy noir thriller set in a world where magic is real and technology is at 1970s level. Dan describes it as Men in Black meets Chinatown.

Let’s get to know Dan and his debut novel:

Where did you get the idea?
Liberty Hall was a writing community site, when participants were given 90 minutes to write a piece of flash fiction. For whatever reason, I came up with Carter, the setting, and the discovery of the murder, as well as most of the action in the first act. After that, it was just a matter of following the clues…

What’s the story behind the title?
Titanshade is an oil boomtown, where a mix of greed and hard labor has allowed the residents to claw out a living in the midst of an arctic perma-freeze. So much of the story ties into the character of the streets and the citizens that there was never any doubt the book needed to be named after the city.

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
One particularly fun aspect of the world was figuring how different species in a post-industrial fantasy world would learn to adapt to each other, from clothing and language to eating utensils tweaked for different anatomy.

Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?
They all come from my imagination, but my imagination is fueled by juxtapositions of real people—the attitude of a guy I met at a party with the fashion sense of the woman in line behind me at the grocery store.

How long did you take to write this book?
I wrote the Liberty Hall flash in April of 2015, so it’s just under 4 years from inception to publication.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a plotter, but I value the characters more than the plot structure. If the characters wouldn’t logically proceed from point A to point B, then it’s on me to either provide a framework where they would, or change the plot to reflect their honest reactions.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
Editing. I enjoy seeing the different threads of the story pull tighter, revealing a tapestry that’s richer and more complex than I first imagined.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
Drafting. I love brainstorming, and I love fixing the story once it’s built. But writing down the initial draft is like chewing glass.

Can you share your writing routine?
I work in chunks of time, usually two blocks of 2–3 hours. I start early, so I’m usually done with writing by noon, and move to admin and marketing after that.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
Not so much writer’s block as much as a sudden realization that, “This is garbage and I just keep going around in circles.” The only way out (at least for me) is through.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You’re good at revising, but you need feedback, and to get that you need to have written the first draft. So get going!

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Wow, several half-finished ones. I wrote a NaNoWriMo that’s essentially a 50k word outline, and have others that range between 5 and 20 k.

Do you have any writing quirks?
Oh man, so many! Maybe the strangest is that my first-draft characters almost always have names that start with the same letter (Steve and Sara and Sammie, etc.). I created the Mollenkampi naming convention in Titanshade as a private joke at my own expense.

How did you get into writing?
I wrote when I was younger, but I only began to get serious in 2011. That was when I found NaNoWriMo, and then the online writer communities. Once I dove into them, there was no going back!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Lately, just sleep! Carving out time for non-writing related activities is important, and I need to make myself put down the mental pen a little more often.

Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
I love short fiction, and still return to it as a break from the novel-writing routine, and to flex a different set of writerly muscles.

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
I can (just barely) juggle.

Which book influenced you the most?
All of them! The biggest influence on me was all the time I spent in the library, grazing on fiction and biography and history. I sampled all the various languages of prose, and fell in love with each one of them.

What are you working on right now?
The sequel! It’s been tough but rewarding, as building a follow-up that can also stand on its own has meant learning a whole new set of skills. But it’s paying off, and I’m very excited to share the next chapter in the story.

What’s your favorite writing advice?
The struggle belongs to you; the finished product belongs to the reader.

Where can we find you?
Website: www.DanStout.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DanStoutWriter/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanStout
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danstoutwriter/
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7938095.Dan_Stout

Cover Reveal: The Words between Us

It’s March, people! March may be the ugliest month of the year in Michigan, but the first day of March is the mental and emotional boost we all need as winter drags on. And one of the great things about this March 1st is that I get to show you the cover of my next book!

Head on over to Women Writers, Women(‘s) Books right now for the cover reveal for The Words between Us, coming to bookstores in September!

My Interview on the Write Now Workshop Podcast

Write Now WorkshopWriters! Readers! Those interested in history and current events!

There’s something for everyone in this podcast where I discuss We Hope for Better Things with the lovely Kitty Bucholtz for her Write Now Workshop.

And if you want to watch the interview, you can do that too, right here on YouTube. I even showered and put on real human clothes for it, so check it out.

During the interview we talk about the challenges of writing a book that takes in so much history and writing black characters while white, as well as how writing and reading books about people who have a different experience of the world than we do can form us into more empathetic and compassionate people.

I had a lot of fun talking to Kitty about these topics (and more) and I hope you’ll enjoy eavesdropping on our conversation!

New Obsessions and Old Houses

We have reached the last week — the last few days! — of February. Our family has spent all 25 days of it down to one car because…

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We may be able to remedy that today.

In the meantime, I’ve been podcasting, but last week I forgot to let you know about it! So here’s what you missed last week — my somewhat sheepish confession that I’m just a little bit obsessed with James McAvoy…

And here’s this week’s episode, about some of the surprises old houses hold for their new owners…

I hope you enjoy them. I also hope that the rest of February passes painlessly by for you. And if you’re a praying person, do say one for us that we get a car today. Much obliged.

Debut Author Interview: Felicia Grossman

Meet Felicia Grossman, author of the historical romance Appetites & Vices, which releases today from Carina Press

Felicia Grossman wanted to write stories ever since her father read her Treasure Island when she was four years old. The Delaware native never lost her love of words, earning both an English degree and a law degree. Felicia now lives in the northern part of the country with her spouse, children, and dogs. When not writing, she can be found eating pastries or belting showtunes in her living room.

Welcome, Felicia!

Tell us about your book.

Appetites & Vices tells the story of Ursula Nunes, the least popular Jewish heiress in 1840s Delaware, and Jay Truitt, a recovering opium addict hiding behind his rich playboy persona. What starts as a faux engagement to help Ursula’s social standing turns into actual love. The novel follows Jay’s struggle build a new life and Ursula’s struggles to fit into both Jewish and Gentile society, while discovering that everything is a little easier with a partner. The book explores of the difficulties of American Jewish identity, addiction, and interfaith romance.

Where did you get the idea?
Appetites is a faux engagement story and I love that trope (romance is all about the tropes). And I really, really, really wanted to write a heroine in a historical romance that could’ve been my ancestor (there’s no British nobility in my blood, I promise), who got to have a really big character arc because why should the heroes have all the fun screwing things up?

Tell us about your favorite character. 
Let’s be real, I usually put a little bit of myself in all my characters, especially my heroines, but there’s a TON of younger me in Urs. A lot of embarrassing things that I look back on and cringe, and a lot of the good stuff as well. Urs is spoiled, indignant, high-tempered, impetuous, pushy, bossy, and socially-awkward, but she’s smart, loyal, brave, determined, and ultimately very kind. She values fairness and justice and may say the wrong thing, but would never “punch” (or throw) down.

How long did you take to write this book?
I started writing Appetites in August of 2017. My heroine was originally a grandmother in a book I was querying so I gave her a backstory for fun. I finished editing around November of 2017 and did some initial test queries/pitching in December #pitmad. I really queried in February of 2018 and got an agent through a #kisspitch like. Appetites sold in July of 2018 so it’s been really fast.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
It’s historical so a ton of research. It’s set in my area of the country (Delaware and Philadelphia)—where I grew-up—just a few centuries earlier—so I kind of knew where to go, i.e., Rebecca Gratz’s letters and writings as well as Winterthur Museum and Gardens, etc.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why? 
I love editing, especially big edits. It feels like spring cleaning and because you are finally molding your clay. Drafting is throwing the clay down on the wheel, editing is where the fun begins.

Can you share your writing routine? 
I’m a mom and I have a full-time day job so I write whenever I can. In hallways, when the kids go to bed, anywhere and everywhere.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You only grow and change if you learn and you can’t learn what you don’t know.

Which book influenced you the most?
One? I have to pick just one? I always I’m historical romance with a bit of a Jewish humorous women’s fiction voice. Like Joanna Shupe, Alyssa Cole, Beverly Jenkins, and Elizabeth Hoyt have been huge romance influences, while Nora Ephron, Susan Isaacs, and Jennifer Weiner have been huge voice inspirations. I read Heartburn when I was like ten and it was totally inappropriate but it also changed my life because I understood the tone, the humor, and the dynamics.

What are you working on right now?
Appetites & Vices has a sequel called Dalliances & Devotion coming out in August, so there are edits there. I’m also drafting something entirely new, but still American now, and there’s a Regency I’m editing.

Thanks for chatting, Felicia! We wish you success with your debut!