Debut Author Interview: Martine Fournier Watson

Meet Martine Fournier Watson, author of the literary historical novel The Dream Peddler, which releases today from Penguin Books

Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

Welcome, Martine!

Tell us about your book.

Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.

Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.

Where did you get the idea?
I was a huge fan of L. M. Montgomery growing up, and my favorite heroine was Emily of New Moon. Emily wants to be a writer, and in the final book of the trilogy she writes her first novel but is unable to sell it, so she burns it. All the reader ever knows about this book is that it was a modern-day fairy tale called A Seller of Dreams. Since I could never know any more than this, my curiosity about the burned book eventually led me to write my own version.

Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?
It’s a bit of a mixture. Characters come to me already formed, and I get to know them better as I write, so they’re not based on anyone I know. But I often throw in little bits and pieces from real people when I’m rounding them out, either as personality traits or backstory. For instance, Evie Dawson, my protagonist in The Dream Peddler, hates to be laughed at, and that’s modeled on my own mother’s feelings.

How long did you take to write this book?
The first draft took about six months, and then I spent maybe another eight months or so getting feedback from beta readers and revising. Finding an agent took a long time! Over eighteen months and a grand total of one hundred and nine queries. Once on submission, it didn’t take dreadfully long to sell—maybe about five months.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
My research was in two parts. I wanted to know as much as I could about the dreaming process and what kinds of things are possible in terms of influencing our dreams and remembering them. This was fascinating, because I discovered all the things I’d written that felt far-fetched to me are actually quite plausible!

The other branch of the research was understanding farming communities and how they operated during the early part of the twentieth century. Not quite as scintillating, but in order to make the characters and their way of life tangible, I really needed to have all the details, even down to what crops would have been planted or harvested at which time.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I am a pantser all the way. The process of discovery is what makes writing so joyous for me. I think if I always knew exactly where my plot was going, I would grow bored.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
Definitely the drafting, although it wasn’t always that way. I was in my thirties before someone enlightened me about how first drafts are supposed to stink. Once I started drafting more quickly instead of stewing over every word, it became my favorite part of the process. I love the feeling of a great idea for a scene popping into my head and rushing to get it all down.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
It depends on the book, but editing is always hard for me. Once I’ve written the book, I’m afraid to look at it again, to be overwhelmed by the mess, and I really have to talk myself into it. With my current project, I also did myself the great disservice of writing it out of order as scene ideas popped into my head, having only a vague idea of how they’d fit into the storyline. Organizing that jumble of scenes into a coherent narrative, linking them up with new writing, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a writer.

Can you share your writing routine?
I don’t have a routine, and I write anywhere and everywhere. I have to keep paper and pen handy everywhere I go! I love best to write outside, usually sitting on our back porch, but if it’s too cold you’ll usually find me on the living room sofa.


Do you have any writing quirks?
I don’t know if this counts as a quirk, but I detest typing. I draft everything longhand in notebooks and then transcribe. There’s something about typing that deadens the writing for me—I don’t know how else to describe it. Everything feels more vivid when I’m putting pen to paper and scribbling furiously to try and keep up with my mind.

Which book influenced you the most?
I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one, but certainly one of my all-time favorite books is one that I happened to be reading around the time I was writing The Dream Peddler: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. His writing is everything I could hope mine to be, and his agent was one of the first I queried. I also read everything by Donna Tartt—she is brilliant.

What are you working on right now?
I recently finished a readable draft of my second book, so I’m waiting to get feedback from a few kind writers who have agreed to critique for me. It’s another adult literary effort, this time about two eighth-graders who become friends without realizing that one of them has found something precious the other recently lost.

What’s your favorite writing advice?
Ignore all the advice and trust your instincts.

What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker and loving it! I wanted to read it because it’s about a small town overtaken by a mysterious sleeping sickness that seems to cause powerful dreams, and I was curious about what it might have in common with my own book. I’m so glad I discovered it, because the writing is beautiful and the story completely absorbing.

Where can we find your book?
Amazon
B&N
PRH

Where can we find you?
Website
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads

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

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!

Debut Author Interview: Danielle Haas

Meet Danielle Haas, author of the romantic suspense novel Bound by Danger, which releases today from Entangled

Danielle Haas grew up with a love of reading, partly due to her namesake—Danielle Steele. It seemed as though she was born to write out the same love stories she devoured while growing up.

She attended Bowling Green State University with a dream of studying creative writing, but the thought of sharing her work in front of a group of strangers was enough to make her change her major to Political Science.

After college she moved across the state of Ohio with her soon-to-be husband. Once they married and had babies, she decided to stay home and raise her children. Some days her sanity slipped further across the line to crazy town so she decided to brush off her rusty writing chops and see what happened.

Danielle now spends her days running kids around, playing with her beloved dog, and typing as fast as she can to get the stories in her head written down. She loves to write contemporary romance with relatable characters that make her readers’ hearts happy, as well as fast-paced romantic suspense that leaves them on the edge of their seats. Her story ideas are as varied and unpredictable as her everyday life.

Welcome, Danielle!

Tell us about your book.

Special Agent Graham Grassi is on a quest to stop a sex-trafficking ring from infiltrating Chicago. His path keeps crossing with sexy redhead, Mickey O’Shay. The stakes raise higher when Mickey’s goddaughter is taken, and her connections to the case leave Graham wondering if she’s just another victim in a sick game, or if she knows more than she’s letting on. Together, they race against time to unravel a web of deception before it’s too late.

Where did you get the idea?
My initial idea sprang from wondering what would happen if a flight attendant had a blind date with a man she’d already met…a man she’d just told to stop trying to join the mile high club on a flight she worked. Then I realized this wasn’t very heroic behavior, and I had to figure out what situation could he possibly be in to take him from sleazy to dreamy. Of course NONE of this made the final version, but it led me to a great story I never expected to tell.

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
Although Mickey and Graham are in a high-stakes emotional situation, they still have a lot of witty banter between them. Graham even serenades Mickey—with a horrible singing voice—to one of my favorite songs by Journey.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did a lot of research into sex-trafficking. It was horrific! But it opened my eyes to this dark world that exists everywhere and I now have a passion for advocating against. I even ran my first 5k in support of raising money to help victims of sex-trafficking.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
The most challenging part is just finding the time to sit down and write, and not feel guilty about doing so. I’m a stay-at-home mom and my son isn’t in school yet. It’s hard to balance.

Can you share your writing routine?
I normally write at my desk or at the island in my kitchen. I work better in the morning, so after I get my daughter on the school bus I give my son time to do his own thing (TV, Kindle, Puzzles, Play-doh) and I work on getting in my word count. My brain shuts off around 5:00 and it’s tough for me to get back into my writing at that point.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Be patient and find your writing tribe! The people in this community are amazing, and their support and advice have been life-changing. I wish I would have known they were out there sooner.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have three unpublished manuscripts that are all under contract. One will be out this year, the other two will follow shortly. I also have two unpublished/uncontracted manuscripts out on submission.

How did you get into writing?
I’ve always loved writing. When my son was 6 months old, I thought I was going to go stir crazy with only focusing on my children and husband. I decided to sit down and try to write a book based off my hometown and I fell in love with writing! That book, a small-town contemporary romance, will be published later this year!

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
I changed my major in college seven times! I started in creative writing, but the idea of having to read my work in front of other people scared me so bad I just keep changing majors and looking for something else I’d love to do.

What are you working on right now?
I just finished another romantic suspense, which is book two of a three book series. Each book focuses on a crime where a dating app is used by the villain/and or suspects in the novels.

What’s your favorite writing advice?
Keep writing, keep learning, and have an open mind. After I finished my first manuscript, I thought it was the best thing ever…until my paths crossed with my now critique partner who pointed out everything I did wrong! Instead of being defensive and offended, I listened to her wonderful advice and used it to improve my writing. I still do this daily!

Where can we find your book?
Amazon
Apple
Kobo
Nook

Where can we find you?
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest
Goodreads

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

A New Short Story, an Interview, and Other Podcasty Things

You may know that I have a podcast, Your Face Is Crooked, that comes out each Monday morning. Those little episodes are concise looks at some of my formative experiences and the resulting neuroses that make me me.

What you may not know is that I have recently appeared in a couple long-form podcasts this month.

The first is as a part of season 2 of Clinch: A Podcast of Fiction and Not-Fiction. Last year, Clinch started as a way for my husband, Zach, who is also a writer, to deliver a brand new YA suspense novel in serial fashion (that’s the fiction part) and to explore what went right and what went wrong in his own publishing career thus far (the not-fiction part). If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer, I highly recommend starting the Clinch podcast from the beginning. It covers indie publishing, traditional publishing, dealing with tricky relationships and ego and expectations of yourself and so much more.

Near the end of the first season, Zach brought in other writers as guests for the not-fiction portion of the podcast, and they shared their own experiences and struggles in the form of interviews. For season 2, guest writers are doing both the fiction and not-fiction portions. And that’s where my episode comes in. For the fiction part, I share a brand new short story that takes place in the same world as my second book (out in September) which you can’t get anywhere else. In the not-fiction part, I talk about where I have found validation as a writer (and where I should find it). I hope you enjoy listening to it!

 

The second podcast you can find me on is Hear Us Roar, a podcast produced by the Women’s Fiction Writers Association to highlight debut authors. In that interview, host Maggie Smith (no, not that one) and I talk about We Hope for Better Things, history, photography, research, my writing process, why I chose to tell this story at this time, and more. Click on the graphic to check it out!