Debut Author Interview: Meet Christie Grotheim

Meet Christie Grotheim
Christie Grotheim is a New York-based writer whose stories have been featured in Salon, The New York Observer, and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. Grotheim studied creative writing at the New School and the 92nd Street Y, where Marjorie Moore was conceived, and birthed a few years later as her debut novel. More of her published writing can be found on http://www.christiegrotheim.com. Follow her at @cgrotheim on Twitter and @christiegrotheim on Instagram.

Christie is the author of The Year Marjorie Moore Learned to Live, out today!

Forever searching elsewhere, Marjorie Moore is consumed with wanting, or in her opinion, needing. Feeling trapped by her town and her family, she escapes through obsessive shopping, pill popping, and fantasizing about a possible affair with a friend from high school with whom she reconnects on Facebook. Her growing credit card debt “forces” her to sell prescription drugs—which she secures at her

receptionist job at the local hospital—to her dysfunctional friends. As her web of lies at home and work unravels, Margie wrestles with whether she is capable of becoming present in her own life.

Marjorie’s insatiable desires and misguided antics shed light on our own search for escapes—and search for self—and perhaps that is why we cheer her on wholeheartedly.

Let’s get to know Christie and her debut!

Where did you get the idea?
Marjorie Moore is a flawed protagonist who is always searching elsewhere, for otherness, and I have known people like that in my life both in Dallas and here in New York. I feel it’s a very unhealthy outlook, and I wanted to explore this theme through Margie’s search for fulfillment. I wanted to create a satirical character that we could laugh at a little—but relate to, and I found myself relating to her more than I cared to admit: my way of rationalizing things, my own search for escapes, my own struggle to be present in the moment.

What’s the story behind the title?
I came up with the title early on, and it just stuck! I liked the alliteration, and it became even more meaningful when I realized at the time I wrote the novel, I too was learning how to live. I was reevaluating how I spent my time and who I spent it with; where I find joy, and what I value. There are a lot of ways we relearn to live, and Margie’s story is just one of them, but I believe it will resonate with many different people on many different paths.

Tell us about your favorite character.
My favorite character, if of course, Margie herself: I tried to create a character who was human, quirky, and real. The challenge was creating a flawed protagonist who was a bit desperate and delusional, but still relatable, so it was important for me to make her authentic and give her depth.

Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?
I do find I can create more realistic characters by pulling from people I know: the mannerisms of one, the looks from a couple of others, certain characteristics of another. I use the amalgam as a starting point that is then evolved and is developed until they become their own being, and I as a writer have a complete unique image of them in my mind. Marjorie Moore really came alive for me, and then took on a life of her own, driving the character-driven plot forward.

Tell us about why you chose the setting of your novel.
I feel that my novel could have taken place almost anywhere—in Middle America or New York City—but I chose a place I know well as a kind of homage to Texas. I grew up in Longview, went to college at TCU in Fort Worth, and lived in Dallas for a few years before moving to NYC. Until recently, my sister lived in Flower Mound, which the suburb Prairie Mound is based on—but unlike Marjorie Moore, I found it quite charming. I wanted to be able to recapture and describe the landscapes, the smells, and other details that reminded me of my childhood.

How long did you take to write this book?
The entire process has taken about five years. The saga of Marjorie Moore started as a short story in a 92Y workshop with Adam Langer. The class’s enthusiastic response inspired me to write a few chapters of a novel after the workshop ended, which I then set aside to focus on graphic design—and paying the bills. I picked it up a year and a half later—and liked what I read—and felt the novel had momentum, and that the message was relevant enough to continue. I pushed forward full-force, taking another class at the 92Y with Sandra Newman, where I continued developing the novel and workshopping chapters. I worked hard on the novel the entire year until I had a tight manuscript to query. The query process took nine months, and while I mostly queried agents, I approached one small press, Heliotrope Books, who took on the project—and we finally signed a book deal in November 2017. The publication process took a year and a half, leading up to the thrilling release date of April 2nd!

What kind of research did you do for this book?
Not much deep research was required of this book, other than referencing visuals of the towns mentioned, like Paris, Texas. Prairie Mound is a fictional town, combining two suburbs I know well: Grand Prairie and Flower Mound. And I had to double-check pop culture referenced in the book, to make sure it was in keeping with the timeline of the book, since Margie is a few years younger than I am myself.

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
While certain scenes were certainly streamlined and cut down, I did more building and expanding than removing, for example, adding depth of character through more backstory and specific memories from Margie’s troubled childhood.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a little bit of both. I’m not into methodical plotting because this is not the main draw for me when I read. I can read about any subject and be carried through any plot if the prose is beautifully written. But when I write I do have a sense of the ending, and the themes I want to convey. And I do utilize outlines of chapters, and scenes and objectives within each chapter, which helps me with pacing, character development, and the character-driven plot.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
I like getting into the zone and writing for hours uninterrupted, getting lost in a scene or description as I conceive it. I also enjoy refining on a sentence and paragraph level, massaging the language when I already have something on the page to play with. I don’t mind further edits because I like how it can lead to something new—a new line of funny dialogue or a better metaphor. For me writing is like reading: I love getting lost in another world, but it’s even more exciting because it’s one that I am creating.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
I believe the most challenging part of writing, like any art, is knowing when it’s complete. Knowing when continuing to edit no longer improves it, trusting when you as an artist feel that it’s finished, and having the confidence to let it go and release it into the world.

Can you share your writing routine?
Since I’m a freelance graphic designer, I can’t write every day. But my ideal routine is getting up relatively early and diving in, before the stress of the day is allowed to enter my mind, and writing at least four hours, which for me is ideal, sometimes extending to six or eight if I’m really in the zone. I try to write in blocks of time, blocking off three days or a week in between design projects.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
I rarely get writer’s block, and I have found the best way to overcome it is to force myself to sit down and continue, knowing that I will almost always get past it within fifteen or thirty minutes.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I never thought I could write a novel. Perhaps because of the great literature that I read and love, I felt maybe I wasn’t intelligent enough, that my vocabulary wasn’t broad enough. At the time I started writing I was obsessed with David Sedaris, Jonathan Ames, and Augusten Burroughs. And I had an epiphany: this is not rocket science—they are merely putting one sentence after the other, using language within my capacity. They had a voice and a point of view. Since I felt the personal essay form was more approachable, I allowed myself to write, word by word, sentence by sentence, and found that I too had a voice. So I would tell myself: Christie, push past your fears and insecurities, and allow yourself to write.

Which book influenced you the most?
There is no one book that influenced me the most, but some of my favorite writers are: Martin Amis, John Irving, David Sedaris, Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Euginides, Vladimir Nabokov, Milan Kundera, Anthony Doerr, Barbara Kingsolver, David Foster Wallace, and Marilynne Robinson—to name a few! I have been moved and inspired by so many writers over the years.

What are you working on right now?
I’m working hard on my second novel, A Ballad in Cobalt Blue. I’m deep into it and kind of obsessed with it right now; it’s my very heart and soul. I find pouring myself into it relieves the anxiety I feel about marketing my current book. It uses a completely different energy, so it allows for balance and an escape from this exciting but intense process!

What’s your favorite writing advice?
One of the best pieces I received, from Jonathan Ames who was kind enough to read one of my essays when I was just starting out after I randomly sent him an email. His thoughtful response: “I really enjoyed your story. Keep writing! And remember to make every sentence entertain!” I have taken that to heart, and feel it’s great advise. There is no room and no place for a boring sentence.

What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading advanced reader copies of noels from fellow debut authors with books coming out this year, and I’m really enjoying them. There are so many unique and talented voices coming out this year! Of the books I read this summer, my two favorites books were Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and my absolute top two books that I’ve read in the last five years are The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. And I try to squeeze in some classics; the last two that struck a chord with me were 1984 and The House of Mirth.

Where can we find you?
Website: www.christiegrotheim.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christie.grotheim
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cgrotheim
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christiegrotheim/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42832882-the-year-marjorie-moore-learned-to-live

Debut Author Interview: Eva Seyler

Meet Eva Seyler
Eva Seyler was born in Jacksonville, Florida. She left that humidity pit at the age of three and spent the next twenty-one years in California, Idaho, Kentucky, and Washington before ending up in Oregon, where she now lives on a homestead in the western foothills with her husband and five children, two of whom are human.

Eva is the author of The War in Our Hearts, out today!

The War in Our Hearts opens in France, 1916. Estelle Graham faces a nightmare. Expecting to meet her beloved husband and bring their newly adopted daughter home to Scotland, she instead finds him gravely injured and unconscious in a casualty station. As she fights for his care, she takes solace in his journals and letters.

In a farmhouse in Somme, Captain Jamie Graham is forever changed when he meets young Aveline Perrault. Both of them broken and walled off from the cruel and cold world around them—made even crueler and colder by the Great War—the pair form an unlikely bond. She finds in him the father she never had, and with her love, he faces the pain from his own childhood.

Readers will discover the depth of love and faith in the face of brutality and neglect as these characters learn to live while surviving World War I.

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

Where did you get the idea?
I’ve felt for a long time that there wasn’t enough WWI fiction out there, and as I was thinking about what I should write, I got a visual in my head of a red-headed girl standing in a barn. That was Aveline, and when she had some trouble, Captain Jamie Graham came to her aid.

What’s the story behind the title?
My best friend came up with the title and it stuck! I was able to tuck in a line to neatly tie the title to the story after she came up with it, too, which was super awesome.

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
There’s a sixteen-year-old runaway fisherman’s son named Willie Duncan who’s pretending to be twenty, and he’s kind of adorable and I’d like to write more about him someday.

Tell us about your favorite character.
I have incredible fondness for Estelle Graham, my MC’s wife, who is gorgeous, graceful, and sweet, yet doesn’t take sh*t from anyone. But my very favorite is my MC, Jamie Graham, who wasn’t even originally supposed to BE the main character, but he completely took over in spite of all my intentions.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d pick Estelle, definitely. She has a mischievous streak that would make her a Tremendously Fun Friend.

How long did you take to write this book?
It took almost exactly nine months from writing the first words to beginning the querying process, and another six months to complete the edits and proofreading.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
Honestly, I felt like I was drowning sometimes, but the upside is that I’ve learned so much I can continue to write about WWI and already have the basic history of the era covered in my head. For The War in Our Hearts particularly, I needed information about trench warfare more than anything else. Eye-Deep in Hell by John Ellis and Hot Blood, Cold Steel by Andy Simpson were both amazing resources.

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
Mostly self-indulgent snogging scenes that didn’t do anything to move the plot forward. I also took out a lot of rambling and irrelevant nonsense about Captain Graham’s time training troops in Aldershot.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser. When I have a solid idea where the story is going, then I make my detailed timelines and write my character sketches and all that technical jazz.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
I like the polishing part, when I have the bulk of the story in place and I get to rearrange and reword and weave everything together into a harmonious, well-crafted whole.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
Turning it over to beta readers before it’s reached a state of perfection.

Can you share your writing routine?
I write whenever and wherever I can. I use Google Docs, so I can (and do!) write on my phone or iPad in the car, sitting around waiting for people, relaxing the the bath, whatever. I also try to make time at my computer at least once a day for concentrated writing time with an actual keyboard under my fingers.

I write by hand sometimes early in the process, and I take most of my notes and do my character sketches by hand too. Usually about halfway through writing a novel, I’ll print out the initial draft and annotate it by hand (adding scenes, indicating rearrangements, making notes of things that are still needed and where they should go) before completely re-typing the work from scratch.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
If I can’t think of anything new to write that’s relevant, I’ll go back and do some editing, or draw pictures of characters/scenes, or pick my friends’ brains for ideas.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Probably I would tell it, “Someday you’re going to write fan-fiction and it’s going to change your life. You think that’s something to scoff at now, but you just wait and see.”

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have two completed works besides The War in Our Hearts: an old novel called Hide, which I will never go back to, and a novel-length fan-fiction. As far as unfinished works, I have four at the moment: a fictionalized memoir, a post-WWII novel, a novel about Belgian refugees in WWI, and a book set during the summer of 1925 in western Oregon near where I live.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a stay-at-home, homeschool mom to my two daughters. I overextend myself constantly trying to do ALL the things, because I enjoy so many things. I hate washing dishes, I’m very disorganized, and my brain retains pointless information from, say, the 1980s, whilst simultaneously filtering out 96.6% of anything someone said to me five minutes ago.

How did you get into writing?
I’ve been writing since I was little, but I never really FINISHED anything until roughly 2008, when I wrapped up a novel I’d started a couple years prior, and after that I quit writing completely until 2016, when I got sucked into writing fan-fic and realized I missed writing a lot and wanted write my own book.

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
The wider world probably doesn’t know how actively I despise summer, sunshine, and being hot. I have reverse seasonal affective disorder (yes, reverse SAD is an actual thing).

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on my post-WWII novel, because it’s the closest to completion. It is a very ambitious and complex piece of work that isn’t coming together as easily and magically as The War in Our Hearts did, but I think it’s totally worth the extra trouble.

Where can we find you?
Website: www.evaseyler.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorevaseyler
Twitter: https://twitter.com/the_eva_seyler (I’m most active here!)
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theevaseyler
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/theevaseyler/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2263146-eva-seyler

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

NaNoWriMo Success, a Goodreads Giveaway, and the Return of #Debut19Chat

The past week has been busy in a good way.

I topped 50,000 words in my newest novel manuscript and won National Novel Writing Month for the second time (the result of the first time will actually be my second novel, coming out in September, and which has a shiny new title I can’t wait to share with you).

I finished up several PR items my publicist needed in order to spread the word about We Hope for Better Things.

I actually did my very first interview with a writer for a magazine!

I made much progress on an advance reader copy of The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill by James Charlesworth, another author who will debut in 2019.

dusted. I actually dusted.

I decorated for Christmas.

I did some laundry (finally).

I prepped food for a church potluck.

I started my Advent reading, Wrapped in Grace by Deana Lynn Rogers.

And #Debut19Chat is running again on Twitter, with new questions and answers to get to know 2019 debut authors and their projects.

Now I sit back a moment and consider the reality that 2018 is racing to a close and I have a very busy year ahead of me, in which I have two books coming out (one in just a month!), two books in the process of writing and revising, and I’m directing my beloved WFWA writing retreat.

If you want to keep up with what I’m doing, including my book launch events, speaking and workshops, my podcast, and more, you can get my newsletter in your email inbox by subscribing here.

If you want to enter to win one of ten free copies of We Hope for Better Things, you can enter the Goodreads Giveaway here!

And if you want to listen to me riff about the cute online animal videos I would have attempted to make as a child had the technology been available to me, click here to listen to the latest Your Face Is Crooked podcast episode. Or click the graphic below, which is my husband communing with a goat.

 

#Debut19Chat starts today!

After I sold my debut novel and got a 2019 pub date, I joined a group of other writers on Facebook whose debut novels are coming out in 2019. The writers in this group are all writers of adult or new adult fiction. They are men and women of various backgrounds writing in various genres — contemporary, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, romance, and more. We’ve been holding each other up, comparing notes, reassuring each other, and answering one another’s questions for months as we’ve gone through the process of getting edits, seeing galleys, seeing cover designs, etc. It’s been an awesome resource and a great source of encouragement to all of us.

Starting today, you get to meet them!

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If you love to read and you want to be up on the up-and-comers, head over to Twitter and follow the #DebutAuthors19 and #Debut19Chat hashtags. Starting today and every day throughout the month of August, we’ll be introducing ourselves, talking about our books and our publishing journeys, and giving you an inside look at what’s coming to bookstores in 2019.

Hopefully, you’ll find several great new books to add to your Goodreads shelf and/or pre-order.

I’ve already added my post for day 1. Go see who else is tweeting!