Sunday, April 19, 2009


Last week college student, Nicki Carr, interviewed me for a class project. I thought her questions were great and since I can't always reply in time for end of the year author studies, I posted her interview here.

1. How long did it take to get your first book published from the time you finished writing it?

I started writing my first book, My Louisiana Sky, the summer of 1994. I wrote the first draft very quickly, but it took me three and a half years to rewrite.

2. What was the hardest part about getting your work published?

Learning the craft. Getting published usually comes down to writing a good story. Some people want to think they aren't getting published because of other things--the market, where they live, the fact that they don't have an agent. No matter what the market climate is like, editors are always looking for good stories.

Shortly after I started writing I attended a writers' conference. An editor and an agent were among the lineup of speakers. But I didn't attend their sessions. I wanted to hear the writers. I wasn't ready to learn the publishing end yet. I had to learn to write first.

3. How many publishers said no before you finally found one?


4. What is the biggest challenge about writing for a living?

Learning to be my own boss. That takes discipline. When you work at home, there is always something else that can be done--laundry, dusting, vacuuming. Thank goodness, I'm a terrible housekeeper.

5. What is the biggest reward?

Writing a great sentence. Nothing beats that thrill, not even getting published.

6. Where do you write, and do you have a favorite spot to write?

At home, I tend to write in my bedroom, most of the time in my club chair with my dog at my feet, but if it's cold I write in bed under a heating blanket. Sometimes, when the weather is nice, I write on the screen porch. And a couple of times a week, I go to a coffee shop and write.

7. Have you ever written anything other than books professionally? If so for whom?

A novel is a long process. I believe it helps a new writer to work on shorter pieces, too. Seeing my byline early on, helped build my confidence as a writer. I've had a few essays, articles, and short stories published. My essays appeared in gardening magazines, all of which are out of print now. The articles were in children's publications such as Guideposts for Kids, Spider Magazine,and Dynamath. My short stories were published in literary magazines-- Concho River Review, Southern Humanities Review and a few others.

8. What media do you use to promote your books?

My publisher has a marketing department, but I also do an email blitz and a postcard mailing to announce my new books.

9. Where do you draw inspiration for your books?

Most of my ideas come from moments in my childhood. If you peruse my website, you'll find the inspirations for each of them.

10. How much time on average do you spend writing per week?

It depends. When I'm writing a first draft, I don't spend very much time writing daily, maybe two hours. If I go longer than that, the story becomes stale. I want to stay excited about the next day's writing session and that means quitting early. When I rewrite, I can write 6 or more hours a day. The more drafts I've finished, the more time I tend to spend on the maunuscript. When I get into final draft stages, (my favorite part), I lose track of time. At that point, it's polishing.

11. How much of your time is spent researching your work?

It depends on the book. I research as I go. The historical I just finished required more time than I've ever spent. Some of the research meant visiting the setting and museums. And I read a lot of journals and books about the time period.

When I wrote Keeper of the Night, I returned to Guam to research. That was an expensive trip, but well-worth it. As a child, I'd lived on Guam, but I needed to go back as a writer and learn the Guam of today.

Each book has required research, but the historical required more. Although the first time I turned it in, my editor had to remind me that I wasn't writing nonfiction. I had neglected the characters and the story. Too much of my research showed. Her comment made me relax and when I revised again, I cut out a lot of that research and developed my characters and the story.

12. How do you deal with writer's block?

I have a few ways of dealing with it. (I go over this on my writing tips page on the website.)

My Writing Tips Page

13. Do you have any other info or advice for someone pursuing a career as a writer?

Write everyday. Read everyday. Notice the things that others don't notice. Love the craft more than the idea of being published.

Nicki Carr attends Amarillo College where she is majoring in English. She enjoys writing poetry and short stories and has been attempting to write a book for the last five years of her life.


  1. Great answers though that one about blaming the market, no agent and so forth hit me in the gut. Of course it's true but it's not always easy to look in the mirror and admit that's where the problem is..

  2. I enjoyed reading your interview! rewrite is something important sometimes...

    have a good day