The girls of Night Owl Romance are pleased that you have granted us an interview
We would love to get to know you
Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
Well, in terms of my writing background, I'm actually a journalist by training. That happened because I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. So, being from St. Louis, the place to learn about writing - I'd always heard - was the University of Missouri-Columbia, which, at that time, had the country's top-rated journalism school. To my dismay, one of the first things I was told was that, "we can't teach you how to write." The approach was either you can write or you can't and our duty is to teach you how to be a good reporter.
So on a deeper level I think I have been searching all these many years to fulfill my original aspiration, which was to be a writer. I've had jobs in several arenas: I worked for Detroit City Council for a few years, I was a reporter and editor for the Michigan Chronicle, did some freelancing for the Metro Times and some national magazines and I've spent a lot of time in corporate communications for several nonprofit and charitable organizations working in marketing communications, branding those types of areas.
Though I still enjoy writing non-fiction (I think that's why I blog), I love writing fiction. Making up stories and writing them down is really what allows me to be me.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
I go through a transitional version of writer's block every day. I work a full time job and have three kids. So I typically don't settle in to write until 11 or 12 o'clock every night. Depending on the kind of day I've had, it usually takes me as much as half an hour to shut out the family to-do list and focus on me and my writing.
I've found that even if my head has been sprouting bits and pieces of ideas all day, they're easily lost if I don't have a plan to fulfill. To stay on track, I keep a writing journal. At the start of each month, I write out goals that include online classes to take, research to pursue, promotional undertakings, people to contact, and, of course, which stories to work on and how many pages to produce. Then I log my accomplishments every day. So, sometimes when I'm experiencing writer's block, I allow myself a chunk of time to accomplish something on my goal list. Sometimes you just need to step away from the page in order to come back and fill it with meaningful words. Having word or page count goals helps ensure that I don't digress too long. However, most of the time, I'm able to turn to the tidbits I've been compiling all day to act as creative catalysts. That way I don't feel like I'm starting with a blank slate every time I sit down. Using those snippets of dialogue, notes on a reaction, or elements of setting that I've been jotting down all day allow me to jump start the thought process with minimal effort. What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
Being a journalist offered great training in uncovering information. I love the internet and have learned to sift through the excessive information it offers to find real nuggets for my stories. I also conduct informal interviews with people in my character's fields as necessary and consult professionals for additional insight as necessary. Most importantly, I have a growing library of books on character archetypes and psychological profiles. This helps ensure that the people in the story are well-grounded and also helps me refine the information I'm searching for to flush out a plot. I really enjoy this aspect of the writing process and have even discovered new story ideas this way. Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
I am extremely deadline driven - better pushed by external timelines than the ones I set for myself. I was recently challenged by the last story I wrote - a novella for an upcoming anthology - which required me to produced about 25,000-30,000 words in about five weeks. Even writing one-day stories for a television station never required that much discipline! It was tough, but I did it, and now I have a better feel for what I'm capable of producing as a writer.
With one published book behind me, I can already see that the writing process will be different for each story. It's also important for me to find a way to be creative but thorough under looming deadlines so that I don't forsake quality in my writing. That trick is definitely on the goal list!
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
For my five-week deadline novella, I outlined the entire story. I divided my word count into ten chapters, detailed the timeline and action in each of those chapters and assigned myself 1,000 words a day in order to meet deadline. I think this project necessitated that approach (for me, anyway), but I've never worked that way before.
Ordinarily I start with a thread of an idea. Sometimes all I have is a really cool title. From there I sketch out the overall action. As the story gels mentally, I devise key plot points like the inciting incident and black moment. But what happens in between is always a surprise to me. Even the ending stays pretty fuzzy as I write most of the book.
For Where Souls Collide, I spent a lot of time re-writing as I wrote, but still ended up making huge changes after I finished the first draft. I gutted about half the book and began layering in clues that led to the ending. Knowing exactly how it ended let me better heighten the story's emotion. The last task of the revision process for that book involved rewriting the prologue.
I'm still a pantser, so to speak, but I've found better ways to keep moving through the pace without bogging myself down with day-to-day revisions or story tweaks that need to be made. Hopefully, this will allow me to finish books faster without resorting to full outlining!
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
My first "public" writing was actually poetry. I was an avid Seventeen magazine reader and submitted a handful of my finest works to them for publication. They rejected the whole bunch with a form letter. It broke my heart. It was my father who opened my eyes to the situation's bigger picture. I actually wrote about the experience in a blog post that I called "Rejection:" My dad, being the insightful man that he is, smiled and praised my courage. He told me that it took a lot of guts to send out something personal, let other people read it and judge it. He was so impressed that I had taken such a chance. And he was proud of me for not being afraid to try. His viewpoint morphed that painful experience from an ending into a beginning for me.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
I belong to a terrific critique group. I started writing with them back in 1998-99 and hung around for about a year before I decided to focus my energy on my kids and my career. During my years away, I grew my day job marketing skills, which later came in very handy. In 2004, I went to a former critique partner's booksigning and she invited me back to the group. A year later I finished Where Souls Collide (in September 2005). I received the offer from Dorchester in October 2006.
During my years away from the group, everyone else got published! So when I returned, they were able to steer me clear of a lot of publishing pitfalls. I credit them with helping me over the learning curve all writers have to go through. We've also become a very serious group. We read for plot structure, characterization, emotion - all the critical story elements - in addition to screening for awkward phrases, typos and grammar. Meeting every two weeks also helps ensure that we each have 10-15 pages to share at every meeting.
For me it's a great group. We like writing. We like each other. We are serious about our craft and respect each other's genres. At this point in my writing career, I find my critique group to be a vital component of my development.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
Aside from articles I wrote as a reporter, my first published work was a poem entitled "Milagro" that I wrote for my oldest son. He was my only child at the time and I was absolutely mesmerized by becoming a mom. It appeared in the 1992 Metro Times Summer Fiction Issue. Fifteen years later, my first novel, "Where Souls Collide," was published by Dorchester (August 2007). A contemporary romance with supernatural elements, it's the story of Detroit journalist Navena Larimore who must decode violent visions and resolve rekindled feelings about her ex-lover and new boss, Maxwell McKnight, as they team up to stop a murderer.
What would you like to tell your readers?
Where Souls Collide has been getting very good reviews. I used to envy people who were published in their twenties while I was raising my family and climbing the career ladder. But writing this story made me realize I had a life perspective that I could now lend the plot that wasn't there years before. So my story, to me, mirrors the complexities life can bring when you're trying to balance your job, a relationship and your own personal quirks. My hope is to attract a cross-segment of readers. Paranormal fans will enjoy the dream aspects and find a very non-traditional romance element in Where Souls Collide. While romance fans who don't gravitate to paranormal will hopefully find the conflicted relationship and the story's suspense elements well worth turning the page.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
I love to hear from readers. They can cruise my web site at www.StefanieWorth.com. I'm also on MySpace at www.MySpace.com/StefanieWorth and I have a blog at www.PlottingMe.blogspot.com. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I'm happy with snail mail as well: P.O. Box 31-2456, Detroit, MI 48231.
Thank you for this opportunity!