Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Interview with Author Megan DiMaria

A big welcome and thank you goes out to Megan DiMaria for her willingness to participate in my weekly Authors-Helping-Writers Interview segment of this blog. When Megan isn’t working at her day job, puttering in her garden, or hanging out with her family and friends, she writes contemporary fiction that has also been referred to as chick lit and women’s fiction with humor.

Having read Searching for Spice, Megan DiMaria’s debut novel that released this month, I whole-heartedly concur with the chick lit and women’s fiction with humor classifications as well. Searching for Spice is a wonderful mix of elements found in all three of those genres and not only is it an entertaining novel, the story of Jerry and Linda Revere’s marriage commitment and perseverance in Searching for Spice provides a wake-up call to all of us lucky enough to be experiencing the long-lasting marriage.

But I should save my review of Searching for Spice for another day and get on with sharing Megan DiMaria’s road-to-publication story.

Congratulations, Megan, on receiving your first publishing contract with your novel, Searching for Spice. Now that your debut novel is on the bookshelves for the world to enjoy, can you give us an idea of how long it took to realize such a dream and what you did to achieve it?

Megan: I spent about five years studying and writing before I was published.
I decided to do everything possible to learn the craft. I read books on writing, attended conferences, joined a critique group, submitted to contests, joined local writers groups and hung out with other writers. I love to speak to other writers to cheer them on, and I also
blog regularly.

You mentioned contests in that great list, can you tell us something about that experience?

Megan: I’ve entered contests but never did all that well. However, I used the feedback to strengthen my skills.

That’s encouraging. I must admit, I’m one of those writers that puts a little too much emphasis on contests. I figure if it wasn’t good enough for the judges then it’s probably not good enough to send out to agents or editors even with the recommended revisions completed. But clearly, you used the advice given and took the leap to sending out proposals as well. This truly is a subjective business, and we authors-in-training would do well to remember that.

So tell us, Megan, how do you write? Do you have a plotting method?

Megan: I am an intuitive writer, not a plotter.

Intuitive Writer? I like that phrase. Would you explain how an intuitive writer creates her stories?

Megan: I believe there are as many writing styles as there are writers. Mostly they fall into two camps, plotters and intuitive writers (sometimes called seat of the pants writers). Of course there is always some overlapping of methods. I learned the term intuitive writer from author Alton Gansky at the Glen Eyrie Writers Conference. When he said that he’s an intuitive writer, my ears perked up. Intuitive writer sounds like a more purposeful and intelligent term than seat of the pants.

From my understanding, when a plotter crafts a story they outline each point in the plot and then flesh out their story. I’ve joked that an intuitive writer plots as well, they just do it as they go along in the story.

As an intuitive writer, I have a clear understanding of the direction I want to press toward, and I know what the ending of the story will be. I know the types of situations I want to place my characters in and what challenges I want them to face. I often know some specific scenes I want to insert into the story. Sometimes I write a scene and tack it on the end of the document, and when I reach the right point in the story, I insert it into the appropriate chapter. However, I don’t have a definite “road map” that I follow to craft my story from point to point. As I get into the story, the characters and their situations dictate the way in which the story unfolds. I’m fortunate because I’ve never written myself into a corner. I follow my characters’ lead, and the story seems to grow organically from my characters and the settings into which I place them.

When I mistakenly thought there was a “right” way to write a story, I tried to turn myself into a plotter. It frustrated me and wasted too much time. I’ve accepted my writing method and am a much more relaxed and productive writer. Trying to force myself into being a plotter drained the joy from my writing. I’m more eager to sit at the keyboard when I know I’ll journey with my characters throughout the story.

You’ve sold me, Megan. From now on I’ll use the term “Intuitive Writer”, too.

As an intuitive writer did you write any “practice” novels, or did you revise and edit your initial story until it sold?

Megan: I wrote my first novel from 1995 until 2000. It was awful, but it proved to me that I could write a book.

What is your basic editing process of your novels?

Megan: I write a chapter, edit it and then send it to my critique partners. I’m not one of those writers who endlessly edit.

To date, how many books have you published?

Megan: Searching for Spice released in April and Out of Her Hands will hit the shelves in October.

Do have an agent, or do you deal directly with the publisher?

Megan: My first sale was a result of a meeting with an acquisition editor from Tyndale House at an ACFW conference. Although I had been searching for an agent prior to Tyndale’s interest, I didn’t connect with anyone. When it became apparent that Tyndale was interested in my book, I queried a few of the agents I felt I might work well with. As a result, I am now represented by Beth Jusino of Alive Communications.

Will you tell us about your first “acceptance call”?

Megan: Tyndale’s acquisition editor, Jan Stob, promised to call me as soon as the publication committee reached a decision. I was so nervous before I went off to work that day that I gave her my husband’s cell phone number. Fortunately he had his phone turned off. Jan ended up calling my home and telling my daughter to have me call her. [I told my] my husband [first], of course and then my children, my agent, in-laws and friends.

How many edits did Searching for Spice go through with Tyndale, and in what timeframe?

Megan: I signed the contract in April 2007 and it released in April 2008. I had about three rounds of edits, each one less involved than the first.

Will you give us an idea of what Tyndale’s expectations are regarding promoting your novels?

Megan: I understand that it’s up to the author to do everything in her power to partner with the publisher to market the book. I speak, have book signings, arrange for radio interviews, send out press releases and constantly pass out bookmarks.

Thanks so much for sharing your writing journey with us, Megan. It sounds like you have this writing process down to an art and go full steam ahead with each story you write. Before we get to revealing more about your books, do you have any final words you’d like to share with weary authors-in-training?

Megan: To be honest, many times in my writing journey I was tempted to throw in the towel. But the moral of the story is, don’t give up. Hold on to your dreams. Press on. Trust God. Someone once told me writers don’t fail, they quit. And I decided to believe it.

Wow, what a powerful statement: Writers don’t fail, they quit. I think I may frame that to encourage me onward.

As we learned through the interview, Megan DiMaria has one title released all ready and another one due out in October. After reading Searching for Spice I know I’m looking forward to October’s release and hopefully more to come after that. Please tell us a little about your books.

Searching for Spice, my general fiction novel, is available everywhere books are sold, in stores and online. The ISBN: 978-1-4143-1887-5.

Searching for Spice is the story of a woman who’s been married 24 years, and she decided she wants to have an affair—with her husband. It was a blast to write, and I’m delighted by the positive response it’s been receiving.

My second novel, Out of Her Hands will release in October. Out of Her Hands continues with the same family as SFS, but this time the focus is on the relationships my character has with her young adult children.

As a special bonus, you can hear Megan talk about her novel and how she came to be a novelist on a radio interview she participated in earlier. Just click on the pink button on the MP3 player below. Be sure to have your volume on.

If you have any questions for Megan DiMaria feel free to leave them in the comment section here or visit her blog to chat. You can also learn more about Megan and her books at her web site.

Thanks again for sharing, Megan, and I wish you all the best in your writing and life.

Tomorrow I'll blog about musings (possibly writing buddies -- the four legged kind) and add a new word to my Vocabulary Enhancement list.

Remember, for all who leave comments in any of my posts during the month of April, they will be entered into a drawing for a wonderful devotional book for writers, Daily Devotions for Writers. Georgiana Daniels was the lucky winner of the early bird draw. Best of luck to everyone for the April 30th drawing that will take place early early on May 1.

1 comment:

Jan Parrish said...

Eileen, great post. Megan's book is as delightful as she is. I'll link you to my post.