Q & A with Heather Grace Stewart
Heather and I met and became friends under unusual circumstances--a Facebook group page! Since then we've shared laughter and tears, a fabulous day in New York City, another fabulous day in Cape Cod, and a devotion to cheesecake. That we live in different countries hasn't marred our friendship one bit.
Heather has also been one of my biggest fans and supporters. She was one of the few who witnessed my whirlwind success as it unfolded, and one of the early Faking It readers when it was still a self-published book. Likewise, I've cheered Heather on and have been delighted to watch her own writing career take off. She's the author of several poetry books, a screenplay, and her debut novel will be released just in time for beach reading.
When Heather asked me to participate in her blog hop, I wanted to support her, but I've done these blog hops several times, answering the same questions. I think my readers are sick of reading those answers, especially the "I'm secretive about my works in progress." I shared this with Heather, and told her that I'd really prefer to feature her instead. As a compromise, she gave me four new questions to reply to after I featured her answers.
And so, without further ado, here's my friend and fellow author, Heather Grace Stewart:
What are you working on?
I am excited to say that I’m currently “in final edits” on my adult fiction/women’s fiction novel, Strangely, Incredibly Good, with my publisher Morning Rain Publishing. Gosh, I love being able to say that! I got the best Christmas gift ever when they sent me a publishing contract for Strangely, Incredibly Good on December 23rd, 2013! I’m also thrilled that we haven’t revised much from my original manuscript. We’re just looking to clean it up and make it shine now. It is due to be launched on June 5, 2014.
When I’m not working on edits for that book, I’m coming up with the plot for my next book. I can’t say much about that. You’ll just have to wait. :D
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I hope that people will say it has more humour than most other women’s fiction novels. I also hope they find it’s more of an escape. It’s about a woman who starts an exercise routine and discovers a genie in her Wii machine! It’s definitely fanciful, but that’s what I set out to do. I wanted it to be based in modern reality, but allow for the characters to escape that reality – and take the reader along with them on that fanciful journey. It’s more adventure packed than some other books that are considered women’s fiction, I think, but then, I didn’t write it specifically for women – I wrote it for myself, and my friends and family, with hopes that many people from diverse backgrounds, men and women, would pick it up and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Why do you write what you do?
I write to entertain myself, first and foremost. It’s pure entertainment for me. When I’m writing a longer work of fiction like this, I’ve noticed the TV remains off for several weeks at a time, or, only one or two shows pull me in a couple times a week (I do need to watch some times to recharge my batteries after writing all day)!
The topics I choose to write about – in my poetry and in fiction like Strangely, Incredibly Good - are all themes I feel need more discourse in our society. I want to get people thinking and talking about these themes. Sometimes, I just want to poke fun of our society and get us all laughing at ourselves. Other times, I’m more direct, and I’m trying to incite change. This novel was really meant as an escape for the reader, and as a form of entertainment, but there are some themes and sub-themes in there I hope get dissected to pieces in Book Clubs across Canada and beyond. As long as you have some wine in hand and don’t take my book too seriously! The last thing I want is to cause cat fights at Book Clubs!
Side note: My main character’s name is Cat. This could get interesting. We could actually call debates over that character – debates over her actions and what they mean – Cat Fights.
See? I’m having waaaaay too much fun with this book. I may never watch The Bachelor again!
How does your writing process work?
The only hard and fast rule I have is to write something every day. If I’ve got a lot of marketing to do, or maybe I’m prepping a writing workshop like the one I just did at Queen’s University, I still set aside half an hour every day to write creatively. I don’t always like what I wrote, but I save it in a file, and work on it the next day, and the day after that.
When I was working on this novel, I got to my desk every morning at 7:30 a.m. and wrote until noon. That’s a little trick I learned when I read that Hemingway did that. Then he went fishing every day at noon. I choose to have lunch, Tweet, check Facebook, do yoga, take a walk, read, or do laundry! Then I get back to other work tasks.
The first week or so of writing Strangely, Incredibly Good, I just wrote. I didn’t edit at all. I tried to not even edit my sentences as I put them down, let alone re-read what I wrote and edit that paragraph or paragraphs. I just wrote. I had an idea, and I saw the beginning, so I wrote that. And then I kept going.
When I got to about 5,000 words, I took a look at what I had, and started plotting. I had cue cards, and a filing system, and filed items on plot, main characters, sub characters, etc. I plotted out how the story was going to end, but I did so in a vague way. My story wasn’t solidified yet. I still had to write and find out what was going to happen.
So, I got back to writing, and worked at a slow but steady pace. Some days I put down 1,000 words; other days, more like 1500. I never wrote beyond that because I never wanted my writing to sound tired.
Once I was finished my book, I spent weeks going over it and massaging it for language, plot development, and character development. Then I wrote up my query letter and started looking for a publisher. This is the first time I’ve found a publisher for my work this quickly. I sent my letters out in early November, and received this request for publication just before Christmas. It doesn’t usually happen like that, trust me. But it does feel meant to be.
This is one experience where I can say I’ve definitely enjoyed the journey, the writing, as much as the destination of getting published.
And now... my turn! Here are the questions Heather gave me, with my responses:
How has your writing process changed from one book to another?
Now that novel-writing is my sole full-time job, it doesn’t take me as long to finish a book. There’s also more pressure to publish now—I don’t want my readers to wait too long between books. I worry that I rush the process.
That said, my process hasn’t changed too much, although I find myself more willing to work with outlines than I did in the past. However, outlining doesn’t come in until well after the first (or even second) draft(s), and it’s a very basic outline. Sometimes I’ll use it for timeline issues, and other times I’ll use it to map out the story and/or character arcs.
How has your writing career surprised you?
Interesting question! I’m constantly blown away by the success I’ve had. Ask me how it happened and I still couldn’t give you an exact account. I’m also surprised by the various rewards I continue to reap, be it in the form of friendships, new opportunities, independence, or royalties.
What was your greatest challenge in writing She Has Your Eyes?
I was terrified of letting my readers down. They’ve grown to love these characters as much as I do, so I felt a lot of pressure to get it right. There were also some emotional scenes that still make me tear up when I read them.
Why the fascination with Pop Tarts? No seriously, go into great detail about how the love began and why it continues? :)
HA! I remember thinking they were the coolest things when I was a kid. I loved the talking toaster in the commercials. I think my love for them now is probably a way to stay connected to my inner child. Plus, they’re yummy! (Well, most of the flavors are. I’ve tried a few that I could live without.) And it’s fun to say. I’ve tried knock-off brands, and even tried making my own, but none come close to beating the Kellogg’s brand. They’re still the original and the best.
Heather Grace Stewart's first novel comes out this June, but she is best known for her poetry, which includes: “Three Spaces”, “Carry on Dancing”, “Leap”, and “Where the Butterflies Go.” In 2012, she published the screenplay, “The Friends I’ve Never Met”, which has been well received on both Kindle and Kobo. Her two non-fiction books for youth are part of the Warts & All educational series on Canada’s Prime Ministers.
She has written for a wide range of magazines, including Reader’s Digest and Canadian Wildlife magazine. Her column in the Queen’s Alumni Review magazine, Grace’s Grads, was created in September 2005.
Heather’s poems have been published in Canadian literary journals, newspapers, and magazines, Canadian and British school textbooks, audio CDS, online journals, international print anthologies, and in the British small presses. She was awarded Queen’s University’s McIlquham Foundation Prize in English Poetry and the UK journal Various Artists’ “The Poet’s Poet” Award (2008 & 2012).
Heather can be found on Facebook, Twitter , her blog , and her website. Her women's fiction/general fiction novel “Strangely, Incredibly Good” will be released by Morning Rain Publishing on June 5, 2014.
3/31/2014 12:43:34 am
You are such a sweetheart! I didn't realize you were going to feature my interview - I thought you would just feature my little bio. Thanks so much for doing that, and for the intro - reading how we met and all that we've shared puts a smile to my face. So glad you became a friend I've met!
3/31/2014 02:18:19 am
The best is yet to come! xo
3/31/2014 01:48:08 am
Good questions, Elisa. I've enjoyed Heather's writing and am looking forward to her next release. Thanks for giving us a peek at her process.
3/31/2014 02:17:55 am
I concur, Kenny! :)
3/31/2014 03:05:08 am
Unfrosted Cherry are my personal favorite. Just can't find them all that often. Although the Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving and Gingerbread at Christmas are right up there.
3/31/2014 07:43:24 am
This was a joy to read. Great questions! The synopsis of Heather's book on the publisher page is terrific. I look forward to the book launch. However, I don't find pop tarts to be strangely, incredibly good.
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I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.