What was your favorite part of writing The Rejected Writer’s Book Club? What was the most challenging part?
My favorite part is writing the characters and the humor that comes from that creative process. They will often surprise me with one-liners that will make me laugh out loud as I write them. I also love moving through the adventure of the story. Me and “the girls” start out together with our backpacks and flashlights prepared for anything. I actually never really know clearly what we will encounter in the outback of story-dom. I have a vague idea of the storyline, but it is their unique character traits that create the twists and turns they experience along the way. My least favorite part is editing; it’s like tidying up in the morning after a raucous party the night before. You can’t believe the mess you got into having such a great time, and you’re pretty sure you’re not going to get that wine stain out of the carpet.
The new book cover looks fantastic! Can you tell us a bit about the process of selecting it?
It actually went through four or five rounds of approval until we all agreed on the cover we all loved. Funny enough, Andrea loved the stacked tea cups from the beginning. All the cover ideas the team came up with were great; it was just a matter of pinning it down for branding and the right esthetics that we all felt complemented the series.
Where did you get the inspiration for Janet Johnson and the other members of the quirky book club? If given the chance, would you spend time having tea and lemon cake with these women in real life?
I already spend time in real life with characters just like this. Living in a small town is like that; you learn to love and appreciate everyone, even the eccentric members of a group. But friendship and a desire to bond is the center of any small town, and there are no finer people to rally around you in an emergency. Janet was my window into the world of small-town eccentricities from an outsider’s point of view. I am British and moved to my town from a big city in England, so I understand what it felt like to jump into such a unique melting pot.
The novel explores the bonds between women. Were there any particular women in your life who inspired you to write about this?
Such a great question! I grew up with three sisters, my mom, and grandmother who were always around. We were a female pack, so I had a lot to draw from. The character of Gracie is based on my grandmother, who wasn’t quite as batty but was as gentle and kind.
What is your process for writing such realistic and engaging characters?
I wish I had an easy answer to this one because I could make a fortune, I’m sure, teaching how to recreate them. I think a lot of it comes from my theater background; I was trained from an early age to study people. Now, I’m middle-aged and have met every kind of conceivable character there is, I’m sure. When I’m creating a new character, I just combine a couple of folks I know to create a whole new person. It’s way too dangerous to base any fictional character totally on one person, especially in a small town!
Why did you choose to start the book with a quote from It’s a Wonderful Life?
That’s the movie I wished I’d written, I love the fact that George Bailey doesn’t see the value in himself until he sees himself through other peoples experiences. When you meet my crowd, you wonder why anyone would spend their time with this group of eccentrics. As the story unfolds, you start to see that what bonds them is their care and love for one another. They may all stink at being writers, but they succeed at being friends, and that is the highest success I think we can aim for.
What kinds of readers do you think The Rejected Writer’s Book Club most appeals to?
I definitely wrote this for the over thirties – baby boomers being my target audience, anyone who liked The Golden Girls would get a kick out of it, I think. However, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I get a 5-star review from a 22-year-old which just goes to prove that humor and the bonds of friendship are something we crave at any age.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What’s your favorite part of being an author?
Writing decided it wanted me. I can’t believe I’m still doing it; I wrote something because it needed to be written for a stage play, but it wasn’t working as a stage play, so I taught myself screenwriting and then to learn that skill I wrote many of those. Then one day, I had an idea for a screenplay that wasn’t working and needed to be a novel, so I taught myself to write a novel. It’s like some odd creative version of If you Gave a Mouse a Cookie. My favorite part is the fun of the journey.
As a writer, have you experienced rejection yourself? What advice could you offer to writers trying to publish?
Yes, especially as a screenwriter, those readers can be brutal. But I realized from the beginning that every rejection is just a stepping stone into a different direction. I made a decision when I started getting rejected that I wasn’t going to let any one person’s opinion dictate if I continued to write or not, that was my decision alone. However, I do pay attention as there may be a nugget in that rejection that spurs me to improve. My advice to writers is just to know it is part of our experience and try not to take things personally. Everyone reads through their own filters; it may be absolutely nothing to do with your writing at all.
What are you working on now, and when will it be released?
I am working on the second book in the Southlea Bay series, and me and “the girls” are having a raucous time doing it! We are hoping to have the manuscript finished late Spring, early Summer of this year.
Thanks for interviewing with us, Suzanne!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley has an M.A. in English from the University of Idaho, where she taught composition courses. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is a teacher, an editor, and a writer, who loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.