Australian Release Date for The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence

Good news for my Australian readers! The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence will be released in Australia on April 26, 2017, from Pan Macmillan Australia.

Oddly enough, April 26 is the day both Simonetta Vespucci and Giuliano de’ Medici died…a couple years apart, though. And very soon you’ll all be able to read more about both of them!


All of the Ideas

Something that you hear a lot when you’re a writer is, “Hey! I’ve got a book idea for you!” or some variation thereof. Now, I know that when people say this, they are (usually) just trying to be helpful, but it can be a little irritating (and I’m sure that many writers will sympathize) because it’s not as if I can’t come up with my own ideas. In fact, I usually have the opposite problem: I have so many ideas it can be hard to decide what to to write next, or indeed to imagine ever having the time to write them all.

So how do I decide? Well, often I feel like I don’t choose the idea so much as the idea chooses me – sometimes an amazing, exciting idea will hit me out of nowhere (or after a long time of thinking and percolating and playing with different pieces of the idea until it suddenly clicks and comes together) and I just know that I NEED to start writing it, RIGHT AWAY. This is a feeling that my friend Lindsay has described as having your “brain on fire with genius”, and I think that describes it perfectly. When you’re hit with that kind of thrilling idea, you can’t NOT start writing. So when that happens, the decision is easy.

But what happens when you have multiple ideas you’re excited about? How do you decide?

It’s a good question, and one that I’m thinking about a lot right now, since I’m in that exact boat. I have a few ideas that I’m trying to decide between, and lately it seems like I prefer whichever one I worked on last.

There are a few factors I take into consideration. One is, what am I in the mood to write? It’s the same as when deciding what to read – usually I’m in the mood for a certain kind of story. My projects tend to be pretty similar genre-wise, so this is more about the tone or feeling of the story.

Another thing to consider, when thinking about publication, is what kind of book/story makes sense as the potential next book in my career trajectory. I don’t want something too similar to a previous book, and certainly not to the one that immediately preceded it; I also don’t want anything too wildly different. This is a place where my agent’s input can be very helpful, as she is more used to thinking in these terms than I am.

Along those lines, the current market is another thing to think about. Is there a readership for this particular story? Who will it likely appeal to? Is it too similar to one or more books that have already been published? Are books like this selling well right now? Thinking about this point in particular is a tricky balancing act – I try not to be too concerned with it until after I’ve started writing. If I’m excited about something and am enjoying working on it, that’s good enough to get started; when it seems like it might be a project I wanted to stick with and would like to publish, I consider these business aspects more closely. Again, this is another area in which my agent’s expertise is invaluable.

While all these things are important, at the end of the day what it always comes back to for me is: do I love this idea enough to put in the time necessary to make it into a real book? If it doesn’t speak to me on some sort of emotional level, it’s not worth pursuing. You need to spend so much time with an idea, with a story, in order to make it into a book: from the hours and hours spent drafting and revising, talking with your editor about edits, making line edits and copy edits and reading pass pages, and then talking about it in promotion. If you don’t really love it, this can all become a total slog – especially when you consider that even with a “book of your heart”, so much close and hard work on it can at times be very draining anyway. And so, when I’m in the position I’m in now, it’ll take a lot of thinking and playing around with the ideas and maybe talking about them and making notes before I can really decide which one needs to be next.

I have lots of basic ideas about people or events I’d like to write about, but the time for them just hasn’t come yet. I’m not sufficiently excited about them yet to drop everything and start actually writing them. I’m still waiting for that spark, for that last bit of inspiration, the last piece of the puzzle that will take an idea from a basic premise into something that I NEED to write. It’s happened before, where an initial idea that I had long before develops over time into just what it needs to be. That probably won’t happen for every book idea I’ve ever had, and that’s okay. I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied.

I have to be excited. I have to be inspired, and feel that the story has a place and has something to say. Because if I don’t love what I’m writing, why should I expect any readers to?

So if you tell me that you’ve got a great idea for a book for me, I will respond politely; I will maybe even agree with you that yes, that WOULD make a great novel. I am just not the person to write it. (My usual response lately is: “I think YOU should write that book!”) I’ve found that novel ideas can be a bit like dating: many of them are perfectly nice, but unless I feel that spark, unless there’s that certain undefinable chemistry, it’s just not going to work out.


My Top 10 Books of the Second Half of 2016

I’m a little late with this post, I know! But here is the second of my two “favorite reads” posts for 2016.

Below is my list of the top 10 books I’ve read in the second half 2016 that were published at some point in 2016, in rank order:

 

10. To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

This historical novel set against the backdrop of the construction of the Eiffel Tower follows an affair between a Scottish chaperone in Paris with her two spoiled charges and one of the engineers working on the Tower. The period detail is just wonderful, and I felt as though I was really there. I also love a novel I can learn something from, and this was definitely one such!

9. The Ballroom by Anna Hope

This historical novel, set in a British asylum in the early 20th century, is told from three points of view: a female patient, a male patient, and one of the doctors. The horrors of the eugenics movement and the often barbaric treatment of those with mental illnesses – or those without who are confined in the asylum for being “different” or “difficult” – is vivid and pointed, even as a beautiful romance develops between Ella and John, the two patients and our main protagonists.

8. The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner

This fun, funny, emotional, and poignant novel follows a family with three adult daughters who are all getting married to high-profile grooms in the same year. The characterization is absolutely excellent, and all the main players come completely alive on the page. Full of twists and turns, this is a delightful read about the meaning of love and family and being true to yourself.

7. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I always love books set in Italy, and this one, about a teenage girl who fulfills her mother’s dying wish by travelling to Tuscany, is no exception. Filled with wonderful characters and a gorgeous backdrop, this book is full of heart and will make you laugh and cry.

6. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

This gorgeous debut is a fantasy based on Indian folklore, and my goodness was the writing just beautiful. The story is engaging and will keep you turning the pages, even as you read many of Chokshi’s sparkling sentences over again. I will absolutely buy anything she writes in the future.

5. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This dark fantasy novel, set in a world where acts of violence breed literal monsters, is un-put-down-able. The story follows a girl who wants to hunt monsters and a boy who is a monster but wants more than anything not to be. Wonderful writing, breathless action, and a page-turning plot make this an exciting but thought-provoking novel.

4. The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

This is an excellent example of a good old-fashioned gothic haunted house novel. A salvage crew gets a job tearing down a mansion belonging to an old and wealthy family, and find the house to be full of ghosts – both literal and metaphorical. Seriously, don’t read this one late at night. I absolutely loved it; it has just the right level of terror balanced against unforgettable characters and sharp, masterful writing.

3. Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Speaking of ghosts! This non-fiction survey of many of America’s most haunted locales isn’t really concerned with whether or not ghosts are real, but more with what ghost stories – the ones we tell and the idea of ghost stories in general – says about our society. Fascinating, engaging, and thought-provoking, this is a must read for anyone interested in American history and culture.

2. Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

This YA historical follows wonderful . fierce heroine and Chinatown resident Mercy Wong, who fights racism and prejudice to get an education and achieve her dreams. Of course, it’s San Francisco in 1906, and that means an earthquake is about to hit. This novel made me laugh, gasp in outrage, and cry, and I absolutely could not put it down. Stacey Lee is another auto-buy author for me.

1. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

This book has gotten a lot of praise over the last few months, and it is so, so well-deserved. This novel of two New York City teens, Natasha and Daniel, who meet and fall in love the same day Natasha and her family are about to be deported to Jamaica, is full of empathy and hard truths and compassion. The writing was masterful, and the topic and themes are so, so important now more than ever. Everyone should read this book.

 

Honorable mentions:

A Song to Take the World Apart by Zan Romanoff

Root, Petal, Thorn by Ella Joy Olsen

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

The Last Treasure by Erika Marks

The Fifth Avenue Artists’ Society by Joy Callaway

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

 

Non-2016 books that I loved:

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

A Noble Radience by Donna Leon

The Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff

 

 

 


Stories of Inspiration: Historical Fiction Edition

Last year I was asked to contribute to the anthology Stories of Inspiration: Historical Fiction Edition, in which historical fiction authors share their journeys and processes for writing historical fiction. I wrote an essay about writing The Violinist of Venice, which is included. That book is out today, and you can buy it at the link below!

histficedition

Buy the book at Amazon


The Violinist of Venice’s One Year Anniversary

As of today, The Violinist of Venice has now been out in the world for exactly a year. It certainly doesn’t feel like that long to me! But the last year has been an incredible, and at times stressful, journey, and I have learned a lot. Having my book baby out in the world – and not something that belonged just to me – was a definite adjustment. I had a lot of anxious feelings for a while before and after the release, knowing that this thing I had created was out in the world for anyone and everyone to read, and that I was now someone with a higher profile in the world, albeit only slightly so. It’s a weird feeling that really does just take some time to adjust to, and I’m sure other authors will be able to relate.

By the same token, I’ve had the privilege to go to many different kinds of author events and meet readers and sign books. I’ve visited book clubs and discussed the novel, and I always come away from those experiences feeling like I’ve learned something new about my own work, as readers are always casting new light on the characters or plotlines or themes in ways that I hadn’t thought about before. I love when that happens! And I’ve had the honor and the joy of hearing from readers from all around the world who have connected with the book in some way. The fact that my words, that this story that I created and wrote down at first just for myself and then worked so hard on, has really meant something to others is truly the greatest gift and pleasure of being a writer.

I have also learned a lot about how to balance my life, my day job, and all the responsibilities that come with being an officially published author. Around release time I was doing a lot of promotional blog posts and interviews about the book, as well as trying to steadily post some fun Violinist-related content here on my own site. Once the book was out I had some events to work into my schedule, and I was also working on edits for The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, as well as drafting a new book. It all takes some juggling, and there were definitely moments when I felt burned out. When that happens, I’ve learned to take a step back from whatever I’m working on as much as I can. As hectic as everything may feel at the time, with competing deadlines and multiple projects, I’ve gotten pretty good at planning out my time and getting everything done.

On the first anniversary of the release of The Violinist of Venice, I want to say thank you to all the readers who have reached out with their kind and thoughtful words; thank you to the booksellers who have sold and promoted the book and invited me to do events in their stores; thank you to all the bloggers who have reviewed the novel and helped spread the word; and thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who bought the book or borrowed it from the library or gave it to a friend or recommended it. I appreciate all of those things more than I can possibly say. Readers are why I can do the thing that I love!

In 2017, of course, I’ll have the release of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, and I hope that everything that I’ve learned in the last year will serve me well with the release of that book. And I know that at some point in 2017 I will have some more news to share with all of you!

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season, and I hope you all are staying safe and warm (hopefully with a good book!) Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!


Starting a New Project

In the last few weeks, having finished the work-in-progress that I’d spent the last year on, I did two things: 1) I took a bit of a writing break, of about a month or so (one I at times had to force myself to maintain, and 2) when that was over, I started a new writing project.

As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, I was a little nervous about starting something new this time around, having just finished something that I thought was/is probably my best work yet. Would my next project measure up? Would I love the idea, and love writing it, as much as I had my previous project? With writing, though, comparison is always the thief of joy – even if you’re comparing you to yourself, and your work to other examples of your work. And that isn’t productive or helpful. So I tried to remind myself of all of that and forge ahead with a new idea, one that had been brewing for a while. Actually, this idea was originally two separate ideas that seemed to magically come together to form one whole, filling in each other’s missing pieces.

So what is my process for starting a new novel project? Sometimes I make some notes before I actually start writing: character names, dates/timelines, a few lines that may have come to me here or there. Since I’m a pantser, there’s not too much of this, if at all, though I do make lots of notes as I go: reminders for things I need to look up/research, an idea for a new scene, notes for characters that have yet to be introduced, etc. There’s no rhyme or reason to this; I just jot these things down as they come to me.

Usually, though, the first step is to start writing. With this new project in particular, the opening of the novel suddenly started flowing through my brain as I was laying on the couch one night, reading, so I jumped up and grabbed my laptop and started typing until the words stopped. It’s a great feeling when that happens; when you’re just propelled to write, to drop everything and write. That’s what I always look for as a writer, and I’d venture a guess that others do, too.

Then I keep writing for a while. I test the idea out for a bit, needing to give it time to make sure it really has legs. There’s always a certain level of excitement when you first start working on a shiny new idea, but sometimes – and for a variety of reasons, I’ve found – that excitement can peter out, causing the project to stall. So I always make sure to give it a couple weeks of work to see how it goes before fully committing to the project. Am I still excited about working on it? Am I thinking about it when I’m not working on it? Am I still coming up with new ideas for scenes and character development and plotlines? Do I actually make the time to sit down and work on it?

After a few weeks, once I’m feeling like the project is definitely something I’ll stick with, I send what I have so far – usually the first few chapters, at that point – to my agent to get her take. I do this at the beginning of every project for multiple reasons: to make sure she thinks that the project is something that makes sense for my career trajectory as a whole and specifically for this point in my career; to see if she knows of anything similar that has recently sold and which would make my project a tougher sell; to get her take on the writing and story itself; and, quite frankly, to see if she thinks the project is something that she’ll be able to sell. Of course writing is a labor of love for me, but if I want to continue to be able to publish books, I need to be thinking about the market as well. And that’s one of the many things that an author’s agent can help with.

Sometimes my agent does have reservations on one or several of the above counts, in which case we usually get on the phone and talk it out and make sure we’re on the same page. She’s been doing this a long time and has way more knowledge of the business side of publishing than I do, so I always value her advice and insights – after all, that’s one of the things I’m paying her for. Sometimes, though, she loves what I’ve sent her without reservation and tells me to go for it. Then I keep writing to my heart’s content, and she won’t see it again until I send her a finished draft, which we both prefer. I love that she trusts me to get the work done and doesn’t need to look over my shoulder or check in with me about it; I wouldn’t work well that way. I’m sure perhaps some writers do, so to each their own!

Once my agent gives her blessing, I just keep writing – I don’t usually do any revisions until I have a full draft completed for several reasons, though there have been exceptions to this in the past. There’s usually a few mental/emotional milestones that I pass along the way: when I hit 10,000 words, which is when it feels like I’m not just playing around anymore; 20,000 words, when I realize that this is a real project I’m committed to writing and that this is really happening; and 30,000 words, which is always when a project starts to feel like a real novel to me. Then, of course, after 30,000 words we get into the middle of the novel, which is always the hardest part to write, for me; it’s when I’m in the thick of the plot and need to make sure everything is set up, and when it feels like I can’t see my way out and will be writing the book forever. But having written several novels at this point, I know that feeling is coming and am ready for it. It doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to get through, but it’s helpful to know that I feel that way every time and always get through it.

Now, what about research, you may be asking? Shouldn’t research come before any writing gets done? My answer to that is yes, probably. I always do a little preliminary research before I start writing, to make sure the idea works in a historical setting and makes sense, etc. I have been known to do lots of research as I go, which I don’t necessarily recommend (see above note about revising in the middle of a draft) but for the most part it’s worked out for me so far. The period of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence was something I had a solid background in before I started writing, so in that instance my research before and as I wrote was mostly a matter of filling in blanks.

This new idea is a bit different for me in that it’s set in a period I’ve already written about and researched extensively (though I won’t say just yet what that is). That’s not to say that there aren’t aspects of this new story I’ll still need to research – there absolutely are – but again, it will be more a matter of filling in the blanks, and in this case I already know where to go to find the information I need.

Maybe this new project will see the light of day at some point, and maybe not. That’s the risk we take as authors each time we start a new project – there are no guarantees. That’s why, as long as I love the idea and am having fun writing it, I can usually block out just about everything else.


Goodreads Giveaway for THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN FLORENCE!

For those of you who are on Goodreads, I’m giving away a signed ARC of THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN FLORENCE! The giveaway runs through November 11th. US only. See the link below to enter!

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN FLORENCE Goodreads giveaway

 

Stay tuned for more Goodreads and Twitter ARC giveaways in the coming months!