Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.
Today I have Patricia Yager Delagrange discussing her contemporary novel, Moon Over Alcatraz. This e-book hit the shelves on January 6th, and is published by the Terpsichore Imprint.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Patricia attended St. Mary’s College, studied her junior year at the University of Madrid, received a B.A. in Spanish at UC Santa Barbara then went on to get a Master’s degree in Education at Oregon State University. She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with two very large chocolate labs, Annabella and Jack. Her horse Maximus lives in the Oakland hills in a stall with a million dollar view.
How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
One woman’s battle to save her sanity after the death of her baby brings her more happiness than she’d ever imagined.
That sounds incredibly sad, though I’m glad things improve for your character. When writing about topics like the death of one’s child, do you empathize with the character or do you disconnect yourself from the emotions the character is feeling?
No, I definitely don’t disconnect with the character who is going through that emotional upheaval. On the contrary, I have to dig very deep and “feel” it and then I sort of act it out, like in a movie, only the acting is in my head. That’s the way I write, as if I’m seeing it happen in front of me. Because I’m a mother of two kids, I know what it is to love another individual so much that you’d die for them. I take that and then put myself in the character’s shoes and deal with it.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I wrote Moon Over Alcatraz in about three months. It’s the editing that takes me longer. I’d say about seven months to complete a book from start to finish.
Editing always makes things take longer! How many drafts do you go through?
I probably edit the entire manuscript ten to fifteen times before it’s ready.
When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
I write in the mornings and afternoons when no one is around. As soon as my husband and kids come home and the television is turned on, it’s just too much chaos.
Kids are always noisy… I should know because I used to be one *L0L* Where is your favorite place to write?
I write in two places. If it’s nice outside I sit at the table under the umbrella. If it’s too cool to sit outside I’m on the couch with my MacBook on my lap and my labrador Jack lying next to me, his ear flapped over the keyboard.
The backyard is my kind of “office”! But I guess that also answers my next question of: Typewriter, computer, or pen & paper?
MacBook and never anything else. I love my Mac.
I totally understand, I love my Mac too. So when you’re relaxing outside, typing away on your laptop, are you sipping a beverage and eating delicacies?
I have a glass of sparkling water or iced tea on the table next to me at all times.
Aside from birds chirping, do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?
I like silence. Pure silence. No tv, no music, no sounds. I need to concentrate.
Since the great outdoors is often your work station, what do you wear when you write?
Before I write I always take a shower and get dressed in my Abercrombie & Fitch sweatpants and basketball shoes. Then I sit down and go for it.
Do you have any other writing rituals?
I write until lunch time, read a book while eating my lunch, then continue writing afterward. At around 3 p.m. I ride my bike for 30 minutes then wait for my kids to come home while I sit on the computer going through e-mails.
Just a regular work day then, and you get to be home before your kids are… sounds like a great arrangement all around! But how do you arrange your novels? Do you plot them chapter by chapter or just have an overall synopsis? Do you use detailed outlines?
For the first time ever I wrote a synopsis and chapter outlines for my fourth book. I’m a pantser by nature, but when I got writer’s block my editor suggested I write a synopsis and chapter outline. It really helped me write that book. I’ll be doing it that way from now on.
I’ve heard writers sometimes hit a wall when their character’s stop talking to them, and they realize they need to change the narrator. How do you decide which point of view to write from?
My first three books are in first-person POV and the fourth is third-person. I’m not sure which I like best. In fact, there are several different third-person POVs and I may try my hand at a different one next time.
I remember when every book I read was in third-person, but I’m starting to like first-person as well. The only problem with that is it takes a few pages to find out the main character’s name sometimes! How do you choose your characters’ names?
That’s a totally random process. The names just come to me depending on what the character is like. Plus I make sure that, say, all the characters’ names don’t start with the same letter. I make sure they sound good together.
That is a good plan, I once read a book where two of the characters had very similar sounding names and I was constantly confusing them. I guess that is the sort of thing a beta-reader might catch. Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
The first person to read my manuscript is my personal editor and critique person - a multi-published author who worked as an agent. She has taught me invaluable lessons about writing I wouldn’t have learned from any book. I trust her explicitly and we work well together.
Great critique partnerships can take time to find, but are entirely worth the effort in the end as they help polish a manuscript into something publish-worthy. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
I was very excited when Musa Publishing offered me a contract for Moon Over Alcatraz. It was a validation that someone other than myself thought it was a good book.
Let’s take that validation to the next level. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
I would like to see Sandra Bullock play the main character Brandy and Keanu Reeves as Edward. In other films, those two worked so well together. I love their acting.
I loved Sandra and Keanu in “Speed”, they are a great pairing. They had chemistry, kind of like a novel needs to make a budding book-aholic. What is the first book you remember reading?
My mother signed me up for a book-of-the-month club when I was maybe eight years old and it was a book about the sea. The front cover was aquamarine and had a big fish or something on the front of it. I never stopped reading after that.
From eight-years-old to now, just what book is on your nightstand right this second?
I am currently reading Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf and loving it. Then again, does she ever write a book that isn’t fantastic?
Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
I read and re-read Richard Paul Evans’ books, although nothing is a surprise (duh).
I have some books I reread all the time, which means my bookshelves are stuffed! How do you organize your books?
There is no organization whatsoever to my collection. Books are literally toppling over in my bedroom on my dresser. AACK! The most organization those books will ever see is when I move them from one table to another, to make room for more.
I think having a house full of books is a given for someone who makes a living from them. Did you always want to be a writer?
No. A reader, yes, but I never thought I could EVER write more than a long paper for a college class. It’s funny because one of the characters in Moon Over Alcatraz, Cecilia, is based on a real friend I once had. She used to tell me all the time that I should write a book and I thought she was crazy. Then, one day in 2009 my daughter came home from school and said her friend asked her why her mommy didn’t have a job. I’d been an at-home mom since becoming pregnant with my son in 1993 and it hit me that, yes, I did have more time on my hands. I walked into the Apple store, bought a MacBook, and told myself and others that I was going to write a book. And I did.
Kids always manage to ask questions that truly make the adults in their lives have to think, they are truly an inspiration. I sometimes read a book and say, I wish I had thought to write that! If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. That novel has stuck with me since the day I read it. It really pulled me into the characters and the story like no other.
You are a big fan of Jodi Picoult! If you could talk to any writer living or dead, is that who you would choose and what would you ask/talk about?
Yes, it would be Jodi Picoult. I’d love to know how her head works with regard to writing, where she gets her ideas, what research she does. I’d like to know more about her personal life and how she fits writing into that. She must be a fascinating person.
If you woke up one day and found yourself within the pages of a book, what character would you want to be?
Tom Booker in the Horse Whisperer. To be able to help out a horse so damaged that he was unrideable, and get him to a place where he was no longer afraid of the young girl who loved him so much – that would be awesome.
The gift of love is always one worth giving, but what is the best gift someone could give a writer?
A good review. I’ve had several 5-star reviews on Amazon and every time I read them I want to cry with happiness that I touched a reader in such a way that they got emotional. That’s the frosting on the cake.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Never, ever give up. Persist until you reach whatever goal you want with your writing — whether it’s to finish the book or publish the book or find an agent to help you publish your book. Just do it.
Finally, what is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
Whether I’m not feeling well or if I’m not leaving the house all day, I always take a shower, wash my hair, put on my makeup, and dress as if I were going out of the house. Staying in my jammies all day makes me feel like I’m sick or something.