Just over a year ago an old classmate of mine asked if I would be willing to take a look at the novel she was planning to self-publish. I was just finishing up my last few months in my publishing program and thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to see how I liked being an editor. A few months later Marie Landry published her book Blue Sky Days. Now Marie is once again sitting back down with me to talk about the process.
How would you summarize your book in one sentence? Blue Sky Days is a story about life, love, friendship, family, strength, and courage.
How long did it take you to write this book? When I originally wrote it in 2004, it took me a month. When I rewrote it in 2011, it took me about another month to add 50,000 words, and several months to revise and edit.
How many drafts do you go through? Countless, it seems. I think there were four or five for Blue Sky Days. Maybe more. I didn’t think I’d ever finish!
When do you write best, in the morning, afternoon, or at night? I’m a night owl, so it used to be that I did most of my writing late at night, but now that I work from home, I write most of the day. I think I still get more accomplished late at night when there are less distractions.
Where is your favorite place to write? My desk in my bedroom/office. I have everything I need there.
What do you drink or eat while you write? I usually have a cup of coffee and/or a glass of water with me while I’m writing. I don’t usually eat while I’m writing, because I’m so busy typing that the food would just sit there!
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind? It’s very rare that I listen to music while I’m writing. I’m a musical person, so I find it too distracting, because I want to sing or dance along. If I’m really in the zone, I can have music on very quietly in the background, or if I’m going for a certain mood in the story, I’ll turn the music on, and it’s almost always U2.
What do you wear when you write? Anything comfortable. Pajamas, yoga pants and tshirts, that sort of thing. I’m almost always barefoot, because I hate wearing socks. I sit for very long periods of time at the computer, so I need to be comfortable.
How do you plot? Chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis? Do you use detailed outlines? I usually get an idea, grab a notebook and pen, or get on my computer and write down all the ideas that come into my head. Sometimes it’s the basic outline for the book from beginning to end, and other times it’s just the beginning and a few little bits and pieces, along with some possible dialogue, and character traits. I don’t think I’ve ever gone chapter by chapter, because once I get going the characters usually take over anyway!
How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from? It’s not usually a conscious decision, it just happens. I’ll sit down to write, and it’s either ‘I’ or ‘She’, and I go with it. I think I prefer third person, because it’s easier to show things from other people’s perspectives, and with first person, other people’s thoughts and feelings are speculation. It really just depends on the story.
How do you choose your characters’ names? That’s always one of the hardest parts for me, and it usually comes after the drafting. With my current project, I had ten pages of notes written, and it was days later that I finally decided on character names. I usually just sit down and run through a mental list of my favorite names, or sometimes if I have a favorite character from a movie or TV show at that moment, I might go with that. I also have a baby name book that I bought when I was about ten, and sometimes I’ll go through that for ideas.
Who is the first person that gets to read your manuscript? My mum, always. She’s my biggest fan and supporter, and having been a teacher, she’s also a spelling, grammar, and punctuation fanatic, so she’s a terrific proofreader.
How do you organize your library/book collection? There’s really no rhyme or reason to it. I have books grouped on small shelves all over my apartment, and I usually put them together based on my favorites. My Harry Potter books are with my Narnia books. I have classics on one shelf, and childhood favorites on another. Newer books are usually grouped with favorites first, then the ones I haven’t read in the order I want to read them.
Did you always want to be a writer? Yes, always. For as long as I can remember, it’s all I ever wanted to do.
If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be? Harry Potter. JK Rowling is an absolute genius in my opinion. I have a wild imagination, but it’s nothing compared to hers.
If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask? I know a lot of other people might say Austen or Dickens or Shakespeare, but I’ve always wanted to talk to Nora Roberts and JK Rowling. I admire their writing so much, I’d just love to sit down with them and pick their brains. I have so many questions I’d want to ask, I don’t even know where I’d begin.
If you could be any character from any book, who would you be? It’s a toss-up between Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, and Hermione from Harry Potter. I love Anne because she led this fairly simple life, but she had such a vivid imagination, she was able to live a life that seemed anything but ordinary. Plus, I love Prince Edward Island, and I was always in love with Gilbert. As for Hermione, I’d love to go to Hogwarts, be as smart as she is, and have her magical powers. Plus, again, I always loved Ron.
What is the best gift someone could give a writer? Time alone with no distractions!
What is the best advice someone could give a writer? Follow your dreams and never, ever give up. If you want it bad enough, don’t let anyone or anything stop you.
What’s your favourite city in the world? Locally, I’d have to say Kingston or Toronto, Ontario. There’s so much to see and do, and they’re both so rich with history. Internationally, I’d say Paris. I only spent three days there when I was 17, but I’d give anything to go back and redo everything I did, plus all the things I didn’t get to do.
If you would like to check out her blog tour, go here.
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