Friday, June 28, 2013

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Author's Interview- STRONG ENOUGH by ELLEN HARGER

Publication date: February 25th, 2013
Publisher: Ellen Harger
Author: Ellen Harger 

Book Description:
Starting over is hard. 

And sometimes, you have to burn a few bridges to do it.

Whitney Brown is average--average intelligence, average height, average weight--but she wants to be someone new. To kick-start her rebirth, she wears formal mourning, a black veil and vintage dress, to a wedding in her hometown, Woods Cross, a community that treasures family values. Is it an attack on marriage or has she just gone bonkers?

Emboldened but lacking a plan, she forces her foot in the door of a radio station in Sundown. A small metropolis of nearly 150,000, Sundown is a notch of urban flair along the Midwest's Bible Belt.

Getting in proves to be the easy part and the anonymity of being a DJ suits her well. But off air (and in person), Whitney must stand up to Sadi, an angry feminist and the bane of her college years while an old friendship with her former roommate, Leah, devolves around a guy. 

It's 2002 and the Midwest radio scene is changing. Just as Whitney hits her groove, the radio station undergoes its own identity crisis. But what rocks Whitney to her core is the moment the condom breaks. Her abstinence only background leaves her embarrassed and facing a difficult choice.

About the Author

Ellen Harger was born at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. As a military brat, she moved often during her childhood--something she never resented and continued as an adult. The constant starting over influenced her first published novel, "Strong Enough." 

At 14, her family settled in Missouri as civilians, permitting Ellen to attend one high school. She stayed in the Midwest to attend a small liberal arts college, studying creative writing and art. After 11 years, she moved to Boston. While there, she continued to study creative writing in Cambridge. Ever willing to explore new places, she moved next to the San Francisco Bay area. After 11 years away, and loving the symmetry, she returned to the Midwest to finish "Strong Enough." She has published a poem, "Guidelines," and released her novel as an e-book.

When and why did you decide to be a  writer?

It evolved during my childhood. I loved reading but was intimidated by writing. A few school assignments encouraged me but I never thought I was very good. I entered a fantasy contest in high school and wrote a TERRIBLE story but it was fun. In college, I took creative writing courses but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I started a novel. At first, this was to prove I was writer. It was a long, hard slog to becoming that, though. It takes a lot of determination and is easy to quit.

How long does it take you to write a book? What is the average word count?

Two months. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (wipes tears from eyes)

My first novel is an unfair example as it took more than a decade. I had to transition from self-indulgent short stories (for class) to longer, richer scenes woven into an even bigger story. Then there was the nuance of how to be involved enough but to also trust a reader; or learning how to push a sentence to an extreme and then clean up the excessive accessories. The story didn’t really come together for years. I just wrote weakly interconnected moments and revised my favorites for hours. Most of those were cut entirely or repurposed so completely, they’re hard to recognize.

I’d call it a tiered journey. First the mess. A few upward movements then a long plateau after the first draft where I abandoned the project for several years. Then I dusted it off and floundered for a long time. After that, two years.

I’ll give an average word count of a first draft: 50k minimum because I love using NaNoWriMo in November to generate a new manuscript.

How many drafts did you have to write for this book? Any scenes that were cut from the original that you want to share?

Fully differential drafts? Three. But I’d say the reality is more like 5+.
Absolutely. I have a whole collection of cut scenes. But no, none to share. They were cut for good reason. ;)

Do you have any advice for other writers?

It’s 100% personal so try many things. Things that worked for me:
A quality group, serious about workshopping each other’s work is great but it takes thick skin, or at least the willingness to thicken your skin. If you just compliment and drink wine, the group won’t go as far. Some will move on and others won’t.

Another tip is index cards for helping to quality check your storyline.

Last not but least, the most simple and tiresome bit of advice - just write. How is up to you.

Are you currently working on any new projects?

I’ve challenged myself to finish the first draft of a novella in May. This allows my word count drop to between 25k and 30k. Between promoting Strong Enough, networking, blogging, and developing my brand, I wanted a reasonable goal. I finally hit my stride after several nights of chasing a faded idea. It finally started to gel on paper and I really like the new tack the story took.

I have three manuscripts on the back burner written during NaNoWriMo’s and next month I will draft my next Midwest novel. Sometime this fall, maybe for NaNo, I’ll flesh out my comical foray in the paranormal.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I worked on my Masters in creative writing after moving to Boston. In my first novel class, the instructor was my harshest critic of the opening scene: wearing black to a wedding. My peers had plenty of helpful criticism, but when they were finished he sat back and said he hated it. Originally it was set it up to seem like a funeral and then surprise the reader with a wedding. He reamed me for tricking the reader. It was a technique I’d used in short stories and I was shocked, so I set it aside convinced it was stupid. In another class, the group helped me to uncover my hook buried in the first chapter but the wedding opening kept calling to me. Eventually I pulled out the inadvertent lesson: proper execution is critical. I cut more than half of the scene and was upfront that Whitney was intentionally wearing seriously over-the-top black to a wedding.

The best moment? My next novel class was with a different author/professor. I wrote a dream sequence (long lost to the first draft) and submitted it for workshop. A peer loathed it and the use of dreams in general. The instructor disagreed and said it was one of the most successful dream scenes he’d read because I didn’t abuse the subconscious by planting obvious clues. Ultimately, the character to which the dream belonged was cut from the entire story so the dream disappeared as well.

What inspired the idea for Strong Enough?

The original plot device was abandoned after I finished the first draft. What was left was a shell of a story about a DJ, two female friends, and their relationships. Leah remains the only consistent character and story arc through the entire writing process. The scene with her sitting in the window lamenting another ended relationship, was the essence of her role.

Like Cinderella, all the female characters tried on Whitney’s second half story. Whitney didn’t seem up to the challenge but as I continued to write and get to know each character, it only fit her.

What's your secret to creating a realistic character?

Honesty. If a character has to ignore some personal truth in order for the story to progress, then the story feels contrived. Readers are smarter than some authors give credit. Don’t bash a reader with the obvious but don’t assume they’ll piece it all together on their own. It’s a tricky balance.

What are you currently reading?

The Paris Wife
All The Blue-Eyed Angels

Who is your fictional character crush?

Just one???????? Mr. Knightley, Mr. Darcy, George Emerson

Tweet Alert! If you only had 140 words or less to tell us about Strong Enough, how would you write your tweet?

You really want to kill me. Did you notice the answers above? Well, I’ve written flash fiction. I’ll try again.

An introverted DJ reunites with an angry feminist and a needy beauty. Life circles like a shark, testing the resilience of trust and love.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Give unknowns a chance but have standards. Ask for the best they can give you--not the fastest. A rushed story to get to the climax is nothing more than premature publication. And usually the reader is left wanting and at least a tad frustrated.
However, be generous, too. A typo or two is forgivable. An occasionally overwritten sentence is a newbie thing. But if the story is tight, flows, takes you away like Calgon, and has very limited grammatical errors, share your enjoyment!
People who read are generous. They love to share a good book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

No comments:

Post a Comment

Riddle me Dee Riddle me Tee I'm so Happy you decided to leave a comment for Me!! ( okay maybe I shouldn't try to write anything clever.) Thanks for showing us some love!