Thursday, January 03, 2008

I'm Back and GCC Presents: Colleen Thompson and The Salt Maiden

I know that the blog has been a little slow over the holidays, but I was wrapping up the revision of Time Of My Life (Yahoo!! Just finished yesterday!) and wanted to spend my other time away from the computer. I'm devoting all of next week's posts to answering submitted questions to make up for it. :)

Today, I'm thrilled to present veteran novelist, Colleen Thompson, and her book, The Salt Maiden. Colleen was "discovered" in a local fiction contest, which I love, because it shows, once again, that there are a slew of ways to pave inroads to success in this industry. I also liked reading about her inspiration, which is so different than mine have ever been, and again shows that there's no "right" way to tackle things.

Here's a preview of the book: "Some novels begin with a character, others start with a what-if question or a situation, but my sixth romantic thriller, The Salt Maiden (Leisure, Dec. 2007) was inspired by a place I visited a few years back, a sunburned, sand-scoured desert community in the dead center of the least populated county in the U.S. With water too briny for human consumption and land too to support any but the hardiest of desert plants, it’s an eerily daunting landscape, one that made me wonder, What on earth would bring a person out here?

Apparently my subconscious took it as a challenge, and came up with a Houston veterinarian, Dana Vanover, in search of her troubled missing sister, the birth mother of a child in desperate need of a bone-marrow transplant. In spite of her ambivalence about her sister, Dana braves heat, rattlesnakes, and hostile locals — as well as her attraction to the handsome sheriff who wants her gone."

And here, she answers my usual questions:

1) What’s the backstory behind your book? The Salt Maiden was inspired by a trip through a tiny, desolate West Texas desert town so isolated and foreboding I found myself struggling to imagine (it was a very long drive) what could possibly entice anyone to go there. There's not a drop of potable water, only brine that keeps even self-respected cactus at bay. And then I had this strange vision of a mummified, nude female interred in one of the area's salt caverns. That became the opening for this long, strange journey of a romantic thriller.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?
At 22, I moved from the East Coast, where I grew up, to a small desert community in Southwest Arizona. The stark beauty and harshness of the land made a real impression on me, and I came to have a grudging admiration for the living things that have adapted to this challenging environment.
3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
My first book deal came as the indirect result of entering a local writing contest here in the Houston area. An editor judged the finals and recommended me to an agent who was attending the writers' conference. She read my work and took me on, then over time sold my first ten novels. (The Salt Maiden is my 13th release and my 6th romantic thriller.)

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
I am a dawdler of epic proportions. If I didn't have deadlines and a burning need to keep books coming, I'd never accomplish anything. As it is, I have to set myself a weekly page quota and break it down into daily goals. Sometimes it takes me all day to force myself to do the five allotted pages. Other times (o, blessed days!) the writing simply and effortlessly flows. But most times, it's the little page number I've written on my calendar that forces me to work. I wish there were an easier way!

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
Charlize Theron or Hillary Swank as the heroine, Angie Vanover. And Josh Brolin as Sheriff Jay Eversole. They'd be great.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Wow. So it's already the end of the year. How did that happen?? I know that I can't be the only one who feels like she's living life is on the fast forward button. Everyone says this is even more true once you have kids, and really, it's so cliche, but oh so true. I really cannot believe that my little newborn daughter turned one a few weeks ago. Doesn't it feel like just yesterday that I was announcing her arrival?

Anyway, the turn of the calender means assessing goals and assessing what I accomplished this past year. I've been ruminating on 2008 for the past few days, and something odd is happening: normally, my goals and what I hope to accomplish are really clear - in previous years, I'd set specific magazine targets or income goals or getting my fiction published - but this year, I have to say, I'm pretty content with my lot. And that's what's making this whole goal-setting thing so weird. In the past year, my debut novel came out and I sold my second one. Honestly, I feel like if that's all I accomplish in my career, I might just be content. Maybe it's okay to say, hey, I don't need to operate on overdrive 24/7, and instead, sit back and recognize that I've come pretty far in the past few years...and if nothing spectacular happens this year, well, that's okay.

That said, because I'm not a complete slug, I do have a few goals for the year, in addition to slowing down a bit and smelling the figurative roses. I'd like to find inspiration for my third novel, now that I'm winding down revisions on my second. I've found that I'm all or nothing when I'm writing: I can't even entertain other ideas for books when I'm working on a current one because then everything starts to melt together and jumble like a messed-up ice cream sundae. I'd like to continue doing more celebrity profiles because they're something that I really enjoy - it actually makes my pop culture obsession worthwhile. I'd like to have more patience with my children, and that means ignoring my email and my computer entirely when it's "their time," something I've gotten better at, but certainly, could still improve.

So...I think that's a decent list. Maybe it doesn't set my world on fire as in previous years, but I'm also at a point in my life where I think that's okay. I know how fortunate I am with my lot, and I think there's something to be said for that and the gratitude I have for having the career that I do.

So tell me, how do you determine your goals for the next year? And, since I just spilled mine, what are yours?