Novel Rocket

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self

by James L. Rubart

The premise of the novel I'm working on as I write is, What if you could go back and talk to your younger self?

With that idea peppering my mind, I thought about what I would tell my younger writer self. What would I say to the James of '06 (which is when I dove into the publishing world) with the wisdom of the James of today.

At Least Three Things

 I'd slow down and enjoy the the wonder of it all much more

In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis writes this about Susan: (using the Lady Polly as his mouthpiece)

"Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

Getting published isn't silly, but rushing toward it like that's the pinnacle of life, is silly. More egregious is longing so much for that contract, or indie book to launch, that you miss the magic of the moments that are happening right now. Treasure them.

Ask any successful entrepreneur (and that's what writers are) about their most treasured memories, and most will tell you things like  eating pizza in their office off of cardboard boxes because they couldn't afford a conference table. I wish I would have cherished the struggling years more.

Take the time to make your first book great. I thought I was ready to publish in 2006. My 148,000 word manuscript was a masterpiece. Except it wasn't.  (Yeah, a bit long for one thing.) I seriously considered self-publishing. Nowadays that's a viable option, but back then it was the quick-fix to no publisher wanting to take a chance on me.

Don't succumb to the quick-fix solution. Maybe indie is the way for you to go. Fine. But don't do slap-and-dash publishing. Make sure your craft is honed. Hire an excellent editor; cover designer; etc. Make it a book you'll be proud of two years, five years, ten years from now.

Have the guts to ask a friend (with the necessary experience ) who will be brutally honest about whether it's time to publish, or whether you need to put in a few more years of training before you sign up for the marathon.

Sales, awards, and the praise of men don't matter, so shun them!Yeah, I saved the toughest bit of advice for Young James for last. Inside most of us is a little boy or girl, still wondering if anyone is going to pick us for the playground game. So when the awards and the bestseller lists and the reader e-mails start popping up in our in-boxes, it's hard not to let those things validate us.

But it's vapor. Name me the ten bestselling novelists of fifty years ago. Name three. Not easy is it? We could make a few educated guesses, but that's about it.

I'd tell myself, "James, seek Jesus. Follow the path he's leading you on. Take his yoke on your shoulders every day. Nothing else matters. Nothing else is going to last."

Your Turn

What would you tell you the writer from eight years back? 

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and Christy award winning author of six novels. During the day he helps authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis, golfs, does sleight of hand, and takes photos.  No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at

Monday, October 20, 2014

Interview with Indie Author Sally Bradley

By Pamela S. Meyers

Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things—like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she’s thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. A freelance fiction editor, you can find Sally at and on Facebook at Sally Bradley, Writer. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo

I'm very excited for my friend, Sally Bradley, who recently went indie and published her debut novel, Kept. I recently interviewed Sally about her book and writing career, and here it is!

This is your debut novel. What sparked the story?

ESPN’s SportsCenter, where all ideas for romance and women’s fiction come from, right?

The show ran a series on temptations pro athletes face, and one of them was about women who made their living off pro athletes. One woman they interviewed was completely silhouetted, but she had a very unique short haircut. As the interview went on, she confessed that not only was she “kept” by one pro athlete, being available only to him when his team came to town, but by a second—and each man thought they were the only one. My immediate thought was, Honey, I hope you’re wearing a wig. Or they know now.

I couldn’t get her out of my head and had to figure out what would make her live that way and what it would take for her to see—and want—the truth. Plus she just needed a truly happy ending.

What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today? I

’d be more realistic on the time it takes to grow as a writer. A writer might understand a concept, but being able to use it successfully takes time and work.

Share a bit of your journey to publication.

I’ve been writing for the adult market since 1997. A few years ago, an agent took me on and submitted my book. The rejections were very nice, with a number of editors asking what else I had. At the time, I had nothing else.

Then life threw some changes at me, and I had to set writing aside. I picked it up again in 2012 when the idea for Kept just would not let me rest. This time the feedback from industry professionals was amazing, but the story was too out of the box, a little too realistic, for their tastes.

I’d been praying about indie publishing for quite a while, and before I realized the book probably wouldn’t sell to a traditional Christian house, I decided going indie was the right option. Kept released the middle of September and has been on three Amazon bestseller lists almost constantly, even reaching number two on the Contemporary Christian Romance Hot New Releases list. It’s been an amazing ride, and I’m absolutely certain I made the right choice. Phew!

Wow, that's wonderful, Sally. Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

With a husband who works from home a lot and three homeschooled kids, I tend to write in many different places! Sometimes it’s my library’s conference room or Starbucks. At home, I have two desks. My favorite is a beautiful roll top we picked up at an estate sale. But it’s in the living room—right by the TV and Xbox. With the kids being older, they’ve gotten louder and more active, so I’ve taken over the corner of our unfinished, unheated basement. I’m often down there in the afternoons and some evenings.

Sally's desk in her unheated basement.
What would you do if you didn't write?

My daughter likes to ask me this question, and I always tell her that I don’t know! I never wanted to do anything else but write. If I wasn’t writing, I’d probably be working for a publisher so I can inhale that box-of-brand-new-books smell on a regular basis.

What issue makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?

It used to be transitions. I write my rough drafts in scenes so I have to create those transitions later. Plot has probably always been my weakness, but I’m hearing that the plot in Kept is really original and I’ve fooled people into thinking plotting is my strength. Nope, I just worked at it really, really, really hard. And threw a few scenes away.

What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?

Read only well-done, quality fiction because you will learn from it. Force yourself to be honest about your writing—does it read like a published novel?—and figure out where it’s falling flat and what needs to be done to make it read like that published novel. (In other words, don’t shrug past it with the intention of looking it over on the next draft.) Lastly, read a ton and read eclectically.

Then what 3 things would you recommend not doing?

Don’t compare yourself to others—in any way. There will always be someone better than you with more sales and more attention. Be grateful for where God’s placed you. Don’t sit all day at your computer (working on this one myself), and don’t stop reading fiction while you write. For me reading fiction feeds the beast all kinds of awesome stuff.

Some say a writer is born and others say anyone can learn. What do you think?

I think it’s a combination of both. I knew from age nine that I’d write Christian fiction. Because of that, I dialed it in and just waited for it to happen. Pretty silly of me, right? It might have been God’s calling on me, but I sure needed to do the work—and I did. Having to work hard has made all of this so much sweeter.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?

I’m a freelance fiction editor so I looooove the editing stage. I always kind of fear the creating stage. But once I get into it—wow, is it fun! So I guess I prefer whatever stage I’m in. And I’m super thankful for that.

As for research, I tend to not know what I need to research until I stumble on it. The joys of writing a contemporary novel! So I do some research before and quite a bit on the fly.

Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?

I didn’t use to be a visual writer, but with Kept I found an image of my heroine before I even started the book. I loved being able to glance at it from time to time to touch base with her. Didn’t have anything, though, for my hero, and he’s a rather average guy.

So I prayed about it! I asked God to help me find a picture of someone who looked like him. And a month later, I stumbled across a documentary on our military, saw this guy, and thought, “Where have I seen him before?” J Took me two episodes to realize he was a dead ringer for Dillan, my hero!

The images I used the most, though, were for my setting. Kept takes place in Grant Park in Chicago—right along the lakefront and around Buckingham Fountain—and my characters live in Metropolitan Tower, a historic 1920s building on Michigan Avenue. I love seeing real places in fiction, so I did a lot of online research to get as many details right as I could. In fact, Kept has a Pinterest page for those who’ve read the book. Miska, Dillan, Tracy, Garrett, Buckingham Fountain, and Metropolitan Tower—it’s all there.

I went to your Pinterest page and loved all the setting and character photos.  Especially since I'm in the middle of reading Kept right now and am loving it. Here I live in the Chicago metro area and never knew about the Metropolitan Tower. 

Do you work best under pressure or do you write at a leisurely pace?? 

I hate pressure, but a leisurely pace allows for too many distractions. And time slips away. So a deadline on the distant horizon is probably my favorite. Close enough to motivate me, far enough away to let me sleep at night.

I hear you there. Have a deadline, but not so close it makes you antsy. Any final thoughts?

It’s a pleasure to be on Novel Rocket! I’ve followed this site since Gina’s first author interview and have learned so much from it. Thanks for the opportunity, Pam.

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats, an hour's drive away from her Wisconsin hometown which she visits often to dig into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing in microfilms and historical records about Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.