Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hillary Manton Lodge--Author Interview

Hillary Manton Lodge writes witty stories about normal people learning to live, laugh, heal, and understand the concept of God in a crazy world. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and works as a freelance photographer while chasing her passion for writing fiction. She and her husband live in Oregon

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

-The book is Plain Jayne. I kind of think about it as the next generation of Amish Fiction. While working on PJ I took a pretty journalistic approach, literally – my main character is a newspaper reporter. I wanted her to take an unsentimental look at this particular alternative lifestyle.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long did it take before your novel was published?

-I started worked towards publication as a young teen. The first novel I started working on seriously was a Civil War period piece. I had the opportunity to take it to an Oregon Christian Writers summer conference and become connected with authors such as Bonnie Leon. OCW has had a huge effect on my writing and my career. While I was learning how I worked as a writer, I was getting feedback from authors, agents, and editors, learning from people in the thick of it. My most important journey as a developing writer was finding my voice. Once I discovered the method that came naturally to me – first person with humour, things moved a bit faster.

I finally completed my first novel in the fall of 2007. I’d connected with editors at Harvest House in years past, and one of them was waiting to read that book. A few months later, I heard from another editor, saying she’d read the manuscript, read it, and wanted to meet for coffee. That’s one of the huge perks of living in the same town as a publisher you’re interested in!

That editor took my book to the publishing committee, who liked my writing but wasn’t sure the genre – contemporary fiction – would sell for a first time author. They asked if I had any interest in writing historical or Amish. I gave my editor pitches for each; she liked the Amish pitch best. I wrote three chapters, put a proposal together, and passed them on.

She got back to me with a list of changes to consider. I sat on that for, like, a week, then completely reworked the whole concept of the book. The second set of chapters she loved. That proposal went to committee, and I was offered a contract.

Somewhere in there I started getting overwhelmed with the process – I knew I didn’t know anything about the business end of publishing. Bonnie Leon suggested I talk to Sandra Bishop, who we both knew from OCW. I gave Sandra a call (or email, I don’t remember which). She now represents me, and I couldn’t be happier.

I have received a rejection letter. However, the person who sent it to me is my current editor.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

Pitching projects before completion.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

There is no magic formula when it comes to writing, just a lot of sitting.

What is the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

Nothing specific, but avoid anyone who tells you to write a certain way. Your voice is your voice. Everyone has his or her own style. Don’t try to write like someone you’re not.

Show us your writing space?

I kind of rotate around our home – this is the place I probably land most often. And yes, that teacup is always there…

What would you advice would you give someone just entering this business? How should they maneuver the publishing life?

First step, write something really great, the kind of thing you’d enjoy reading. Push yourself. Challenge yourself. Ask the tough questions. Find your voice and don’t be afraid of it. See that project through to the end. Go ahead and read all the craft books you want while you do that, but keep writing. Invest in yourself as a writer before you pursue publication. When you’re ready, when your project is ready, pursue publication. It’s kind of like training before you run a marathon – you want to be prepared.

Maneuvering the publishing life takes a lot of discipline and a lot of patience. Having an agent you trust in your corner is a great piece. Having a good rapport with your editor is another.

What is something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Nothing will happen the way you want it to in your time frame. Learn to let go.

What's a good novel to read in regards to study of the craft?

The Princess Bride. It’s brilliant. Everyone knows the movie, but the book is even better. Goldman manages to write a fairy tale and a believable, fictionalized version of his life, all at the same time.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

Pretty proud of the last chapter I wrote. I was sick most of the time I was writing it, but one of my critique readers liked it so much that she decided “swine flu must be my muse.”

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I catch up on email, marketing, and chores in the morning, generally settling down to write after lunch. My husband is in graduate school, so in evenings after he’s home from work we’ll often work on our respective projects together.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Melody Carlson writes super fast. I write super slow. I wouldn’t mind borrowing her speed for a day. Or longer.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

My hope is to make a living at this, which is hard to do. There are a few

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I enjoy working from home. I hate working from home. There are difficulties with the fact that I can’t really get away from my job. But the euphoria that comes from writing something really fun makes it worth the craziness.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I blog regularly and stay active on Facebook and Twitter. I carry postcards for my book around in my purse – you’d be surprised how many people want to hear about your book! I’ll participate in a blog tour after the book releases. My advice is the advice my agent gave me – keep your marketing time structured, or it’ll elbow in our your writing life. I market in the mornings, and stay out of it for the rest of the day.

Parting words?

Come visit my blog at What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?


Bonnie Leon said...

Hi Hillary. Great interview.

I'm so proud of you!

And for those of you haven't read Plain Jayne, it's a must read. Well done.