Tina Ann Forkner - Interview Questions
What authors / titles did you enjoy reading when you were younger?
When I was a kid, I really liked books like Black Beauty, Charlotte’s Web, Trumpet of the Swan and Tom Sawyer. Those books made me dream of having a huge adventure someday.
What books are on your nightstand now?
Right now I’m trying to find time to read The Gathering by Anne Enright, Deadly Exposure by my friend Cara Putman, Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer and 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Cecil Murphy.
What inspired you to make the leap from aspiring author to published author?
Well, I have always written and while a part of me dreamed of what it would be like to be published, I never really thought I could be. It wasn’t until I finished my first novel that my husband encouraged me to go for publication. Even then, I only made feeble attempts.
I’d already been through many rejections with poetry, essay, and some children’s books, so I could only imagine how many rejections I would get for a full novel. Eventually a family member submitted my manuscript to an agent she personally knew without telling me she was doing so. The agent offered to represent me and it all just took off from there.
Is there someone you turn to for writing advice, encouragement, or ideas?
There are many people I turn to for that kind of advice. I email with some writing friends I have made during this journey to publication and they offer me good encouragement and advice. I try to do the same for them. I also have a small group of published writers that I meet with every few months for coffee. We share experiences about the writing life.
Describe your writing space – and routine.
I have an office devoted to writing, but very often I end up writing with my laptop on the couch or at another desk that I have in my living room. I like how sunny it is in there and that I can hear the birds singing while I write.
As for my schedule, it has changed a lot now that I’m published. In addition to writing, I also have to take time for publicity and other things that fall into the “business” of writing. Most mornings I try to get up by 6:00 am. I do a quick email check, spend some time chatting with my husband before work, get kids situated and try to be writing by 9am. I like to write for a few hours, take a break to work out or eat and then write a little more. This of course is the perfect day. It rarely actually happens exactly that way.
Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do either positive or negative reviews affect you?
Isn’t that a very loaded question to ask a debut novelist? But it’s a good one, so excuse me while I ramble for a long time…I do read them. I really like it when I can tell from the review that a reader connected with my story. Bloggers are especially honest and their reviews often show how personal the story has been for them.
It’s wonderful to know that someone “gets it” and of course I really enjoy those and I even link to some of them on my blog. This is part of the debut novelist’s journey - to get excited about positive reviews. When Romantic Times Book Reviews gave me 4 ½ stars, I was thrilled. My book isn’t a romance novel, but it does have a love story and it’s an honor that they reviewed my book. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care.
My first negative review was by a major reviewer and I was devastated. It took my publicist and a friend who is a widely published writer to reassure me that it wouldn’t kill my career. My friend sent me her own negative review from the exact same publication and that’s really what it took to talk me off that ledge. I decided not to read the negative ones anymore, at least until I’ve been around a little longer.
Reviewers disagree with each other all the time, just like movie critics do and it’s important for writers not to worry too much about this. It’s not that I have received very many, but negative reviews can really set a debut novelist back when it comes to confidence. I admit that I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to a bad review. It’s every debut novelist’s nightmare that a bad review can somehow kill our career, even though we are told that it can’t.
When I do come across a negative one, I try hard to remember that it’s just one person’s opinion and I can respect that. I know that my first novel is not perfect and I admire when a reviewer can be honest even when negative. It makes for a review that can be very helpful to some readers. I just don’t want to read it myself. Personally, I tend not to review a book if I don’t love it. It takes some guts to publicly bash someone else’s writing. I don’t have the heart for it! I’m just a chicken.
The important thing as a writer is to remember that it’s one reader’s opinion and there are many reasons why this person may or may not like your book. For example, I’ve heard my book is too religious, not religious enough, a very difficult read, a too-easy read. It’s funny how conflicting reviews can be. On occasion someone will even refer to the inconsistencies or mistakes in the Advanced Reader Copy of my book, saying things similar to, in the ARC, this and this happened... While it would dishearten any writer that a reviewer would actually quote mistakes in the uncorrected ARC without first comparing it to the final copy (which all reviewers are supposed to do) those are actually the easiest poor reviews to handle because I know that what the reviewer refers to isn’t in the copy that actual readers will get. And even then, they probably don’t intend to destroy you. It just feels that way when you’re new at receiving reviews. Sometimes reviewers do have the final copy and they still think the book is bad. That’s their opinion and there are too many variables involved for me to second guess my work. That’s why I don’t read the poor ones anymore!!!
It’s an important topic that most of us don’t want to talk about because it’s scary for a debut novelist. Nobody really wants to admit that they actually care about reviews. Writers want to be aloof and above it all, but for first timers, it’s hard to say we don’t care. I’m just being honest. On the flip side, I am blessed to say that I have had more positive reviews than poor, at least that I know about considering I only read the good ones now. Over all I have survived the process so far!
Is there a particular passage, chapter or book etc. of which you are particularly proud of and / or that really captured the essence of what you were trying to convey?
My editor really likes the prologue in Ruby Among Us, so I will go with that one. I hope it captures the scenery well and puts the reader right there in Lucy’s mind.
With benefit of hindsight, if you had the opportunity to rewrite a portion of your book would you? If so, what and why?
I would want to rewrite the entire book over and over. It can never be truly finished in my mind, but it doesn’t work that way. At some point they take it from you, which is probably a good thing or writers like me would want to keep making changes. At some point you have to accept that the manuscript is gone and trust that it’s in God’s hands. It will be what He lets it be.
How long does it take you to go from concept to finished manuscript?
The first book took nine months and the second one took about six, not counting edits that always need to occur once the book is in the publisher’s hands.
What struggles did you encounter during the publishing process, and what suggestions do you have for authors just starting out?
The biggest struggles were related to balancing my time. Once a writer moves into publishing, it’s harder to find time for writing other things.
Has your writing success afforded you the opportunity to concentrate fully on your writing career?
I concentrate fully on my writing career, but it’s not because of any success. I still have not made enough money to sustain a writing career. Publishing just doesn’t work that way. I actually may have to look for part-time work at some point. My advice is to try not to quit your day job if you can help it.
What can we expect from you next?
I have another book coming out in May of 2009. It’s about sisters.
Stop by my website for updates: www.tinaannforkner.com