Welcome to the two hundred and seventy-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Nancy di Fabbio. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Nancy. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Nancy: I’m quite happy being a compulsive over-achiever. Being bored would have to be one of my worst nightmares. I love working with my hands and have done some metalsmithing, cake decorating, knitting, crocheting, and drawing, but sewing has been my primary craft of choice. For thirty years, I had a custom bridal business designing and creating wedding gowns and headpieces. When I finally closed my business about six years ago, time weighed heavily on my hands.
One day, I sat down at the computer and proceeded to write. Don’t know why, where or how this new career came to be, but once I started, I found I couldn’t stop. My first book, Quest for the Dress – Finding Your Dream Dress Without Losing Your Sanity, Friends or Groom was published in April 2011, based on all those years of experience creating hundreds of gowns.
My horses—whom I adore—have also given me plenty to write about. The exploits of my herd are featured in a children’s column, “Tales from the NEIGH-borhood”, and my amazing little Morgan, Trinity, is the inspiration for my first novel, Midnight Magic – Be Careful What You Wish For!. Having started my riding career later in life, I’m in the final editing stage of a comprehensive how-to for the budding equestrian entitled, Saddle Up! – And Live your Dream.
Morgen: Wow, what a varied life you’ve had – perfect for writing. 🙂 The sub-title for ‘Midnight Magic’ is intriguing. Please tell us a little more about the book.
Nancy: Fourteen-year-old Mattie is thrilled when she discovers the primitive painting of a beautiful black horse that has remained hidden for centuries in the attic of her grandmother’s home. Horse-obsessed Mattie can’t help wishing he was a living, breathing horse—a horse who belonged to her! If only she’d listened to her grandmother’s warning to “Be careful what you wish for!” for it’s one thing to wish the painted horsewas real and quite another to discover he might be!
Morgen: Every fourteen-year-old horse lovers’ dream, I’d say. 🙂 You’ve mentioned a couple of your books, what have you had published to-date?
Nancy: I’ve never been sure whether I’m great at multi-tasking or merely have a severe case of ADD. So far, my writing includes non-fiction, juvenile fiction, and a newspaper column for young readers. I also have an idea for an adult fiction story, but I’m trying to sublimate that until I finish my current projects. My non-fiction works have a lot of humor in them, but I prefer writing fiction which allows for my creativity flow more freely.
Morgen: Oh so do I. So far any non-fiction I’ve written has been about writing. I keep thinking that I’m not an expert in anything else but I have almost 40 non-writing years under my belt so perhaps someone will ask me (or I’ll be inspired to) write something else I can do. Do you write under a pseudonym?
Nancy: I write under my own name.
Morgen: It’s a very memorable one which is the whole point really; having people remember it. 🙂 Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Nancy: I don’t have an agent and I think one could be extremely helpful in getting my fiction manuscripts reviewed by the larger publishing houses. Publishers of non-fiction seem much more open to receiving manuscripts directly from the author.
Morgen: I think more publishers are open to hearing from authors directly, especially as so many are self-publishing eBooks (so writers should go looking on their websites, just in case) and probably why it’s harder to get an agent than a publisher. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Nancy: My books are available in print and eBook form. I use my Kindle occasionally, but I prefer reading printed matter.
Morgen: I still do but it’s great just to have in my bag. I’ve always thought of paper for home and electronic for away and that’s not changed… despite my Kindle being three weeks old. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do?
Nancy: I try to do as much marketing as I can. Only well-known, highly-successful authors can afford to sit back and expect their publishers to do the work for them.
Morgen: I think I’ve only had one author say they do little or none. We are lucky these days with the social networking outlets. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actors?
Nancy: I love the “Tales” and so do my readers. Although the stories are written for children, adults find them amusing, touching and informative. I’m also enthralled with Midnight Magic. It’s a spellbinding, magical mystery—horse-centered, of course—that is hard to put down. Although it is juvenile fiction, like the “Tales”, I have many adult fans. It would make a fabulous film—plenty of action and spooky imagery. Since my main characters are 14-year-old girls, it would be a perfect break-out film for a young actress—although I’d definitely have to approve the choice of horse for the starring role.
Morgen: One who could act, hopefully. 🙂 Maybe the one from War Horse? Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Nancy: I had control over the title of Quest for the Dress, but not the cover and I would have preferred something else. I had complete control over the cover and title of Midnight Magic.
Morgen: That’s the advantage of self-publishing – you have total control and I, for one, love it. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Nancy: I’m currently working on the book version of “Tales from the NEIGH-borhood”, editing Saddle Up! and also the companion book to Quest which will focus on bridesmaids.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Nancy: I write for long periods every day, with few exceptions. I wouldn’t say I necessarily experience writer’s block, but sometimes even my brain gets tired. When that happens, I head out to the barn, muck a few stalls and come back refreshed and ready to write.
Morgen: That would do it for me. 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Nancy: Non-fiction requires a bit more organization for me than fiction. My fictions works seem to just flow out of my fingers.
Morgen: Me too, isn’t it great! 🙂 Do you have a method for creating your characters?
Nancy: My characters pretty much just appear, but I’m sure I’m drawing on aspects of many people I’ve met.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry or short stories?
Nancy: I consider my “Tales” short stories, but I don’t think I have any talent for writing poetry.
Morgen: Oh no do I. I dabble from time to time (there’s one here on my blog) but give me prose any day. I have two poets in my writing group and they’re as passionate about poetry as I am about prose so we do what we love. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Nancy: I do a lot of editing because when I write, I just let it flow, knowing I’ll reread it myriad times and make whatever corrections seem necessary later on. If I stopped and obsessed over every word, I think my creative juices would dry up before I ever got them on paper.
Morgen: Some do though and it works for them, but I’m like you; get the story down and deal with the finer details afterwards. Do you have to do much research?
Nancy: So far, I’ve written about topics that I’m already well-versed in, so I’ve only had to do minor researching.
Morgen: Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc., do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Nancy: Obviously, sitting in a dim, quiet room isn’t enough stimulation for me. I like to be by myself with the TV on. It feels like I have company, but I’m not required to interact or risk being interrupted.
Morgen: It’s music for me (Classic FM usually) as I find if I have the TV on I end up staring at it. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Nancy: I’m too compulsive and competitive to accept that some of my work will never see the light of day. I’ll wait until I’m about 95 to give up hoping to see it all in print.
Morgen: 🙂 I have loads of writing from the last few years that I’ve done nothing with but I think with the experience I have now I’ll revisit them. My 2010 NaNoWriMo novel was a therapy piece so if I had to name something that would probably be it (unless I changed all the names :)). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Nancy: I don’t like the business aspects of writing, but I never liked the business end of my bridal career either. I prefer to be involved in the creative aspects of life. However, I can—and do—force myself to pursue both. Editing gets tedious and frustrating when you discover that you missed typos even after painstakingly combing every sentence.
Morgen: My two bugbears too. I have a very good agent and first readers so that helps but I do want to give them polished work. Marketing online these days is a ‘must’ really – it’s what most of my interviewees have had as their least favourite. The upside is that it often gets you chatting to fellow writers and readers so although time-consuming, it’s really enjoyable. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Nancy: I always encourage anyone who tells me they want to write: “Just do it!”
Morgen: It’s the best way. Just 300 words a day is a 100,000 novel in a year. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Nancy: I have found valuable information and “friends” on Facebook, LinkedIn as well as numerous blogs and websites on the Internet. As long as one is open to exploring, one can keep growing.
Morgen: 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Nancy: I think it’s important to not limit yourself. You’re never too old to learn something new and it’s never too late to explore new worlds. That’s what keeps us all alive and vital. I didn’t start riding until I was 40 and I was never an athletic or brave individual, but I persevered and found a new passion and ability I never knew I had. I started a writing career at 50+ and found out that I had a gift for that as well. I don’t allow people to pigeon-hole me or squash my dreams. As long as there’s life, there’s hope, right?
Morgen: Absolutely. Mary Wesley was 74 when she had her first book published.
Nancy: The officiant at my daughter’s wedding was a fan of Quest for the Dress. None of us knew that she intended to quote from it during the wedding ceremony. Wow! How many grooms have their mother-in-laws words incorporated into their vows? Poor Dave! LOL, he thinks I’m a fun mother-in-law.
“As Sara’s mother said in her book, Quest for the Dress, ‘The recipe for a happy engagement involves many of the skills you’ll need throughout your married life: a dose of compromise, a pinch of sacrifice, a ton of humor and a heart full of love.’”
Morgen: Brilliant. Thank you, Nancy.
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