Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As mentioned in a previous blog post earlier this month, I wanted to answer some of the questions my readers would like to ask me. Each reader who participated was automatically entered into a giveaway to win a brand new Kindle Fire 7. I would like to congratulate Tanya Stine for winning the giveaway!
See below for the answers to the most popular questions.
I would like to thank all my readers who took the time to submit your questions to me and to say, once again, that I am blessed with the best readers in the world! — Hope Callaghan
Q. Where do you come up with your story ideas?
I come up with some of my ideas in the middle of the night while I’m lying in bed trying to sleep!
For some reason, my characters seem to think the wee hours of the morning are the best time for them to share their ideas with me. I finally gave up fighting it so now I keep a small notepad and pen in the master bath cabinet drawer to write them down.
A lot of my ideas come from my better half, my husband, Mitchell. We love to bounce ideas off each other, many times while we’re on the road driving somewhere. The conversation usually starts with, “Hey, wouldn’t that be fun if…”
Many of my ideas come from life experiences. Take, for example, the misadventures of Millie and the Cruise Ship series. On several cruises, I have stood near the railing and watched passengers literally “miss the boat” after losing track of time on shore. (Sadly, on more than one occasion.)
I have also sat quietly for hours in a deer stand during bow season (boring), watched Mitchell and my brother-in-law build explosives at the picnic table (a little too exciting), locked my daughter inside our camper and had to crawl through an access panel underneath to rescue her (scary). Many of the girls’ adventures are based on my real life experiences. It almost makes my life sound exciting 🙂
Q. Are your characters based on real people? Are the places you base your series on real places?
Belhaven, Michigan, the small town where Gloria and The Garden Girls live, is a lot like the small town where I grew up. My mom still lives there…on a farm with a springer spaniel named Mally. My brother and his family live in the small ranch-style home where I was raised.
The town is about an hours’ drive from Grand Rapids, Michigan and is so small, it would be difficult to find on a map!
Misery, Mississippi (the Sweet Southern Sleuths Series) is 100% imagination. Mitchell and I brainstormed that series last summer while we were vacationing in the Ft. Walton, Beach area of Florida. We had just visited the lovely town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi and fell in love with its charm, history and the beauty of the area.
We had rented an ocean front condo for the last few days of our vacation and were sitting on the beach staring out at the ocean. (By the way, the Emerald Coast of Florida is one of the most beautiful beaches and area I have ever seen.) I remember the conversation started something like this, “Hey, what do you think of starting a series about two identical twin sisters that are complete opposites…”
All of my characters are fictitious but some have personality traits I borrowed from people that I’ve met or known over the years. For example, Lucy, from the Garden Girls is loosely based on a woman my husband and I met when we volunteered for “Meals on Wheels.” I can’t remember her name but she was probably in her 70’s, with bright red hair, thin as a rail and guess what? She LOVED sweets…and skydiving and all sorts of other crazy adventures. We haven’t seen her in a couple years, but I’m sure she’s still going strong.
Q. How do you keep all of your characters and small details straight?
With copious notes! Each continuing series has a separate file. For each new book, I start a new section, adding the new book title, character names and descriptions under the sub-heading. I keep all of my previous notes because I also like to scribble stuff on those pages. Right now, the Garden Girls Series file is 32 pages of information but the updated section I currently use is five pages long.
I start with the main characters, their spouses, descriptions, etc., followed by secondary characters. After that, I separate it by book in the series. At the end, I have a section for “Places.” There is also a “Miscellaneous Information” section. (I put stuff like the name of Gloria’s church and the time that the cruise ship’s church service begins…9:00 a.m.)
One of the most exciting things to me is to watch the characters grow and evolve. When I start a new series, I have a main character and a couple secondary characters with a few quirky traits, but as the series moves forward, I learn more about them, what makes them tick, how they react to crisis and it’s so much fun to see what happens!
I look forward to seeing how Annette Delacroix’s character evolves. Annette is in the Cruise Ship Cozy Mystery Series and main character, Millie Sanders’, sidekick. Her character has been secretive about her past and I can’t wait to find out what those secrets are!
Q. Which of my books is my favorite, which of my characters is my favorite and which character reminds me the most of me?
There are parts of every book that are special to me, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be “Missing Milt.” The grandsons and nostalgia in that one got me. It was the one where Gloria, Ryan and Tyler popped popcorn and sat on the front porch watching the old console television where only a few local stations came in and they had to wrap tinfoil around the rabbit ears. The boys couldn’t believe there was no remote!
I loved that part. It reminds me of when I grew up. Saturday morning cartoons, HeeHaw, Lawrence Welk. All that stuff. I love the nostalgia of that entire series!
Loretta Sweet from “Sweet Southern Sleuths” has to be my favorite character. There’s something about her little bit of sass yet her caring personality and concern for others. She has a high level of tolerance for her snarky sister, which I’m not sure I would have.
I would love to be Ruth, though. She has such an outgoing personality and is always right in the thick of things working in the post office. Her surveillance equipment and all the other spy toys she continues to accumulate cracks me up.
I would have to say that I’m most like Dot. I wouldn’t dare do half the things those girls do, but I love being able to create their adventures and be where I’m at…on the outside, looking in!
Q. What do you do to keep from getting in a rut in your storylines?
First of all, I put myself in your shoes…the reader. If I start to get bored writing, then I’m sure the reader is getting bored reading. If that starts to happen, I jump into the middle and add a mini adventure.
I only start a book with a general idea of the new mystery. Next, I pick three of four suspects. After that, I let the characters tell the story. It isn’t until the end of the story that I decide “whodunit” and then go back on the first read thru and add a small clue or two.
Out of all of my books, the ending of “Fall Girl” was the biggest surprise for me.
Q. How Often Do You Write? How Many Books Do you Write a Year?
Last year, (2105) I wrote seventeen books. (I had to look this up…LOL). I’m on track to meet or beat the same number in 2016.
It takes roughly three weeks for me to write a book (give or take a few days depending on my schedule). A first draft will take about seven days, writing 5,000 – 7,000 words per day. The most I have ever written in a day has been just over 10,000 words and I don’t recommend doing that!
After the first draft is finished, I go back through and read a second time and finally a third. After the third read thru, I hand it over to Mitchell, who reads, writes his own notes and gives it back. (It typically takes him 1 – 2 days but he is getting really fast!)
I make his suggested changes, read one more time and then hand it over to one of the most wonderful EDITORS in the world, Peggy Hyndman, who not only helps me immensely by making sure my books shine (catching my grammar and typo errors), she also make sure they make sense.
As a reader, I also love to bounce ideas off her. She is just a special person to me.
I also have some wonderful, incredible, special advanced readers. Not only are they my special group of readers, I consider each of them a friend.
After Peggy and the others send their suggested edits and changes back, I make those changes, do a final read thru and then voila…the masterpiece is complete!
In the meantime, my husband, who also has become a Photoshop guru and works hard to design some awesome book covers, works on the cover, we put together a book description, etc.
Q. What are your plans for 2016?
I am finishing “Look Into My Ice,” Garden Girls Series Book #12. I’ve also added a couple new characters to this new Garden Girls book and am excited to see them grow in the series.
After that, I’ll be working on the epic cruise adventure, “Cruise Control”…when two worlds collide – Gloria and the Girls cruise with Millie and the Gang.
Once that book is finished, I’ll be starting another series of shorts for the Sweet Southern Sleuths. (No, I haven’t forgotten about those of you who love this series and in fact, already have two of the four book ideas!)
I’ve started a new series, a spinoff, but have decided to put it on the back burner for the time being. I don’t think I can juggle four series at a time and keep my sanity.
Q. Do You Plan to Write in Another Genre?
I actually have a two book draft sitting in a file folder on the back of my desk. It’s a Christian mystery / suspense that I started in April, 2015, tentatively named “The Chosen.”
It is more of a futuristic mystery series (not a cozy) dealing with current day events. I would love to finish it someday but it needs one hundred percent of my focus and energy and I know I can’t take that on right now.
I’m tossing around the idea of co-authoring it but that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.
I tried my hand at romance a while back, but after Mitchell read my first draft he said, “Honey, maybe you should stick to mystery.”
Q. What advice would you give someone who is interested in writing and just starting out?
First and foremost, have faith in yourself. I never thought I had it in me to write fiction and here I am over two dozen books later.
The next thing you must do is research. Research the genre; find authors who have been successful in writing in those genres. Read their reviews both good and bad. What do readers like? What don’t they like? How long are the books?
Write something that you enjoy reading. I can’t imagine anything more painful than trying to write something I don’t like, just because it might make a lot of money. Readers are smart! They will know if you don’t enjoy writing your books.
Once you write the book, find someone who will read it for you and give you honest feedback. Have the book edited and make sure the covers you create match the book you are writing. I think a lot of readers “judge a book by its cover.” If a cover fits the genre, you will sell a lot more than if it doesn’t.
Start small. Write short stories. Write a few and then release them at the same time.
If you find that you love writing, don’t give up. It’s easy to become discouraged, especially when you release a book – or books – and they don’t sell or you get bad reviews. Keep going, keep trying. Writing is like anything else. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid. You’ll never know until you try.
Q. When did you write your first book? How old were you when you wrote your first book?
I wrote my first fiction book, Waves of Deception, in early 2014 and released it in July of that year. I was 49 at the time. (I was born in 1964, the last year of the baby boomers.) So…you’re never too old to follow your dream!
Q. Why choose being an Indie author versus traditionally published?
As an Indie author you control your business, your book writing, your everything.
I can offer a free book to my readers. Traditionally published books will never be free. Discounted, yes. Free, no. Because the publishing company is in it to make money, not give books away.
Publishing companies set the price for books, not the author, so in essence, they control how much money you make. To me, being an author and publishing under a traditional publisher would be like being employed by the publishing company. (This is purely my personal opinion.)
Honestly, the only reason I can see for an author to go the traditional publish route is because the author only has to worry about writing. The publishing company handles the rest – the marketing, the editing, the covers, etc.
I am highly blessed because Mitchell, my better half, has a marketing background and we have owned our own business for several years. (He is a Real Estate Broker.) He is also a computer guru with a degree in computer networking. I get to write and he handles the rest. I couldn’t do it without him! He is my right hand man : )
Q. What do you love most about writing?
Hands down, you…my reader! I have met so many wonderful people since I released my first book. I love to hear from you, hear your stories. God has truly blessed me with wonderful people who reach out to tell me that my books make them laugh, brighten their day, they encourage me and pray for me.
So many say they appreciate the fact that I give glory to God, that there is nothing inappropriate in my books and I’m proud of that…that I can entertain readers without swearing, without violence, without sexual content.
Those were my two main goals when I sat in front of my laptop and drafted my first book. Number one – give Glory to God. Number two – prove that I can write a good book, a wholesome, clean book that readers can enjoy and someday, when I leave this earth for my heavenly home, I will hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”