You’re an author, but is it your day job? Yes, I’m a full-time author, which is a dream come true. My days are filled with writing, reading and more writing!
Did you always want to be an author? Yes. That was the one thing I always knew about myself. From the time I was a little girl, even before I became a reader. I was always writing poems, short stories, plays. I wrote my first novel when I was in high school. Thankfully it was never published and will always remain hidden in my drawer.
What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? My newest novel is The Social Graces which tells the story of Alva Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor vying for control of society during the Gilded Age. I had written a previous novel, What the Lady Wants, which was set in Chicago during the Gilded Age. I’ve always loved that time and was eager to explore the late 1800s again at the suggestion of both my agent and my editor.
How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? I do hope readers will be able to escape into this story and celebrate the accomplishments of women as a whole. I know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but I think it’s important to acknowledge how far we’ve come.
What are you most excited about with this book? Sharing this wild cast of characters with my readers. Fact is certainly stranger than fiction and I could not dream up such a vivid ensemble of society ladies, no matter how hard I tried.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to succeed in your professional industry? If you want to be a professional writer, aside from constantly reading and writing, you have to make a serious commitment to yourself that you’re going to make this happen. You must be able to bounce back from rejections and criticism and just keep going. Learn to protect your writing time and make the time that you sit down to work a priority. If you take yourself seriously in this role, you’ll find that those around you will too and they’ll give you the time and space to work your magic. Lastly, believe! Believe that this is going to happen for you. It only takes one yes to make the dream come true.
How do you handle setbacks and criticism? I try to learn from them—see if there’s anything of value to be had there and often there is. Also, my former career was in advertising. I was used to having my copy dissected by creative directors, account executives and of course the client. I think that was excellent training for a career as a novelist. It’s never smooth sailing. There’s lots of anxiety and second-guessing that goes with the territory and I wish I could say that gets easier with each book but alas, that hasn’t been the case with me.
How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? By now, I know and am comfortable with my writing process. I’m very self-disciplined and so things like setting daily word counts and research goals comes very naturally to me. I don’t always hit my target, but I know there will be other days when I’ll be more productive, so I don’t let it weigh on me too heavily.
How do you structure your day and make time for writing? As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to protect your writing time. This is my full-time job and I “go to work” every day. Even on weekends. I generally write for about six hours a day. A little less when I’m drafting and a little more when I’m revising.
Images Courtesy of Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House