Joining me for Skipping Midnight’s author interview series this week is the wonderful and extremely talented Heather Webb. Her debut novel, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, will be published by Penguin/Plume on December 31.
I’m truly delighted to have her and am sure you’ll enjoy everything she has to say. Read on!
I taught French history for almost a decade, and the French revolutionary period always fascinated me. But I really first became interested in Josephine because of a song by Tori Amos about her. Years later, I awoke one morning with Josephine’s voice in my head. Just like that! So I read my first biography of her and I was hooked. Besides, she wouldn’t stop babbling in my ear. The topic for my current work in progress happened in a similar way—my protagonist started talking to me. My husband thinks I’m insane. Hearing voices in your head must not be normal!
2. As a fellow writer, I have to say hearing voices is perfectly normal. So what do you think people will love most about Josephine’s story?
Above all, I hope my novel inspires readers to want to know more about Josephine, the times in which she lived, and the people in her life. Also, I hope they just enjoy her story! It was a real doozy.
3. Is historical fiction your genre, or do you read/write about whatever strikes your fancy? Where do your ideas come from?
I’m a historical novelist at heart with a heavy emphasis on women’s fiction themes. I also adore Young Adult novels so who knows? Maybe I’ll venture into that territory one day.
4. In addition to preparing for the release of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, you are one of five members of the wonderful Debutante Ball blog, as well as an editor. How do you find the time! And what else do you have in the works?
Great question! How does one find the time? Well, I usually cram about twenty hours of work into a weekend. During the week, I get up at 5 a.m. and work before the house is awake for and then again for the couple hours while my son is in pre-school. As for what I have in the works, I’m about to delve into edits on my work in progress—a novel about art, obsession, and madness set against the backdrop of Belle Époque Paris.
5. What is your writing process like? Do you write in silence? With music? In a coffee shop? Do you outline? Start with a scene? The first line? The ending?
I usually play some sort of classical or instrumental music in the background while I write. It helps drown out background noise as well as wrap me in a sort of cocoon that acts like a time machine.
Yes, I outline like crazy. I have a scene outline, a historical outline, and character maps. I also ALWAYS hear a first line and know the first scene of a book in my head before I sit down to write it. That being said, many unexpected twists happen along the way and that’s where all the fun is!
6. Thousands of people dream about going from polished manuscript to agented writer to debut author with a Plume/Penguin seal on their upcoming book. Can you tell us a little about the process that worked for you, and what you’ve learned along the way?
Big question. The short answer is, I worked my butt off, learned about the business, attended loads of conferences, went to author events, made connections. This worked well for me because I love people. I really do. So going to conferences and events not only taught me a wealth information about how the game is played, but it also helped me form connections with some pretty amazing people. At the end of the day, the people behind this business is what makes it so amazing. I really mean that. I’ve met some giving, big-hearted, and incredibly talented people on my journey.
What I’ve learned along the way: I’ve learned to celebrate the small victories. It’s a very tough road and every little victory counts! It helps you keep a positive outlook. I’ve also learned that it’s imperative to build a tribe that you love as much as they love you. You never know how one little connection will turn out AND you soothe one another’s heartaches (and there are plenty of those)—a priceless gift.
7. The road to publication is never without its rough patches. How did you weather those storms?
Lots of baked goods, conversations with my writer buddies, and wine.
8. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you can share with aspiring writers struggling to land a traditional publishing deal?
Everyone says this, but don’t give up. You may need to set the particular manuscript you’re shopping around on the side for awhile—perhaps it isn’t the right market for it at the time, maybe it just hasn’t fallen into the right hands, maybe it really needs some polishing—but KEEP ON KEEPING ON. If you’re talented, courageous, and determined, you can get there. Just keep at it!!!
A self-proclaimed “social media nut,” Heather can be found all over the web. Check out her website at HeatherWebbauthor.com, keep up with her on Facebook, peruse her boards on Pinterest, and tweet with her @msheatherwebb.
If you are a published/soon-to-be-published author and would like to be interviewed for Skipping Midnight, please click here.