WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
AP: I grew up in Connecticut and ended up in Illinois by studying theater at Northwestern University. Before writing, I had a career both in the theater and in cultural fundraising. I have college and high-school age children, am married to a sports-car-loving engineer, and am as passionate about knitting as I am about writing.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
AP: Oh, yes! I was dared by a friend to write a novel--it was never a career goal of mine, although I am a natural story-teller. When someone who edits for a living dares you to write, it s always wise to say yes. I tell people God set it up so that I could take no credit for my career launch because He knew I d try.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
AP: I tried at first on a lark, but when my friend told me I truly had a knack for it, I simply started writing and actually sold that first novel. Of course, I simply started writing is a massive understatement--it took me three years to finish that book! By then, the insanity had taken hold, and I m edging up to my 20th published novel next year. I ve been self-employed much of my life, so that helped with the entrepreneurial skills required of authors these days.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
AP: Don t hate me--I sold my first manuscript. Really, it was all God s doing. As for subsequent works; I ve sold almost all of them, but there were one or two partials where my agent gently said, Allie, put that down. That one where the hero was the catcher in a trapeze act? Well, it s probably best for everyone if that never sees the light of day.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
AP: It was just me and my pre-school age children alone in my kitchen. They weren t particularly impressed because it stopped my crucial lunch-making tasks. I think I treated them to McDonald s--that impressed them. Over a decade later, my teenage children still aren t very impressed. Now you know why I refer to them as my Humility Committee.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
AP: It s been a tremendous blessing--but not in the way you d think. While I love telling stories and reaching people, its greatest gift to me has been the freedom to own my own day. Life has handed my son some truly challenging medical issues (he s fine now), and there is no other job on the planet I could have kept while he was in his years of treatment.
WG: What aspect of life as a published author surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
AP: I LOVE research! Not book research, mind you--I still rot at that--but people research. I m endlessly fascinated talking to experts and visiting locations. I ve done some wild things for book research, including working the world s most expensive espresso machine, learning to walk a tight-rope, making soap, and learning to crack a bull whip. The world is a marvelous place to learn.
WG: What about your writing process. Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
AP: I ve become an obsessive student of creative productivity, even teaching a class on it called The Chunky Method. My lists and schedules are massive and detailed, and they keep me focused and going through my days. As for a typical day? Not on your life. But I ve gained ninja skills for cramming a to-do list into even the craziest of days.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
AP: Absolutely! My Chunk must happen every day, and I know exactly how long it takes me to write a manuscript. I m a very goal-oriented person, but I believe in playing as hard as I work, and for me playing almost always involves yarn and needles.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
AP: A big cup of coffee is always first. I create a playlist of music without lyrics on Pandora and get it going in the background. My style is very flexible--I can write anytime, anywhere (and have done so under some pretty unusual conditions!), so music is the most portable ritual I can have.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
AP: In my ideal world, synopses don t exist. I hate them, even though I know they serve a useful purpose. My favorite part of writing is when a surprise jumps out of my fingers onto the page.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
AP: My theater background makes me a very character-driven writer. The storyline almost always grows from who they are, what they face, and what makes them tick.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
AP: I believe all my stories point to characters who discover themselves to be better, stronger, and braver than they first thought. I love to write ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. I believe God has great plans for each of us (even if they don t appear great at first), and as my tag line states: The adventure starts right where you are!
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
AP: I m as persistent as the day is long. That, combined with resilience and imagination, can take you a long way in this business. My sense of humor and determination to have fun come out in my writing as well, and readers tell me that s what they like best about my books.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
AP: Oh, the list would run for miles! I have teenagers, after all! My son s medical adventures threw serious obstacles into my writing, but I used my Chunky Method strategies to cope and retain my creativity. I m very proud of that and happily teach what I ve learned to others.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
AP: Nope, you ve pretty much covered it.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
AP: I read all across the board, inspiration and secular, contemporary and historical, fiction and non-fiction; all sorts of things. I m also a huge fan of audiobooks.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
AP: I have two nonfiction parenting books in print, and right now I m working toward putting The Chunky Method into a book.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
AP: The best advice I ever got: Hush up and write. Classes are fine, plans are useful, techniques are helpful, but in the end just the act of writing is what improves you and produces the work. Over-thinking is a dangerous prospect.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
AP: I couldn t possibly single one out.
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
AP: Chocolate. My rule is that I have 24 hours to pitch my fits--and I do let myself pitch them in this brutal business--and then it s time to move on.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?
AP: While I know many people find it helpful, the concept of the career-shifting, breakout novel makes me break out in hives. The only thing that keeps me going is the constant push toward writing the best I can today, right now, working with what I have in front of me.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
AP: As a raging extrovert, the isolation is my greatest challenge. I love being with people, but being with people does not get the work done. I d so much rather meet you for coffee than finish Chapter 14.
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
AP: KNITTING. And knitting. And knitting. I love it so much I even have a knitting blog: DestiKNITions.blogspot.com
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
AP: As a child, I suspect I merely wanted to be Queen. Of everything. But--no kidding--I came to Northwestern University to be a soap opera villainess. I had very specific career goals until I discovered its rather hard for a 6-foot tall woman to work in television.
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
AP: I suppose it would be my fanatical love of James Bond movies. Not exactly the kind of thing you expect from an inspirational romance author. If Daniel Craig said hello to me I d probably swoon.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
AP: Um...I think I just answered that :) Mr. Craig, are you listening?
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
AP: There was a sign over the door at the Ronald McDonald House where we stayed while my son was in treatment. It read: You never know how strong you can be until strong is the only choice you have. Truest thing ever.
AP: FAMILY LESSONS was fun for me to write because continuity series often place me in scenarios I would have never picked for myself. I m not really a prairie gal, but I had great fun crawling into that world and creating rich characters from the tiny town of Evans Grove. The concept of an event that appears at first to be a tragedy turning into God s perfect blessing is one that resonates strongly with me. Throw in a lonely lawman, a plain-Jane schoolmarm, and a charming but scruffy orphan, and what s not to love?
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
AP: Being invited to write a continuity is always like being pulled into an adventure, and I love adventures.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
AP: I knew very little about the orphan trains that were so crucial to this time period. You can t get much more compelling that trainloads of orphan children being shipped from one town to another in search of new families.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
AP: In June I ll be continuing my Gordon Falls series that centers around the volunteer fire department in a small Illinois town. THE FIREFIGHTER S HOMECOMING is the sequel to my 2012 release, FALLING FOR THE FIREMAN. A third book in the series, THE FIREFIGHTER S MATCH, will come out in November.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
AP: Website: http://alliepleiter.com/
Twitter: twitter.com/alliepleiter or @alliepleiter
Knitting Blog: http://destiknitions.blogspot.com/
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!