The Wettest Spring is a departure from your previous non-fiction books. What made you decide to write fiction? I actually wrote The Wettest Spring back in the 80s when my sons were young. I was on leave from my teaching job to be a stay-at-home mom and decided to try my hand at writing. I wrote for Christian Parenting Today and Virtue magazine. One day, I realized there was no book on the market to help young males journey through puberty, so I decided to write one. My oldest son was facing puberty in a few years and I could find no books to help give him perspectives on what he might experience. In addition, he had many classmates who had various types of home lives that differed from his. I fancied that I could write a story to help him learn information about puberty and expose him to the type of life that others might have. My son had a very high IQ and excellent language skills, so he was a helpful editor! He still is. In the book, Kurt Maxwell is a young man in the 1980s when kids did not have cell phones and computers that provided all the knowledge in the world at their fingertips. When puberty hits him, he knows nothing except rumors and locker-room tales. To make things worse, his workaholic dad leaves his alcoholic mom. His friend, Sami, has sprouted breasts, colored her hair, and is causing Kurt’s jeans to be too tight. At school, he’s failing Date Math.
Did the writing process for The Wettest Spring differ from writing your other books such as School Skills 101? Absolutely. I moved five times after I wrote The Wettest Spring and kept shuffling the box. Last year, I opened it and found the old manuscript, typed on a Smith Corona word processor. Since I didn’t have an electronic version, I scanned the pages as OCR files and worked from there to revise it. The revision was quick as I was pleased to see how clean the manuscript was. I found structured notes and mathematical charts about story, character, and plotlines. From winning a writing contest on Writer’s Café, I was awarded a year’s subscription to AutoCrit http://www.autocrit.com and I ran the manuscript through that to help find redundancies. School Skills 101 was written for me to use with my ninth grade students and my youngest son. I was teaching a Study Skills unit and all of the books that I used with my students were too long and wordy. Finally, I decided to write a school success book for the younger and average student, not the ones worried about AP tests and college placements… just the ones who wanted to decrease the torture of middle and high school academics. My youngest son and I researched tips for School Skills 101 and he picked his top tips.
The cover of the book is a bit “personal”. Please tell us about it. Isn’t that a great photo? My brother, Scott Holdbrooks, is an award-winning art teacher at Gadsden City High School. He took that photo of his son, Zack, who also has won awards for his artwork. Everyone in my family loves that photo. When I entered The Wettest Spring in the Amazon fiction contest (it placed but did not progress past the first stage), I was offered a free copy. I had to choose a cover, so I asked Scott and Zack if I could use their photo. I actually never intended for The Wettest Spring to be available to the masses, but in order to buy a copy for myself and a friend, that was the simplest and cheapest strategy. It’s out there and we will see if it goes anywhere.
How long did you work on the manuscript? Gosh, I really can’t remember it taking a long time to write. I recall enjoying the process and not trying to be in a hurry. Obviously, since it moved across the country in a box for years I wasn’t in a hurry to get it published. I have found notes that I sent it to publishers and agents but no one took it. I had an agent for School Skills 101 but all of the publishers who offered contracts wanted me to make the book bigger, add research, and talk more to “smart kids.” I declined because to me the whole point of School Skills 101 is to be for younger kids and kids who do not want, as one of my former students said, “to study to read a study book.”
Currently it is available for Kindle, but will there be a print version? The Wettest Spring is available as both the Kindle and the print version. Anyone can download the Kindle reader for his or her computer, iPad, or cell phone. Here is the link: Free Kindle reader.
How can people contact you if they have questions about the book? The best way is to become a fan of the Facebook page for The Wettest Spring. Here is the link: The Wettest Spring FaceBook page
Do you have other projects in progress? I have written a couple of other novels that I will either rework or try to get published. Also, I write screenplays. Every screenplay that I have written has placed in contests. JET LAG actually was a Semi-Finalist in the prestigious Nicholl, which is conducted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which conducts the Oscars. It is an honor to have my name on their webpage. I have a couple of screenplays in progress. LEMONADE is a story of how love can be destructive to save what it can. THE LIGHT MAN is about using children for profit. Both are dark and I’ve been working on them a while. I need to finish them and get those tragic stories out of my head! My mother wants to step on the red carpet someday, so I persevere… For non-fiction, I am working on Teaching Strategies 101 which will be a practical book for teachers to help with various teaching and learning techniques. Research and supplemental reading will be provided for those who want the “why” behind the “what.” Finally, as I say, “my doctorate is working on me.” I’m working on my Instructional Leadership doctorate through the University of Alabama, so most of what I write is APA style papers for classes. Fingers crossed, this degree will be completed and dissertation approved by the end of 2013. We’ll see.
Your books can be purchased on Amazon, but where else can they be found? Amazon has been very good to me. They provide authors with detailed data about buyers and where the buyers live. If an author has time to conduct marketing, the data would help allocate resources. I don’t spend a on penny marketing; all I do is on FaceBook and still have some old sites on MySpace, so it is a miracle that anyone finds the books to buy. However, last September, one buyer bought 627 copies of School Skills 101. That was pretty exciting. Book sales are funny. Many times my Amazon ranking for School Skills 101 is higher than my friends who have toney publishers and professors who wrote my textbooks. My morning report told me that 25 copies of School Skills 101 were sold while I slept in late this morning. It’s nice to finally make money on a project that was fun and interesting to do. I have several books available: School Skills 101, TEEN 101, Secondary Teaching 101, College Skills 101, and The Wettest Spring. All have FaceBook pages, and all are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and some are also available on eCampus, The Book Depository, Tower Books, Amazon UK, and Infibeam, as well as Amazon for Germany, Canada, France, and Japan.
How many books have you written? How many are published? I have five that are published. One novel needs a publisher. Jet Lag was taken through hours of writers’ groups and UCLA workshops and is ready to go. That book is good and needs to find its soulmate to be published. Heartstrings was written back in the 1980s and would need a major revision before going out to meet the public.
What has been the most interesting or funniest experience you’ve had while writing a book? One interesting thing was some advice I received while living in Los Angeles. Tom Koranda was in the film industry and I met him in a writing class at UCLA. He asked to read my novel, Jet Lag. The story line wasn’t his thing, but he invited me to an exclusive screenwriting group and suggested that I take the novel and turn it into a screenplay, with the intent of improving the structure of the novel. Honored and humbled to be in a room with such talented writers, I went through the painful but invigorating process of converting a novel to a screenplay. The process did strengthen the rewrite of the novel, but the unintended outcome was that they all loved the screenplay, slinging the word “Oscar” at me, and encouraged me to begin shopping it around. I didn’t feel comfortable selling myself as a screenwriter, but began placing the screenplay for Jet Lag in contests. Meanwhile I moved back to Alabama, and the screenplay began placing in contests and even winning the Acclaim. While many producers, agents, and managers (most interns, I suspect who are looking for a box office hit, which Jet Lag is not) have requested the screenplay, no sale yet. Still, for a country girl from Gadsden, getting that kind of encouragement and exposure is good for the ego.
Who is your favorite author and why. Janet Fitch wrote my favorite book, White Oleander, but her other works are less pleasing to me. Right now, I’m reading Mary Forsburg Weiland’s autobiography, Fall to Pieces. Either she and/or her ghost writer write very well; it’s beautifully done. When I first read White Oleander, I didn’t want the book to end; I was sad about leaving Astrid’s world. I anticipate the same feeling with Mary’s book. An excellent writer can take the reader into a nightmarish world and make the reader feel engaged. Both of those books have that quality for me.
Any advice for someone who is trying to get published? Edit, edit, edit. Many times we are so exuberant when we finish a project that we think it is ready to send out to the world, and it usually isn’t. Women after childbirth have a rush of hormones that help them forget the pain of what just happened and focus on the future. However, that newborn is not ready to face the world. He needs guidance, nurturing, and protection. Writing projects are like that. When they are “finished” is actually their birth, and the process of making them “grown” is to take them through the process. I usually finish a draft and then take sections through a writing group, which is time-consuming. Then several editors read for errors in language, continuity, and character development. Then it is revised again. Then the manuscript needs to be read aloud by me. Tape-recording and playing it back for yourself can reveal needed changes. Just as we would never send our babies out into the world to fend for themselves, neither should we send out an immature manuscript.