Today I’m welcoming historical fiction writer, freelance editor, and blogger Heather Webb.
Elizabeth: Hi, Heather. Can you tell us about your book?
Heather: I’ve just completed my first novel titled Becoming Josephine: The First Empress. I’m hoping to go on submission later this fall. My novel is about a young woman of Martinique who has her hopes for love dashed when her haughty Parisian husband abandons her during the tumult of the French Revolution. Narrowly escaping death in the blood-stained cells of Les Carmes prison, she emerges from the grisly Terreur to reinvent herself as the woman known as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. But Josephine’s youth is fading, and she must decide between a precarious independence and the unwelcome love of an awkward suitor who would become the most important man of the century- Napoleon Bonaparte.
Elizabeth: How did you become interested in Josephine?
Heather: 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!
Elizabeth: I have the hearing voices problem too! So, tell me, how do you go about researching your novels?
Heather: I research quite a bit, almost compulsively at times–what I like to call researchitis. I read every primary and secondary source I can get my hands on, watch films, visit locations, take classes, etc. That being said, my character’s emotional arc and good story-telling are far more important to me than being strictly factual. My novels are works of fiction and my goal is to both entertain readers and inspire them to branch out to do their own research. I will, however, outline any facts I’ve altered that are important to mention in an author’s note.
Elizabeth: You are represented by Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management. Can you tell us how you got Michelle as an agent?
Heather: I met Michelle at the Backspace conference held in New York City. (It runs every spring and fall.) It’s a fabulous conference with a unique small workshop setting. I highly recommend it to writers seeking representation or just feedback on their queries and pages.
Michelle requested pages after I finished reading my query aloud on the spot! From there, I sent a partial, then a full very quickly—within two weeks. When I received her email about wanting to have “the call”, I paced for two days! I can’t tell you how excited and nervous I was. But we had a great conversation and clicked immediately. I knew she was the one for me when her ideas for revisions gelled with my vision of the novel. It really goes the way everyone says: the agent you should sign with is the one who “gets” your work and LOVES it. I’d like to caution writers to not sign with just anyone. It’s a partnership that could potentially last decades. You don’t want to enter in this marriage of sorts with an agent that isn’t quite right. God forbid divorce! Oh, and when you know, you know!
I’m a firm believer in getting out there to conferences to pitch your work in person! It launches you right out of the slush pile and onto the agent’s desk. I hear this all the time—writers are too nervous to attend conferences so they hide at home in front of their laptops. GO OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE to make your dreams happen! I love to cheer writers on, to help them feel confident with this process. This is how I ended up becoming an editor—I suppose it’s the teacher in me.
Elizabeth: Teacher, writer, editor–and you blog too. You have a lively blogging voice and write about several topics. How did you first get into blogging?
Heather: Thank you! I first started blogging about two years ago because I noticed that many many authors had one. I started with posts about pop culture, which is a love of mine, but quickly realized I wasn’t the soap box ranty type, at least not on a regular basis. I’m a teacher at heart, as I mentioned before, and I really wanted to reach out to other writers. As I learned and grew into my own writer skin, I began sharing little lessons and hosting contests and found I felt comfortable there. Now I interview authors as well to target readers.
Elizabeth: Enough of your writing—tell us about yourself.
Heather: I’m a former military brat so I’ve become a bit of a culture junkie as an adult. I love everything that goes with travel —food, language, customs, history, architecture and landscapes, most of all people. All of these elements go into crafting a believable world in a historical novel. I always loved writing, though it never occurred to me as a career, despite the stories I wrote as a kid. I also wrote a few essays that won awards and did copy editing for my high school and college newspapers and STILL never considered writing as a profession. I look back and think, what was I thinking? It wasn’t until I had children and resigned from my high school teaching job to be home with them that I began to pursue this passion I never realized I had. Now there’s no going back. I love writing in all its forms and I find the publishing business fascinating and challenging.
Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?
Heather: Absolutely coffee—preferably café au lait.
Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?
Heather: Ocean. I’m a total beach hound.
Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?
Heather: Depends on my mood. Unfortunately for my wallet, I love to spend money, whether it be for myself or someone else. But I feel most alive outdoors and enjoy being in the woods.
Elizabeth: Violin or piano?
Heather: Piano! I wish I played.
Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?
Heather: Mystery. Puzzles are so much fun.
Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?
Heather: Ohhh, good question. They’re both full of pride, though it manifests itself differently within each of them. I LOVE Darcy, but I may have to say Heathcliff. I always like an underdog, and I can’t help but be attracted to his wild, passionate nature.
Elizabeth; Love scene or death scene?
Heather: To read–love scene. Always. To write–I enjoy both.
Follow Heather on her blog, Between the Sheets
and on Twitter:@msheatherwebb http://twitter.com/msheatherwebb
Thanks to Heather for joining me today.