Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:55 PM

In the spring of 2007, back when I was a fresh, young blogger, I dug into the latest issue of the delicious ezine Knitty, as I do every quarter. Doing so, I found this lovely article. Go read it; I'll wait.

As I'm sure you noticed, Annette's bio for the piece reads as follows:
Annette Lyon’s three greatest addictions are knitting, writing, and chocolate. Her life has been run by all three for most of her life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

In addition to her freelance writing and editing work, she writes novels and couldn’t resist working a character knitting socks into one of them.

Ooh, she's a writer! I thought, and immediately clicked on the link to her website. To my great delight, I then realized that not only was she a fanatical knitter, a novelist, and a chocoholic, she was also LDS. We had everything important in common; I overcame my habitual shyness and wrote her a fannish email at once.

Annette graciously replied, and a friendship was born. We met for lunch that summer when I was out in Utah; we had as good a time in person as we did via e-correspondence. Since then, she has provided constructive critiques on my writing, helpful advice regarding manuscript submission, and a listening ear during my ongoing search for an agent. So when she asked whether I'd like to be a stop on the blog tour for her new book, Tower of Strength, I jumped at the chance. I'm so glad I did, since it meant I got my hands on a copy before most of the rest of the world.

Annette is a gifted writer and a meticulous researcher; reading her endnotes is almost as satisfying as reading the story itself. Her characters feel like people you meet every day, natural and approachable. Annette makes her settings accessible; the reader can easily picture herself in the shoes of the main character. The main story is a classic tale of overcoming loss to find new love, and suspenseful subplots add spice and depth to the narrative.

I never give spoilers, but I'll warn you: sit close to a tissue box once you get to the last chapter. For everyone who likes a little romance with their history (or vice versa), I highly recommend Tower of Strength as well as the earlier volumes in Annette's "Temple" series.

(Knitters, a hand-knit cabled pullover makes a cameo appearance in this book; maybe one day Annette will publish a book of patterns as a companion to her novels. Pretty please, Annette?)

After reading the book, I had a few questions for the author. Here they are, along with her replies:

1) In Tower of Strength, your two main characters don't meet one another for several chapters. This is unusual, at least in my experience of reading romantic stories, and serves to build quite a bit of suspense for the reader. Was this a conscious plot device, or did the story evolve organically in this way?

The irony is that I've always seen myself as someone who writes historical books that happen to have a romantic thread in them, not that I write romances in the typical sense. Because of that, I've never tried to model my stories after the traditional romance formula.

That's probably the long way of saying that the story unfolded that way organically. I personally had a great time getting to know the main characters before they met.

2) What, for you, is the biggest challenge in writing historical novels?

It really depends on the book. Since my historicals are all based on specific landmarks, I rarely go into the research with a story idea already in hand; I have to get to know the place first. At times it's unnerving to wait for the plot and characters to show up. Other times it's a challenge to make sure the history doesn't overshadow the story.

For this book, the biggest challenge was doing horse research and getting the horse scenes right. Those were rewritten over and over again. I think I might have shaved a few years off my life from banging my head against the keyboard so many times over them!

3) Your characters and settings are vivid, easily brought to life in the reader's mind. Would you like to see your Temple series produced as films someday?

First off, thanks! The places and people are clear in MY head, but as a writer, you never know if you've put enough on the page for the reader to see what you do.

It would be really neat to have a book made into a movie, but I doubt it will ever happen. Few book ever reach that point. I imagine the cost alone for a historical movie (sets, costumes, etc.) would be prohibitive.

On the other hand, there's always the worry of what the movie makers would do with the story--whether they'd be true to it, how they'd change it (because of course, stories have to change at bit in adaptation), and so on, and the original writer doesn't usually have much say.

But that's probably not an issue I'll have to face. (Although now I'm going to have to mentally cast Tabitha and Samuel . . .)

4) There are now well over 100 LDS Temples. How far do you see your series going?

My original thought was to just write the ones I could do as historicals--Mesa, Alberta, Hawaii, and so forth. About as modern as I wanted to get is London (1958).

That said, this will be the last temple book for awhile. Whether I do another will depend entirely on my publisher.

5) You've let your fans know that you have a variety of projects in various stages of production: another contemporary novel, a YA fantasy, and a chocolate cookbook, to name a few. How will you handle the cross-genre transitions?

I'll take a big gulp and do my best not to totally confuse my readership. :)

I'm not too concerned about my upcoming contemporary women's novel being a huge genre shift. My readership is largely women, so making that genre leap (historical romance to women's fiction) isn't as big a jump as other genres could be, and the topic (deployment) is so timely that I hope readers will pick it up regardless.

The cookbook should be an interesting experience, but I have a suspicion that people will buy that more for the chocolate recipes than for who wrote it, so again, I don't think fiction fans will have a problem. The YA fantasy--well, that IS different. But I'm so far away from publication on that one that I'm not thinking that far yet.

6) What's your best piece of advice for a writer hoping to break into the LDS fiction market?

Much of it would apply to almost anyone hoping to break into any market: Write. Rewrite. Rewrite some more. Read a lot. (And read as a writer.) Get solid feedback (joining a critique group was the best thing I ever did for my writing). Attend conferences. Network.

Also, make your own luck by meeting other writers and editors--whether that means virtually (such as through blogs) or in person at conferences. Find out what's been done, what hasn't been (and WHY on both counts). Figure out your market and its target audience. And then write what you love that will also fit into those requirements.

I'd never tell someone to sell out by putting aside what they love to write solely for the expectations of a market. But I'd also say that if you hope to sell your work, you will have to take the market you're shooting for into consideration.

I think there's usually a way to write what's in your heart AND make it fit the market.

Thank you, Annette! It has been an honor!
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13 comments:

On 10/3/09 , Kimberly said...

Brilliant introduction and interview! If I hadn't already read it I'd be ordering a copy this moment! And I'll certainly be buying a hard copy next month.

Great insights here!

 
On 10/3/09 , Becky said...

Very nice review. I like the questions you asked Annette--and her answers were fun.

 
On 10/3/09 , Brillig said...

Novey-Lu, these were fantastic questions! And Annette, your answers were insightful and so much fun. What a great interview!

 
On 10/3/09 , Beth at Aunties said...

I am understanding the tour now:)I enjoyed this review! Great insightful questions and enchanting and fun answers. What an accomplishment it would be to have write a book for each of the beautiful Temples. I am really excited to start reading Annette's books. ( My husband is an architect for the church and has designed 8 temples which have been built:-)

♥♥♥

 
On 11/3/09 , Elizabeth said...

I am so excited. I have never read any of Annette's books, but I am going to order them right now!

 
On 11/3/09 , LisAway said...

Great review! I loved learning about how you know each other. Also, those are really good questions. I really agree with you on number 3, but I have to say I've already seen it play the best it could ever be shown in my own little brain. If it's ever made into a movie I WILL be seeing it. And buying it on DVD. Of course.

 
On 11/3/09 , Lara said...

Wonderful review! I loved reading it.

 
On 11/3/09 , Jenna Consolo said...

Great work, Luisa! Annette is such a gem. And I have you to thank for introducing her to my life as well. Way to pass it on. I get to review the book next month! Can't wait!

 
On 11/3/09 , schultpe said...

Thank you for an interesting interview. I look forward to reading some of this author's work. Those who like historical fiction might want to check out my new novel, The Fuhrer Virus. It is a WWII spy/conspiracy/thriller for adolescent/adult readers and can be found at www.eloquentbooks.com/TheFuhrerVirus.html, www.amazon.com, and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Thanks!

Paul Schultz

 
On 11/3/09 , charrette said...

No wonder you're both such excellent writers...
Rudolf Steiner said, "Thinking is cosmic KNITTING."

Great interview.
I wish I knew her better.
Sounds like I need to start by picking up her book.

 
On 12/3/09 , M. L. Kiner said...

"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.
www.StrategicBookPublishing.com/TheHongKongConnection.html

 
On 14/3/09 , Virtualsprite said...

This was fantastic! I love the review and the wonderful questions. Thank you!

 
On 19/3/09 , Julie Wright said...

All the reasons I love Annette. Loved it!