The World’s Longest Book Tour

jennymilchmanToday please welcome return guest Jenny Milchman.” Jenny’s new novel, As Night Falls, will be released tomorrow. She is also the author of Cover of Snow, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and Ruin Falls, an Indie Next Pick and a Top Ten of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. She is Vice President of Author Programming for International Thriller Writers, teaches for New York Writers Workshop, and is the founder and organizer of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which is celebrated annually in all fifty states. Jenny lives with her family in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

In 2013, Shelf Awareness dubbed my book tour “the world’s longest.” Of the first two years I was a published author, eleven months were spent on the road, visiting bookstores, libraries, book clubs, schools. Now I’d like to help other writers add this kind of richness to their careers by getting out there face-to-face in an increasingly virtual world–oh, and you don’t have to rent out your house, trade in two cars for an SUV that can handle Denver in February, or “car-school” your children to do it.

** Special for Writer Unboxed Readers! Today is the last day of a giveaway for anyone who pre-orders Jenny’s forthcoming thriller, As Night Falls. You’ll be eligible to win a Writer’s Wish List, or give one away to an emerging writer in your life. Click HERE for details.

Connect with Jenny on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

The World’s Longest Book Tour  

Or, Why I Rented Out My House, Traded in Two Cars for an SUV That Could Handle Denver in February, and Hit the Road With My Husband and Kids

When Therese graciously agreed to let me appear on WU, she asked two questions about my book touring. (I’ve spent 11 of the past 24 months on the road, putting 70,000 miles on the above mentioned SUV. Now with my third novel set to release, we are heading out again.)

Therese wanted to know whether I do it all myself. And, how I manage not to lose my mind.

Well, assuming she’s right about the not losing my mind part—and some would say that’s a reach—I do have some ideas as to how to keep a hold of your sanity on tour. But it might be better to talk first about why I do this, and whether a scaled down version could work for you. [Read more…]


Stealing From Your Own Life: Your Way To A Storyline


cathylambToday’s guest is Cathy Lamb whose novels include What I Remember Most and soon to be released My Very Best Friend. Her other books are:  If You Could See What I See, A Different Kind of Normal, The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life, Such A Pretty Face, Henry’s Sisters, The Last Time I Was Me, and Julia’s Chocolates. She is currently working on her tenth novel—she doesn’t think it will make her want to run away screaming to a rustic cabin in the backwoods of Montana, but she’s not sure. She has also written six short stories and about 225 articles for The Oregonian.

Cathy daydreams a lot, which is how she gets the ideas for her novels. At least, that’s her excuse. Then she stays up late, after everyone else has been in bed for hours, and stares at the moon and writes. Cathy is married and has three children. She lives in Oregon and has an odd cat.

I am writing about how writers should steal from their own lives for story lines because I think stealing, for this particular purpose, is quite helpful. Even entertaining. And, thank goodness, there’s no jail time involved. I mean, who wants to wear an orange jumpsuit? Not me.

You can connect with Cathy on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Stealing From Your Own Life: Your Way To A Storyline

Writers, thou shall steal.

Yes, you shall.

Steal from your life. Steal from that devastating year and that most glorious weekend. Steal from your emotions, the utter despair and the sparkling joy, steal from someone you don’t like, steal from someone you adore.

Steal, like a literary thief in the night.

It’s all for your storylines and your characters.

Writers, thou shall steal. Yes, you shall. Steal from your life.

Right now, and I mean it, stop reading this article and think about the three worst things you’ve been through.

Really, stop reading. Stare into space and think this one out.

Stop crying. Ask yourself how you can use those soul-crushing times in your book. How can you use those emotions?

For example, my sweet father died about two months after my first book Julia’s Chocolates sold. He had prostate cancer. He came to my reading at a bookstore, he made everyone laugh, he was happy. Two months later, he was gone.

[Read more…]


How Writing a Journal Prepared Me to Write a Novel

laura nicole diamondToday’s guest is Laura Nicole Diamond author of debut novel Shelter Us. Laura’s first book was Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood, a collection of true stories from twenty writers; all proceeds from Deliver Me go to PATH Beyond Shelter. Laura is a civil rights lawyer who writes about family, parenting, and occasionally rants about social injustice. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

I have kept a diary since the 4th grade, but never expected that it would prepare me to one day write a novel. Yet in keeping a diary—that unassuming private forum for understanding my small life and the players in it—I prepared myself to create settings, understand characters motivations, and develop my writer’s voice. Keeping a journal was a crucial part of my “training,” I realize now, as my first novel debuts.

Connect with Laura on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

How Writing a Journal Prepared Me to Write a Novel

Going from journal writing to fiction writing was not the giant leap I imagined it would be.

This realization came as quite a surprise, considering that I was not a child who was always making up stories, that I avoided creative writing classes because I had no original ideas, and that I never declared, “When I grow up I want to be a writer.” (Actually, I believed I was destined to be a ballerina.)

When I turned thirteen, with my Hello Kitty diary long-since filled and put away, my pleasure in journal writing morphed into a deep need. 

But I was a kid with a Hello Kitty diary, who enjoyed writing down what had happened, giving it my personal take, and finding humor or meaning in daily human encounters.

When I turned thirteen, with my Hello Kitty diary long-since filled and put away, my pleasure in journal writing morphed into a deep need. As I grew into adolescence and young adulthood, my journal was my go-to resource for unraveling complicated emotions and figuring out what I believed in. In any crisis, I could solve my dilemma with a pen and paper if I wrote long enough. [Read more…]


Writing about Historical Icons: Who Owns the Past?

marysharrattOur guest today is Mary Sharratt, the author of Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen which won the 2013 Nautilus Gold Award and was a Kirkus Book of the Year. An expat American, she lives in the Pendle region of Lancashire, the setting of her novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill. Her new novel The Dark Lady’s Mask, based on the dramatic life of Renaissance poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanier, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2016. Mary is working on a new novel about the beautiful and seductive Alma Mahler-Werfel, composer and muse.

I sincerely believe that historical novelists can open up a wider discussion of who owns the past and what we can really claim to know about the movers and shakers in history. The best historical novelists, such as Hilary Mantel, directly challenge our preconceptions of key historical figures we thought we knew.

Connect with Mary on Facebook.

Writing about Historical Icons: Who Owns the Past?

Readers and writers of historical fiction are absolutely passionate about the past. Were it not so, the genre would not exist.

Good historical fiction makes history come alive, transforming stuffy historical personages in dusty textbooks into vibrant, nuanced men and women who leap straight off the page and into the reader’s heart.

Novels drawing on the lives of key historical figures have topped the bestseller list for decades. Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl has become enshrined as a classic of the genre. More recently, Priya Parmar’s dazzling and very literary debut, Vanessa and Her Sister, drew a huge audience with its enthralling exploration of the complicated relationship between Virginia Woolf and her overshadowed sister Vanessa Bell.

Some agents and industry experts believe that choosing “marquee name” characters is imperative, especially for new writers hoping to break into the genre. Novels about historical celebrities certainly seem to be an easier sell than historical novels involving characters that are wholly invented.

But writing about historical icons can be a dangerous game—Anne Boleyn and Virginia Woolf aren’t called icons for nothing. When readers disagree with your interpretation of a beloved historical figure, you risk facing a serious backlash.

A risk some authors gladly take.

Hilary Mantel took readers by storm with her unexpectedly sympathetic portrait of the notorious Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies. Many readers were [Read more…]


Finding Your Mythic Theme

bruceholsingerToday’s guest is Bruce Holsinger, an award-winning fiction writer, critic, and literary scholar who teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. His debut historical novel, A Burnable Book, won the John Hurt Fisher Prize and was shortlisted for the American Library Association’s Best Crime Novel of 2014, while his scholarly work has been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship and other major awards. He has written for The Washington Post, Slate, The Nation, and other publications, and appears regularly on National Public Radio. His new novel, The Invention of Fire, imagines the beginnings of gun violence in the western world.

As a teacher of literature to university students, I often lecture about the power of myth, which shapes so many of our greatest stories, whether in ancient epics or contemporary fiction. Recognizing the mythic element of my own novel in progress a couple of years ago was a huge boost during revision, helping me see the book’s larger theme and the ways I might draw it out more effectively during final rewrites. I wanted to share this sense of “myth as craft” with the readers of Writer Unboxed, a site that’s been a great resource for me in recent years.

Connect with Bruce on Twitter and on Facebook.

Finding Your Mythic Theme

“Myth,” Italo Calvino wrote, “is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored.” Despite the ubiquity of myth in fiction of all varieties, most writers would likely have a hard time identifying the mythic narratives, devices, and archetypes informing our novels and stories. Fantasy literature, of course, is built on myth, yet these elements can be difficult to discern (let alone exploit) in other fiction genres, whether romance, mystery, or suspense.

In this post I want to talk about the potentially galvanizing effects of myth as an element of craft, and particularly of story and character. As a writer of realistic historical fiction, I work in a genre that seems naturally predisposed against myth. But the narrative structure and thematic power of myths shouldn’t be regarded as resources only for writers of fantasy or science fiction. The history of mythology contains enduring elements that can help writers in all genres shape their plots, identify their underlying themes, and infuse character arcs with the same sorts of aspirations, challenges, and dark twists found in the stories of Orpheus, Persephone, or Isis.

It’s no accident that Donald Maass, in Writing the Breakout Novel, emphasizes myth as [Read more…]