Saturday, January 25, 2014

Discovering Monica Epstein

Today we have Monica Epstein on the blog. 
Her new story, Where There is Will is available Exclusively on Amazon! 

But look for the World Wide Release in April 2014!

Do you plot or let the story unfold as you write?
WHERE THERE IS WILL definitely unfolded as I went along. In fact, it felt like it wrote itself at first. The hero and heroine kept telling me where the story needed to go. Then once I had the basics of the plot written, I had to rewrite it to make it a story others would want to read.

Are your characters based on real people?
My heroine, Michelle, in WHERE THERE IS WILL is somewhat autobiographical. Unlike Michelle, I am happily married, but I did face a crossroads in midlife (mine involved career choices), I have a phobia, which I don’t like to talk about in detail, and I love hats and miniatures. And people say the picture of Michelle on the book cover looks like me. I hadn’t even realized the physical similarities until then.

How did you do in English as a kid?
In elementary school, I did well in English and my creative writing was praised by teachers. I still recall my mother sharing a poem I wrote in first grade at our family Thanksgiving table. But when I hit high school and had to write research papers, and my teacher wasn’t happy with my work, I began hating to write. I became good at writing research papers, but I didn’t enjoy it. It took me over thirty years to try writing fiction again.

When did you decide to become an author?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. I had made some online friends who liked to share stories they wrote. While listening to music on a plane (I was on my way to an Alaskan cruise), I got this idea of two strangers comparing their tastes in music while stuck next to each other for a long flight. On the first day of the cruise, I wrote the story and planned to share it with my friends. But I still had time at sea and Michelle and Will seemed to want me to tell more of their story. By the time I arrived back home, three chapters were written and there was no stopping them, uh, me J

What was the hardest chapter/book to finish and why?
Although the second to last chapter of WHERE THERE IS WILL was not the hardest to write, it took me the longest to finalize. I had several phases of beta reading, and my beta readers didn’t agree on how Michelle and Will’s story should end because of their age difference: Michelle is nearly twenty years older than Will. I wrote it both ways, that is, a happily ever after AND a break up. I finally went with my gut. You’ll have to read it to learn which ending I chose ;-)

How do you get to know your story characters better?
You might think Michelle would have been easy to know because she was semi-autobiographical, but what helped the most was some advice I got from a contest judge. She suggested I write the first chapter in first person to help me determine how Michelle truly felt about her situation (she is newly divorced). I don’t think the judge intended for me to change the book from third to first person, but I enjoyed the exercise so much that after I finished rewriting the first chapter, I kept going. The final product is written entirely in first person.

What tips would you give a new writer?
Learn the craft of writing fiction. I wrote the first draft of my book in six to nine months. Then I spent three more years and fifty-some drafts learning how to write a book that others might like to read.

How did you come up with the title?
The original title was MUSIC SHOWDOWN. Not only was it based on the first chapter where Michelle and Will compare music, but music was going to be an underlying theme throughout the book. When music’s role was lessened, I switched the title to A SHOWDOWN OF WILLS—a play on the word “will.” But I wasn’t happy with SHOWDOWN, which implies opposing sides. One day it hit me; WHERE THERE IS WILL. It still plays on “will” being both the hero’s name and a trait Michelle needs, but it’s a takeoff of the saying “Where there’s a will there’s a way,” as well.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Sometimes we need to learn to love ourselves before we can love another.
One of the things I’ve been trying to do in midlife is to learn to accept myself for who I am. I tend to be a “glass-half-empty” sort of person, the pessimist, the one who looks at the negative side of things instead of the positive. My story emphasizes how important it is that we like ourselves.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot about how to write a good book, such as, eliminating scenes that don’t move the story forward, and how to show not tell (for example, “My stomach tightened” became “My stomach felt like I was wearing pantyhose two sizes too small”). But I also learned that it’s never too late to pursue you dreams.

Which phrase in the book are you most proud of?
I do like my pantyhose line but maybe that’s because I think stockings were invented by a man who wanted desperately to punish the women in his life. But I also love my opening.
In my first draft, Michelle’s last name was Lerner. As I pondered how she felt about herself when the story began, it came to me that she saw herself as a loser. What if she thought others saw her that way, as well? So I began searching for a last name that could be mispronounced as loser, and my beginning fell into place:
The booming voice of the woman behind the gate desk of Messenger Airlines at JFK summed up my life in just two words.
“Mrs. Loser!”
Now for a little fun.

What is your favorite drink?
Strong coffee with just the right amount of half and half and sweetener

Do you ever write naked?
Absolutely not! I hate my body; I don’t even like to shower in the buff.

Do you enjoy giving interviews?
I love talking about my novel, but I hate speaking off the cuff or in front of an audience. I’m an introvert through and through. I’ll take a quiet evening at home over a party any day.

Do you laugh at your own jokes?
I do. In fact, I’m an awful joke teller because I can’t get the punch line out before cracking up.

I have that same problem, but by the time I get the joke out no one thinks it's funny anymore...except me.
Monica, thank you so much for stopping by. Also, I wanted to tell you how much I love your cover. Diana has done many of mine. I think she's amazing. 

You can find Monica on her website


And Google Plus 

Monica Epstein writes about topics that appeal to women like herself—over 40 and nowhere near ready to throw in the towel and call it a life. Her first novel, Where There Is Will, is published by The Wild Rose
Monica lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. with her husband, their teenage daughter, and a small collection of hats and fascinators. She dreams of being the Queen of England in her next life.


Andrea Downing said...

Great interview, ladies. I especially like the 'writing in the buff' question, sitting here in the polar vortex! Good luck with the book, Monica

Monica Epstein said...

It's a bit nippy where I live too, Andrea. We've finally made it above freezing today.

KyAnn said...

Not only is it cold but the air here is so dirty you shouldn't go outside even if you wanted to. but the sun is pretty. I'd love it if it would melt the 3 inches of ice on my driveway :)

Monica Epstein said...

The only ice I like is inside my drink!

Liz Flaherty said...

Loved the interview. I think your cover is beautiful!

Monica Epstein said...

Thanks, Liz. The cover is just what I had envisioned.Only problem is, my people keep telling me the woman looks like me. What do you think?

Monica Epstein said...

That should have been "many people" not "my people". The original sounds like I'm some famous author referring to a large staff. LOL