Posts Tagged ‘fiction writing’

When I contacted Jack Weyland, asking him if he’d be interested in doing an interview for my blog, he responded to me the very next morning, apologizing for not getting back to me sooner. I’d expected to spend at least a few days worrying over whether or not he’d be interested in this, so I was pleasantly surprised by his quick, kind reply. He has been a successfully published author since I was three years old, and it isn’t every day that you get an e-mail from someone like that, so this was particularly thrilling for me.

Jack Weyland is the author of more than two dozen novels, over fifty short stories, and with his massively popular debut novel, Charly, he is often credited as being largely responsible for the popularization of the modern Latter-day Saint themed fiction genre. Along with a successful career as a novelist, he has spent much of his life as a professor of physics.

For more about Jack, check him out at:

Q: How did people respond when you first told them you wanted to write LDS fiction?

A: One of my English teachers asked, “You’re not serious, are you?” That was certainly a reasonable response since I was a graduate student in physics, had only taken a couple of classes in college that involved creative writing, and certainly had not impressed him with my writing. (For good reason I might add.)

Q: In your novels, we often meet mismatched couples trying to find middle ground despite their personal and extraneous differences. What is it about this theme that interests you?

A: That seems characteristic of most marriages. Husbands and wives often don’t think the same. It’s bridging those differences that brings greater appreciation of each other. And it’s good for their kids. If you can get a husband and a wife to agree on a set of actions for their kids, it’s probably the right choice.

Q: When I read Charly, I admit it… I cried. Was it as emotional for you to write it as it was for us to read it?

A: It was. At the time I was writing Charly, my dad was battling cancer. By the time I finished the book, he had died. My feelings of loss and grief were transferred into the book. I remember one scene, when Charly was near death, where I was crying as I wrote it.

Q: Charly was made into a movie in 2002. How did you feel about that? Were you happy with the movie?

A: Over the years before the movie was made, I had been contacted many times by people who wanted to do a movie of Charly. But for the most part they’d call, we’d talk, and that was the last I ever heard from them. So when Adam Anderegg contacted me, it didn’t occur to me that he might actually do a movie. He did one thing though that none of the others had done. He drove up to Rexburg and took my wife Sherry and me to dinner. So that set him apart from the others! And that was just the beginning. Adam and everyone at Kaleidoscope Pictures did an excellent job! They had me read sample scripts throughout the process of rewriting the script and always asked for my input. I am grateful to them for preserving the story. Janine Gilbert wrote all the versions of the scripts. I am extremely pleased with what she came up with. That’s why I often say that the movie is better than the book.

Q: Adam’s Story is the sequel to Charly and Sam, where we finally get to learn what happened to their only son. When you were writing Charly and Sam, did you know you would one day write Adam’s Story, or was it something you decided to do much later?

A: The thought that I should write about Adam came to me one time when I was watching the movie Charly. I asked myself, “W hat about Adam? What happens to him? How is his life going to be different having had such a remarkable mom as Charly? Or will he even know anything about her?”

Q: When I was in school, I always used to see these kids walking around with books like Charly, Sam, Stephanie, and Kimberly. I also saw a billboard on a freeway for Charly in Salt Lake City a few years back. What does it feel like to have garnered that strong of a response to your work?

A: First of all, we were at that time living in Rapid City, South Dakota when many of my books were published. Few of the people I worked with at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology knew I wrote fiction. Once a year, I’d fly to Utah to sign books. It was like I had a secret life. When I was in South Dakota, writing was my secret identity. When I was in Utah, being a physics professor was my secret identity. So it all worked out! But even then it did occasionally hit me that my writing had touched a lot of lives. I always cherished the letters I received from youth who said my books had helped them with some of their challenges.

Q: Many people have credited you for being largely responsible for the popularization of the LDS Fiction genre. How do you feel about that?

A: lucky! A few weeks before I sent a copy of Charly to Deseret Book, they decided they would start publishing fiction. However, when they read my manuscript, it was painfully apparent it wasn’t good enough to be published, but since for ten years before that time I had several short stories published by The New Era, I had the reputation of being good at revising. So they decided to work with me. For a brief time I was the only fiction writer for Deseret Book! That didn’t last of course. I’m grateful for the experiences I have had as a writer.

Q: What is your writing process like? Do you write outlines beforehand, or do you just find a starting point and go?

A: I’ve done it both ways. When I’m looking for something to write, I often sit down and write dialogue. No descriptions. No plot lines. Just dialogue. It’s like getting to know someone by sitting next to them in a café and listening to them talk (which I also do). Occasionally I realize these fictional characters are interesting people and I should get to know them better. So I start a rough draft, again, mostly dialogue. Here are some novels came from that process: Jake; A New Dawn; As Always, Dave. Some of my books came about when a young woman who’d gone through a difficult experience wrote and asked me to write about her experience I’d hire her as a consultant then built a fictional story around her experience. Here are some in that category: Sara, Whenever I Hear Your Name; Megan; Emily; Brittany; Ashley and Jen.

Q: You are a best-selling author, as well as a professor of physics. Are there any similarities between those two lines of work? And which field of work do you prefer and why?

A: For me the good thing was that physics doesn’t tire me out for writing, and vice versa. They seem to require different parts of my brain. One carry-over for physics is that I wrote silly songs for every physics chapter that made it more fun for the students. The truth is I can write only about two hours a day, so the physics gives me something else to do with my time. Also, I was found that I was able to explain the principles of physics so that anyone can understand. Besides that, physics can be fun! I loved doing demonstrations in class. It’s like bringing a new toy to class every day.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?

A: Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Neil Simon and David McCullough. Neil Simon especially was a big influence in my life. The decision to write every day came after seeing a Neil Simon play on Broadway while in New York for a physics conference. I decided, “I think I’ll write a Broadway play.” It never occurred to me that seeing a Broadway play isn’t usually considered a preparation for writing a Broadway play. I tried to sell the play with no success and then decided to turn it into a novel. That novel is Charly.

Q: Of all your characters, do you have a favorite, and why is he or she your favorite?

A: Charly. Why? Because my wife Sherry is a convert from New York, just like Charly.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I have written a Dr. Seuss-like Christmas poem called “Gerald Giraffe.” Natassia Scoresby, a talented artist, has illustrated the book. We are in the process of finding a publisher. Also, I am working with Steven Spiel to adapt my novel “A New Dawn” into a stage musical. I have also recently written a novel for married couples. “Heather 101″ can be downloaded from the Deseret Book website. In addition, I have a new self-published novel called “Mackenzie for Congress.” It can be downloaded from

Q: What do you consider the highlight of your writing career?

A: One of the great thrills has been to be in the audience when the movie Charly was being shown. Also, BYU-Idaho once did a comedy stage play of mine called “Jack Weyland’s Home Cooking.” I love to hear people laugh because of something I’ve written. Sherry and I attended every performance of the play.

Q: When you look back on your life, do you feel like your journey as a writer was pre-destined/meant to be?

A: I have no other explanation for what has happened to me than that. It seems so improbable to me even now.

Q: What makes you laugh out loud?

A: That’s not the right question. The right question is what do you most enjoy from your writing. The answer is: to be near Sherry when she is reading one of my manuscripts. I love to hear her laugh!

Q: What is something about yourself that people might be surprised to know?

A: I once had the calling of being the assistant stake bee-keeper in South Dakota. I loved it! It’s a great church calling because you didn’t have to call the bees together and tell them that the month is nearly over and they need to get out there and collect some pollen. Also, nobody came to check up on us when we were in the field with the bees. To this day I love bees!

Q: If you could pass on one piece of wisdom that life has taught you, what would it be?

A: “Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.” (D&C 58: 27-28) It’s good to know that the power is in us to do the things we want to do which may be of some help to someone.

This is an interview of Mimi and I, conducted by Lori L. Clark.

Author Interview: Jared S. Anderson and Mimi A. Williams, co-authors of Beautiful Monster.

Please welcome Jared S. Anderson and Mimi A. Williams, co-authors of Beautiful Monster, who took the time to answer my interview questions!

Q: What genre do you write and what is your favorite thing about writing this particular genre?

JSA: I write mostly horror. I don’t always mean to write horror, but that’s the direction it usually seems to go. I suppose my favorite thing about writing this genre is the creep factor. If I can creep myself out a little, I think that’s a good sign.

MAW: I write Young Adult and Middle Grade, fiction, nonfiction. This is my first foray into horror though I love reading horror. I don’t think I have a favorite thing about genre, I just love creating stories with real people and interesting developments.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your book, BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: It’s scheduled for release by Damnation Books on September 1st, 2012!

MAW: It is a really insightful look into human dynamics with two damaged characters: one who needs love for self-value and one who can’t feel love at all.

Q: What inspired you to write BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: Mimi and I had been working very closely on my previous manuscript. It just kind of evolved naturally from there. I think the subject matter was actually Mimi’s idea, so really, this is all her fault.

MAW: Oh sure, blame me! Actually, I had an idea where a kidnap victim fell in love with her kidnapper, but what evolved from that was a much deeper, darker story. Jared and I would throw ideas out and just go from there. It was really an amazing process, dare I say – spiritual? – and it was a whole lot of fun as well.

Q: What was hardest (and easiest) about writing BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: The hardest part for me was keeping the times straight. We wrote this book in alternating chapters, so I had a hard time remembering what day it was in the story. The easiest part for me was writing the main character, Sterling Bronson. I’m not sure where he came from, but he was fully-formed and rearing to go from day one.

MAW: As to the story itself, I think keeping Brenna likeable and not too sappy or perfect was the challenging part. Keeping her voice believable despite what was happening to her was hard. For me, the hardest part of writing the book was the fact that my husband and I were fighting and actually separated while I was working on it. That’s a lot of emotional turmoil on top of a book that was pretty emotionally intense. The easiest part was the motivation. There was never a time I didn’t want to work on the book. It was an engrossing process that was also a lot of fun at times.

Q: Are you working on anything new?

JSA: Yes. I am currently writing a supernatural thriller called Tyranny Hall. Also, I plan to go back to my first manuscript later this year sometime, put it under the knife, and do some heavy re-writes on it. Additionally, Mimi and I are talking about continuing with Beautiful Monster; maybe making it into a trilogy, assuming we can get the publisher interested in that idea.

MAW: I’m finishing revisions on a YA that is scheduled for release in Fall 2013 – assuming the Mayan prophecy of the world ending doesn’t come first. I also am finishing the first draft of a YA that an agent has expressed interest in, and as Jared said, we are talking about a second and possibly a third book after Beautiful Monster.

Q: If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?

JSA: Have heroes and surround yourself by them. Also, write what you love, not what you think will get published.

MAW: Perseverance trumps ability. I know a lot of talented writers who gave up due to frustration, and a lot of average writers who reached publication because they stuck it out. It’s like the old Churchill quote: “Never, never, never, never give up.”

Q: What is the best piece of publishing advice you ever received?

JSA: Early on, Mimi, who has more experience in this business than I do, said to me, “Writing the book is the easy part. The hard part comes later.” This was a valuable piece of wisdom to me because it brought my head out of the clouds and gave me an honest sense of the way this business works, so I didn’t go into this expecting anything to be easy. I’m grateful for that because had I believed I was entitled to publication just because I’d finished a book, I would have been very disappointed. I think this is a mistake many writer’s make. You finish a book and it’s painfully discouraging to realize that no one cares. I think this accounts for so many writer’s giving up prematurely. I think you need to go into this knowing it’s going to be a rough ride.

MAW: I was at a conference where the inimitable Jane Yolen spoke. She said, “Love the writing,” and I came to understand that as love the journey of creating the story, because after that, things get really hard and you have no control over them. You don’t control if or when you’ll find a publisher or an agent, if your when your story ever becomes a book, you can only control the creation of the story, so love that, and keep doing it.

Q: What book–or author–has inspired you the most, and why?

JSA: I read avidly and am a little bit inspired by everything I come across, but if I had to pin down a single author or book that really made me want to do this, I would have to give some serious credit to Stephenie Meyer. It was reading those books that made me say, “I really want to do this.” And more so than Twilight, I thought her novel, The Host, was excellent. I don’t mind that I’m not supposed to like her, I do.

MAW: I’ve been so very fortunate to know a number of amazing writers and I couldn’t pick just one, nor just one book. The person who deserves the most credit for my being a writer is my third grade teacher, Mrs. Shirley Saenz Lohnes, because she was the first person to ever put the notion in my head. I am grateful to her still, and I am still in touch with her.

Q: Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.

JSA: I received 192 rejections between two novels before someone said yes, so I’d become accustomed to being ignored. The publication of Beautiful Monster has happened so fast my head is spinning. I really don’t know how to make sense of it. It’s about writing the right book at the right time for the right publisher, I guess.

MAW: Nearly 18 years ago, I was working in PR and advertising. I wrote all the time, but it was for other people. I began looking at writing for myself, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way – a LOT. But I had a few successes, too. About 14 years ago, I met a woman who had published several nonfiction adult books on Borderline Personality Disorder. I made contact with her, and over time she asked me to coauthor a workbook with her. After 12 years, that book is just now being taken out of print. I wrote for online review sites, parenting magazines, and whoever would let me write for them. I had minor successes and near misses with children’s publishers along the way. Then in 2001 I applied to and was accepted into the Vermont College of Fine Arts and earned an MFA in writing. The following year, I had 3 nonfiction children’s books (the Hey, Ranger series from Globe-Pequot) accepted, and a year later, a manuscript I wrote for my Masters Degree (My Brother the Dog from Tanglewood Press) became my first published novel.

Q: Do you have a writing process?

JSA: I light candles and incense, get into my nude, and do a five-minute Calypso dance for good luck before each writing session. Just kidding. I feel like I should have a process, but really, most of my writing takes place in my head while I am doing other mundane things.

MAW: I try to keep a schedule and follow a process, but real life has a way of interfering with that. Instead, I set goals, like finishing a character study or writing a chapter by the end of the week. I try to do something writing-related everyday, which can include reading, or jotting notes, but sometimes “writing-related” gets stretched and I include sorting the mail or doing laundry. On the other hand, going to my laundromat is an excellent opportunity for character study, so I think it does count!

Q: What’s your big distraction or vice while writing?

JSA: As far as distractions, I have two elderly toy poodles. One is blind and epileptic and the other one is convinced that every noise she hears is the beginning of the apocalypse. They can distract me, but the people around me are awesome in that sense. If I’m writing, I don’t get bothered. Also, it’s good to turn my phone off. As for vices while I write… I drink a lot of coffee. It seems to speed up my synapses or something.

MAW: My biggest distraction is the internet, and I have to stop myself from checking Facebook or email. Texting is another big distraction, so I try to resist. Sometimes I just have to take the laptop and go somewhere that has no wi-fi. Again, my Laundromat is good for that!

Q: What are your three all-time favorite books?

JSA: Francesca’s Party by Patricia Scanlan, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Moonfall by Tamara Thorne.

MAW: Just three? Lamb, by Christopher Moore; Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz; The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe (or the Complete Works of Shakespeare – it’s a tie really).

Q: What makes you passionate about writing?

JSA: It’s my world and I can do what I want in it…I can kill the people who bother me! But really…I don’t know what makes a person passionate about writing. I guess, very simply, that it’s a way to express yourself without interruption. Most of all, I think it’s just a kind of a “calling”, for lack of a better term.

MAW: I love words – I always have. I have always written, my mother has the evidence to prove it and I pay her handsomely to keep some of that stuff hidden. I just have to write, whether or not I make a living at it. There is a wonderful book entitled “The Midnight Disease” that talks a lot about the compulsion to write, and I was both horrified and delighted to see so much of myself reflected in that book.

Q: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

JSA: I am in the beginning stages of the publishing process, so this question is a better one for Mimi to answer.

MAW: I wrote my first book after traveling to several national parks and hearing the silly questions tourists ask. I sent the idea to several publishers in a nonfiction proposal. Globe-Pequot saw it as a series and created these adorable coloring books for kids filed with fun information based on the questions. Instead of one book, I wound up with three.

Q: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

JSA: All the time. Writing, in general, is a lot of hard work with little to no recognition. Being discouraged is part of your job description. There are only two ways to deal with it that I’m aware of. One is to have a strong support system composed of friends and other writers. The other is to keep writing the next story.

MAW: Oh – lots of discouragement! I collected close to a hundred rejections over the course of a year on my first book before it was picked up by the publisher. I worked on the book, revising it and tightening the story before sending it out three more times. Then a publisher who had actually had the original manuscript for almost a year contacted me. The real key is to keep writing and working on your craft. There is no other answer than that. One of my favorite stories that keeps me motivated is when Madeleine L’Engle won the Newbery Award. After giving her acceptance speech, she was approached by dozens of editors all saying, “Madeleine, why didn’t you send me this book?” She replied, “I did. Would you like to read the rejection letter you sent me?” I love this! I want to be able to say this!

Q: What is your writing schedule like?

JSA: Right now there is no schedule! I haven’t written anything in almost two weeks. Now that the contract has been signed and the process has begun, I’m looking forward to working on Tyranny Hall between the editorial revisions of Beautiful Monster. Usually, I try to write four or five times a week for a minimum of two or three hours per sitting. I meet with Mimi once or twice a week to go over and critique what each of us has written. On weekends, I usually spend several hours on Saturday or Sunday writing. My limit seems to be about eight hours. After eight hours of writing, I tend to get numb and start writing really poor material.

MAW: Like I mentioned before, I try to do something writing-related every day. It’s hard to keep a set schedule. In fact, as I write this, I’m in the middle of changing jobs and preparing to go out of town. I steal my writing time where I can. Once things settle down some, I’ll try to get back to a more regimented system, but I also know I have to be flexible and grab my writing time where I can.

Q: What do you do to relax and unwind?

JSA: Drive aimlessly. I spend more money on gas than anyone I know. I like the open road and I love not having to be somewhere at a certain time.

MAW: I read, I go for walks (I can’t afford the gas like Jared can!) I also knit and crochet sometimes, but I’m terrible at finishing projects.

Q: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

JSA: Ideas come from everywhere. A lot of times, someone says something that triggers a whole series of ideas. My first manuscript, The White Room, came to me one night when I was at a club with some friends of mine. We were downstairs playing pool when one of my friends said to me, “I’ll be right back. I think I left my phone upstairs in the white room.” He called it the white room simply because it had white couches, white chairs and white drapery throughout the room. I knew immediately that “The White Room” was going to be the name of an elaborate club for the story that had been percolating in my brain. The idea for Tyranny Hall came from a nightmare I used to have. As for knowing if an idea is good enough to write a book about, I don’t think you ever really know. I think if you execute it properly, you can write a great book about anything. Stephen King wrote an awesome book called Christine. If he’d said he had this wonderful idea about a story about a haunted car, I think most people would have glazed over, but he executed it well, so it worked.

MAW: I’m a people watcher and a notorious eves-dropper, so I find stories ideas all over the place. I love asking “what if” questions and puzzling through the possible outcomes. As to whether a story idea is good enough for a book, I agree with Jared – nearly anything can be a good story if it’s executed well.

Q: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

JSA: Mimi and I do a lot of brainstorming together. I also get a lot of feedback from family and friends. I don’t do intensive outlines, simply because I find it too hard to follow. If I know the beginning, the middle, the end, and some important plot points along the way, I seem to have better luck just letting the story shape itself around those key points.

MAW: I have to have some sort of rough outline to work from. If I don’t know the ending to a story, I don’t know where I’m going. I always write with an ending in mind, even though that ending may change later. I love the brainstorming process, whether I do it alone or with someone else. Throwing all the possibilities on the table is like having a big grab-bag of toys to play with.

Q: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

JSA: Yes, I have hit some very serious snags. One book I was trying to write was nothing but one big snag. I’ll go back to it later I hope, but I finally kicked it to the curb and started something new. As for writer’s block, I have one word: Dodecahedron!

MAW: HAHAH! Yes! Dodecahedron! When I was working on my Master’s degree, I got the worst case of writer’s block in my life. Just sitting at the computer would cause me to shake and cry – very seriously. I had a wonderful mentor – Tim Wynn-Jones – and he helped me to work through the block using small steps, like word collecting and word classifying – things that didn’t seem like writing but were actually helping me. I began to study writer’s block and the creative process, and I came upon the dodecahedron, a 12-sided dice of sorts. I use it all the time as an idea generator, and I have taught it to lots of people.

Q: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

JSA: I don’t eat when I write.

MAW: Jared lies. I’ve watched him eat an entire bag of gummy bears while working on a few paragraphs. I vary between chocolate and potato chips – neither one is good for me, but I can’t help it. They are great for those mid-paragraph thinking moments.

Q: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

JSA: I used to do a lot of photography. I still do it a little, but not much. I also like jogging, weight lifting, scary movies, aimless drives, and good books.

MAW: Reading, crochet, knitting. I used to sing with a band. Now I just sing with the radio.

Q: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?

JSA: Making writing a priority in a world that already demands more time than you have.

MAW: The hardest thing is telling someone “I’m a writer,” and they say “Do I know your work?” – Ugh.

Q: What is the best thing about being an author?

JSA: Aside from the elation of writing something you know is damned good, I would say the best part for me has been meeting my heroes.

MAW: Meeting other writers and being with people you don’t have to explain things to – like why there is such a thing as a good rejection!

Q: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?

JSA: To write at least three more novels.

MAW: Keep writing, keep promoting my books, keep moving forward and getting better at my craft.

Q: How do you come up with your character’s names?

JSA: I steal them! I lifted Sterling’s name from a student at the school I was attending at the time. Brytt was the name of a guy Mimi knew. Cadence, in The White Room, was what I always wanted to name my son, and Brooks came from a kid I met in 2005. Sometimes, they just pop into my head. The most recent name that occurred to me is Bronx Treverton. Not sure where it came from or what kind of story might belong to a guy with name like that, but there it is. It sounds like an over-the-top hero from a romance novel to me.

MAW: I used to work at a call center, so I would write down really awesome names for later use. Sometimes I just take bits and pieces from other names and combine them. Sometimes I steal outright, just like Jared.

Q: What is the best compliment you could receive from a reader?

JSA: “That is disgusting!” or “I couldn’t put it down!” Even “What the hell is wrong with you?!” is a good one.

MAW: I’ve had kids write to me or tell me, “This is my favorite book ever and you are the best writer ever.” It thrills me!

Q: Where can readers go to find your books and order them?

JSA: The book is schedule for release on September 1st, 2012 by Damnation Books.

MAW: The “Hey, Ranger” books and “My Brother the Dog” can be found on Amazon or, or can be ordered at any local bookstore.

Q: Besides the stalking method I used, how can people connect with you?


MAW: or my website

Click on the thumbnail below for the full-sized cover image of BEAUTIFUL MONSTER!

After ten years of dreaming about it, seven years of preparing for it, and almost three years of ruthlessly pursuing it- I’ve finally done it. It took me exactly 190 rejection letters between two completed novels, but I have at last been offered a contract. It wasn’t for my first novel, The White Room, which was ultimately rejected by the two publishers who were recently interested in it. Instead, the offer was for Beautiful Monster, the horror story which I collaborated on with Kim Williams-Justesen~ a fact that, given the gruesome nature of the novel, surprises me. But that’s beside the point.

What happened: On the eleventh of May (my birthday!) we submitted the story to a press I’d come across through a strange chain of events two weeks before. A day after the initial submission of the first three chapters and the last chapter of the book, we received an e-mail asking for the entire manuscript. We’ve been down this road before, I thought, bracing myself for the agonizing coming months I’d spend waiting for the eventual, “thanks, but no thanks.” But… that isn’t at all how it played out. Instead, just a couple of days later, we received an e-mail congratulating us. Our novel was accepted for publication. I didn’t get the e-mail. I got the news in a phone message from Kim.

What it was like: It was unreal. I guess if I had to compare it to something, it was a little bit like being on an airplane when it climbs or drops several hundred feet in a matter of seconds. Your vision swells, your stomach lurches, your heart does a somersault, and your head feels like it’s imploding. I don’t think I took a breath for several minutes after I heard the news. I sat down, suddenly unsure if standing was such a good idea. In her message, Kim said she’d forwarded me the e-mail. I got on the computer, logged into my account, and there it was. I blinked at it. I read it three times. I logged out of my e-mail and back in again to check it a fourth time. It was still there. I picked up my phone, went to my voicemail, and listened to the message one more time. Nothing had changed. We’d just been made an offer.

That was when the bliss hit me. Bliss may be a strong word, but I think it’s deserving of its placement in this context. My body tingled and my mind raced. I wanted to jump out of my skin, but in a good way. I wanted to leap from my chair and run into the streets, thrusting my glee upon anyone within a five-mile radius. I could not sit still. I had nowhere to go, so I grabbed my phone again and began texting the news. I later learned that in my excitement, I’d made several errors in my efforts, sending the message, “We just got offered a contract on Beautiful Monster!” to my dentist in Utah, the landline of my poodles’ vet hospital, and, I’m pretty sure, to a woman I’ve never met named Joyce whose number is in my phone because six months ago, she was handling my property out-of-state. But I didn’t care. I was spreading the joy.

You’d think that after all the months and years of working for this very moment, waiting for it to be realized, the bliss would last longer. It doesn’t. I think I squeezed about ten wonderful minutes out of the whole deal before the doubt started in. The doubt is mean and ugly and wants nothing more than to crash your party. No sooner had I hit the send button on the fifth or sixth text to anyone within send-button range when the doubt began creeping in. It told me it wasn’t real. It told me I was being scammed. And worse, it told me that now I was going to have to go back and explain to everyone I’d texted that it was a false alarm. The sting of that blow was very real to me then, and I briefly considered sending out a mass Just Kidding! Gotcha! text to all my contacts.

Suddenly, I doubted everything from the reality of the e-mail to the legitimacy of the publisher. I’d researched the press before submitting of course, but now I was obsessed by the idea that I’d somehow missed something vitally negative about them. I got on the computer. I spent the next several hours combing through their website, researching their authors, and looking for holes in their plans to rip me off. I googled their reviews. I visited Editors and Predators. I read everything I could. I found nothing that supported my suspicion that this was some kind of scam.

We got another e-mail from the publisher saying we’d be receiving a contract in the next few days. We also got our author guidelines and editorial formatting forms, which I believe is for e-book formatting. By now, I’d talked to a friend of mine, an author who has been in the business for about twenty years. She had a little experience with the press and knew someone who had substantial experience with them. The conversations that ensued calmed my mind enough that I made peace with the fact that until I saw the contract, there was no reason for me to neither celebrate nor mourn.

In the days while I wait for the contract, I am surprisingly peaceful. If this is a good gig, then great! And if not… I am out nothing. It is during these days of waiting that I believe I have probably grown the most as a writer than I ever have before. I’m realizing during this time that even when the dream comes true, there’s still the reality to be reckoned with; as soon as a wonderful thing happens, there begins the threat of the next potential great disappointment. A lot can happen between the signing of a document (assuming we sign it) and when the actual book is produced, and somehow, I’m okay with that.

All of a sudden, I’m not fighting anymore and this is new territory for me. I think I’ve finally given up. I don’t mean to say I’m quitting. I mean, I think I gave up the control that I never had in the first place. For the first time in years, I don’t care whether or not I get published. I’m turning my attention back to my writing, back to my life, back to the things I love. And for the first time, I’m realizing how hell-bent I’ve been on this thing… for the first time, I understand that even when it does finally happen, it doesn’t actually fix anything. Until now, I didn’t even know I’d been trying to fix anything.

I’m standing here~ facing, for the very first time, the reality of a dream I’ve been entertaining for ages… and I don’t care about it anymore. I realize that I love my writing and that’s all that matters. Above all, I realize with painful clarity all of the unnecessary pressure I’ve put on myself~ the tremendous weight of my self-imposed demands… and the unreachable heights I’ve set for myself.

I haven’t talked to many people during the past few days. I’ve been quiet and withdrawn, but I am at peace. There’s nothing to say. There’s nothing to do. I am tired, as if all the time I’ve spent working for this has finally caught up with me and is taking victory over me. I’ve been sleeping a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever been as exhausted as I have these past few days. I feel raw and weak, but I am finally at peace with the world around me, and at peace with the knowledge that whatever will be will be, and it’s no longer up to me to try to force it.

I’m optimistic about the contract. I don’t know yet whether or not we will sign it, but I feel good about it so far. Whichever way this goes, this experience has been nothing like I thought it would be. It is… real, and somehow I guess I never thought it could be. One thing is certain though. This is not the final destination I somehow thought it was. This is just the beginning. I’m as curious as anyone to see how this plays out.

The prologue is that first page (or few pages) at the opening of a story which gives readers background information, establishes character and setting, and/or gives readers a quick glimpse into the central conflict of the story, sometimes in an attempt to grasp the reader’s attention enough to motivate further reading. There does not seem to be any real rules about what a prologue may or may not contain, or whether or not a prologue should be used at all, therefore, whether or not a book should or should not open with a prologue is a subjective topic. While I’ve known people who feel that prologues are no more than a lazy way to introduce information, I’ve also known people who will only read a book if it has a good prologue; so there really is no right or wrong answer.

I’ve never used a prologue in any of my stories, mainly because it never seemed called for. That being said, I personally am a fan of the prologue, but it has never been a subject to me that seemed to require any of my attention, until just recently when a good friend of mine asked me to critique the opening chapter of the book she’s currently working on.

As I started reading this chapter, I noted that as soon as I’d just begun to get involved with the present situation in the story, I was thrust backward in time, where the events that lead to the present were revealed. While there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this, it felt too soon to me; I wasn’t ready to flash back yet. I finished the chapter and considered ways that my friend might more smoothly incorporate the information into the story, but found no reasonable opportunity for it. Then I read the chapter again, skipping the background information, and was stunned by how much smoother the ride was. Finally, I read the flash back, separate from the rest of the chapter, and it struck me that it would make an excellent prologue. The problem is, my friend hates prologues.

I was very cautious as I approached her with the idea of beginning her story with a prologue. At first, she was adamantly against it, but now, as far as I know, she is considering it.

It’s been said by many that a “good” writer can work background information into a story without resorting to a prologue. It’s also been said that the best way to judge a good book is by its prologue. I am sure there are literary agents out there who scoff at prologues and shove manuscripts straight into the slush-pile just because the story begins with a prologue. I am equally as sure that there are those agents who will not represent a book without one. The point is, using a prologue or not using a prologue is the author’s choice and should be a decision based on his or her own judgment.

To me, it’s a simple matter of the author’s style; some use prologues, some do not. But there are no rules for or against it, and in a business that is over-saturated by an endless and ever-changing list of do’s and do not’s, we sometimes have to keep in mind that writing, at its core, is still a form of art… and that art, for all it’s marketing rules and its potential levels of salability in the retail world, is still subjective.