The Gift of Laughter by Daryl Holmes
In pumpkin time the holiday spirits arrive on the winds
that billow the curtains and shimmy
beneath the door to tickle the candle flames
and stir anticipation from its nap.- excerpt from Pumpkin Time
“I'm always jealous of poems such as ‘Donna Jane’ with its conversationally prosaic yet fluid poetry. The poem holds brilliant advice I wish someone would have offered me years ago. Daryl Holmes' The Gift of Laughter offers instruction to the hasty young as well as some light-hearted jabs at gathering the wisdom that comes with age. It is both clever and charming. (Camala M. Ryan, author of God is Southern: Louisiana Poems)
“What [Chicory Bloom Press is] doing is rare and special and it is no wonder that [they] are beginning to attract attention." (Darrell Bourque, Louisiana Poet Laureate, 2007-08, 2009-2011)
$15.00 Per Chapbook (including shipping & handling)
Glenn J. Bergeron II
127 South Dennis Street
Thibodaux, LA 70301
Publisher & Editor: Glenn J. Bergeron II / Editorial Advisor: David Middleton
Julie Compton is the internationally published author of TELL NO LIES, a legal thriller that earned a starred review from Kirkus, and RESCUING OLIVIA, which Kirkus called "a pleasing hybrid of fairy tale and contemporary thriller" and Publisher's Weekly said was an "intense, entertaining second novel" with a "super-satisfying resolution." An attorney by profession, Julie no longer practices but keeps one foot in the courthouse by volunteering as a guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children. She lives near Orlando, Florida with her husband and two daughters. You can read the first chapters of both novels at her site.
1.) You've got a great Q&A section at your website. Anything you'd like to elaborate upon or amend?
Thank you! Your question compelled me to look at the Q & A with new eyes. I think I should add a few more questions: How did you come up with the idea for Rescuing Olivia? and What is your writing process like? These are two questions I get quite often from readers.
The idea for Rescuing Olivia began from a writing prompt. For many years I've attended a writing workshop where our leader begins each meeting with a prompt. One week, the leader asked us to write a scene involving a character who was in possession of a box he or she wasn't supposed to have, for whatever reason. I spent the next thirty minutes writing a scene about a guy who comes across a box and is afraid to open it. At the time, I didn't know who the guy was or what was in the box. Later, that guy became Anders (the protagonist of Rescuing Olivia), and the box turned out to be a box that belongs to his missing girlfriend (Olivia) and which he hopes contains some clues to her whereabouts. It plays a pivotal role in the book.
As for my writing process, my answer above reveals a lot! When I begin a story, I usually don't know what the story is about or what will happen. I start with a seed (which more often than not is a character I have in my head) and simply start writing whatever comes to mind. It's a very organic process that can have me one day writing a scene from the middle of the book and the next have me writing a section that belongs at the beginning or the end. Often I don't know where a scene belongs until much later in the process. I'm a bit amazed by writers who prepare a detailed outline before they begin writing. I can't do that because I don't know the story – it reveals itself to me as I write. Also, I think the process of outlining would dissipate the pent-up excitement that grows inside me as the story develops.
2.) I *loved* Rescuing Olivia as much or more than Tell No Lies. How was writing a second book different from the first?
In one way, I found it harder because I constantly wondered, can I do it again? Can I come up with a whole new story and new characters and actually pull them all together to finish another novel? Yet, I also found it easier, because I'd learned so much from writing and editing the first one. The first draft of Tell No Lies was 730 pages! I didn't know any better. With Rescuing Olivia, I understood a bit more about where to begin a story, how to pace it properly, what was relevant and what wasn't. I knew a bit more about structure. Writing Tell No Lies was like entering a room blindfolded and having to feel my way around. I eventually figured it out, but the journey was a bit more arduous. By the time I wrote Rescuing Olivia, my eyes were wide open.
People often ask me which book I like better. I have trouble answering that question. It's like asking a parent which child they love better. I think my writing improved with Rescuing Olivia – I'd be concerned if it hadn't! – but Tell No Lies was my first so it will always hold a special place in my heart. And because of the nature of the story, it struck a nerve with more readers than Rescuing Olivia, I think.
3.) Did you intend for your books to be so character driven? (I love that in a book!) Are your people real, fictional, or some hybrid compilation?
Until I began writing seriously, I never really thought consciously about whether a story was plot-driven or character-driven. As a reader, I'd read a novel, and I'd either like it, or I wouldn't. But looking back, the novels I enjoyed the most were always the character-driven ones. The plot-driven stories never sustained my interest. So I think I instinctively wrote character-driven stories because that's what I liked to read. Now, of course, I understand the difference, and yes, I would say that I intend my stories to be character-driven. When I write a story, I'm constantly asking myself, why is this character reacting the way he or she is? What motivates him or her?
4.) How does your background in law come into play in your writing?
Well, it played a much larger role in Tell No Lies, which is most often characterized as a legal thriller. I didn't really intend to write a legal thriller; I was simply writing a story about people, and they happened to be lawyers because that's what I knew. The story has a murder, so I guess when you put lawyers and murder together in a story, it's called a legal thriller. LOL!
But really, as a lawyer you do a lot of writing – albeit a different sort of writing – but most lawyers I know love to write. So in that respect, I guess it plays a role in everything I write. Especially structure, because structure is so important when drafting a brief.
5.) What do you wish you'd known before you started out on the publishing road?
Two things, really, although I guess they're connected. One, I wish I'd known more about the business side of publishing, especially marketing. I didn't really hit the ground running. With so much information online nowadays, it's much easier for a newbie to learn about the business and to connect with others who have knowledge long before they're published. Two, I wish I had known that getting published isn't the end all and be all of writing. I think when you're unpublished, you think being published is like the Holy Grail. You think being published will mean you've arrived, and going forward things will only become easier. But it's sort of like being promoted at a nine-to-five job. You wouldn't want to ever go back; after all, it's exciting, it means you've reached a certain skill level, and there's nothing quite like seeing your book on a shelf in the bookstore, but it also brings with it a new and different set of issues.
6.) How much of your day is spent writing? Promoting?
Depends upon whether I've just had a new book published. In the couple of months leading up to publication, and then for a few months afterward, my time is probably spent equally on both. Those first few months after publication are extremely important from a promotional standpoint, because that's when the book is in the bookstore. Except for those books whose authors who are well known, books have a very short shelf life.
But when a few months have passed, I'm back in full-time writing mode. I can easily spend 8 to 10 hours a day writing. I love the actual writing; to me, it's like going to the movies but being the producer and director. I'm able to control everything – the characters, the setting, the dialogue, the plot – heck, even the soundtrack (because I always write with music in the background!).
7.) What's the best thing about being an author?
We have a funny essay posted on our refrigerator for our kids called "Bill Gates' Rules for Living." Supposedly it's based on a speech he gave to high school students about eleven things they needed to know but wouldn't learn in school. Number ten is "Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs." (This was back in the day of the television show "Friends.") I couldn't help but pen in my own addition to this particular rule. I wrote: "Unless you're a writer!"
In other words, to me, the best thing is not having to drag myself to an office each day. Ironically, even though I now work from home and could arguably start my workday whenever I please, I pop out of bed easily and can't wait to get in front of my keyboard. It really makes a difference when you love what you do.
8.) Are you of the get-an-agent school, or do you think it's a good idea to approach publishers directly?
A little bit of both? I absolutely think having an agent is a benefit. They do so much more than simply sell your book. A good one always has your back. And really, even the process of trying to find an agent is immensely beneficial. You can't write a good query unless you understand what your story is really about and can express it in a concise, interesting way. And when you start getting rejections (because you will), the rejections force you to take another look at your work and determine what's lacking. Too many aspiring writers are in a rush to get published, and as a result they send out their work before it's really ready (I'm speaking from experience – LOL!). Agent rejections are a great reality check.
Having said all that, if you really think your novel is the best it will ever be (and I don't mean you think it's the best it will ever be because your Aunt Shirley raved about it), and you're not making progress with finding an agent, why not approach some of the medium to smaller publishers who allow unagented submissions? You'll have to do your research and make sure you're approaching reputable publishers, but there are some wonderful ones out there, especially for certain genres.
9.) What are you working on now?
I'm working on my third novel, tentatively titled Keep No Secrets, which is a sequel to Tell No Lies. It's funny, because despite the ambiguous ending of Tell No Lies, I never intended to write a sequel. I had spent so many years working on Tell No Lies that when I finished editing it for the last time, I didn't care if I ever saw those characters again. But once it was published, I received a lot of emails from readers asking if I planned to write a sequel. The demand seemed to be there, so I eventually decided that if I could think of the right story for Jack and friends, I would consider it. One day I was driving on the highway and the first line just popped into my head. I went home and started writing, and I've been working on it ever since. Needless to say, I've learned never to say never.
Interestingly, you asked above how writing my second novel was different from writing my first. I've found my third, because it's a sequel, to be the most difficult. You don't want to include too much information from the first, or else you'll bore the ones who know the first book, but you need to include enough so that a reader coming to the sequel without having read the first one will understand the characters and their pasts. It's a fine balance.
Thanks so much for sharing writerly thoughts with us, Julie! Best of luck and much continued success.