Heather B. Moore is the award-winning author of several historical novels which are set in Ancient Arabia and Mesoamerica. She is not old and doesn’t remember the time period, so google.com has become a great friend. Although she has spent several years living in the Middle East, she prefers to forget the smells. Heather writes under the pen name H.B. Moore so that men will buy her books. She is also the author of one non-fiction book, which took her much too long to research and write, so she is back to novel writing.
Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Heather: I started writing my first novel when I was 30 years old. I had never really considered writing a novel, but I had always been a voracious reader, and one day things came together (in other words, I discovered a way in which I could control how a book ended!).
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?
Heather: I graduated from BYU in Fashion Merchandising with a minor in Business Management. I had thought about majoring in English, but I decided that since I’d failed my AP English Essay exam, maybe I wasn’t cut out for it.
Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?
Heather: Reading has always been a huge love for me, and writing is very similar. I’m more of a discovery writer, which means that I don’t necessarily know in advance where a scene is going. I love stories, and I love the education that comes from reading about thought-provoking characters, interesting locations, or different eras in history.
Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Heather: My first published novel was the 3rd manuscript I’d written. I had received many many rejections, but kept on writing and persevering. I attended writers conferences, joined a critique group, and served in a couple of different capacities in my local writing league. I viewed the road to getting published like going back to college. I was learning a whole new “major.” In fact, I’m currently blogging about my publishing journey: http://mywriterslair.blogspot.com
Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Heather: Discouragement is part of every path of life, and it seems to be greatly compounded in the world of writing. Just as every other vocation, there will always be someone who is a better wordsmith, has more books published, and makes more money. The important thing is to keep the measuring stick relative to what we want our quality of life to be. When I feel discouraged, it’s great to get together with other writer-friends, or to take some sort of a break—whether it’s seeing a movie, reading a few books, or doing something else creative like painting a room. Changing the pace can put the writing world into better perspective.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Heather: This fall is the first time that all of my kids are in school, so theoretically I should have plenty of writing time, right? It turns out that the days speed by, and I’m still left with the feeling of not getting done all that I wanted to. I’ve spent many early mornings writing, some late nights, and squeezing in 15–20 minutes when possible. Recently, Harlan Coben, said that an unpublished writer waits for the muse to inspire, a published writer sits down and writes (Writers Digest, Jan 2011 issue).
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Heather: Like I mentioned earlier, I have a few unpublished manuscripts still. I have plenty of ideas—they come from reading other books, watching a show, chatting with friends, or sometimes when I’m doing mundane things like driving. Once I have a basic idea, I think of anything else I’ve read that might be similar—other books or movies it might be too close to. I’ll write down the character arc, which could be just a conversation between two characters that defines the conflict, or it might be a list of things the character goes through. My critique group also comes in handy. They might encourage, or discourage, when needed. As far as an idea being good enough to cover a whole book, it has to be compelling enough to ME in order to devote several months of writing time, and all the time it will take in editing, and (if it’s published) promoting.
Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your Book of Mormon series and what compelled you to take on such an ambitious project.
Heather: After getting two manuscripts rejected, I studied the LDS market to see if there was a niche to fill. I had lived in the Middle East and my father was a Book of Mormon scholar at BYU. I first asked if he might be interested in co-writing a fiction series on Nephi. His short answer was “no.” So I decided he could at least answer my gazillion questions. I didn’t want my novels to be viewed as scholarly, but to have enough research that at least the story was quite plausible. I planned to write 3 volumes in the Out of Jerusalem series, then it blossomed into 4. Before I wrote the final volume, I had the idea to jump ahead in Book of Mormon time and write about another set of prophets (Abinadi, Alma, Alma the Younger, and Ammon). It wasn’t something I planned from the beginning, but seemed to fall into naturally as time went on and I continued to receive positive responses from readers.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Heather: My ultimate goal is for my readers to learn more about the people who lived in the Book of Mormon era. Just like with any historical novel—the goal is to bring that period of history to life. And the fact that it’s based on religious history makes it even more interesting—and hopefully the reader will be interested in turning to the scriptures and re-reading the chapters covered in the novel.
Deirdra: 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?
Heather: Before I officially type “Chapter 1,” I need to know the main character’s arc. My books have a skeleton plot outlined in the Book of Mormon, so I already know plot points a, b, and c, although I need to find a way to connect them, and also decide when to stop the plot arc. The main characters are who the reader will connect with since most of my readers are already familiar with the basic Book of Mormon stories. For instance, in my latest release (Alma the Younger), I was folding laundry one afternoon and a conversation between Alma the Younger and another character popped into my head. It was an argument that defined one of the main conflicts of the story. I wrote the dialog down, but didn’t start the book for a couple of weeks. Although the actual dialog took place about 2/3 into the book, it defined both character arcs, and I was ready to begin the story.
Deirdra: Besides writing, what are some of your other talents?
Heather: I don’t know about talents; most things I do are learned by tons of practice. I play the piano and used to sew a lot—Easter dresses, Christmas dresses, Halloween costumes, etc. In fact, I made my own wedding dress (a VERY long time ago). I enjoy doing things by hand, like making jewelry, scrapbooking, cross-stitch, and once in a great while, gardening.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Heather: I always say a prayer. I listen to music if my mind is wandering because the music will drown out my “I should be cleaning the kitchen” thoughts.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Heather: Like most writers, it includes many other writers who have helped me on my path. I remember attending my first writers meeting and Jeff Savage was the speaker, and Annette Lyon was the chapter president. They’ve since become great friends and mentors. Also, Michele Holmes and Lu Ann Staheli have been there from the very beginning. Other writers I’ve been able to rely on in both the worst of times and best of times include Julie Wright, Josi Kilpack, James Dashner, and Rob Wells. I’m continually inspired by what other writers have overcome and been able to achieve.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Heather: Hopefully this is true . . . My comparison would be similar to an actor taking on a role. As a writer, we temporarily become that character, and try to imagine (or research) what it might feel like to be that person, making his choices, and being faced with those conflicts.
Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Heather: When I read Mary Higgins Clark’s memoir, Kitchen Privileges, I was impressed that she got up each morning and wrote from 5:00–7:00 a.m. This is while she was widowed, raising five children, and working full time to support her family. When there is a will, there is definitely a way.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Heather: Snacking is very dangerous when writing (or reading), but popcorn, and the occasional handful of peanut M&M’s always works.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Heather: The journey is long and won’t happen quickly. Every author pays his/her due diligence in one way or another. Plan to write, rewrite, learn the craft, and continually grow as a writer. If you persevere and remain teachable, you will become published.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Heather: I just turned in a manuscript called The Daughters of Jared, and after Christmas I’ll be working on the chapter notes for Ammon, then onto various edits.
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Heather: Deseret Book, Seagull Book, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and stores that sell LDS books.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Heather: Some of the best advice I’ve heard is to set daily writing goals. Mine is between 1,000–2,000/day (5 days a week) depending on the book and depending on the deadline. It does take a lot of dedication, but if it’s important to you, it will be one of your priorities. Also, take the time to edit and to send your manuscript to alpha readers before submitting so that you’re turning in your very best work.