Monday, February 7, 2011

F - Interview with Author Stephanie Fowers





Stephanie Fowers lives in Salt Lake with her sister Jacqueline. She loves the downtown life and never imagined she'd live so close to the action on temple square, but still wishes Utah had less winter and summer to make room for fall and spring. She's published two LDS chic lit books, "Rules of Engagement" and "Meet Your Match." And contrary to popular belief, wants to reiterate that these books do not make her an expert on dating, though perhaps an expert on the mishaps of dating. Besides her love for writing, she occasionally twists the arms off her friends and family to be in her short movies. If you want to witness some of these crazy antics, try googling her name on youtube.

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Stephanie: I always had stories in my head. As soon as I learned to write, my pen took over the paper. When I read my stories out loud in second grade, my goal was to get my teacher to laugh so hard she'd fall off her chair. And it worked. This same teacher entered me in a young author contest and I won. After that, I entered myself and kept winning--not because I was amazing at grammar (I'm still not), but because I had an overactive imagination. I had a wonderful childhood. If I didn't have friends, I'd imagine friends. If we couldn't afford to go to the movies, I'd imagine the movie in my head and not only that, I'd have the star role. However, I never told anyone that I wanted to be a writer because it didn't seem sensible to make money doing what I liked. In middle school, I wrote my first novel. I'd sit on my bed at night and read chapters to my ten-year-old sister. She'd sigh happily and ask me for more. By the time I graduated from high school, I wrote two sci fi/ fantasy books that way. They were all sinfully romantic and overly dramatic.


Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Stephanie: I graduated from BYU Idaho with an associates in English. After that, I got a Bachelors in English from BYU Provo with a minor in Communications. I won a few writing contests in college with my sci-fi/ fantasy while reluctantly fulfilling more scholarly pursuits...unless it helped me make a better plot. Strangely enough, I hated essays with a passion, but friends and family to this day still ask me to help with their papers. A few years after graduating from college, I published two books: "Rules of Engagement" and "Meet Your Match" with Covenant Communications.


Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Stephanie: I want to reach out to people. I want to make them laugh. It's a great way to invite others to experience what I feel. The world is magical and I want to share that with others. The irony is that in order to reach others, I have to put myself in solitary confinement to write. And if I sacrifice too much of my social life, I lose my passion for writing. It's a hard balance to maintain.


Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Stephanie: In college, my friend submitted her novel to a publisher. It inspired me enough to fix up one of my high school novels and submit it to another publisher (I wasn't really aware of agents at this time). Of course, it got rejected. I wrote another one and sent it out. It got rejected. I submitted another one and another one. All of them got rejected, but it was impossible to give up. Every time I tried, I'd think of a new tactic, a new lead, a new idea. One day, I looked around and instead of seeing everyone as possible sci-fi characters, I saw them as they truly were. They were adorable, and the situations we found ourselves in were hilarious. That's when I decided to write a romantic comedy instead of a sci-fi/ fantasy. As soon as I sent that novel out, it got accepted.


Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Stephanie: I'm beginning to suspect that discouragement is a big part of being a writer. Writing the novel is the easy part of the process, but then you have to deal with submitting the novel and the subsequent rejections. If your novel happens to be accepted then you have to face the edits. Some editors might demand complete rewrites. Even after you publish the book, you get the reviews...and not all of them are good. So yes, as a writer, you have to develop a thick skin, but at the same time still keep the sensitivity required to write about your feelings. You have to stop yourself from caring what others say after you write from your heart...but still be open to criticism if it makes for a better story in the end. Throughout this whole process, you have to fight discouragement by keeping the target in mind. The goal for me is to write a good book that will make a lot of people happy. The ultimate goal is to build a good name for myself, so I can eventually support myself with my writing. So, I'll go through the bumps in the road to do that. And if I get bad reviews, I have to remind myself that not everyone likes my favorite authors too. And then I go hang out with my family and friends and try to forget about it.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Stephanie: I can't support myself yet with my writing career, so I work around a part time job, family, friends, social obligations, film, exercise, church responsibilities, etc. Just like everyone, I have to fight for my right to write. I wake up early. I go to bed late. I set a laptop on my lap when watching movies at home. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go. Every moment I find to write is stolen.


Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Stephanie: I have new ideas every day, and I write about what I'm interested in. I figure there has to be others who like the same things I do, and it turns out that there are. My ideas come from conversations, daydreams, little kids, nightmares, adventures on the train, classics, real life situations, music, pretty much everything happening around me. And I can't worry that others have already used my ideas because that happens all the time ('Tangled,' 'Life As We Know It,' 'Devil,' 'Vampires Suck' are just the latest). But really, there aren't any original ideas, just different takes on those ideas. There are lots of blonds out there, but only one is Marilyn Monroe. Only one is Scarlet Johansson. Only one is Gwyneth Paltrow. What I'm saying is the same old idea becomes special and new with the author's touch--who would've thought of throwing zombies in with Jane Austen?



Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your newest book Meet Your Match.

Stephanie: My first book "Rules of Engagement" was about the woes of dating from a girl's perspective. "Meet Your Match" was also from a girl's perspective...except she happened to be the menace in the dating scene. I wrote from experience.

The main girl, Jacqueline Childs, doesn't believe that girls are to blame for failure in the dating scene, guys are. And she definitely doesn't think that nice guys finish last. To prove it, she makes a wager with Britton Sergeant, the bitterest guy she knows, that girls do not go for jerks. It means that she has to make her best guy friend, Christian Slade, the nicest guy she knows, look so good that the biggest flirt, Charity Frost, can't resist him. If Jacqueline loses, she has to write an article on why girls go for jerks. Too late, Jacqueline realizes she's made a mistake. Sure, she might win the wager, but it will mean losing her chance for her own nice guy.

I wrote the book because I wanted to connect with girls my age and in my situation, to show we aren't victims in the dating scene, to encourage us to always have hope, and to remind us that we can't blame anyone else for our discouragement or our attitudes. We can be happy, whether we find success in dating right now or not. And if I could deliver this message with lots of humor, all the better.


Deirdra: What made you decide to start writing Chic Lit? How has it been received in the LDS market?
Stephanie: As I stated earlier, I originally wrote sci-fi/ fantasy. I still don't intend to give up on sci-fi/ fantasy entirely, but there is value in writing directly from your experiences too, very little research was required, which was a nice bonus. When I first started writing chic lit, I felt a little like Joe in 'Little Women' when she wrote about her family after the death of her sister. It just felt good to just talk about what was troubling me now. Before I wrote 'Rules of Engagement,' I never previously read any LDS fiction. I knew Anita Stansfield and Chris Heimerdinger existed, but I wasn't sure where my book would fit. As soon as I finished writing 'Rules of Engagement,' I went to the BYU bookstore and searched for what I called the 'shallow books.' I found a ton of fiction. That's when I realized I might have a chance with the major LDS publishers. To be honest, I'm surprised at how well received my books have been in the LDS market. I thought I had to keep things more serious to have a chance, but it turns out most of us like a good laugh every once in awhile. Don't get me wrong, I definitely have my critics, and they think I'm obnoxious, but I just figure their moms never hugged them as children ;)


Deirdra: How many beta readers do you have look at your manuscript before you send it to your editor?

Stephanie: As many arms as I can twist. I give the book to those who like romantic comedies (or else I'm wasting my time), and they'll tell me if it's romantic enough, if it's feel-good enough, satisfying enough. I also give my novels to professionals in the fields that I'm writing about (baseball, auto-mechanics, engineering and physics--which I did for my latest book 'Prank Wars,'). I also put my books past guys to make sure my guy characters are realistic. Surprisingly my family is the hardest on me, so I give my books to the ones who can read (my brothers claim they can't)--so I depend on my sisters to give me their most honest opinions. On a side note, my books stress my mom out, so I only give her a copy after its published and she'll still wait months to read it. She's always afraid I'm the main character and that I'm being treated unfairly somehow.


Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Stephanie: Most of all, I want them to laugh. I want them to live an adventure, and I want to instill hope. I want the readers to feel inspired; to not give up on love (in whatever form: friendship, romantic, family) and to have fun with the surprises life gives them.


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?
Stephanie: I'm a MAJOR outliner. It's my favorite part of writing. I sit on the bus, or at my desk at work, or at the dinner table, and I'll daydream a scenario, and then when I get home, I build on that scenario. I put the ideas past my friends, and they slap me on the back and tell me to get to it. I talk plots with the sister I live with. She's just as supportive now as when she was ten years old, and now three times as clever. I come up with possible scenarios and then I identify the holes and fill them. After I have an outline, I sit down and write, which is the hardest part. If I find myself getting bored, I know I'm going the wrong direction.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Stephanie: I get snags all of the time. I simply make a list of my snags on a separate piece of paper and work them out like an equation as if I'm playing a 'What if?' game. I come up with all sorts of alternate endings and pick the one that makes me the happiest. When I have writer's block...I know it's time to go for a walk, watch a movie, spend time with nieces or nephews; and basically concentrate on other things until my mind feels fresh again. I find my brain works the best early in the morning.


Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Stephanie: I listen to music, namely Pandora lately. I'll pick a station that has to do with the mood I'm trying to portray and click on that. Sometimes my sister will come around while I'm working and want to talk, and eventually I'll have to push my laptop away to avoid being a terrible sister. It all works out in the end because usually I need the break too and didn't know it.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Stephanie: I like to cast my books with existing actors, and I love finding theme music. I watch similar movies for inspiration. I give my characters the color code personality test. And I give myself a deadline. I make friends pretend like they want a chapter a week and tell them to break my thumbs if I don't comply. The threat always helps.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Stephanie: There are so many that have made a difference that it's hard to identify just one: my family and friends and teachers and coworkers. Right now, my sister Jacqueline makes a really big difference. We both have projects in the works, and every day she comes home with a new idea or goal that inspires me to get onto my ideas and goals. It's hard to be lulled into mediocrity when the people around you refuse to be.


Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Stephanie: I think of my characters as real people and try to keep them real. I try to give them motivations too. And it's hard for me to make them do things that I wouldn't do myself--even as a bad guy (sadly enough I can relate to them too). I try to say their lines out loud to make sure it runs smoothly. My characters do things that I've seen the people in my life do. So eventually in the end, I really care about these characters--even down to the nerdiest stalker or biggest loudmouthed gossiper.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Stephanie: JK Rowling (her imagination and characterization), Suzanne Collins (her emotion and suspense), Brandon Sanderson (his adventure), James Herriot (his humor), Scott Westerfield (his world building).


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

Stephanie: Water and gum.


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

Stephanie: Film. I love making and acting in movies. I love recording in our makeshift recording closet, and I love making music videos with our recordings. I also enjoy walking and hiking a lot. I'm a real exercise buff. I swear it gets the aggression out.


Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Stephanie: Don't give up. Only listen to enough critique to make a better book, nothing else...and always consider your audience--they might not like your genre, so there's no reason to expect them to turn a new leaf. Plan writing into your every day life and get to know publishers and agents through writing workshops.


Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Stephanie: I just finished 'Prank Wars' and gave it to a publisher for review. It's kind of a college "Dumb and Dumber"/ "Cloak and Dagger"/ "Knight and Day"--it's about a girl in the middle of a prank war who gets embroiled in a real mystery with spies and terrorists--but she just doesn't know it. It has my romantic comedy feel with mystery and adventure thrown in.
I'm also taking one of the first books that I've ever written and I'm completely rewriting it. It's real end-of-the world stuff with prophecies, forbidden love and wars to end all wars. I wrote it when I was young and dramatic, so it's very Twilight, and now I've got this new jaded and comedic side to me that I'm adding to it. It's like co-authoring with my younger self (I wonder what she would've thought of my tampering?).


Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Stephanie: Deseret Book. Seagull Book, any LDS bookstore. You can find some links on my website: www.stephaniefowersbooks.com


Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Stephanie: I started writing at a young age in the hopes of starting out early, but I wasn't smart about marketing. I suggest attending writing workshops--not only do they give good advice about plot structuring BUT even more importantly, they provide you chances of getting to know other authors, agents, and publishers, so you can form good connections and find out how to get published. That way you can start your writing career smart. Talent and hard work are important, but without the knowledge it won't get you far enough fast enough.




6 comments:

  1. Good interview. And I love your fairy picture!

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  2. This was a terrific interview that led me to some deep thinking. Your name didn't come up on Amazon, but Meet Your Match did, so I bought it. Any time you need a beta, email me: kbrebes@aol.com

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  4. Wow, totally inspiring interview. I can't wait to read her books and the new one! I love that she writes from experience but also still wants to pursue her passion with sci-fi/fantasy writing too. Thanks for the interview!

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  5. I loved the interview and the fact that she uses music as inspiration for some of her books. Where better to get it? I also liked the comment on balancing her writing and her social life. I know how difficult that can be. I look forward to reading her new book.

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  6. Thank you Deirdra for the interview. You really made me think with those questions. It was a lot of fun. I definitely appreciate reading the comments too, so thanks!

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