Monthly Archives: March 2011

Interview with Billy Coffey & book giveaway

I won’t keep you waiting any longer for this interesting and informative interview.  You can read my March 22 post for my review of Snow Day – but now I am pleased to introduce Billy Coffey, author of Snow Day.

Billy was born and raised in Virginia, USA, where he and his wife are now bringing up their family.  Billy is a prolific writer and quite the philosopher. You may wish to check out his blog (link at end of interview) and be inspired by his insights.

 

Billy, welcome to my blog.  Please start us off by telling us a little about yourself.

I am a proud country boy. Cities scare me, and I do my best to avoid them. I’ve learned more in the mountains than I ever have in school. I hate adverbs. The best storyteller I’ve ever known was a hillbilly named Cracker. I love my family, and I worry about the world we’re all growing up in. I can hit a knuckleball and throw a tomahawk. Clowns scare the heck outta me.

I agree about the clowns!
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you? Or discouraged you?

I was your stereotypical jock in high school, which meant I tried much harder on a ball field than I did in a classroom. By my senior year, seven of my classes were study halls. My plan was to coast into either college or the minor leagues.

My English teacher had a different plan. She told me one day she wasn’t about to let me sit around doing nothing, so she assigned me a weekly column in the local newspaper. My baseball career ended a few months later with a shoulder injury, and I poured out my frustrations in a column a few weeks later. A week after that, I received an anonymous letter from someone who said what I’d written had convinced them not to commit suicide. I’ve been writing ever since.

Wow! That one person whose life you impacted certainly was great encouragement to continue.
As a writer, do you do much reading?  Who/what were and are your favourite authors or books?

The general consensus is that a writer has to read, and I fully embrace that. I’ll read anything I can get my hands on, from Dr. Seuss to the Stoic philosophers. I love Flannery O’Connor and John Steinbeck. Tolstoy’s always been a favorite. And I think Stephen King is a genius.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

I think every writer’s biggest enemy is his or herself. That little whisper deep in your secret places will always tell you to give up, that you’re just a pretender. And honestly, I think that’s a voice to prove wrong rather than silence. There were times when I actually did give up. I was tired of rejection slips and thought I’d be happier without them. But not writing offered much more misery than writing ever could. I think that’s the mark of a writer—you want to give up sometimes, but you know you never can.

As far as believing in myself so I can say “I am a writer,” that’s a tough one. There are still plenty of days when I don’t think I’m a writer at all.

Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I’ve always liked Psalm 66:16: “Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul.”

Oh, nice one.
What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

So far, one book, more articles than I can remember, and a few years’ worth of blog posts. By and large, writing a book is the most enjoyable. There’s a freedom in building a full story that you can’t get anywhere else.

What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

I’m big on planning, whether a book or an article. I like to think things through before I start writing, let things stew for a while. I’m a firm believer that most writing gets done well away from a computer or a sheet of paper.

I wish I were one of those people who can write a first draft straight through. I’m not. I revise as I go, writing today’s words only after picking through yesterday’s. That takes some extra time, but the upside is that by the time I finish a first draft, I actually have the second as well. I’ll let that sit for a while, then go through the whole thing one more time. Sometimes, three drafts is enough. Oftentimes, it isn’t.

What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

Despite all attempts at change, I’m still the most disorganized person I know. I have notebooks everywhere, ideas written down on napkins and receipts. All of that resides on a corner of my desk I refer to as My Mess. It really is sad. The only comfort I have is that if an idea is written down, I’ll rediscover it eventually.

What inspired you to write Snow Day?

I went through a job scare during the winter of 2005. I was working in a factory that handled textiles, and the textile industry is usually ground zero for a recession. Horrible, horrible time. A man has to feel like he’s providing for his family, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. It hollowed me out inside.

Snow Day began as a series of journal entries. I couldn’t understand what was going on and why God would allow such a thing, but I had the idea the answers would come if I just paid attention to what was happening around me. The things Peter Boyd learns are the things I learned.

When did you realize it would be an adult Christian novel, or was that your plan from the start?

I was never sure it would be a CBA novel, though there was little doubt Christianity would be an integral part of the book. I prefer to think of myself as a Christian who writes rather than a Christian writer. Deep down, I feel like a career in Christian publishing would mean a career preaching to the choir. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

How long did it take you to write Snow Day?  Did you have to do any research? And how did you come up with that title?

From start to finish, a little over five months. I was lucky in that the only research I had to do was pay attention. The title pretty much suggested itself. The day I found out I would likely be laid off was the day a snowstorm hit our town.

Did you find any part of the story difficult to pull together?

I think the most difficult part was deciding what to leave out. So much happened during that time. If I would have put everything in, the book would have easily been over 100,000 words. I pared it down to a little over half that, which I think is a manageable length for a first novel.

Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters, perhaps the main character?  Do you have a favourite?

I wrote a lot of myself into Peter Boyd, the main character. He’s a smarter version of myself. My favorite, though, is probably the character of Bobby Barnes. He seems so tragic to me, but at the same time ready for some kind of redemption. He makes another appearance in the manuscript I just finished, and he’ll be the main character in the one I’m getting ready to start.

Oh, that sounds very interesting.
How did you go about finding an editor? A publisher? An agent?

I’d been querying agents and publishers without success for what seemed like forever. An editor at a New York house finally expressed interest but said I needed work on my platform. She suggested I start a blog.

Building an online audience took so much time and effort that querying went by the wayside. I finally just surrendered my writing career to God. And as is usually the case, when I gave that to Him, He gave me something back. One of my readers was a client of Rachelle Gardner’s and offered to introduce us. Rachelle signed me a month later, and I had a book contract a month after that.

From what you’ve said so far regarding your writing career, it seems that from the very beginning it has been a step by step process in God’s plan for you.
Tell us about the exciting publicity Snow Day has received thus far.

I can’t say enough for the work FaithWords has put into Snow Day. They hired a PR firm to handle publicity, which opened up avenues I didn’t think were possible for a first-time author from the sticks. There have been ads in both Library Journal and Book Page, a mention in Writer’s Digest, a dozen or so radio interviews, and a television appearance in the Washington, D.C. area. It was all fun, though a bit nerve-wracking at times. I’m much more comfortable being the guy watching everyone else from the corner of the room. Being comfortable in the middle of that room has taken a lot of effort.

As a writer do you also have a job to go to every day? If so, how do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

I have a full-time job, Monday through Friday from 7:30-4:00. That makes it tough to write every day. I’ve learned to be flexible. I’ll write when and where I can and forgive myself for that being all I can do. I’ll admit it’s aggravating at times.

What other interests do you have that you turn to for a change from writing?

I love sports, always have. And there are about 30,000 acres of wilderness outside my front door, so I’ll often either hike or ride my bike through some trails. My kids are my main interest, though. It’s tough being a parent in a Lady Gaga world.

How do you consistently write?  Do you have writing goals – daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

When I’m writing books, it’s 1,000 words a day, every day, any way I can get them. That rule is unbendable. Over 1,000 is fine, but never less than that. If I’m not writing books, I’ll concentrate on my blog. I only post twice a week, but I try to write a post a day. That way when it’s time to start another book, I have the luxury of being able to concentrate on that with a healthy backlog of posts ready.

That is very smart thinking and a great tip for other writers.
Do you have another project in the works?  If so, any hints you can share with our readers about that?

My second novel is Paper Angels and will be out in November. It centers on a man named Andy Sommerville, who loses his parents as a child and prays that God will send someone to help him. God answers, and Andy spends the rest of his life trying to figure out if that answer is a blessing or a curse. It’s much like Snow Day as far as the country flavor, but it’s completely different in many ways.

I look forward to reading it!
Finally, is being a writer/author all you had hoped or thought it would be?  Any advice for hopefuls?

For years I suffered under the false assumption that landing a book contract with a major publisher would solve all my problems. It didn’t. Many went away, of course, but that just made room for a whole new set. That said, there’s nothing that can quite match the sight of your book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also a humbling time.

The best advice I can give? I’m a firm believer in the power of perseverance, so my advice is to always try once more. If you write a story you decide is awful, try once more. If you get a rejection, try once more. In the end, it doesn’t matter who gives up on you. All that matters is that you don’t.

What helpful advice. Thank you, Billy, for this enlightening interview. It has been interesting learning more about you and your journey. I wish you much continued success as you continue your writing.

Readers, I hope you enjoyed getting to know Billy Coffey better. You can read more of his insights (and his amazing testimony) here: http://www.billycoffey.com/

Also, FaithWords is generously donating a copy of Snow Day to one of you.  Check them out here: http://www.faithwords.com

If you would like a chance at winning a copy of Billy’s book simply post a comment here on my blog, telling what you most enjoyed in the interview. Enter only once, please. I will put the entries into a basket and at 9:00 pm (8:00 EST) on April 8 my husband will draw out the winner’s name. I will contact that person for his/her mailing address. If I do not get a reply by 8:00 pm EST on April 14 we will select another name – so check back!

Thanks for reading this interview, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

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Book Review: Snow Day by Billy Coffey

HAPPY SPRING, EVERYONE!

It has been two weeks since I last posted to my blog, but ‘life’ happens and I just didn’t get anything written. Today I will make up for that with a book review and more to follow.  Stay tuned! 🙂

As we are entering Spring in this part of our world, I would like to introduce to you a book that I think you would enjoy regardless of the season.

Snow Day by Billy CoffeyBook: Snow Day
Author: Billy Coffey
Genre: adult fiction;  inspirational/Christian
Pages: 195 (hardcover)
Price: $18.99 US; $20.99 CDN
Released: October 2010
Publisher: Faith Words — Hachette Book Group
My rating: An easy book to read, enjoy, and think about long after ingesting the last word on the last page.

It was on Twitter that I learned of this novel and its author, Billy Coffey, around the time the book was being released. Having heard wonderful things about it, I had to purchase a copy for myself. I was not disappointed.

This fictional story of faith starts and ends (except for the epilogue) on one snowy December day in a small town in Virginia, USA.  The reader gets to live that day through the eyes and life of one man, Peter Boyd. Peter is a family man and factory worker whose life has been going along as usual, except that when we meet him he has grave concerns for his future. Because of the unstable economic climate there is rumour of possible upcoming lay-offs, and he is worried about his job. The decision he makes to take the day off work on a stormy winter day just before Christmas is a decision that changes his life. Through Peter’s wanderings and ponderings, God subtly teaches him things that give him a fresh new outlook and a deeper understanding of his own faith.

I was drawn in as, chapter by chapter, Billy Coffey took me on a journey with his main character. Each chapter tells its own story from the comedic to the heart-wrenching. In Peter’s neighbourhood and the lives of the people he encounters in it, and through his interactions with his young family, God brings to his attention lessons he has to learn. We get to observe through Peter’s eyes other people’s struggles and conflicts, how they deal with them, and the impact they unknowingly have on Peter.

I am quite a visual person, so as I was reading I could see each scene as Billy creatively described it. He writes in a very descriptive manner, including natural conversations between the characters, making this a pleasant and thought-provoking read.

Snow Day is a first novel for Billy Coffey, but one can hope it will not be his last. I encourage you to look for this book and make it an addition to your personal library.

You can find Snow Day listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Watch for an upcoming interview with Billy Coffey.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 

 


What has been your favourite tweet?

Today is my first year Twitterversary.  Okay, so I think I made up that word, but it is my first year anniversary on Twitter.

If you check back to my blog post of March 4, 2010, you will see that I started using Twitter that day as my “March forth” adventure.  — And no, I did not misspell fourth, I meant to say forth as in going forward.

It seems I am close to having tweeted 1300 tweets!  (Tweets are short posts made up of no more than 140 characters.)  I haven’t gathered a huge following thus far (under 200) nor do I follow a great number of others (under 300).  That compares to other Twitterers who have thousands of followers and in turn follow thousands, but I am satisfied with how it’s going for me.  It has been a learning curve and an interesting one, fun ‘meeting’ people, making connections, and seeing what they have to share.

Fridays are usually busy on Twitter with #Fridayreads when you post what you are reading that week, and #Fridayfollow when you post the @names of people you would like to suggest others follow.

I have been following some ‘famous’ people on Twitter, but mostly those who are involved in the writing world in some way.  I see it as another way to learn who’s out there and what they have to offer of interest to me.

My questions to you today are in two parts…

Part one:  If you use Twitter, what has been your favourite tweet that you read on there?  Why?  Was it funny? informative? helpful in educating you in some way?

And part two:  Since it is March Fourth, what have you taken on today as your March Forth adventure in moving forward?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Use it or lose it

Have you ever wakened in the morning with a story idea in your head? Did you capture it right away or did you decide to wait and write it down when you’re more awake, sure you will remember it? How many times have you lost a great idea with not a clue as to what it was?

How many of your dreams have you known would make great stories, but as soon as you are fully out of that sleep the whole scenario has faded away never to return?

Muse departed.  Opportunity lost.

Paper and pen are by my bed for just that reason. There are times I have wakened very early, a poem or the beginning of a story in my head. I know I would not remember later what was in my mind. Just this morning as I was waking from a dream, I was thinking that it would make a nice story. When I closed my eyes again for just a few moments the vision started to fade, so I hastily jotted down what I could recall, some already lost. The ‘feelings’ around such things that come in that way quickly dissipate so that the opportunity has to be grabbed right then.

Now, how many tales have you made up and told to a child – maybe as a bedtime story, or at a time the child needs to be distracted or comforted? Or have you simply thought it all out in your mind for the fun of it? Did you write it down or did you not see its value? Or maybe you were driving, or in a place where you can’t write anything? A friend told me that she recently was in a public washroom when a story idea hit and … well … her idea escaped. That’s the thing about a creative’s mind … always busy, always dreaming, always thinking.

My dear mother was very creative. She used to tell me that many years before, when she lived with some cousins, she would help get the youngest one to bed each night. Her cousin loved for Mum to put her to bed because then she’d get a bedtime story, Mum making it up as she went along. Each night would be a continuation of the night before, and usually with humour in the story. Mum often told me that she wished she’d been able to write them down because they were such cute stories, but years later she couldn’t remember them.

For over thirty years Mum was a schoolteacher, and after her passing my sister came across a story Mum had written for a summer course she had taken many years before. I remember that she was so pleased about getting a good mark on that project. This story we have that she created is now in my care, Dad would love to see it published.

Recently joining a picture book critique group, I submitted her story for their viewing and frank opinions. The responses have been very positive, and I’m sure I have felt Mum’s pleasure with their comments and suggestions.

May I suggest to you …

When you come up with an idea, write it down. When your Muse visits, pay attention and take notes. Such ideas fade quickly, story details lose themselves in our busyness, whole stories are lost – maybe whole worlds.

So … what do you do about ideas that come when least expected? Are you always prepared to capture them or do you take a chance that you will remember?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)