Interview with Norma Budden, author of “If Only”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept; how true is that?

I admit to being more comfortable in a small setting, but when situations arise during which I’m required to be in a large group of people, I can still interact comfortably. Even so, as much as I may mingle, most of my “quality” time will have been spent talking with a group of three or four. I can’t speak for other authors since I haven’t met any in person.

Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

Yes, and no. If a writer has a day job and writes on the side, there will likely be more social interaction than for the writer who works solely from home, spending large stretches of time alone. They will want to come home after the work day, then cook and spend time with their family. During week-ends or the days a writer takes off, he/she will want to do something special or with family/friends, or take time to relax and refresh their minds.
Personally speaking, as normal as my life may seem, I enjoy spending time with my characters. It does not feel like work when I’m writing; it’s relaxing and, when I am deeply involved with a story, I enjoy spending time with my characters as much as I enjoy spending time with the “real” people who make up my life.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a plot. I, generally, think of a person, phrase or emotion which then peaks my interest in writing a story. Sometimes titles come to mind and ideas for stories arise. Even as ideas form, getting to know my characters and telling their stories is a gradual process. I never know the true ending of a story until I’ve written the last word. Often, I’ve had ideas for how a story would end, only to be completely surprised by my characters.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Writing is not hard for me; carving out the time to write is the difficult aspect. There are so many obligations I face each day that taking a set period of time seems almost impossible.

Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?

I enjoy reading. In the past, I’ve enjoyed the likes of Christian fiction authors such as Terri Blackstock, Dee Henderson, Karen Kingsbury and Deborah Bedford. Though I still enjoy their titles, I’ve become introduced to so many indie authors such as Mary Campisi, Ashley Fontainne, Dianne Harman, J.A. Schneider and Deanna L. Sletten, to name only a few. Books I’ve read and enjoyed (so far) are featured at my website, Budden Book Reviews. (www.buddenbookreviews.com)

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I always look over my work two or three times before passing it onto my editor, Karla Mathis Bostic; after she has finished working on it, I look it over again and make a few additional changes after taking her suggestions into consideration. By the time I am ready to publish a book, I don’t even want to think about reading it for a while because I’ve read it so many times.

Have you ever let any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Whenever I finish a story, I set it aside. I take a writing break and then move onto another project before re-visiting the title; usually three to six months have passed by the time I pick it up again. Then I go through the revision process and, within a month or so, I send it off to my editor.

When I write a book for the NaNoWriMo challenge, I let it stew for a longer period of time and take a couple of months off from writing – typically, December and January – to spend more time with my family. By the time February rolls around, I’m anxious to get back to writing again, but I take on a new project and re-visit my NaNo title as much as six months later. For NaNo titles, the publication date is usually a year or so after I’ve finished writing the last word.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

In my opinion, it does. I’ve looked at books and turned away from them because the covers didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t even bother to check out the ratings.

How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

I can imagine that I would feel disheartened, especially if I had gone through a lot of advertising for it. I’ve had a couple of book-signings locally with better turn-outs than even I expected, but that’s with people who knew me in person. I’ve always dreamed of having a book-signing tour but wondered if the exact thing might happen – that no one would show up for one of my signings. I haven’t had the opportunity to test it out yet since living in Arctic Canada makes it challenging.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

I wanted to become a teacher; I carried that dream until I got involved with reading mysteries, then the dream turned to being a detective. On a professional level, I never did fulfill either dream, yet I teach someone something every day and detect or investigate things whenever I get an opportunity.
Even so, ever since I can remember, there has been a burning desire to write stories – and that is one thing I have done, and will continue to do. In my journey of being a fiction writer, I’ve been introduced to Private Investigator, Ace Townsend; yes, he is one of my characters but he takes me on fascinating journeys as he goes about the business of solving crimes. Even I don’t know the outcome of his adventures until they have been written. Strangely, it satisfies my “detective” urges, and I don’t have to live with the fear of someone going after my family to get back at me for playing a part in disrupting/ruining their lives. That is the main reason I did not pursue being a detective; in my heart, I felt I’d be too vulnerable if I had a family.

Do you read any of your own work?

I go through stages when I mostly read my own books, then go through stages when I solely read the works of others. It depends on my mood at the time. If I plan to write another book in my Freedom in Love series, I re-read the previous book/s to get a feel for where I left off, then continue writing.

Do your novels carry a message?

As a reader, I enjoy when stories convey messages to their readers. It’s always good to be reminded of life lessons, or to find insight and inspiration.

Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?

I just finished reading Into Hell’s Fire by Douglas Cavanaugh, a Croation author who originates from Ohio. It definitely took me into a world I’ve never previously read, captivating me to the end. I had never heard of him, but he asked me if I would be interested in reading and reviewing his story and the premise captured my attention. It will show up at Budden Book Reviews as soon as I get a chance to write the review and get it published.

It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time; does that remain true for you as well?

If I hadn’t experienced heartbreak (on varying levels) in my life, I don’t think my stories would be as emotionally driven. Though I’ve gone through some painful situations in life, I look back at most of them as experiences which refined my craft as a writer. To this day, it’s hard for me to write a “happy” storyline, though I do strive to write uplifting stories despite the conflict my characters face.

When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?

Even now I dream of being a full-time writer…

Poets and writers, in general, have a reputation of committing suicide; in your opinion, why is this the case?

Poets and writers spend a lot of time inside of their own heads. They are dealing with emotions, or the emotions of their characters, and painful subjects they would prefer not to deal with at times, though feel compelled to do so.

I remember when writing Coming Unglued: A Mother’s Journey into Hell. I sobbed so much during the writing of that story, wanting to give up on it, yet felt something urging me to complete it. I lived and breathed it, couldn’t escape it no matter how much I tried to immerse myself in reading or spending time with my family. It was one of my most depressing times as a writer, though I knew the season of my life would pass.

I’ve always enjoyed being alive, though could surely have passed up on some of life’s challenges. Thankfully, I have a grasp on life which makes me appreciate it to the extent that I could never give it up voluntarily.

I’m also thankful to maintain daily interaction with others as I write. Too much time spent alone is never a good thing. Life can go downhill quickly without having others as a part of life – whether it’s a morning coffee with a friend, an afternoon walk in the park or an evening spent with someone special.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

I am an Administration Manager with The North West Company, working five days a week. I enjoy it but no job really compares to sitting in front of a computer as I work with my characters.

Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

All of the time. I can never find enough time to write because I’m usually too tired by the time I get home from work.

From all that we have been hearing and seeing in the movies, most writers are alcoholics. Your views on that?

I have no idea. I don’t drink alcohol at all – not even as much as a glass of wine. It definitely would not be true in my case and it wouldn’t make sense, now that I think about it. I would presume alcoholism would impede creativity in a big way.

How do you see writing – as a hobby or a passion?

Writing is like breathing fresh air; the more I write, the more alive I feel.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous; is that true?

Being a published author is great; it provides a wonderful feeling inside of my heart and soul. As for it being glamorous, I have not reached a point where I can say that yet, but Nora Roberts or Nicholas Sparks may be able to provide a true answer to your question. Regardless, writing would still consume numerous hours of a writer’s time, no matter the level of success attained, so there is still a lot of time spent alone.

Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?

I enjoy traveling but enjoy being at home, too. Living in Arctic Canada, I don’t have much occasion to travel so I tend to stay in (when not working) during the cold winter months. When I leave for summer vacation, I see as much as I can with my family – only taking a break when we go to sleep at night.

Do you reply back to your fans and admirers personally?

Yes, I definitely do. I know how much I enjoy hearing from authors whose work I admire so I treat my readership the same.

Which of your books took you the most time to write?

I would have to say, of the books I’ve published since 2011, Coming Unglued; A Mother’s Journey into Hell would be the book which took me the longest to write. It took about six weeks whereas my normal titles can be written within three to four weeks.

Do you believe it is more challenging to write about beliefs that conflict with the ones you hold yourself?

I don’t know if I would even attempt to take on such an endeavour. I could write an article showcasing various beliefs but, in terms of writing a story where I pour my heart and soul into my characters, their beliefs would closely mirror my own because, in some ways, they are a reflection of myself. It would definitely be a challenge to write any other way.

Is writing book series more challenging?

For me, it’s easier because the main characters have already been established. They learn and grow but the core of each character is known to me. When starting a new project, I have to be careful that I don’t create carbon copies of characters I already have in other books. It can be a challenge, unless a character just calls out to me, out of the blue, and the story begins to form inside of my mind.

When you look back at your past, do you feel accomplished?

I certainly do. My path may not have turned out as I expected when I was a teen, but I’ve learned to roll with the punches and make something of my life. I am satisfied with how life has turned out so far, but I always have a dream and, when I attain it, another dream is born to take its place.

What do you do in your free time?

I could probably list 50 things I enjoy doing and would do more of, if I had time. Even so, I tend to cook and bake if I’m not reading. Lately, I’ve taken to playing Candy Crush which allows my mind to relax for brief periods at a time.

How do you feel when people recognize you in public and appreciate your work?

It’s hard to describe how wonderful it makes me feel. I was certainly surprised this past November when a fellow passenger on a plane was amazed to learn my name. He told me his teen son loved my books. Before the man left the plane, he shook my hand, stating once again that he couldn’t believe he was actually sitting beside me.

I am quick to point out that I’m only human, but I must admit to feeling wonderful.

 

Writers are permanently depressed; how true is that?

None of the writers I know are depressed – permanently or otherwise. That being said, there are a lot of writers out there. If they are trying to make a living from their writing but are not having success, I’m sure it can lead to depression. If they stay alone most of the time, they can grow to feel they have nothing to live for any more. As for me, the most depressing part of life is when I can’t get enough time to write, especially when the urge is there so strongly I can barely breathe. I have to control myself so it doesn’t make me cranky.

What does the word ‘retirement’ mean to you? Do writers ever retire?

I know this writer will never retire. As long as there’s a story written upon my heart, I will write it. It’s actually one of my greatest fears – that I will die knowing a story wasn’t quite finished.

Any particular writer in mind whom you would want to complete your unfinished works in the event of your death?

Terri Blackstock comes to mind, though Karen Kingsbury might be a good candidate, too. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

Do you prefer writing over reviewing the work of others?

I enjoy writing because I get to spend time with “my” characters. When I need a break from the computer, I enjoy reading what others have written and am sure to share my thoughts if the books are enjoyable.

Doesn’t it bother you that when books are turned into movies, they are often changed to suit the audience’s needs?

I’ve never read a book and saw it after it was turned into a movie. I can imagine it would bother me immensely, though, if one of my stories was changed to suit the audience. It wouldn’t really be “my” story any more.

Do you believe you have done enough to leave a legacy behind?

In the online world, yes. At home, I’m not quite there yet.

Do you pen down revelations and ideas as you get them, right then and there?

I’ll even get up in the middle of the night and make a note on my cell phone so I won’t forget. Then I’ll lay down in bed and fantasize about how the story might turn out before I go back to sleep.

Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?

I’m not sure about five times, but I’ve been known to tweak sentences a few times because I didn’t like the sound of a word, or a phrase could have been improved.

Ever learned anything thing from a negative review and incorporated it in your writing?

I’ve only come across a couple of totally negative reviews and, with one of them, it was obvious she was not part of the intended target audience for the book she read so I didn’t really give a lot of consideration to what she said in her review. In general, though, I take the suggestions of my readers seriously and do take another look at a book if a few readers come back with the same suggestions for ways they feel the story could be improved.

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

Sometimes I write in solitude, but I enjoy writing while listening to music through my earphones. While writing my most recent NaNoWriMo title, tentatively titled The Pop Star, I listened to various songs sung by Eros Ramazotti. I would come across a song which suited my mood at the time then put it on repeat; I might listen to that same song about 30 times during one writing session, then turn it on the next day/night, and so on. As long as the tempo of the music is consistent, it’s good with me.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

I prefer sitting in my room at my computer when writing. However, I can sit down and write anywhere as long as people don’t disturb me, and it’s not too noisy. When I get into my story, it’s like everything else fades away and I become one with the story.

Does fan mail still excite you as much as it did the first time you received it?

It certainly does; in fact, I think it excites me more than in the beginning because it shows people are still interested in my stories. I’ve read the thoughts of multiple readers instead of only one or two.

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