Sunday, September 16, 2012

Guest Post and Interview from Charlotte Hubbard, Author of "Autumn Winds"

I get the opportunity to work with fantastic authors, and Charlotte Hubbard is one of those.  You might remember the review I did of her book Autumn Winds.  I know I am sharing a guest post and an interview with her.  Enjoy both.  I am not one who enjoys doing interviews all that often, but Charlotte Hubbard is a delight to interview!

What do you think a writer’s life looks like?

If you recall the TV show “Murder, She Wrote,” about mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, you have an idea of how I would like my life to look! I devoured that show as a beginning writer, because Jessica spent her days meeting interesting (sometimes dangerous!) people and solving mysteries. You saw very little of her actually writing her books, however, because watching a writer sit at her typewriter/computer makes for deadly dull television. I envisioned myself working at Jessica’s same pace, taking long walks while I plotted out sections of a story, living a quiet but satisfying life.

Well, these days, as I write two Amish series for two different publishers, my writing life is more like letting five beagle puppies loose in the park. As I write this, I have so many projects barking at me, I don’t know which one to catch/quiet first. I have publicists and blog tour organizers wanting promo material when I’m on a book deadline. Some days I have real-life projects that must be done (this week it was pressure canning a bushel of beets and a bushel of tomatoes when one editor requested a synopsis and title for an upcoming book while I was already running behind on my current book for the other editor and meanwhile trying to pack for a conference trip with my husband). This doesn’t begin to cover the time I spend checking the Amish-interest Facebook groups I belong to or answering emails. I need to get my newsletter stuffed into envelopes for my AUTUMN WINDS snail-mail promotion, too, and I still have to concoct my MailChimp newsletter to send to online readers. See what I mean about barking beagles? Yap, yap, yap!

Unlike Jessica Fletcher, I have to meet a deadline every three to four mounts to keep books for both of my series coming out at regular intervals. This calendar year I have four books coming out—a phenomenal achievement for me!—which means I spent some of 2010 and all of 2011 with my rear in my chair writing (even though I was also in the process of selling a home in MO so we could move to MN). As I wrote AUTUMN WINDS, the second book of my Seasons of the Heart series, I recall life being relatively calm. We’d remodeled our new home and moved in by then…

And then another beagle showed up in the form of my sister, who needed a place to live after she lost her drivers license along with just about everything else. So as I wrote my next book for the other series, ROSEMARY OPENS HER HEART (which comes out in November) I once again had a lot of day-to-day stuff that had to be done regardless of my writing deadlines . . . regardless of an editor who never fails to ask for massive revisions of my work, and regardless of my emotional state on any given day while I drove my sister to interviews, doctor appointments, and her job. At times I felt as though my head was spinning off, and I needed to catch it with one hand and keep typing with the other!
I was so relieved when my sister moved on to a brother’s home and a new job.

I’m not complaining, understand! This is not a pity party! Those of you with kids and jobs are shaking your heads, wondering why I think I’m so busy! I’ve had years when I couldn’t sell diddly, so having two respected editors asking me to write for them is a big-time blessing! I have a lot of reasons to love my job, and I truly do:

My commute to work consists of walking downstairs to my office, usually in jeans and a teeshirt—or, on nice days, I work on the deck using my iPad and keyboard. I have the luxury of shopping during the week, if I prefer, and avoiding the weekend crowds. I’m home when the repairman needs to come, or I can schedule car maintenance (those are double-edged swords, because such chores do take up time when I could be writing). I can meet a friend for lunch now and again, or schedule a day or two off to do a chick-trip with my best friend each year. My work is very portable, thanks to my iPad, so I can plan longer vacations and still keep up with writing deadlines. Better yet, when I’m not traveling I’m home every day with my Border collie, Ramona, who walks with me and keeps me from being a total chair potato.

The main challenge for me, as a writer with such a crammed schedule, is to find a balance between living my own life and writing about my characters’ lives. I bought a guitar last month and have started taking lessons—gets me out each week, gets my brain thinking along a different path, gets some music back into my life. I sing in my church choir, too. Writing is so brain-focused, and the stress so internalized, I try to get out and walk every day to keep the rest of my body working. Although I haven’t yet replaced my long-time friends from Missouri, I chat with my neighbors here when I see them outside.

I have to credit my husband for making this career possible: without his regular paycheck and health insurance, I simply couldn’t afford to be a writer, even though I’ve published nearly 30 books. Most folks assume I could be paying for the lifestyle my husband dreams about by now, but it hasn’t worked out that way! I measure my success by the satisfaction I get from hearing that my stories have touched my readers (or, yeah, by the way I’ve recently gotten contracts to continue both of my Amish series!)

Does my life look like you thought it would? For a glimpse of the lives I love to write about, I hope you’ll consider my current book, AUTUMN WINDS. I think it’s particularly wonderful that 40-year-old Miriam Lantz fends off the bishop’s attentions and catches herself a younger man with a hint of scandal in his past! If you love Ben Hooley and the way he falls for Miriam—and brings his two old-maid aunts along for the ride—then I’ve done my job!

Interview with Author Charlotte Hubbard:

1.    What was your major in college, and how did that help you get started in the writing business?                  Because I had a double major in English and library science, I didn't realize it but I was setting myself up to be a writer someday! I taught/was a school librarian for 10 years, but when we moved to St. Louis, I learned I would have to substitute for an entire year before I could get a teaching contract. This was in the 80's, when guns and knives were starting to show up in kids' lockers, so I decided it was time to find a new career. I started writing for the confession magazines, which, at that time, was a great way to break into fiction. (And you thought all those True Confessions were really true, didn't you?!)

2. Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

       Every new contract creates new deadlines, and each new deadline inspires me to keep my butt in the chair, writing!
       More seriously, though, I have gotten a lot of inspiration and ideas for my Amish novels from my visits to Jamesport, Missouri, where both of my series are set. For me, there's no substitute for being there among Amish folks. I also get a lot of ideas by reading The Budget, the newspaper for Plain communities all over America, and more recently I've subscribed to The Connection, a magazine written by and for Amish readers.

3.  Describe your ideal vacation.

       In a word, CRUISE! My husband and I like to cruise to celebrate "big" birthdays and anniversaries (ending with 5s or 0s).These days, I don't even care where the ship's going, I just want to be on it—and the more days we have at sea, the better! I especially like it that you stop at all the various ports without having to pack and unpack each time. It takes a few days of keeping really busy, taking in all the activities aboard the ship before I can remember how to do absolutely nothing...a state I can rarely get into at home. But isn't that a good place to be every now and then? One of my favorite things about cruises are the menus: different every night, crammed with all sorts of fabulous foods to try—and no prices!
       We've taken an Alaska cruise, a few to the Caribbean, one along the Pacific coast of Mexico,and our last one took us through the Panama Canal. Now we're figuring out where to go next spring to celebrate a big birthday...mine. I think it's gonna be Hawaii!

4.  What is your favorite food to make?  To eat?

       Tough question, because I love to cook and I love to eat. I make a pretty mean pizza, with a homemade crust—but only in the winter, as I prefer not to heat up the house with the oven in the summertime. I like to make soup, too, because I don't use a recipe so even a basic like vegetable beef  soup comes out different each time. Great way to use up the leftover veggies I've stashed in the deep freeze, along with broth I've saved from roasts I've cooked in the Crock Pot.
       To eat? I've been doing a lot of veggies this summer to lower my cholesterol, and a ratatouille of tomatoes, onion, sweet bell pepper, mushrooms and chili beans, seasoned with garlic, basil, and dill, served over wild rice, has been a staple lately.

5.  What do you like to do in your spare time?
       Spare time, you say? I vaguely remember having that! I quit watching TV years ago because I always have something better to do. I walk my Border collie, Ramona, every day to keep us both up and moving (she's 9 now...I'm slightly older.) I like to read each night before I go to bed. I love to crochet afghans but that tends to be something I only work on during car trips.
       To give myself a mental break from staying on my writing deadlines, I recently bought a new guitar and started taking lessons. Gets me out of the house, gives me incentive to practice...and gee, what's not to love about sitting in a small room with a hot younger man who has chocolate brown eyes? Oh...does it matter that I could be his mother?

6.  Do you prefer print or digital copies? Why?

       I used to prefer print copies and vowed I would never latch onto e-books...but I've changed my tune! I now have Nook and Kindle apps on my iPad, and I really enjoy reading ebooks on it during long car trips, or in bed after dark, because the screen is so well lit and you can adjust the font size for eyes that are um, getting older. I still buy print books, too, but these days it's about 50-50 between print and ebooks. Who'd've thunk it?

7.  What role does religion play in your life?  Elaborate if you feel comfortable doing so.

       I've attended the Presbyterian church and been in choir for most of my life. Because I write in a home office and have no work colleagues, church has always provided a lot of my social life. After we've moved to a new town, I can just walk into choir practice and immediately have a new group of friends! Over the years, I've cooked for groups of older adults at church and we hosted a monthly potluck group in our home for more than 20 years while we lived in Missouri. The friends we meet in church tend to be forever friends and my Christmas card list gets longer each time we move.

       When I was a kid, religion was about right and wrong, following the rules and regs. These days I prefer to call it faith, and my beliefs have gotten broader. I've remained on the prayer chain of our church in Missouri and it's a powerful way to help people I don't even know, simply thanking God for His presence with them in their times of illness or crisis—or in their times of joy, as well. I keep a little notebook of folks I pray for regularly, so I don't leave anyone out! I believe we all need to practice more forgiveness and release more guilt and defuse our anger and envy. Faith can be the ultimate tool for doing that, and the best stress reliever, too.

8.  Do you have a favorite quote?  Please share it with us and why it is your favorite.

In a recent newsletter from Neale Donald Walsch, I read: "Aim high. Ride easy. Trust God." That resonated with me enough that I printed out a colorful little sign to hang above my computer, as a reminder that even when things aren't going as I'd like them to, I should still do my best and then relax because God is in charge. What a relief, to know I don't have to be!

9.  What is your favorite kind of music?  

       I have really eclectic taste in music. I got a piano for my 10th birthday and learned the basics in classical music, played the violin in junior high, took jazz improv organ lessons in high school and from there diddled around on a guitar and a banjo. I've been singing in choir since I was about 8, and I've also played handbells and choir chimes in church groups. Now, in our new MN church, I'm playing Djembe drums, the marimba, and other things you beat on, in our percussion ensemble!
       I also play music while I write, using iTunes playlists of instrumental music (can't have anyone else's words in my head while I'm working!). Right now I'm writing a Christmas book, and my Christmas playlist is a big help at keeping me in the "one horse open sleigh" spirit while it's 90 degrees outside! I have a playlist of hymn tunes, show tunes, and easy-listening stuff, too.
       When I'm not writing, I'm a huge fan of ragtime and Dixieland music, and when I'm cleaning or doing something I don't really enjoy, I play loud rock and roll to keep me motivated. The Beatles and Elton John came along when I was at an impressionable age, and later I latched onto the Eagles. These days I'm more into Norah Jones, James Taylor, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I'm also a big fan of Pandora radio.

I want to thank Charlotte Hubbard for all of these wonderful things she has shared with us.   I especially love her response regarding faith versus religion.  

To find out more about Charlotte, please visit her at


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