Monday, June 2, 2008

Interview with Anita Higman

Anita Higman is the award-winning author of twenty-one books. Her first mystery is entitled, Another Stab at Life, which is part of The Volstead Manor Series.

Another Stab at Life is part of a trilogy. How hard was it to write a series versus a stand-alone novel?
The answer is yes and no. In one way, writing a series is easier because I know my characters really well, and I know what each of them will do when tossed into various emotional tumblers. However, I get slowed down as soon as I’m forced to think about how much back story to include from the last novel and where to place it. And I have to constantly ask myself if I’m keeping the story fresh, or if I’m repeating myself, which would make certain elements come off annoyingly repetitious—like right now! When I weigh everything, I think the series is a little harder for me to write than the stand-alone.

What favorite beverage do you have on hand while you’re writing? Does it help stimulate creativity?
I brew up some incredible Republic of Tea. My favorite flavors are blackberry/sage and ginger/peach. I like it iced, and I make sure I have enough to get me through the after-lunch sleepy hours of 1:00 to 3:00. I don’t think the tea makes me more creative, but it does help me stay awake to write.

Do you write every day? What does a typical day look like?
I try to write every weekday, but sometimes I’m busy with other facets of the writer’s life, such as speaking engagements, book signings, and blog interviews. One typical day might start with breakfast at 5:45, writing until lunch, and then errands. In between all that writing time I’m also checking my email. But I have to be careful, since email can turn into the beast that ate my writing schedule. Sometimes while the family is watching TV I find myself migrating back to my office for some more work. I enjoy renting movies every weekend to watch with my family, but I don’t like sitting in front of the TV every week night. For me watching television feels more like wasting time than fun.

What kinds of writing do you most admire? Does any of these works affect your own style?
Early in my career, I fell in love with the writings of Horton Foote. Many of his plays could be described as heart-tugging family dramas. But now years later, I’m fascinated with the work of Ann Radcliffe and Jane Austen. Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novels have influenced my work, but what is much more fascinating is that Ann’s work influenced Jane Austen. Ms. Austen refers to Ann Radcliffe’s novel, Romance of the Forest within her own novel, Emma. Also, Jane Austen wrote the gothic-style novel, Northanger Abbey, which is an affectionate spoof of Ann Radcliffe’s novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho.

What do you love about writing? And is there any part of the writing process that you don’t like?
I enjoy the challenge of a blank page, although some writers might want to scream like in Poe’s, The Tell-Tale Heart, “But anything was better than this agony!” The great white void of paper doesn’t have to remain that way. If I do some stream-of-consciousness writing for five minutes, suddenly there are words on the page. I wouldn’t necessarily want to keep those words, but sometimes this method can give me an interesting or unexpected beginning. I suppose coming up with the opening page is my favorite part. Or course, making it to the end of the story is also pretty thrilling. My least favorite part is the editing, since it can sometimes get tedious. But I quickly remind myself that skipping the polish is like refusing to put the greenware teapot into the kiln. If you don’t fire it, it remains a useless piece of pottery instead of becoming the beautiful porcelain teapot it was meant to be.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
My two kids. They are the finest gifts that God could have ever given to me and my husband.

What was your favorite fairytale story and why?
I loved Cinderella. Stories like Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel were a little too grim for me to wrap my mind around when I was a kid. But Cinderella was and still is a wonderful fantasy of drama and hope and love. I especially liked the movie version Ever After. The heroine is spunky as well as smart and good-natured.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share with us?
I’m into the three Ps—practice, persistence, and patience. Even if you’re born with some natural talent, practice is vital, just as it is with learning the oboe or the backstroke or the foxtrot. You’ll need persistence. (I have a friend who wrote eight full-length novels before she was finally published. Now that’s persistence!) You’ll also need a boatload of patience because the whole writing, submitting, and waiting process can take a serious chunk of your time. But most of all, talk to God every morning about your writing. Ask Him to guide you in your planning phase, your rough draft, and in your revisions. That’s the best advice I have.

Anita would love for you to visit her website at, where you can check out her book trailer for Another Stab at Life.

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