Connecting with Candie Moonshower

Heather Parker
Aug 20 · 26 min read

After working as a freelance writer and children’s writer for many years, Candie Moonshower entered academia and was immediately motivated to put her skills to use in another important venue. She teaches freshman and sophomore-level English courses and enjoys helping students get over their fear — and sometimes hatred — of writing. As an undergraduate at MTSU, Moonshower received The Richard C. and Virginia Peck Award, a Paul Martin Scholarship, and was named Honors Senior of the Year. In 2004, she sold her Master’s thesis, a novel for young people entitled The Legend of Zoey, to Random House. The Legend of Zoey, published in 2006, won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award, and it was named a Volunteer State Book Award nominee. Moonshower has since published a biography for the school library market and continues to work on novels for children, young adults and adults. Moonshower has accumulated 200+ publication credits throughout her long freelance career. She enjoys freelance work as a developmental editor, helping writers with their novels. In Spring 2019, Moonshower launched a new 2020 Themes in Literature course entitled “Happily Ever After”: A Survey of the Modern Romance Novel. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. Her writing interests are middle grade and young adult novels, and romance for the adult market.

Candie Moonshower’s bio is impressive. I’ll admit, I was a bit intimidated and nervous before our Zoom conversation began. However, the light that shines within her instantly put me at ease and kept a smile on my face as we chatted about her career and connected over walking the nontraditional path toward education. What started out as nervous energy quickly transformed into a familiar current as she talked about her literacy journey, writing career, and artistic process.

Thank you so much for meeting with me. When Dr. Barnett sent me your information. I felt honored that she put us together. Your bio screams that you are a truly born creative mind.

I think so. It’s funny because I have one brother, who’s older than I am, and he is a fabulous musician. Our grandparents had an orchestra. It was an orchestra, but back then, they would have just said, “the band.” They were popular and played all over the Southeast. My grandfather and grandmother and their folks. The music thing for my brother was understandable. It was hereditary, and he just had it and still does. I tried. I took guitar lessons. My grandfather retired from the band, and he started teaching music to every kid in Clarksville, Tennessee. He tried with me. I can read music very well, but I didn’t want to practice, so I was never good. It was a good entrée because I played in the band in high school, which was a lot of fun. I never was good, but it was fun. They can’t kick you out for not being good.

I always liked to write, and it was somewhat of a little journey. When I was in those impressionable toddler years, I lived overseas in Okinawa. My mother was very busy, and my dad was in and out of Vietnam. This was before 1965, and no one read to me. I could speak Japanese, Chinese, and Ryukyuan, but no one read picture books, storybooks, or anything to me. The gal that was my mama-san was Chinese-Ryukyuan and spoke no English. The gal that came and sewed for my mother was Japanese-Ryukuan and spoke no English. So I learned a lot from them, but I didn’t have any of the alphabet.

When I came back to the United States in late 1965 and began first grade in August of ’66, all the little snot-nosed brats were like, “I can read this, and I can read that.” I didn’t know how to write my name. I had never been to kindergarten. I remember looking up at the board and seeing the alphabet across the top. I just knew instinctively, that was the secret, the key to unlocking something that everybody else could do. I wanted to do it too. I just set my heart on learning how to read quickly. My mother ordered books from the leaflets that they send home with you that sell books. I remember it was in October when I got that first box. I remember sitting on our little front porch reading How Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together. I still have that book. It was like my mind just exploded! I began voraciously reading.

In 1968 my father was killed in Vietnam, and that’s when I probably started writing. I was doodling around with thoughts in a very, very young way. I’m sure that was the start of trying to get my feelings out. My mother was a bit of a … I don’t want to say she was a bit of anything because she was larger than life. But, her way of dealing was, that’s over. Let’s just shut the door, and we are going to keep going ahead in life. This is not a super bad thing, but we know now that we probably could have used a little grief counseling. But, we forged ahead like the good soldiers that we were.

I think writing allowed me to get my feelings out that I couldn’t say in my house. I guess I was about eight years old when I started. I quickly began writing stories, but not about unicorns. My feet were always firmly planted on terra firma. It had to be real, real, real! I don’t know what that says about me. I’m not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV, but I think it says something. I was not and still not interested in exploring what it would feel like to date a vampire. I want to know how real people feel and how they deal.

It sounds like you were dealing with real issues from a very early age.

I wrote an honors thesis called, The Silent Knowing. It refers to the fact that it wasn’t just my mother that shut us down. We lived in a time where Vietnam was a very unpopular war, and society shut us down. We moved from Clarksville to Nashville in 1972, and I started 7th grade at Bellevue. My brother was a senior. We knew no one whose parents had died in Vietnam, whereas, when we were in Clarksville, we knew other people. I can remember going back to my 10-year high school reunion and telling somebody, “Well, you know, when my dad was killed…” and they were like, “What?” They didn’t even know. My mother had remarried. They just thought that my mom and dad were married, and they just didn’t know. I’m sure that says something else about me too. When I retire, I’ll have time for some deep therapy. I will say, writing is self-therapy.

There is a form of therapy called expressive writing therapy, where patients are encouraged to write about past trauma. Proponents believe that they can see mental health improvement through journaling. I feel like creative minds have always known this. We aren’t in that scientific realm, but we have always known that we need to write it down or express it in some creative way.

The writing, I think, really kept me from probably becoming an alcoholic or having some other addiction. I’m lucky I didn’t go down some storm drain and lose myself completely. I get why people turn to the things they turn to, and I often suggest that people write it down and see what happens. Some people are open to it, but people have to come to their own thing.

I think sometimes writing it down is scary. Putting it on paper makes it real and tangible.

Yes. Sometimes people have read my stuff and been like, “I get the surface of this, but I sense that there’s more.” And they’re right. I just haven’t dug deep enough yet because it’s hurtful.

Oh, those internal archives … There are reasons why they’re closed off and stored away into boxes.

In my mind, I picture myself standing at the little card catalog flipping through, looking for what’s next. It makes for great stories. I always feel that I can empathize with my students on just about anything. And I think they sense it. They don’t feel like I’m the sage on the stage. I’m really down there in the trenches with them. The more things change, the more they stay the same. They are going through the same junk, just in a different way.

So, what is your lane when it comes to the genre?

I’m all over the place. I wrote articles for years for business magazines, and I do not have a degree in business. It’s really who you know, not what you know. I knew an editor, and he liked my style, so I was in. I’ve written for Writer’s Digest, The Writer, The Tennessean back when newspapers counted. I loved freelancing. I was always writing on the side. I’ve published in middle grade and young adult, and I’m writing adult romance. Recently, one of my colleagues and I proposed a chapter for a book for teachers. It was accepted. This will be my first scholarly article after all these years. Normally, they look askance at anybody that doesn’t have a Ph.D. But for whatever reason, I had the chops about the topic. I always laugh to say, “No time like the present, you know.” I have a website for my children’s work which I’m still involved in. I have a new website for my backlog of adult romances. I say they are heart and heat. By January, I will be querying or indie-publishing them.

What work will you be reading for the In Process Series?

I’m going to read from Absent Without Leave. I’m reworking it right now. It’s kind of the novel of my heart. It’s not biographical, but it is a Vietnam-era novel, which is now classified as historical. This cracks me up. Of course, anything set in the 80s is now considered historical. It is set in 1969–7O. It’s about a young girl and her brother and the mother who get word that their father, a career soldier (that part is kind of autobiographical), has gone missing. Believed to be absent without leave, which is the worst. The mother moves them to a college campus, somewhat like MTSU, much to the chagrin of the kids. She doesn’t want to stay on base with the swirling gossip. She knows she can teach Italian, and her husband, if he is alive, will know where to find her. If he comes home. So they move on campus, and they are quickly engulfed in the anti-war movement.

The crux of the story is how you deal with that juxtaposition of how you feel, what you know, and what you believe versus what other people feel, know, and believe. I think a lot of people are going through this right now. My main character Marcy is patriotic and solidly behind her father and his career, but on the other hand, she understands what people are saying. She’s stealing his letters from her mother and reading them. She’s getting the idea that he was not happy with how things were going. That’s semi-autobiographical because my dad was the same way. He did his duty, but he was very troubled by what was going on. Yes, I’m pulling from my own knowledge because it was kind of like that for my brother and me, which is probably why we stayed quiet. When we first moved to Nashville, we met kids who really didn’t have a connection to the war at all, which was still going on in 1972, so we just shut down.

They always say to start on the day that things are different. So the novel begins when they find out that Dad is missing. But the real crux of her conflict starts when she goes to school the first day and tells a big fat lie about where her dad is to the guidance counselor. It’s hard to keep up with a lie, so she is going to be dealing. I’m rewriting the ending. My plan is that her brother, the musician, who’s much more willing to get involved with the anti-war stuff, ends up at Kent State on May 4th, 1970.

That sounds super interesting and complex.

Thank you. It’s something I’ve probably worked on for 25 years. It’s done, but I’m a much better writer now, so I’m redoing it.

Since you’ve been working on it that long, you know your characters very well. I imagine they run across your mind occasionally and voice their opinion about the progress.

I do! I’ve heard them telling me, “Hurry up. We’re waiting. We’re out here in limbo.”

Throughout this process, have you had anything surprise you that you weren’t expecting?

In the story, the way it was first envisioned, Marcy goes to the new school and meets all the kids. They all know each other because they have been funneled into this school from a couple of local elementary and middle schools. She’s the new kid on the block. She’s fighting that guilt, which is something I went through as well, of wanting to be happy and wanting to do the typical teenage things without thinking, “Oh my gosh! I should be worried and sad all the time.” No one told me that it was ok to be happy. It was mostly just, “Shush.”

For Marcy, she meets a boy and a girl, and immediately there is conflict. What surprised me was, in the first go-around, the girl, whose name is Lydia, wasn’t a nice person. But as I worked on it, again and again, Lydia has secrets of her own. Then it struck me that every kid that I highlight and has a role has secrets. They’re all dealing with something. For Marcy, when she learns that, it’s big. It opens up her mind to think, “Ok, yeah, I’m not alone. It’s not the same, but I’m not alone.” It’s just dealing with different things. Like her boyfriend, he doesn’t like his father because he’s crazy about chasing his Nashville dream. She cannot stand when he’s honest about his father. She’s like, “You should never talk about your dad that way!” That’s coming from her. She sees slowly but surely, things as they are. That’s growth for her.

That speaks to what you said earlier about writing reality. The reality is if someone is mean, it is sourced from somewhere. We are all dealing with something in the background.

I told my kids when they were younger that it’s hardly ever about you when people act that way. It’s something in their minds and their hearts. But that’s not easy for kids to understand.

That’s even difficult for adults. Kids are just trying to figure out who they are. They don’t have the maturity to analyze the motives of the people around them.

Marcy is trying to come to terms with herself as a person separate from her parents. And that’s a big life lesson. Our parents have big clay feet. They’re not perfect, and we have to accept that and be OK with it because we aren’t either. Of course, we don’t realize that until we’re adults, and we’re like, “Oh, now I forgive mother.”

Since my mother passed away, I think about her all the time. I dream about her a lot. I dream in color every night. My dreams, I think, are telling me stuff about my mother that is timely for me to learn. It’s been a good thing.

When I was in my thirties, I went to her and said, “We need to talk about Daddy.” At first, she shut me down, but I told her that if we didn’t, it was going to hurt our relationship. I needed to know who he was and not just as her husband. I needed to know him as our father and as a person. So, we did. I took her out several times and turned on a tape recorder, and got her stories. She gave me all the letters my dad had ever written to her, which was a mind-blowing experience. I haven’t read them all because it’s very hard. He was a good writer.

Until my thirties, I had always thought, “Oh, my gosh! I’m such a black sheep.” Because my brother is such a fine musician, and I had never gone that path. Then I realized it was my dad’s path. He loved to write. He would write these fifteen, sixteen, twenty-page letters, and they were interesting. He wanted to go to law school when he got out of the military. He was supposed to become the Sergeant Major of the armed forces, but he volunteered to go back to Vietnam even though he had 23 years in. With those conversations and the letters, that whole side of my life was opened up for me. It gave me a lot of confidence because I do know a writer in the family.

Good for you for being brave enough to say, “This is what we’re going to talk about because it’s a necessity for not only me, but it’s a necessity for us and our relationship.” That takes a lot of courage.

It helped the whole family. My mother was such a strong personality that when we would all get together, like with her sisters, everybody knew the rule was not to talk about “Brownie.” That’s what they called my dad. So we didn’t. After that, it opened up, and we started talking and remembering him. My aunts had funny stories and, my uncles had great stories, and everybody felt free to talk again. I’m thankful that I went to her. It was funny because we thought maybe she had just moved on and didn’t love him anymore. But she remembered the pattern on my dad’s tie he wore the night she met him in January of 1953. She remembered every detail of what he was wearing. She said that she could see his green eyes gleaming from across the dance floor at a dance where my grandparents were playing. The band was on a break, and my grandfather had gone into the bar area to get Coca-Colas for everybody. She said to my grandmother, “Who’s that man Daddy’s talking to?” My grandfather knew my dad, and my grandmother said, “That’s a soldier, and you’re going to sit your little self right here! And you’re not going over there.” Well, of course, my mother — even my grandmother could never control her. She immediately got up and sashayed over there. She leaned up against her father and said, “So, Daddy, are you going to introduce us?” That was that. They got married six months later. She remembered everything and told it all to me. I’m so thankful.

I tell my students, all the time, to take a tape recorder with them and talk to their grandparents and their parents. Ask them to tell their stories. My husband cannot trace his family beyond his grandparents. I have traced my family on my mother’s side to the early 1700s, just from the stories I’ve been told. My [maternal] grandmother’s family is all Creek Indian. I was able to go back and see the paperwork where they all registered. I feel sad for my husband because he doesn’t have knowledge about his family and can’t get it. Both of his parents have passed away. I tell students that twenty years from now, they will be thankful that they collected these stories.

In one class I teach, I make the students go and talk to their grandmothers or older women about the second wave of the women’s movement in the 70s. I have them question what they knew about whether you could get a credit card without your husband’s name on it. They always come back with, “WOW!” It gives the students a lot to think about their rights now. I couldn’t wear pants to school until I was in the seventh grade. Now you can wear your house shoes to school.

Progress is a great thing. Props to you for encouraging them to get the verbal histories and recording them. These narratives are so easily forgotten.

Even in my teaching, everything is a story for me. I can be talking about comma splices, and I can tell you a story about it. I think my students appreciate my methodology.

So what do you hope to get from the audience when you read Absent Without Leave for In Process?

Questions. It is a YA, and you have to be more challenging and talented when you write for young adults. Adults tend to be much more accepting of skimming past a plot hole. I want questions. I want people to say, “OK, here’s the perspective fictionally on this side, but …” When I wrote my honors thesis, The Silent Knowing, it started out as an homage to my dad, using his letters. As writing always goes, it turned out to be talking about my brother’s life, my life, and my mother’s life after my dad was killed. It was about us and how that death impacted us. I think those are stories that a lot of people don’t hear. We have a lot of war stories. And we’ve got a lot of fabulous authors writing them, like Tim O’Brien. But what about the kids? I’m in a group called Sons and Daughters in Touch or SDIT. We are all Gold Star children. All of us lost a parent in Vietnam. Our stories are so similar, yet different. I would like for people to question, even if they aren’t voiced. The part I’m going to read is when they find out that dad has left his post. The chapter is about what’s happening at home. Hopefully, it’s moving. You never know until you read it out loud and get people’s reactions.

It is interesting how the words written on a page changes in translation when it becomes auditory. I imagine as the writer, you are hoping it translates as you want it to.

I belong to two long-time critic groups. The one that’s focused on children’s writing, that’s how we conduct our group. We gather, and we read aloud. It’s always amazing what I find about my own writing, hearing it myself, and other people hearing it and giving their opinions. You can be sure I’ll be practicing this aloud to my cats. I’ll drag my kids over and make them listen to me.

As a freelancer for many years, as well as your publications, I’m sure you’ve dealt with rejection. What advice would you give to novice writers on handling rejection?

It’s cliche, but every rejection gets you closer if you don’t quit. At first, you might receive a lot of form-letter rejections. My friend has the best rejection pile. They have coffee stains and chicken salad on them. One she got was just a piece of paper torn in half with a note. Rejections are not about the writer or even the writing. More often than not, they are about what the editor needs and wants, and you just didn’t hit the mark. Don’t take it personally.

When I submitted my published middle grader, The Legend of Zoey, I had won an award and had editors emailing me, which is unheard of. You can only sign one contract. I had mailed it out 25 or 30 times. But even if they all offered, I could only sign one contract. When I got rejection letters — I probably received 25 of them — I didn’t take them to heart. They came in the form of, “I love this idea, but …” or “Your writing is great, but …” But … but … but. Then I got the one email that said, “I’d like to talk to you,” from Random House.

With freelancing, I’ve been fortunate in that editors have kind of found me. When I lived in Indianapolis and was involved in a resumé-writing business. I went to get my resumé written after I was corporately restructured out of a job. The guy that owned the business ended up offering me a partnership. I was like, “I don’t know a dang thing about writing a resumé, but I’ll learn.” This is how all of my careers have come about. During the course of writing resumés, I was meeting people. I met a woman who was heavily involved in the construction industry. She wanted to start a magazine, and I ended up writing all of her cover stories for a year. She came to me because she knew me. I don’t have a journalism degree. When I came back to Tennessee, and then back to school in ’93, I met a man in my class who worked for a magazine that has been several iterations. It’s been National Post, Business Tennessee, you name it. He asked me, “Hey, do you want to write a couple of stories for me?” I was like, “Sure!” Anything for a buck. That’s kind of how it worked out. I’m not really the best person to talk about how to get a freelance career going, except never ever, ever, ever doubt that there are possibilities out there. Be confident with everyone you meet because somebody will call you about something. Once I got my feet wet, I did some other writing for the Tennessean.

How the biggie things came about like, I wrote for the Writer’s Market and The Writer’s Digest, those, I queried and was accepted. The writing world grinds exceedingly slow. For instance, I submitted in maybe October for the children’s issue of The Writer, which always comes out in June. I had written this article, and at first, I was going to submit it to this little online place that only pays $75, and then I was like, “Let’s just go for it!” And I submitted it to The Writer. About six months later, I got an email that said, “Hey, have you sold this yet, because I’m considering it.” I replied that I hadn’t, and about six months later, I was sitting at my little desk on Christmas Eve, and I got a call from a Wisconsin number. I have a friend that lives in Wisconsin, and I grabbed the phone up and said, “Lisa! Merry Christmas!” And this very deep voice said, “Well, merry Christmas to you too.” It was the editor of The Writer. He wanted me to make a few little changes, and I did. Instead of making $75, I made $675 for something I whipped out in probably two hours. So, patience is a virtue. It came out that next June as the middle spread. I’m still proud of that.

For young people these days that want to write, there are so many venues now. There is writing everywhere. I always say to students that you can’t break the rules until you master them. I think Stephen King said that. You don’t want to look stupid with unmastered punctuation and grammar. Also, learning to follow directions is important. You can’t change what an editor wants because you think it will look better in a different way. That’s the way of the real world. If an editor says I need 750 words, they mean 750 words. They don’t mean 1000 or 1200. It will be sent right back to you and told to cut it to 750 words, and they may never call you again. I learned real quick how to follow instructions. What the editor wants is what the editor wants. Rejections are part of the game. You’ll not only get rejected by editors but later on, you’ll get rejected by readers. You’ll think you’ve written the most beautiful thing ever, and they won’t respond to it. Take it in stride. I was sending out a lot of stuff for a while, and I didn’t open my letters from editors. My husband would open them. I told him that if they said something helpful, like “We really love this part … You’re good at that … Your characters need this, or that,” let me see it. Otherwise, or it’s just a form, throw it in a drawer. And he did.

It’s good you had your husband as a filter. Your bio mentioned that you like to help students get over their fear of writing. Where do you think that fear stems from?

I think it’s like public speaking. You’re expressing yourself, and people are going to judge. I always introduce myself as a writer who has been rejected a lot. I understand the fear and hatred of writing. I think a lot of students feel like they can never do it right. While I am a stickler for grammar and punctuation, my students do well in my class. They work harder to attain those skills. I tell them they would have had an “A” paper if they hadn’t made twenty-five to thirty punctuation errors. If an editor can choose between a fabulous story that is badly written and a mediocre story that is well written, they can work with the mediocre story. Manuscripts with poor grammar will take a lot of time. They look for clean writing. Be consistent. If you hyphenate it in one place, hyphenate it throughout. Don’t change things up every time you write it.

I also think the fear comes from not knowing where to start. One way I tackle that in class is by tricking them. We do exercises that are parts of the project for homework, and then I introduce the project. There’s always one student that will say, “Heck, I’ve already written the introduction.” And I say, “Yes, you’ve already started. See how easy it is.” I talk to them about how I used to trick myself into writing articles that I didn’t want to write. Like about the state of industrial real estate in Nashville, a subject that I couldn’t give a hairy fat rat’s butt about. I would make my calls and get all the boring information. Then I would sit and think of ways to get myself started. One of those ways was math, which I hate. I would say, “Ok, this article needs to be 1500 words long, and it’s due in three weeks. If I write 70 words a day …” Of course, once I wrote 70 words, I’d write 170 or 270. Or, I’d say, “I’m going to just concentrate on a hook today.” Or, “I’m going to open that document and edit that first paragraph.” So I tricked myself into getting the computer open and started. A lot of my friends will say, “I can’t get started today.” And I’ll ask them, “Where are you?” “Oh, I’m out on my patio.” “Is your laptop out there?” “Well, no.” I’m like, “No wonder you’re not working!” If you just open the document and stare at it for a while, you’ll get started on it. The thing my students tell me that they learned in my class is how to get started.

Also, many of us fear the editor we haven’t encountered yet. Sometimes one of my critic group partners will say, “What do you think an editor will think about this?” Who cares! Write your story. If it’s a deal-breaker, they’ll let you know. If it’s not, they’ll work with you.

I love the idea of tricking the muse. I admit I will do strange things to procrastinate in my writing, like cleaning the whites of my shoes with a Magic Eraser. I tell myself I’m being productive while avoiding getting words on the page.

I am brimming full of fabulous ideas, but getting started on them is the hardest thing. Of course, sometimes getting started on a new creative idea is fun, but when we get to the sagging middle, we throw it in a drawer. Who wants to bog through the Desert of No Ideas? Tricking yourself is a good way to keep it moving.

One of the ways I trick myself into getting started on creative ideas is I sit down and write a letter. It will be something like, “Good morning, Susan. I got the greatest idea last night. My hero, Jack, is coming back to town because his leg was shot off in Iraq. He’s bitter and hateful. And who shows up, but his physical therapist, Heather! She’s not letting him get away with any shit with her!” Heather looks like this, and Jack looks like this. I’ll just tell it in a letter to myself or a fictional person out there. All of a sudden, I’m writing a scene.

I’m that person that if the mood strikes, and I’m wearing my nasty nightgown, and I’ve paid bills all morning, and the kitchen’s a mess, and the mood strikes, I’m going to go with it. I have found that my office here at MTSU seems to signal work. Maybe it’s because I don’t have my succulent garden and my two cats and my beautiful backyard to sit around and look at. That is a distraction for me.

What has been the pinnacle of your career, and what was your valley?

For my pinnacle, I think even more than selling things was that I finished a manuscript. Before finishing my first one, I had started over a hundred novels. After receiving the [Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work] Award, I started getting emails from editors wanting to see a full manuscript of The Legend of Zoey, but I didn’t have a whole manuscript. I had forty pages. I don’t believe in luck. I believe that opportunity crosses paths with preparation at certain points in your life, and if you’re prepared when that opportunity comes along, you need to jump.

When these editors were writing to me wanting to see the whole manuscript, I lied, like a rug, and wrote back and said, “It’s with my critique group for a final pass. I’ll get it out to you as soon as they get done.” Editors aren’t worried about being late; they are worried about good. So, I immediately began writing another book because writing new stuff is fun. About eighty pages in, my husband said, “What are you doing?” He reminded me that this was my time and asked if I was going to let it get past me. I got back on Legend of Zoey, wrote furiously daily, and got it done in about a month. My husband was a big help. He took over the cooking, and to finish it, he actually sent me to a hotel for a weekend.

I sent it to my editor friend, who I had been working with for years, and he read it and pronounced it TERRIBLE. I began to cry, and he said, “I’m going to give you about 20 seconds of that, and then we are going to start working.” It wasn’t the writing; it was that I had given the surprise away too quickly. With his help, I rearranged the plot and sent it out to editors. Within a couple of weeks, I was getting feedback. Getting from the beginning of the book to the end is probably the pinnacle of my career. The Legend of Zoey has been very good to me. It’s won a couple of awards. It’s still in print, which is amazing, and I love it. I’m very proud of it. It’s a fun book and has a 0 to 99 age fan club. But finishing it, that was the biggie.

Since then, what I’ve realized is that it is not good for me to edit things as I go. I never finish things that way. I like to barrel through from point A to point B and get there. I may look like crap, I’m dirty, my suitcase is broken open, I need to brush my teeth, and I’m starving, but I’m there. I’ve reached my destination. Now I can start hanging the leaves on the trees and filling things in. Since hitting that pinnacle, now I finish things.

My nadir comes from the fact that I now finish things then throw them to the side to start something else. Because starting something new is fun! Sitting around on my two-foot-tall manuscripts is the bad part. That’s the part of me that I need to work on, so I’m trying.

How has the publishing model changed throughout your career?

In the time that I’ve been seriously writing fiction, the business model of publishing has changed a lot. Now, anybody can self-publish. Before, it was vanity publishing. You paid someone $500, and you had a stack of books in your garage for infinity. It’s not like that anymore. In fact, I’ve been editing a gal for fifteen years, and for the first half of this year, her gross [income] is already in the six figures. She has never published a book traditionally in her life. I’m not at all averse to putting my own romance novels out. I haven’t decided yet. I want to get through my final read-throughs with my mentors on First Comes Marriage [my MFA thesis novel]. But I may very well start my own indie-publishing company and publish myself, which means I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself.

Harlequin is the leader in the romance biz, but they don’t pay much. And they are very funky about giving your rights back after a book goes out of print. A lot of people are getting their rights back and reprinting their own books. The business model has changed, and I embrace it. The romance industry has lead that change. All the huge publishers we had out there 25 years ago are now down to the big four or the big three. They’ve all joined up together because they are being pushed out of the marketplace by people saying, “Screw you! I’m going to do it myself.” Several authors have done that very successfully, my friend included.

Big names like Bella Andre, who published traditionally, got tired of waiting. Publishing traditionally is a long waiting game. From the time Random House bought The Legend of Zoey, it was two years before it was published. Bella Andre stopped publishing traditionally and puts her own books out, and she makes eight figures. She actually has staff now that do things for her. It’s what you make it. This is why I say go with it and grow with it. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Things are out there to be had and done.

You are such an inspiration. Thank you for being so gracious and taking the time to speak with me. I look forward to being in the audience for your In Process reading.

Heather Parker is an English Writing major at Middle Tennessee State University who enjoys playwriting.

In Process

a blog about creative writing at Middle Tennessee State University

Heather Parker

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In Process

a blog about creative writing at Middle Tennessee State University