INTRODUCING CHARLES DUPUY, AUTHOR OF THE EZ KELLY SERIES


“E.Z. Kelly is the next, great kickass heroine.” – EmKay Connor, award-winning author

Have you always written crime/suspense novels? What attracted you to the genre?

I’ve written a little of everything, including humor, science fiction, romance, you name it, back in my salad days when I was green in judgement and short of cash. Nothing was worthy of publication. I simply enjoyed it as a good mental exercise. While living in Vermont I began writing articles for a monthly outdoor magazine there and ended up being offered the position of editor. I learned a lot doing that, and having taught English helped enormously when it came to proofreading and editing.

SAY THE WORD, my second published novel, was in fact my first, and my first strong effort at a mystery/suspense. I wrote it when working as a physician assistant, and a lot of the novel is based on personal experience. I got a kick out of writing it, mixing humor, romance, mayhem and suspense, and that hooked me on the genre. I’ve tried to use the same mix in my subsequent novels.

When did you discover you wanted to be an author? Do you have a writing routine?

I can’t pinpoint any exact moment in time when I discovered that I wanted to be an author. I guess I’ve always dabbled in it in a mock-serious way. Having read a wide range of authors as and English Literature major, I often sat down and tried to imitate different writers’ styles. It was a good exercise, but I had no doubt that my efforts were an easily-spotted forgery. I think the big thing that helped me back was the need to support a wife and family. I couldn’t picture myself starving in a garret somewhere in an effort to be the next James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway.

To answer your question, looking back, I think I’ve always wanted to be an author but “life,” better known as reality, kept getting in the way. Now I’m retired and it’s full speed ahead!

I do have a writing routine now. I write every chance I get. I try for four or more hours a day, and I always push back when I still have more to say. It makes getting back to it so much easier.

How do you come across your ideas and characters?

EZ Kelly, the heroine/lead character in my EZ Kelly series, came about when I read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. Jack Reacher is a tough ex-army military policeman who wanders the country and runs into challenging situations he solves using his many attributes. I thought, why not a female character who does similar things, using her skill sets to win the day? EZ Kelly sprang from that. My other ideas and characters are plucked from my head when needed. I should add that I do a lot “writing” while lying awake at night. I fill the time asking “what ifs” and I remember my good thoughts the next day.

Your protagonist, EZ Kelly, is a woman. I’ve read several novels with female leads who were written by men and found myself disappointed in how they were represented in their thinking and characterization. You do such a great job in how you portray EZ. What made you choose her over a male protagonist?

That’s a good question. When I considered launching EZ Kelly on the world, I thought long and hard about it. As you say, I’m a man and women are an entirely different kettle of fish. When I made the decision to give her a try, I made damned sure that I looked through her eyes at her world and felt the way a woman would. I appreciate your saying that she seems real.

You have quite a diverse background. How has your own backstory helped shape your writing and/or your characters?

I think any time a writer can use personal experience to reinforce a story, make it more believable, that it adds its own substance to it and thus makes it more believable to the reader. I’m sure I draw a lot from my own reservoir of personal experience, sometimes consciously, often subconsciously.

What tips would you offer aspiring writers?

A biggie is, write when there are no distraction (or as few as possible). There’s nothing like a simple interruption to break your train of thought.

And remember: The more you write, the better your get at it. It’s like any other activity. Baseball, football, swimming, tennis, you name it. The more you practice, the better you get at it.

Write on!

To Order: https://writtendreams.com/store/Easy-Kill-An-E-Z-Kelly-Novel-by-Charles-M-DuPuy-p90177038

E.Z. Kelly is intent on becoming a travel agent, but trouble finds her wherever she goes. It’s good that self-defense was a high priority among the lessons taught to her by her Special Forces father.

Expecting a boring night shift at the hotel where she works, E.Z. is surprised when night after night the place is targeted by thieves. Taking the thieves down one by one is a simple task for her.

Unafraid of the threats, she continues to work at the hotel and cooperates with the Miami Police’s investigation to discover the reason why the hotel is being hit. As they dig further into the case, she discovers that terrorists have a plan to detonate nuclear devices in three large U.S. cities simultaneously. Will E.Z. be able to take the terror cell down before she gets herself killed?

MEET FLO PARFITT, AUTHOR OF SARA’S SACRIFICE

What will Sara Dewberry be willing to sacrifice to change the world?

For Sara Dewberry, life in the early 1900s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband and children is comfortable and pleasant. But an injustice gnaws at Sara’s heart. Women have no say in government, and no voice in politics. Women can’t own land. Most are little more than property to their husbands, and Sara can’t hide behind her cozy walls any longer.

At first, going to the meetings that support the local suffragettes who want votes for women, stays a secret. When her husband rails against the women’s movement and says, “Women should know their place!” Sara nods her head and gives him a thin smile.

But when Sara is arrested at a rally in Chicago that is endorsing the 19th Amendment, the truth spills out. She’s forced to make a choice: does she return to her life in the shadows, or should she make a sacrifice for the women she’s come to love that will cost her everything?

Q: Sara’s Sacrifice, your debut novel, is a historical fiction centering around the women’s suffrage movement. What inspired your writing of this novel?

R: I am a strong advocate for Womens Rights.  It was a natural choice in historical writing given our celebration of  the 100th Anniversary of the 19th amendment in 2020.

Q: How do you come across your ideas and plot lines?

R: Strangely enough, I just knew the beginning and the end and every time I sat at my computer I became Sara and I just knew where the story was going.  Obviously I did massive amounts of research and the story had to follow  the historical timeline but I guess you could say, Sara wrote the book.

Q: How long did it take you to write? Approximately how many revisions?

R: It took a little over a year to write the book and revisions never stop.  i just picked it up the other day and mentally wanted to revise it.  It never stops. You just have to say at some point. “this is it.”

Q: What is your writing process? Do you plot or outline ahead of time or start typing and see where things go? Do you have a writing routine?

R: I would like to say I’m a disciplined writer but life always sends me on detours.  I begin with a topic and a character and a goal.  In this case the topic was the Suffrage movement. My protagonist Sara had to be a strong woman with courage.  My stories always begin by knowing where I am going so I have a beginning and an end. From there I do historical bullet points that determine the timeline. From there I let the story tell me where it is going based on the world she lived in,You clearly did a lot of research in the writing of this novel.

Q: How did your research of these heroic women influence the creation of your characters?

R: The research definitely influenced the development of the characters and the storyline.  Many authors of historic fiction have a fictional story first and place it in an era with history as the background noise.  My goal is to tell history and how it affected the lives of my characters.

Q: I enjoyed “watching” your main character, Sara, grow confident in finding her voice. Was there a similar point in your life in which you told yourself you needed to write this book?


R: I was a feminist in the 70’s.  Women’s issues speak to me.  Behind all of that is the roots of the feminist movement so it can never be forgotten. Unfortunately the era is often given little emphasis in our schools and we tend to take it all for granted when in fact it was a hard fought battle.

Q: How many books will be in this series and over how many generations does it span?

R: There are three books in the series “Daughters of Evolution”. The second book “Ella Endures” will be released shortly.  It is about Sara’s daughter Ella and her role in “The Greatest Generation”. It shapes her life from prohibition and the roaring 20’s through the Korean War. It includes things such as tuberculosis, the Polio epidemic, cancer.  It covers the effect of the ravages of war and there effect on families.  It is an era of poorhouses, abandoned children, the dust bowl, the depression and innumerable tragedies and their toll on families.  It is guaranteed to make you cry. The third book is “Melissa’s March” with yet another generation of women who fought for justice. The Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War and equal rights for women.   This book will bring you up to today and the Me Too movement, Black lives Matter and political issues today exploring correlations between Melissa’s causes and her daughters issues of today.The books cover over 100 years of history.  Instead of the school history books of wars, dates and generals (Which I hated) these books present history through the eyes of regular people who got involved. Women of courage.

Thank you Flo for such an important book! I thoroughly enjoyed it!:) To order a copy:

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LAUNCH 2021

I am determined to have an uplifting and fulfilling year.

So many times at the end of the year, I write out my goals for moving forward, but forget to reflect on the positives from the exiting year. Whether it be special memories made with the family, business accomplishments or finding more peace in a more freeing schedule, I overlook them in my race to dive into the next.

So while there was definitely much to be anxious about in 2020, there was also much to be thankful for. I savored the downtime and slower pace with the family as our schedule cleared. We enjoyed even more time outdoors and had room and time to decompress. We found joy in the simple. Fulfillment in the still. Small moments, Big memories.

This year, my mentality is centered around positivity. To be completely vulnerable, what sparked it was accidentally stumbling across an extremely harsh review of Becoming American. It. was. harsh. My biggest fear in publishing was exposing myself to criticism, but I knew it would always be there. It always is when you’re going for something outside of your comfort zone. But that’s where success lives.

This was my first book and I poured my heart into it. The review said it was like a first draft. This was probably my 20 to 30th draft. I tried to make it as authentic as possible and wanted to educate young adults on the events surrounding the time period of World War II and the social climate in the United States during that time. I read somewhere between 8-12 books and several credible websites in researching. I visited with the Japanese Cultural Society, the 100th Battalion Veteran’s Club and the 442nd, along with Pearl Harbor. I sought out and listened to stories of people whose family had gone through the experience of internment, relocation, war. People whose fathers fought for our country while their families were imprisoned within the country they fought for. I read real stories. Real journals. Real letters to home from the war.

Could the book have been better? Of course it could have. I haven’t read it since turning in my final draft in fear of the urge to correct everything. I reminded myself to be thick-skinned and thin-skulled. I have been plugging in to some amazing writing Zooms and am grateful and excited for how much they have helped in crafting evocative stories and prose. I have sought the advice and support of fellow authors.

Having negative reviews was my worst fear. But you know what? It happened. And after catching up with some of my writing mentors, family and friends, found that I am still inspired to write. You won’t please everyone. Some of the best NYT Bestselling books don’t “grab” me while some of my favorite ones are those I’ve found in little free libraries by obscure authors. My son likes graphic novels. My middle daughter likes horror stories. The oldest likes well-researched books. That’s what makes reading and writing fun and relatable and accessible to everyone.

So in effort of inspiring other writers while supporting fellow authors, I am going to be posting short interviews promoting great books and inspirational writers. Because after talking with and hearing from several authors, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is no one way to write. Or to be successful.

My goal is to share many stories and strive to provide inspiration to those who might be worried about doing the “right thing” or “writing the right way.” This is not a business model. It is an artistic craft of imagination. Which means there is freedom in how you want to do it. That’s what makes it awesome!

Eerie Encounters

Last week, I became radio famous. How? For my true story of past hauntings in a previous house. On Ks95, they were looking for stories from people who had been through creepy encounters. I dialed in, not expecting to get through the line and was greeted with the broadcaster who asked me what I had. Upon hearing my story, he told me it was the best one and I was going live. For the next few minutes, I got to tell my spooky story. After receiving several texts from friends, I decided in the spirit of Halloween, I’d retell it:)

It was an exhausting and busy day of moving into our past house. Though we had moved from a small place into a bigger place, we were amazed at the amount of boxes of things we had collected throughout our ten years and two kids. Our oldest child was getting ready to start kindergarten, our middle was a toddler and we had one on the way.

It was April.

Our main goal that day was to physically move all of our boxes into our new home, to get our furniture in after days of repainting and to get our beds put together so we could sleep in our new place. So, after much exhaustion, although we had gotten everything moved into the place, we chose to leave the boxes packed and crash into our beds.

The next morning, when I awoke, I looked over at my husband, who laid beside me. Initially, I started laughing to the point where I couldn’t stop.

“What?” he asked, confused, but laughing with me.

“Your face,” I said, between laughing fits. I could hardly breathe. Sometime during the night, his face and arms had been colored with markers and although I am the world’s lightest sleeper, I hadn’t even awoken.

“Did you have any marker on your hands that could’ve smeared or that you could have rubbed against your face?” I asked.

No, he didn’t.

Our kindergartner was still asleep in the other room and the toddler was in her crib. Everything was still in boxes and though we searched our house, there weren’t any markers to be found.

It became a joke until over the next few weeks, our toddler began to set up tea parties for two people in her room. “Is this spot for me?” I’d ask.

“No, mama. Ayla,” she’d say pointing to the other chair.

I didn’t think much of it, admirable of her imagination. But throughout the next several weeks, she began to talk to her. Like all the time. I asked what she looked like, playing along, and she easily described this little girl.

One day while pulling out of the driveway, our daughter screamed, causing me to floor the brakes in a sheer panic.

“What?!” I whipped my head around to face her.

“You forgot to buckle Ayla!” she cried out, looking at the empty seat beside her.

Fear gripped my heart as I considered what to do. “I’m sorry Ayla,” I said.

I got out and buckled “Ayla” in. Would you want to risk getting colored on during the night? She seemingly liked me.

We didn’t burn sage for a few more encounters. Not when our babysitter’s boyfriend refused to sleep on the couch downstairs after waking during the night to see a little girl standing on the steps watching him. He didn’t even know our story when he told us this. We wanted to keep our best babysitters after all:)

The breaking point happened one day when my husband and I were alone in the house and downstairs. There was the creak of our rocking chair gliding against our wooden floors upstairs.

“See who it is,” I urged him, wondering if maybe a neighbor kid had come over looking for one of our kids to play with.

He climbed the stairs, knowing someone would be in the chair, but unsure of who. When he reached the top of the stairs, I waited, expecting to hear the start of a conversation and curious as to who stopped over. Silence.

“Weird,” he said when he came back downstairs, shaking his head. “No one’s there.”

Immediately, the creaking started, back and forth above us. We looked at each other, thinking the same thing.

“You go,” I encouraged him. After all, I am the spider killer of the house so this was clearly his responsibility.

Again, he trudged upstairs and the rocking immediately stopped.

We’re not the most superstitious people, but at this point, we knew something had to be done. I dreaded anytime he was working late. And so, that was the night we drove to the grocery store and bought sage, came back and lit it, while also saying a prayer for God to bless our house.

We lived in that house for many years and despite being near a cemetery, never felt uncomfortable again. No more Ayla. No more strange rocking. No more midnight coloring to Freddy’s face.

These days we still talk about Ayla, but it is always accompanied with laughter. A story from many years ago.

But when we talk of her, we make sure to do it lovingly.

One Page At a Time

How do you write a book? One page at a time.

How do live a life? One day at a time, one breath at a time. Live in the moment of what you are doing.

A great man we know recently passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. He lit up a room and always had a smile. But more than anything, no one could ever forget his gift for storytelling.

My husband had this man as a scout leader when he was a kid. He always tells me about the creepy stories he would tell around the fire, so detailed, they had to be true. When our kids met this man for the first time at an outdoor party, he enthralled them that evening with a charisma that made his eyes sparkle.

Thirty years after boy scout camp, my husband passes these stories down to our kids and their friends while gathered around the sparks of a crackling fire in the dark of woods. They’ve become legendary.

Stories live on beyond us, transcending time.

Stories of your childhood. Stories from college (probably needs some filtering;). How you met your spouse and how he/she proposed. Our kids love hearing about the time Freddy & I got kicked out of Arizona. Yes, the state.

So, the problem for me is I have the worst. memory. ever. When I run into old friends from high school, sadly, they’ll ask me “Do you remember the time…” and unfortunately, I don’t. I blame the busyness of three kids, three pregnancies, a few too many drinks during some of the events… but the fact is, if you are not one of the fortunate people who have intricate memories, it is worthwhile to journal.

I admit, I don’t. But, there are a few stories I really want the kids to know and pass down. I have a book of stories passed down from my great-great-great grandparents who immigrated here from Norway and Ireland. Seriously. My one great- great-great grandmother traveled here by ship for almost a month with somewhere around 7-9 young kids. No wonder she looks angry and worn out in every picture. Never smiles.

Anyway, someday, we will be somebody’s great-great-great and they might see a picture and wonder, what were these people like? What’d they do in their lives besides take a massive amount of selfies? How does their history shape who I am and what I like to do?

A writing teacher liberated me from the idea of writing down massive entries and details. ugh. He advised to write about a feeling. Make it a sensory entry from the day. This is your life story. Make it how you want.

Because, in the end, thin sheets are what make a book.

Brew that Coffee!

Like many people, I’ve been struggling with direction. With schedules arranged and then rearranged and then adjusted again, it’s thrown a lot of uncertainties into the mix. Just as I was building momentum (pre-Quarantine), a lot of my book talks for Becoming American had to be postponed.

Just when I started getting rolling with virtual Zoom talks, libraries shifted their focus to a specific genre of books that didn’t necessarily include mine. Libraries whom I thought would be supportive haven’t returned e-mails. Other libraries have gone above and beyond in their outreach to patrons by connecting with them through live author talks and book clubs and have been nothing short of AMAZING.

So, as I was talking (okay, venting) to Freddy the other day, he asked me how long I’ve been letting the coffee percolate.

Huh?

How long have I been heating and reheating the same pot of coffee? Would I rather have reheated (several times) coffee or fresh coffee?

Duh.

Sometimes you just have to start brewing a new pot of coffee. Period.

It doesn’t mean to stop connecting with virtual book clubs or following up with the ones in queue, but meanwhile, start a fresh pot of coffee. In other words, do what inspires me most and work on my new manuscript.

Relief.

I love connecting with others and love marketing, but in the end, the best part of the writing process is…..THE WRITING part! So, here I am, researching and writing for a new Young Adult Historical Fiction, completely separate and different from the first and I am feeling inspired and hopeful again.

I can’t control what people are reading or aren’t reading.

I CAN control how I spend my time and invest in my skill set. I CAN control getting on author zooms to better my craft…they have been awesome and so helpful in how I structure my writing. I CAN control building the bridge one brick at a time from where I am to where I want to go, with consistency and staying the course through the thick of uncertain times.

So, here I am, brewing a fresh pot of percolating coffee as the anticipation of drinking it sets in and reminds me of why I started writing in the first place. I am choosing to see the roadblocks as a blessing to make me work harder in overcoming them.

To show that anyone can successfully pursue and accomplish a dream even if it’s through a book that didn’t come from a huge publishing house, with a large marketing department.

After all, I’ve always loved underdog stories.

Gratitude & Giving Back

Have you ever had those days in which you feel extremely grateful? You might not have a huge house or materialistic trappings of “success,” but you realize how fortunate you are to live in a safe neighborhood, to have great friends who support you and as if that weren’t enough, you’re healthy and have the resources to be comfortable?

But, have you ever been caught in the shadows of other people’s mountains? For all you know, the mountain could have an avalanche on the other side of it, but from below and on the side you’re viewing it from, you can’t see it. All you see is the peak and it always seems to have sun at the top, while you’re caught in the darkness below?

I’ve been there and I think most of us have. One of the most important lessons we’ve always wanted to teach our kids was empathy and gratitude. But how do you teach it?

By getting uncomfortable.

Working in finance, there have been several occasions in which we’ve had to sit with families (often one spouse), and deliver a death benefit. It is a blessing to be able to be there in the toughest moments of decision-making, in the foxhole, with these families and to give them peace of mind as we hold their hands through both the emotional and the financial burdens that come with grief. There have been a few occasions in which we’ve brought (with the family’s permission) one of our older kids with to the client’s home as we sat with them.

Why?

To get them out of their bubble. To show them what real loss looks like. To put things in perspective on what’s important and what’s trivial. To bless them with the building foundation of empathy.

Our oldest daughter and I have shared a few experiences that will forever hold memories of gratitude in my heart. One of them was volunteering at the Minneapolis Homeless Shelter, serving meals. Was it out of our comfort zone? Yes. Not the being around diversity part. Our kids have grown up in our family business, surrounded by people of different colors and ethnicity at our parties, drive-in outings etc.

It was uncomfortable because you see the pain and oftentimes defeat in people’s faces and I really wanted people to see we cared, without having them feel less than in any way. Sitting with them while they ate, listening to their stories, showed our daughter that for many people, regardless of background or race etc, they are only a couple paychecks away from being in the spiral of events that put them in the position of being at the “soup kitchen.”

We were also reminded of this while volunteering at the Biloxi Back Bay Mission in Mississippi last year. Biloxi is an area that was heavily hit by Hurricane Katrina and as if that weren’t bad enough, scam crews went through the area afterwards, charging high dollars for shotty work on roofing repairs etc. Now casinos are sucking in tourists who seldom leave the lavish casinos (some of their workers volunteered at the soup kitchens wearing heels, diamonds and sure to get the pictures of them “serving” for their social media publicity, but hardly talk to or look at those they are serving) to see how hurting the surrounding community is.

Not only were we able to help rebuild a house infested with termites and poor repairs (roofing, tearing down what was left of siding and house structure and replacing and painting it all), but we were able to work in the Micah Day Center, offering and monitoring showers for the homeless as we washed their clothes and made them coffee (I heard some great Favre stories from many of these locals who grew up near Kiln). We were able to walk families through the pantry at the food shelf and my daughter saw parents and several grandparents who were raising their grandkids, make decisions as to which canned meat their kids would want over the next month for lunches and suppers.

As emotionally-rocking as it was, we were blessed to see what real hard choices looked like for those families who were scheduled for the end of the month when they had missed the food truck of “good foods” by three weeks and the food truck wouldn’t arrive again for another.

The blessing was that it pulled on our heart. For Jada, helping in the day center. For me, watching parents who were laid off or working just as much or more as the people in our community, but making less and dealing with the aftermath of catastrophe. Losing their homes. Losing their spouses. Losing their jobs. How could that not affect us the same way if we didn’t have family or the right resources to turn to? Thankfully, in the Back Bay Mission House, they do.

It became our new mission to never forget and we’ve passed along our own financial blessings to their food pantry almost every month since, with a letter requesting the financial gifts to be used specifically for fresh fruits and vegetables for those who are scheduled at the food pantry for the last weeks of the month. For those who had to choose between diced fruit cups or canned whatever fruit or vegetable was available.

And as it much as it helps the program, it’s helped us just as much or more. I don’t usually care much about material things. Never have. But whenever I find myself caught in the trappings, I remind myself of these moments and how we can all pull together to support one another when needed.

It’s the most important gift we could ever instill in our kids.

WT6: Find Your Tribe

Writing is a solitary act. You will second guess every sentence. Every chapter. Hell, your entire book. You, after all, are your biggest critic.

It took me a lot of time and pride to realize that I needed a support group. When I got the nerve to find one, most of the time, I was a fly on the wall and showed up and listened to the guest speakers, without commenting much or asking questions (what if they were dumb questions?!). I’d read all the emailed excerpts from the club and admired how brave the writers were who submitted their work.

But even though I wasn’t brave enough or confident enough to share my own manuscript, it helped me to identify myself as a writer and to feel like I was a part of a group. A supportive group of others who were striving toward a common goal.

So, looking back over the past couple of years, there were a couple of things that helped me gain confidence in identifying as a writer. Sometimes, the toughest part isn’t even putting writing on paper, but changing the self-beliefs that are within our head.

Here’s what helped me:

  1. I joined a Community Ed. Writing Class. I know I’ve mentioned this, but I can’t understate how important it is to surround yourself with other people who are creatively writing and sharing ideas. I was fortunate to have a retired Literature Professor, Dr. Neuhaus, as a teacher. Not having a writing background, his techniques in developing characters and honing my writing style helped tremendously.
  2. I sought out other authors. I went to several author events around the area. I LOVE these! Even as it is, I always read about the author and their background before I even read the back cover of a book. I’m fascinated with their backgrounds and how they became authors. I love going to author talks to hear their personal stories, their failures, their successes and to learn. So many of these people did not start out as authors, but had other careers.
  3. I made it a point to meet up with others who like to write. Turns out, there are quite a few friends who either like to write, want to write a book or teach literature. Grabbing a cup of coffee (or three) with them or checking in with them to see how their writing is going creates inspiration! Before I know it, all I want to do is go home and create!
  4. I found mentors. I got uncomfortable and found fellow writers who had experience and were willing to help. I’m still so extremely grateful and humbled by how many of these awesome authors were willing to help (Robert Crane, Thekla Madsen, Jacqueline West, Graham Salisbury) and I made a promise that I would pay it forward and help whomever I could along the way as well.

So, find your tribe. They’re out there. They will pull you through the self-doubts, the writer’s blocks and the voices in your head that tell you lies like, you’re not good enough to write anything interesting or you’re not a writer…you didn’t even go to school for it. Or who do you think you are to feel you have something to say.

Well, let me tell you, I’ve thought all of these things as well as most authors. We all begin somewhere and most remember where they started. Your tribe is a lifeline to accomplishing your dream.

Go find them!

WT5: Separate Yourself From Your Writing

Yes, you heard me correctly. I know you’ve poured hundreds, thousands of sleepless hours into your writing. I know you’re probably the type of person who likes to fully complete big projects in one sitting. BUT…

This is the BEST advise you’ll ever hear. YOU NEED TO SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM YOUR WRITING and possibly, your writing environment.

I didn’t say divorce. I said separate.

It’s hard, I know. But putting your writing away, especially when you hit a mental roadblock, will allow you to come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. It will also give you the chance to read a lot of other books, which will spur creativity and give you new writing ideas for your own book.

I took several breaks when writing “Becoming American,” and though it was tough, it allowed me the time to do more research for it and surprisingly, when I wasn’t focused on trying to develop new story lines and characters, they started coming to me as I read other World War II personal accounts. I’d take notes in a notebook, but didn’t write unless it was very heavy on my mind. Yukio’s character didn’t enter the book until the month before the manuscript was due. One month before, after working on this over years.

Taking a break after a first draft, (like a 3-6 month break), will also give you the permission to work on other writing projects. It’s okay to have a few different manuscripts going at a time. I’ve been bouncing between three very different projects for the past couple of years: a middle grade historical fiction from colonial times, a young adult historical fiction from early fur-trading years and a Depression-era young adult historical fiction.

And you know what? I had been writing the Depression-era book like crazy for weeks, full of optimism and knowing how I wanted the book to turn out. And, then it happened.

Writer’s Block. I tried and tried, but nothing would come out. I couldn’t think of anything to write or how to tie the characters together. I couldn’t think of any plot points. Period.

So, here I am, four weeks into my break and still nothing. But, I am reading fun thrillers and waiting for inspiration to hit when I least expect it. And when it does, hopefully I’ll have a fully-inked pen or very sharpened pencil handy:)

WT4: How to Build Strong Character Arcs within A Theme

Great novels involve character development. Have you ever read a book that goes on and on and a character goes through kind of mundane actions and never really learns anything or changes?

Character development is important. Before you even start writing, it’s helpful to list your main characters and decide which characters will change throughout the novel and how.

For example, in Becoming American, I knew I wanted a young Allu to be innocent and hopeful and as more events press upon her family and dramatically alter her life, I wanted her to move from naivety to someone who understands that sometimes major opinions in the world aren’t justified. Not all adults can be trusted or are kind. But I wanted her to understand these things without losing her own kindness and positivity.

I wanted Robbie to be carefree, patriotic and a ladies man. Despite all of the setbacks and rejection from the government and Army, I wanted him to remain patriotic, but become more responsible for his family.

But not all of your characters have to change. Some of them can remain constant, and it’s you as a reader who is changed. Mama has a quiet strength that’s constant throughout all of their changes, even if she does have some emotional breaking points.

The character arcs can reflect your theme of the book. Hope, despite having everything taken from you. Patriotism, despite having the government reject you and question your loyalty. The importance of family and friendship in maintaining your heritage and pride.

I hope this helps. Sometimes when I get writer’s block, it helps me to go back to my characters and how I want them to arc and then I ask myself, what kind of event could I throw in the story to showcase this part of the character? How would he/she respond? What are some dramatic things that could influence how he/she views the world?

My favorite and most heart-breaking characters are usually the ones in books and movies that I started off hating. They’re selfish and mean etc. but then throughout the story, they change. It seems like usually, right when you fall in love with these ones and they start to do the right things, they die and leave you feeling well, heartbroken. It’s a lot easier to accept bad characters who do awful things, when they die, but that wouldn’t be very dramatic, would it?

I hope this helps. Think of great books and some of the new Marvel movies that have come out and use their examples of how important backstory and character arcs are. And remember, not all of your characters have to change; just enough of them to make a difference.