I love “all things England,” and when the idea came out of nowhere to set a book in England, everything snowballed from there.
Traci Borum – 30 July 2014
The Back Flap
When Noelle Cooke inherits a quaint English cottage and an art gallery from her famous Aunt Joy, she welcomes a departure from her San Diego routine. But the lure of the Cotswolds, combined with a locked cottage room and a revealing journal, entice her to stay and discover more, including a way to save the gallery from financial ruin. And that means remaining in England.
When her childhood sweetheart, Adam Spencer, begins work on a restoration project in Noelle’s village, their friendship blossoms. But as her feelings for Adam deepen, she struggles with memories of what might have been and yearns for a future once thought lost. Faced with a life-altering revelation Aunt Joy took to her grave and a wrenching choice regarding the man she loves, Noelle could lose far more than her heart.
About the book
What is the book about?
Painting the Moon is essentially about family secrets and revisiting a first love. The main character, Noelle Cooke, inherits an English cottage and discovers that her reclusive Aunt Joy, a famous Cotswold artist, was hiding quite a few secrets inside. While in England, Noelle also gets reintroduced to Adam, her first love. They spent their summers together as teenagers. But a huge barrier stands in their way, so Noelle has to figure out if making a bold choice is worth risking her heart.
When did you start writing the book?
I actually wrote this book almost eight years ago. I’ve been working on it, and the three other books in the series, since then.
How long did it take you to write it?
I think I spent about three months researching (England, mostly) and brainstorming the plot and characters. Then I spent about six months writing the rough draft.
Where did you get the idea from?
Usually a character or plot comes to me first. But this time, it was the location. I love “all things England,” and when the idea came out of nowhere to set a book in England, everything snowballed from there. I started to “see” very clearly the small Cotswold village, the quirky characters, the idea of a famous artist living among them, and a main character who had one foot in the States, and one foot in Britain.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Yes! When I submitted an early draft, a literary agent pointed out that the two major storylines (Adam, Aunt Joy) felt like two separate stories, which made the narrative seem choppy and disconnected. I agreed, so I tried to revise the book and merge the stories closer together, and I think I did make improvements during that revision. But it was still a problem. Thankfully, my Red Adept editor, Alyssa, helped me figure out how to blend the two stories together without losing any of the important details.
What came easily?
The relaxed banter and easy chemistry between Adam and Noelle, the main characters—especially during their flashback scenes as teenagers. In fact, most of the dialogue in the published version was what I originally wrote in the very first draft, years ago. Very little of their exchanges were edited or changed. Their relationship seemed to come easily, for whatever reason.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I love this question! These characters are fictitious, but I do sometimes tend to borrow (subconsciously!) certain traits from people I know—just little bits and pieces. But what helped me most with Painting the Moon is that, way back in my own teenage/college years, I developed some strong friendships (much like Noelle, Jill, and Adam). I remember vivid late-night talks with friends about life and God, tedious study sessions over biology or history texts, spur-of-the-moment trips to the movies, football games, etc. I really believe friendships that develop in our early years are special. They have this unique quality of seeming easier, less guarded. Maybe it’s because we’re all trying to figure out the world, and each other, together. Young people seem more open, less jaded than adults. So, as I first wrote Painting the Moon (in my thirties), I tried to remember being that youthful college age again and tried to incorporate it into the novel.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I couldn’t agree more, about the importance of reading, of studying other authors. When I’m reading for pleasure, I actually dog-ear passages on a page that I want to come back to and study more. It’s hard for me to read as “just” a reader anymore. I always seem to read as a writer, studying technique and style. For me, Rosamunde Pilcher is the Queen of Women’s Fiction. She’s a Scottish author (one of her most famous books is The Shell Seekers) and she has this gift of painting the fictional world with her words. Her descriptions are sumptuous and detailed, and they just take me there, to Scotland. She’s amazing. I also enjoy Elin Hilderbrand and Elizabeth Berg—two writers who, for me, embody the perfect blend of commercial and literary fiction. They know how to capture the human condition and still tell an entertaining story.
Do you have a target reader?
My target reader is probably adult women because my novels tend to focus on relationships (“women’s” fiction). But men seem to like this novel, too. I know they’re biased, but it’s surprised me how my father, my two uncles, and my male cousin, all seemed to enjoy the book quite genuinely. I think it’s surprised them, too.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
Typically, I do a LOT of prep work before I start a rough draft. I slow down, take time to brainstorm, research, outline, and brainstorm some more. I’m not sure how I know when I’m ready to start the rough draft, but it’s sort of this gut feeling I get, that “it’s time” to dive in. During the rough draft, I follow my outline pretty closely, but I do let scenes and the storyline go outside the box, if they need to. I try to stay flexible. Then I let the rough draft rest, and then I edit. And edit. And edit some more.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
My outlines are crucial for me, but I mostly use them as a general framework, a timeline. Before I write the rough draft, I need to have a time period in mind for the book. Six months? A year? June to September? December to May? Once I’ve answered those big questions, I can relax and figure out what will happen in the story, and when. I don’t get super-detailed in my outline, but I lay out the major plot points, especially.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
Being an English teacher for the past thirteen years and grading thousands of freshman essays, I have this terrible habit of editing as I go. I would love to flick that pesky editor off my shoulder and “just write,” see what comes naturally, but I can’t help myself. I’m correcting sentences in my head before they’re even typed out on my keyboard. I’ve decided that it’s not entirely a bad thing, and it’s just the way I seem to write. I don’t fight it as much anymore.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Yes! I love music. But I can’t listen to anything with lyrics while I’m typing. The words get mixed up with the writing in my head or I get too distracted. Silence is too…silent. But peaceful instrumental music is perfect for me. Pianists like Jim Brickman, George Skaroulis, Liz Story, and any movie soundtrack by Thomas Newman or Rachel Portman—those are my “go to” composers. Beautiful, subtle, inspiring.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
Yes. For years. I was taught at writers’ conferences that the only way to get published was through an agent. So, that’s what I did. I researched carefully and submitted query after query after query. I was rejected a LOT, but I finally got an offer on Painting the Moon. This was about three years ago. Unfortunately, the agent and I were not a good match, and I made the tough decision to leave when my contract ended.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
After leaving my agent, I decided it was time to submit to publishers on my own. Scary, but also invigorating. I used the same process to approach publishers that I had used to approach agents (research carefully, follow the specific guidelines, send out professional queries). I think I sent out twenty-five queries to publishers and received about twelve rejections before I got a contract offer.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?
The amazing Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics created my cover. I couldn’t be happier with it.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
Red Adept sets up a great blog tour, which I’m really happy about. In addition, on my own, I’ve decided to try and market the book a little, too. I love to study things. So I’ve spent the past several weeks researching author blogs and other online sources to find the most effective ways to market my book. Before the book was released, I ramped up my social media presence (I still don’t fully understand Twitter or Google +). When the book came out, I placed some Facebook ads (I’m unimpressed with them), had bookmarks printed to pass out to anyone and everyone (my most effective tool so far), contacted bloggers for reviews (the reply rate is very slim, but so far, I’ve received several responses), and basically just talked up the book to friends, family members, and co-workers without being too obnoxious about it. I do find that word-of-mouth is powerful, and I’ve been lucky to have very supportive friends and family members.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Educate yourself. Work hard to find out the “do’s” and “do not’s” of this business. Stay professional, always. And don’t give up. If this is something you really want, to be published, then work hard to make that dream happen.
Where did you grow up?
I’m a Texas girl. Born in Dallas, raised in a little West Texas town called San Angelo. Great place to grow up!
Where do you live now?
In a beautiful corner of East Texas. The tall pine trees remind me of Colorado.
What would you like readers to know about you?
That I’m a Christian, but I don’t wear it like a flashy label on my sleeve. My faith is very important to me, very real to me, but it’s not something I’m preachy about.
What are you working on now?
Another book in this Chilton Cross series. I’m excited to re-enter the village and find another story to explore!
Thanks so much for this interview. I had fun!
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