One day I asked him if I was making a mistake trying to tell a story that was so far from my experience. He said, “You know what? Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never met a zombie.”
Claire Ashby – 11 September 2014
The Back Flap
Meg Michaels, a bookstore owner, has already walked away from two cheating exes. She’s learned her lesson and has her mind set on success—until she gets knocked up. Embarrassed and unwilling to discuss her situation with friends and family, she wears layers to hide the pregnancy.
When Meg gets sick at a party, she’s mortified. Even worse, Theo Taylor, the guest of honor, discovers her secret. Theo, an Army medic wounded in the war, agrees not to reveal her condition, and the two forge a bond of friendship that blossoms into love.
Theo is soon filling all of Meg’s late-night cravings—and not just the pregnancy-induced ones. But can their love overcome all the obstacles that stand between them and creating a happy family?
About the book
What is the book about?
When You Make it Home is a story about Meg, a young woman who’s always made the right choices, until the night she accidently gets herself pregnant. While she’s trying to figure out how to deal with her reality, she meets Theo, a former army medic who is recovering from war. For the first time in her life she doesn’t feel alone.
When did you start writing the book?
I started writing When You Make it Home about three years ago. The first draft came pretty fast, but editing is a different animal. I signed with Red Adept over a year ago, so it’s a quite a process from the moment you write “the end” to the thrill of touching the finished product.
How long did it take you to write it?
I completed the first draft in under four months, but editing took a year and half of stopping and starting. Life has a way of slowing down the writing process. This has been one of the bigger struggles for me. When I write it’s the most important thing in my world. When I step away from my laptop, everything else is bigger and more demanding.
Where did you get the idea from?
Meg and Theo were two separate ideas that simply fit well together. Meg was a side character in another book I wrote, and I fell in love with her. This girl just tried so hard to have her act together and always make the right choices, and then she ended up pregnant and not by the man everyone expected her to have a baby with. But that’s the reality of life. We don’t make mistakes… until we do.
With Theo I wanted to tell the story of a guy adjusting after returning from war. At the time, more and more soldiers were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and each story was so unique. I wanted to capture that. I’d read a story about a young guy, maybe 22 who’d returned after becoming a quadruple amputee. He’d met a girl in rehab and they were engaged. The story blew me away. I began to research returning amputees and not only was I shocked at the number of soldiers who lost limbs in service, but their stories of resilience overwhelmed and inspired me.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Absolutely. Theo needed to be authentic. Telling this story wouldn’t be worth it if I failed Theo. I constantly worried about the way I portrayed him.
I became friends with a fellow RAP author, Steve Kozeniewski, who’d served in Iraq. Steve writes horror, and also worked at an army clinic that specialized in helping soldiers with addiction. Anyway, I questioned Steve endlessly, but the more I learned the more I worried. One day I asked him if I was making a mistake trying to tell a story that was so far from my experience. He said, “You know what? Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never met a zombie.”
What came easily?
The chemistry. The scenes with Meg and Theo together were a joy to write. On the surface, Meg and Theo have very little in common, but they’re both fighters. They’re both in a challenging place in their lives and they’re putting on the “happy face” for everyone close to them. When they meet, they find they can let go of those barriers.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
100% fiction. Reading and writing are my favorite escape. Writing people I know doesn’t sound like a bit of fun. Little pieces of my life show up, but not in the foundation of the characters.
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?
Off the top of my head, I go right to Joshilyn Jackson, Sophie Jordan, and Lisa Kleypas. I’m a fan of Jackson because she does dysfunctional so well. The girl knows how to bring crazy home.
Jordan and Kleypas because I get caught up in their character’s emotions. They both write love and longing so powerfully, and with such visceral appeal.
On the level of story telling, I’d have to say Pat Conroy. The Great Santine, The Lords of Discipline, Prince of Tides, Beach Music … the complexity of these stories inspires me.
Do you have a target reader?
No, I don’t. I believe stories affect everyone differently. When I read a good book I want to tell everyone about it. There is nothing I love more in a story than when an author makes me fall in love with a concept I didn’t think I wanted to read. An example? Like Water for Elephants. I don’t give a flying monkey about reading a circus story, but I enjoyed every word of that book!
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I spend time thinking and imagining the scenes like it’s a movie in my mind’s eye. Then when I write, it feels like the story takes on a life of its own. With this novel I made it to the halfway point and then went back to outline where I’d gone and where I needed to go. I loved using Scrivener corkboard. Lots of fun.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
The first scene in When You Make it Home was always the clearest, but as I moved along I had to find my way. There were certain scenes I knew had to happen. Like Meg getting an ultrasound. Or Theo reconciling the life he chose in the army with returning home injured. So I had this loose skeleton, and as I moved along I filled in structure.
For me, an extensive outline doesn’t work. I’ve had a few book ideas that I’ve tried outlining and the story bleeds to death before it starts. If I structure too soon I lose the passion in the storytelling. I envy writers who can shore it all up before they even start. You know, when I cook I never follow a recipe. I start eyeballing measurements and trust my memory. Must be my nature.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I do edits as I go. When I have trouble reconnecting with the next scene I back up. I often find that things are better than I think they are, and this discovery gives me new motivation to plow through my insecurities.
Writing is probably the only place in my life where the “one step forward, two steps back” method has really served as a win. I believe that editing as you go is okay, as long as you move forward. I once wrote a book using the logic that you never stop and reread what you wrote, and honestly? It was so damn terrible; I didn’t want to invest the time to edit it.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Unfortunately, I can’t listen to music when I’m drafting, unless it’s in a coffee shop in the background. Now, when I started editing I discovered music was a necessity. One day I was at Panera and the lunch crowd filed in. All the conversations drove me nuts, but I had to get my work done. I was just about to get up and leave, but I put in my ear buds and pulled up my Pandora app. A new routine was officially established. I listen to The Naked and Famous, Kings of Leon, The Lumineers, Silverspun Pickups, Imagine Dragons, The Killers, The Head and the Heart and whatever else Pandora dials up for me.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
Yes, I did. An agent is the logical step in the process to get published. I focused on it, putting my blinders on and I queried away. I had a good response. Request for partials and the full, and finally the dream offer from a top agency in New York. At the same time I happened to have the offer from Red Adept Publishing (RAP). It was a tough choice.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
With both offers in hand, I was surprised to find I felt better going with an indie publisher. With the RAP offer, I’d skipped the agent step and my book would be published. Going with the agent felt like the bigger gamble at that point, and I was tired of gambling.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Yes, I want newbies know they are showing up to the party at the perfect time. There are many, many ways to define success in the publishing world. The only limits are the ones we put on ourselves, so I say connect with your writing community, learn as much as you can, and take a chance. If you write romance, join a chapter of Romance Writers of America. If you write something else, find that group. Whatever you do, find your people. Find your people.
End of Interview:
For more, visit Claire’s website.