IndieView with Marie Wells Coutu, author of The Secret Heart

While men tell me they enjoy my books, too, what I write is called women’s fiction because the main characters are women who have messed up (haven’t we all?), and I want to show them finding a way to move past their history into a beautiful future.

Marie Wells Coutu – 30 January 2017

The Back Flap

Truth is messy. But will their shared secret destroy his political career—or sabotage their marriage?

After a whirlwind romance, beautiful Shawna Moore marries Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee. Now, she wonders if the governor ever loved her or only hoped to avoid a scandal.

In this modern re-imagining of the biblical story of Bathsheba and King David, an investigative reporter is asking questions—the wedding took place only six weeks following the death of Shawna’s first husband in Iraq. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection, as well as Shawna’s reputation, will be ruined.

But keeping their secret is destroying their marriage.

Will Hunter’s choice mean the end of his political career or his family?

About the book

What is the book about?

After a whirlwind romance, beautiful Shawna Moore marries Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee. Now, she wonders if the governor ever loved her or only hoped to avoid a scandal.

In this modern re-imagining of the biblical story of Bathsheba and King David, an investigative reporter is asking questions—the wedding took place only six weeks following the death of Shawna’s first husband in Iraq. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection, as well as Shawna’s reputation, will be ruined.

But keeping their secret is destroying their marriage.

When did you start writing the book?

I started working seriously on this book in October 2015, but the ideas had been “gelling” for several years.

How long did it take you to write it?

About a year.

Where did you get the idea from?

After I finished my first novel, For Such a Moment, my then-agent wanted two other related ideas to include in the proposal. Since that book was a contemporary re-telling of Queen Esther’s story, I came up with other women from the Bible whose stories I could re-create in today’s world. Rather than try to have the main character be seduced by the President—since the White House and Washington D.C. would be difficult for me to learn enough about—I decided to have the story center around a governor and his wife. I grew up a short distance from Nashville, so I decided to base the story there.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

I wanted to make sure I got the right balance between conveying the emotional state of Shawna, my main character, after she loses the baby and her worries about revealing the truth about the pregnancy.

What came easily?

The scenes near the end of the book where the story threads are resolved were actually pretty easy for me to write. By that time, I knew my characters and how they would act and what they would say.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

I always use bits and pieces from real people I know, but in this novel, there are no characters completely based on anyone I know, even in appearance. It’s a mixture—I put in my ideas, add a few specific elements, turn on the blender, and out comes a fictitious person!

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?

So many! I think Frank Peretti’s books and the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins really helped me see how to tell a great story with a faith element (although I don’t write the same type of novels). Then Francine Rivers’ classic, Redeeming Love, and Brett Lott’s A Song I Knew By Heart, started me thinking about adapting biblical stories to different time settings. Besides Francine Rivers’ engaging writing, I admire Cynthia Ruchti, Myra Johnson, and Deborah Raney (among many others!) for the way they make you feel like you know the characters and can visualize the settings. That’s what I strive for in my writing.

Do you have a target reader?

My target reader is a woman between the ages of 30 and 55 who struggles with life issues and is looking for hope. While men tell me they enjoy my books, too, what I write is called women’s fiction because the main characters are women who have messed up (haven’t we all?), and I want to show them finding a way to move past their history into a beautiful future.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

My writing process is still evolving but basically, I start with an idea, develop the main characters and the setting, do some research, start writing, and do more research as I need to. Once I finish the first draft, I go back and revise and edit.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I do outline. When I first started writing fiction, my outline was very sketchy, with just a description of key scenes. As I’ve worked on the last few novels, I have worked harder at developing a more extensive outline so that I need less rewriting. I try to include notes on my characters, settings, and desired mood in my outline so writing each scene is easier.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

For the most part, I try to write the first draft and then go back and revise and edit. But I usually wind up reworking the first few chapters before the first draft is complete.

Did you hire a professional editor?

I hired a professional editor before I ever submitted the book to a publisher.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Usually not. Occasionally I will put on some “mood music,” but it has to be instrumental only.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

Yes, I signed with an agent early on.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

My agent had not found a publisher interested in my first book (contemporary women’s fiction), so I put it aside and began working on something totally different (historical). Then I heard about the Books of Hope Contest being sponsored by Write Integrity Press, and I felt like these three books fit their criteria perfectly, so I entered and won!

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

The cover was created by my publisher, but I provided input on the images used.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

The first two books in the series had very little marketing, since my small publisher has no budget for that, but for this third book, we do have a marketing plan.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Make sure your book is the best it can be. Hire a professional editor, if you can afford to. And be prepared to spend a lot of time marketing, but don’t let your efforts be all about “me, me, me.” Be professional and focus on building relationships with readers.

About You

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in the western part of the state about 90 miles from Nashville.

Where do you live now?

Now my husband and I live in northwestern Iowa and spend our winters in Fort Myers, Florida.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I’ve been a writer all my life, writing for newspapers, magazines, government, and a nonprofit—always writing nonfiction except for playing with writing fiction a few different times. I was fifty-five when I got serious about writing a novel and realized that I could actually learn how to write fiction. It took me about five years to finish the first book.

What are you working on now?

Now that the three books in the Mended Vessels series are complete, I’m writing a historical series set in western Kentucky, near where I grew up and went to college. The books will be based on real events and a town that no longer exists. The first one is set near the end of Prohibition, and features the daughter of a moonshiner and the son of a preacher. It has a strong romantic thread but the real story is how this young woman will support herself and her mother after her father dies, when all she knows is moonshining.

End of Interview:

For more from Marie, visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her Facebook page.

Get your copy of The Secret Heart from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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