Today I’m excited to welcome S.M. Freedman to the blog. She’s a top-ranked Amazon author in the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense categories, and her new novel The Faithful made the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I’m grateful she took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her writing process and her new book. Also, she makes me laugh.
KB: What inspired you to write your latest book?
SMF: The initial inspiration for The Faithful came from the meteorite that exploded above Russia in February 2013. I started to research NASA’s Spaceguard program, which is charged with finding Near Earth Objects (or NEO’s) before they impact the earth. My main character became a meteorite hunter, working for Spaceguard at their facility on the White Sands Missile Range. From there it grew to encompass an FBI agent obsessed with the kidnapping of hundreds of psychic children, and a twisted organization bent on Armageddon. How it actually ended up there is strange magic I just can’t explain.
KB: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
SMF: The biggest lesson I took away was that the writing of a book is a huge accomplishment, but it’s far from done. Editing takes twice as long. It’s like whittling words away, one little slice at a time, to allow the beauty of the wood to shine through.
KB: How much of the book is realistic?
SMF: I’m an obsessive researcher. The settings in The Faithful are real, right down to the gas stations, hotels and restaurants. For me, it helped to ground the fantastical parts of the story in that kind of reality.
KB: What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
SMF: When I grow up I want to be a plotter, but right now I’m more of a pantser. I write down ideas as they come to me, and I have a vague idea of the end of the story, which helps me navigate my way through the twists and turns to get there. It seems to work, although it makes that blank page a scary thing.
KB: What were the challenges (research, literary, and logistical) in bringing this book to life?
SMF: There was a lot of scientific research that went into The Faithful, and as my high school teachers would be happy to tell you, I’m no scientist.
KB: Give us an insight into your main character.
SMF: She’s a socially inept, junk food obsessed meteorite hunter who has a hard time distinguishing the dead from the living. When we first meet her, she’s discovering that her entire childhood is a lie. And that’s the easiest day she’s going to have.
KB: If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about the sequels
SMF: The Faithful is the first in what I believe will be a trilogy. I’m currently working on the second book, which I hope will be out sometime in the first half of 2015.
KB: How long did it take you to write this book?
SMF: I wrote the first draft of The Faithful in about six months. It was a behemoth at 150,000 words, and it took another eight months of editing and rewriting and banging my head against the desk until it was ready for public consumption.
KB: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your book?
SMF: I grew up with the Brat Pack, so when I was writing The Faithful I pictured Josh as Rob Lowe (he’s an amazing writer, by the way; his biographies are awesome). I absolutely adore the way James Spader can deliver a line, he’s truly one of a kind, and I could see him playing Father Narda or Father Barnabas. Sumner I originally pictured as Kiefer Sutherland, but now I’m not sure, and Ryanne is a blank to me.
KB: What books/authors have influenced your writing?
SMF: I’m incredibly fortunate to have formed the WorldWiseWriters with five other amazing authors. Before I met them, I found writing to be a lonely experience. But together, we butt-kick, commiserate, celebrate — and best of all, we laugh every single day.
KB: Do you have any advice for other writers?
SMF: It’s pretty simple: Write. Every day, even when it’s painful, even when the only words you can manage suck like a three-day layover in Kabul. Just keep writing the story, and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. Don’t edit or doubt yourself. Once you finish, spend at least twice as long cutting useless words and trimming the flab. No one wants to hear how your character went from the shower to the breakfast table, unless she hog-tied a ninja assassin along the way. Keep trimming, a layer at a time, until all you’ve got left is tender meat and juicy bones. Then it’s ready.
KB: Do you ever experience writer's block?
SMF: Every stinking day. That blank page mocks me.
What is your favorite theme/genre to write about? I’ve never really understood this notion of pigeonholing a story into a narrow category. The best books I’ve ever read have been cross-genre spectacles of awesomeness. Of course a book needs to fit into the proper spot on the bookstore shelf, but if I worried about that I’d probably end up with an enormous case of writer’s block. Instead I take what fascinates me from each genre and make myself a word stew: a little mystery, a chunk of suspense, a dash of horror and a sprinkle of romance, just for good measure. After all, that’s life, right?
KB: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
SMF: I hope I continue writing until they pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hands.
KB: What a wonderfully specific (and visual) ambition! Do you write full-time or part-time?
SMF: If I added up the writing hours in any given week it would probably work out to full-time hours, but it’s done in dribs and drabs. I’m a mom of two. I’ve learned to write between demands and diaper changes. When I get an uninterrupted hour to write, it’s like Nutella. Heavenly.
KB: Do you have a special time and place to write?
SMF: I write in the living room while ducking Lego missiles. It keeps me alert.
KB: Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
SMF: I try to write a thousand words a day at a minimum. During the month of November, I participate in NaNoWriMo (which I highly recommend for anyone who needs a writing butt-kick), and I up my goal to two thousand words a day. I do this by giving up on housework and bathing. It’s not pretty.
KB: What is the hardest thing about writing?
SMF: The blank page. It’s both invitation and condemnation.
KB: Thanks so much for stopping by. Where can we find you online?
Amazon Author Page: S M Freedman
Amazon US: The Faithful
Amazon UK: The Faithful
Barnes & Noble: The Faithful
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