This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
The cover on Marlen Bodden's book, The Wedding Gift, asks, 'What if, on your sister's wedding day, you were given to her – as her slave?'. Today, Marlen has answered a few questions about her book – published by Arrow today – and her writing process.
I actually have no average day and that’s because I still practice law, full-time! So, normally, I write on weekends and holidays, but I read non-fiction about my current topic on the commuter train to New York City almost every day on my way to work at The Legal Aid Society. When I write I typically begin very early, around 6:30 in the morning, and I end about 12 hours later.
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When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
No, because I write historical fiction, although some of the characters in my current novel were celebrities (and still are famous) in their day. But some of my clients who have suffered human rights violations of the worst kind do inspire me to create strong women characters.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
There’s no such thing; I love too many books. I can’t answer that question.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I do very general planning; an extremely rough outline and then I dive in, but by the time I have made decent progress, what I have written bears almost no resemblance to the original outline. I do countless drafts because I edit as I go along. I constantly add ideas to the manuscript from my notes of my research or just thoughts I write in a notebook (or my phone) I carry everywhere, up to the very final draft. If I didn’t edit as I went along, I would have a draft and would have to rewrite the entire manuscript!What was your journey to being a published author?
When I finished The Wedding Gift I tried to get an agent, but I was unsuccessful even though I had sent out about 400 query letters. So I researched how to self-publish and that’s what I did. Then, with the help of my husband, family, and friends, I did a publicity campaign. The eBook sold over 140,000 copies and made the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. After that I got my agent, Victoria Sanders, who sold it to Random House UK, St. Martin’s Press US, Blanvalet Germany (The Wedding Gift will be published in German in July), and Cappelen Damm Norway.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That writing fiction comes naturally. Yes, there is an aspect to that when I’m “in the zone” and the characters speak to me, but a lot of editing and thinking goes into the final product. If we just wrote what came naturally to us, our books would be nonsense!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Just write! The best advice I received was: “Put your butt in a chair and write!” Too many people spend time planning to write or writing outlines. Writers don’t write outlines, they write books. Also, too many people waste time worrying about how they are going to get published. Write your book first and then figure out how to get it published.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing my second book, a historical novel on the conquest of Mexico, and it’s going very well. I recently went to Mexico and I confirmed a lot of the research that I’ve done so far, but I also learned that I had some important details wrong. When I got back home, I spent a lot of time just incorporating my notes from the trip.