Indie Interview: Connie Chappell


Welcome back to another Indie Interview. Today, Connie Chappell stopped by to talk about her new book, Wild Raspberries. 

Hi Connie. Welcome to Read A Lot.

Q: Had you always planned on becoming a published author?

I love the writing process, but the funny thing is, I never wanted to publish my books. Everything I learned about the publishing world was fraught with change from one moment to the next.

I was a newbie to that world and I honestly couldn’t keep up. I didn’t know who or what to believe or even how to get started. I decided early on that I did not want to be self-published. Other than that, I didn’t know what to do first.

So…it was easier just to sit back down at my laptop and write another book. I wrote four novels before I seriously attempted to find a publisher.

Q: What inspired you to write Wild Raspberries?

A close friend suggested I attend Antioch Writers Workshop, an annual week long conference just a few miles from my home. I attended four summers straight. One of the writing principles I learned at Antioch was, as a writer, I was required to write a story that had never been told before.

At the time, I was reading a series of books and realised the author used the same premise in each: A wife, always new to the concept of empty-nester, realises her husband is having an affair.

My job was to tell a different story. Soon, the idea came to tell a story from the other woman’s point-of-view. I wanted readers to like my lead character, so I made her a quilter of memory quilts. The quilts are given anonymously to those who grieve the loss of a loved one. Based on reviews, my character was well received.

Q: What made you choose this genre?

Wild Raspberries is literary fiction and told from five points-of-view. The first three books I wrote were mysteries in first-person, told from a single point-of-view. Wild Raspberries was a drastic deviation. I began studying other novels I picked up and noticed that many authors were writing in more than one point-of-view. Whether the trend was changing or whether I was just paying closer attention, I couldn’t say.

I pride myself on character-creation and the five lead characters in Wild Raspberries have received many, many compliments. They feel real to the reader. Readers can picture them and connect quickly with them. My characters are far from perfect. The readers’ allegiance for my Wild Raspberries characters switches many times throughout the story. They didn’t expect that would happen.

Q: What is the book about?

Here’s a quick summary of Wild Raspberries:

When Callie MacCallum sews her first quilt after the death of her lover, Jack Sebring, she doesn’t realize she’ll be drawn into a Sebring family battle between his wife and daughter-in-law. Callie only wants to fulfill her promise to Jack that she return to their weekend cabin in the West Virginia mountains, the place where their twenty-year love affair was safely hidden. Instead, her emotional and reminiscent trip becomes crowded with the two Sebring women, a grief counselor, and the massive role Callie assumes. She obligates herself to speak for Jack, on behalf of his young grandson.

Q: Do you find it easier to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?

I have thrived on a structure for my writing for over a decade. My schedule affords me a minimum of two hours for writing each morning. Many days that time limit is stretched. I love the days when I can cobble together even twenty or thirty minutes more.

Q: Can you choose a favourite character from your book?

Lucius Dameron is my favorite character from Wild Raspberries. He was such fun to write. Lucius and the lead character, Callie MacCallum, were “best buds” in high school.

Lucius describes himself as a “gay carpenter and meddler extraordinaire.” He draws each of the four women into his confidence. The reader gains another level of understanding through conversations they have with Lucius. He sincerely wants to help resolve the situation. Best of all, Lucius is a bit of comic relief for the tension created by the topics of infidelity and grief.

Q: Was there ever a point while you were writing the book when you wanted to give up?

It took a year to write Wild Raspberries, including several sessions for major editing. As the process moved forward, I saw the story improve and become better. I never considered giving up. I wanted to tell this story the best way possible and poured my heart into the process, characters, descriptions, and settings.

Q: What is the worst part of the writing process for you?

The worst part of writing is when other responsibilities push their way in and I must set aside my writing at a critical time or when I am so enjoying building a particular segment of the story line.

Now that I’m a published author of three novels, those ‘other responsibilities’ can be the duties of the author with a publisher making certain requests that infringe on time valued by the writer. I would welcome a few more hours each week to devote to my craft.

Q: How much of your stories do you plan, or do you make them up as you go along?

Before I sit down to begin a new story, I give it considerable thought. I spin the characters and the story line around in my head. I think—when I place my hands on my laptop—that the majority of the story is organised. As the writing begins, the characters and their lives give me added insight.

Sometimes, the most wonderful realisations come out about halfway through the story. Those realisations add depth and meaning. Writing is an amazing process.

Q: Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?

The piece of writing advice I repeat to myself most often is: write the story in a straight line. I struggle with the writing when the scenes are out of chronological order.

Whenever the writing becomes a struggle, I step back and usually find that reordering the scenes streamlines the telling. That makes reading and understanding better for the readers.

Q: Where can people learn more about your books?

I maintain an author website, and my publisher, of course, is an excellent source:

Amazon is the clear choice for a purchase location. Wild Raspberries is available in paperback, hard cover, eBook, and by July, 2017, in audio book.

Q: What have you learned since you started writing?

I describe myself as ‘self-taught.’ Very early in the process, I decided I could teach myself how to write a book by deconstructing books I read to see how the story was built. I studied books I read from a writer’s point-of-view. That felt right to me.

At the first writing workshop I attended, the first words of instruction I heard were, Writing is auto-didactic.

Luckily, the instructor gave me the meaning of that word.

That means, she said, one can teach oneself.

At that point, my confidence soared. I would trust my instincts and set a clear course. Have I said, writing is an amazing process?

Q: What’s next for you?

My writing pursues two genres: literary fiction and a cosy mystery series. I will continue down these two avenues. The second book in my Wrenn Grayson Mysteries series has been accepted by my publisher, Black Rose Writing. My writing coach and I are reviewing the third instalment for this series. I am diligently working on a new piece of literary fiction.


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