[box]This week on Author Spotlight, I feature Normandie Fischer, author of Becalmed. She studied sculptures in Italy for a number of years before returning home to complete her degree. In the seventies, she began editing and writing technical books in the DC area while teaching sculpture and taking portrait commissions. Her first novel, Becalmed, released recently and is available on Amazon.com here. [/box]
ADG: Tell me a bit about yourself, how long you’ve been writing, what types of writing you do, etc.
NF: An eighth-grade English teacher showed me how to see the world in poetic form, and I’ve been writing poems ever since, along with essays and other narrative non-fiction. That (and editing) taught me to write sparsely, to hone text and choose the perfect word or words. When I decided to write fiction, I had to learn a whole new way of seeing, of enlarging, of framing the space in which my characters moved.
My first full-length manuscript won me the Alpha Award as best new fiction writer at the Sandy Cove Christian Writers Conference in 1994, but it would be another too-many years before I’d honed my craft enough for my agent to sell what would become my debut novel, Becalmed. A month later, he sold an earlier (and much rewritten manuscript), Sailing out of Darkness, which releases on September 15.
The journey was as hard as it was long. I’d write a story, and my then-agent would try to sell it. A score of no-thank-you notes, and I’d tuck that manuscript away and write another. By the time my present agent (Terry Burns of Hartline Literary) took me on, I had four manuscripts in various stages of rewrite—because that’s what I do: I polish. (I can’t help myself.) By 2011, I’d hit a low. I asked myself if I were delusional about my abilities. To discover the answer, I tossed three of the manuscripts at contests.
And guess what? That year, Heavy Weather won The Marlene award from the Washington, DC, RWA (romantic elements category), and Becalmed won The Catherine from the Toronto RWA (romantic elements category). Sailing out of Darkness finaled in the Rocky Mountain Colorado Gold Contest (mainstream fiction), and Heavy Weather was a finalist in the Fab Five from the Wisconsin RWA (romantic elements). Both Becalmed and Heavy Weather were semi-finalists in the ACFW Genesis contest in 2011, and Two from Isaac’s House was a Genesis semi-finalist in 2012.
ADG: Why did you decide to become a writer?
NF: I love words. I always have. Books became my solace during a lonely childhood and adolescence, and I always wanted to create stories, but I also came from a home that emphasized perfection, being the best at whatever we tried. This pushed me toward the easy road—sculpture—because I’ve never had trouble replicating what my eye saw, and I doubted I could be another Jane Austen. (I love comedy of manners.)
By the time I hit age 30, I’d grown up enough to take the risk of being less than the best. I’d be the best me possible and quit worrying about being the best someone else. Does that make sense? It was incredibly freeing.
ADG: What is the one piece of writing advice you wish you’d had at the beginning of your career?
NF: My perfectionist father taught me logical thinking, which has been a huge gift, and my mother taught me excellence in language. So I started out with those blessings, coupled with my editing experience, and with something one of my sculpture professors had taught: if it’s not working, toss it out and start over.
I think the one thing I needed to hear and that I learned completely on my own is that time can work in our favor. God’s timing and ours are rarely the same, and early success may not be His best plan. These days, it’s so easy to take our words to press before they’re ready. Like a fine wine that needs to age, sometimes our experiences and our words need the aging process.
Back when I won the Alpha Award, I thought publishing was just around the corner, and according to the publishers who gave me the award, it would have been if I’d been willing to follow their rules. But their audience wasn’t my audience. Not with the limitations of those rules. And so I waited. And I waited. But I didn’t just sit around. I wrote. And now I’m so glad I had the time to learn and improve and hone my stories.
I’d tell writers to bide. To hone. To take deep breaths and read, read, read—but read the classics. Read beautiful prose. And let God work His magic on our stories.
ADG: What are you currently working on? Any special projects.
NF: I’m honing (ahem, that word again) Heavy Weather for (re) submission to my agent. I have to, you know? I mean, think of all I’ve learned during the editing of Becalmed and Sailing out of Darkness!
ADG: What do you have coming out next? What do your fans have to look forward to?
NF: Sailing out of Darkness releases in mid-September. It’s a different sort of story from Becalmed, a bit more literary, and deals with guilt and consequences, with learning to forgive, especially oneself. I love the bits of woo-woo that find their way in, along with the snippets of poems I wrote for my characters.
ADG: How can my readers find out more about you and your work?
NF: They can read about me, my books, and what’s happening in my world on my website: www.normandiefischer.com (which will link to my blog at www.writingonboard.com) I also love to connect with readers and friends on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NormandieFischer.
Right now, they may find me babbling on about my new grandbaby, who was born on August 21. She’s the reason we began this boat trip north and the reason we’re still here in NYC. (What a place!) Soon, we’ll head south again, back to the quiet and the peace of coastal North Carolina. I’ll post pictures on Facebook of those legs of the trip and of the book-signing parties we have along the way. What a fun way to connect with readers.
If anyone in your audience lives along our path south (via the Chesapeake Bay and the ICW), I’d love to have them contact me. Perhaps we can meet up along the way.