Emily Duvall tells us about her book ‘All of Me’.
- Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?
One question I get from people is, “What qualifies you to write about someone on the spectrum?” I am open about the answer, in that, one of my children was diagnosed with Autism. There is a cohort of children in our country with diagnosis that are aging into their early and mid-twenties. Initially, Maren was a lot younger and the book would have been a young adult story, but as her story came into focus, what I really wanted to write was about someone older than a teenager, and what dating, love, and independence might look like for them.
As a side note, this is the first time the romance genre is opening-up and accepting heroines like Maren and for that reason, the timing felt right. Ten years ago, there was no room for someone like Maren and her family in romance books.
- How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?
The topic doesn’t take long to come up with but making sure the idea can stretch to an 80,000 word novel is a different beast. I have started stories, and, right around the 10,000 word mark I give the storyline and the potential for conflict more thought. Often, the story is scratched because there’s no way it can be turned into a full-length novel. I usually end up combining ideas from 3-4 stories to create one book. I have a notebook in my purse for writing down ideas because potential stories are everywhere!
- How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?
Usually, I don’t know how much research I need until I begin writing. As the plot unfolds and the characters find themselves in situations or dialogue that requires some type of specific knowledge, I write those questions down in a spreadsheet. Once the first draft is finished, and I cannot continue until I have these questions answered, then I reach out to someone who can answer them (I like to give all questions at once). Sometimes I look up other fiction books from authors who have had characters with similar problems and read their books or I check out nonfiction books at the library. It doesn’t take too long, once I know what I’m looking for. All of Me took about two months’ worth of research before I could get all my questions answered.
- What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?
- How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police, medics etc when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?
- If you need specialist knowledge to write a book, how do you obtain it? For instance, do you interview people? Go to the location? Use Google Earth? Apps?
I interview people as much as possible, especially about a topic that all the Googling in the world wouldn’t give me the information I need. Sometimes I get rejected if I ask for an interview, but most of the time, people are willing to answer questions over email or meet. I offer to put their name in the acknowledgements as a thank you. Many writers shy away from this step and I encourage them not to. Sometimes, it can feel like cold-calling, except it’s cold-emailing, I’ll search for the type of business/specialist I need, and write an email explaining who I am and if anyone would take the time to answer some of my questions.
If I need specific information about a setting, I try to write about places I have been, although Google Earth can be useful if I need to get a snapshot of a street or downtown that I want to use to mimic in the story. There is no real substitute for writing a story set in a place I’ve experienced, which is why, most of my books are set in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia since I live in this area.
- How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?
I have been rejected more times than I can remember. This industry is tough! I decided to self-publish this book because I had other projects I wanted to give my attention to and waiting for an agent to accept the work can takes months, and then even years to get the book on the market. Sometimes, the best call for a book is the one that makes the most sense to you as a writer. There are more “No’s” in this industry than “Yes” so I made the choice to publish and move forward.
- Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?
- Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?
There are so many avenues to publishing these days that writers should do what is best for them. Self-publishing is a great way to build your audience and that matters, if, later on you submit a novel to an agent or a publishing house, they can see that you have a following and that you are active in your writing career.
- Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?
Most writers I know, even ones that are best-selling authors, have other careers. The authors that do make the big figures are rare.
- What is your favourite genre?
While the romance genre is my favorite to read, I am also a big fan of the YA genre and books with suspense.
- If you could recommend a living author – who would it be? A dead author?
I love books by K.A. Tucker and Lauren Layne. They write romance and I just connect with their writing styles. My writing improves after I read their books.
As for a dead author, I would say L.M. Montgomery and her beloved Anne of Green Gables stories. I’ve always been drawn to those stories. They’re timeless.
- Which author had the most influence on your writing? Your writing style? Your writing genre?
It’s been ages since I read my first romance book, but it came out of the early 90’s. Her name is Judith McNaught. I used to read every one of her books. Every now and then, I re-read some of her works because they not only take me back to a time that I discovered that genre, but because the tension between her hero and heroine is real and raw, and I need a reminder as to what that should look like. She wrote during the beginning of the “boom” in the romance genre and her books, along with authors like Nora Roberts and LaVyrle Spencer, were on my bookshelf when I was supposed to be reading books for high school. I think the books a person connects with initially can set the standard for expectations for other books in that genre.
- Which of your books are you most proud of?
I must say, All of Me. It’s the first book that was different from my others. It was the biggest challenge to write because the characters both struggle with so much. Halfway through my first draft I remember turning off my computer. I asked myself, “How will there be room for love in this story because they’re both self centered?” I almost threw in the towel because in a romance, the romance MUST come first. That is the golden rule of a love story. Two characters like Maren and Caleb Allan are going to have a difficult time falling in love.
- What, in your life, are you most proud of doing?
I am most proud of being a mother and being a wife.
- Do you have an unusual hobby?
I’m currently working on making ‘latte art.’ I got this awesome coffee/latte maker for Christmas and I’m elevating the art of drinking coffee to make those fancy leaves or hearts in the coffee. So far—no success. The foam just looks like a blob.
- If you could be any fictional character, which would you be? And why?
I would like to be a character in one of Liane Moriarty’s books. There’s a delicious amount of drama that doesn’t happen in the day-to-day life of an author.
- If you could choose to live in another country/town – which would you choose? And why?
Recently, I visited London for the first time. I absolutely loved it! The city was incredible with the history and the architecture. I loved getting lost in the city and finding a café. I was a fan of the gated parks. I think there is a story with those, I just haven’t thought of one yet. In the U.S. we don’t have gated parks in the cities like the ones there. I was tempted to jump the fence and pretend I was a local.
- What would you take on a desert island to read if you could only take 3 books?
Such an unfair question! I could narrow my choice down to ten, *maybe.*
Do you people watch to find characters for your books? How do you do this? What is the funniest thing you have seen that you have incorporated into a book? Or do you add some traits from your family and friends into your characters?
Oh yes. I do love to people watch. Sometimes I’ll see a look, a fashion style, or just their interaction with other people and some inspiration will hit. Oftentimes, a friend will tell me a story about something that happened at work or to a friend, and I’ll have a moment where I think, that would be a great story (or make for a great character trait/situation).
Where to begin? Emily has many favorite things. She loves coffee, books, and taking photos of the two together.