A fellow writer, Phil McBride, graciously conducted a Tam Francis interview on his blog to help promote my new book, The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress and encourage more folks to nominate it. (go HERE now to do so) This is a reblog with extended questions not used in the brevity of his blog format. Phil asked fun and insightful questions about writing, dancing, kindlescout, and more. I want to hear from you and wonder how YOU would answer some of these questions.
Lockhart Area Writer’s Critique Group
I, [Phil] meet every Thursday with five other writers in a critiquing group. Three of us email the others drafts of our newest chapters each weekend, and on Thursdays we sit down face-to-face and offer written and verbal suggestions—critiques. After three years, we are still learning how to be honest, but not snarky, how to step on the other’s toes sometimes, but not mess up their shoeshine, and how to praise without gushing.
One of the writers, Tam Francis, has just entered a novel set in the 1940’s in Amazon’s Kindle Scout competition, something I also plan to do with Defiant Honor when it’s done. More on Kindle Scout at the bottom of this post.
Tam is a writer whose books and blog posts I enjoy. Besides being a substitute teacher, wife, soccer/cheerleader mom, and local actress, she is a dancer, a 1940’s dancer.
As I vicariously live in the 1860’s much of the time, Tam daily dances through the 1940’s. We never know when she’ll show up on Thursday afternoon dressed in vintage clothes from the ‘40’s, hairdo, stockings, and all.
Tam Francis let me do a short quirky interview with her, writer to writer.
Tam Francis Writerly Questions
What punctuation mark best describes you and why?
Em dash. First of all, to say its name is very musical. It almost sounds like your singing. Parenthesis sounds like a disease, and period and colon—well, you know. Em dash also includes the word dash which is movement, fast movement, at that. I can picture all the little em dashes, sliding around in a jitterbug swing out.
Then there’s the way em dashes can be used. They have great versatility, to replace commas, parentheses, and colons—which gives a writer the freedom to add information and even bring attention. Lord knows I like to bring attention.
How do you handle criticism?
Receiving criticism is a process that has become more refined for me with time, experience, and the abundance of it. I used to reject criticism or take it to heart so deeply I would cry and wallow in self-pity for a few days. Over time, I’ve learned to consider criticism as one of many possibilities and points of view, opening myself up to grow from it. How can I put my own spin and signature on a suggestion or correction?
What is your philosophy towards your work?
I tend to obsess and get hyper-focused when I’m writing. I have to make deals or play games with myself. You cannot edit UNTIL you do the laundry. You cannot edit UNTIL you’ve done the watering and weeding in the backyard. Incidentally, those real world chores relax my brain and help me puzzle out manuscript problems.
What is your favorite palindrome and why?
In words, drown I. I think, being a writer, the answer is obvious. (she winks)
What things do you not like to do?
This has nothing to do with writing, but, I do not like raising my voice to children or reprimanding them. It breaks my heart when I’m teaching and kids do not have the interest in learning or see the value in education.
Why is the unconscious mind a writer’s best friend?
This has been a circle of realization for me. When I first wrote, I wrote poetry, which starts as a feeling or reaction to an observation and the need to distill the essence of it in an exemplified form.
When I began writing my first novel, I had this great need to outline, not a hard outline, more like a road trip. I knew where I wanted to start my journey and knew my ultimate destination with some key cities (stops/plot points) along the way. I’ve learned to trust my subconscious mind to take me off-road. I used to panic and would not start a new project, even a short story, if I didn’t have a road map. Now, I trust my subconscious, it always takes me to new places.
I suggest reading, “Thinking Write: The Secret to Freeing your Creative Mind.” Although a few of the exercises are bit groovy and border on new-agey, mumbo-jumbo, there are some solid truths that will help your creativity and whisk you past writer’s block.
Tam Francis Jitterbug Book Questions
What 1940s song best describes you, and what song best describes your latest book, The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress?
For the book, it’s easy: The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing, Danny Kaye. It could easily be a tagline for the novel since even though I put the characters through some hell off the dance floor, everything comes together when they’re dancing.
For myself, there’s so many, I’d like to say, Accentuate the Positive, by Bing Crosby, but more like, Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer. I’m constantly frazzled with two very active kids who participate in soccer, choir, cheer, acting, DECA, student council as well as keeping their grades above nineties. On top of that, my hubby was active Navy and deployed a lot, now he’s in school full time—driving me crazy. Plus, I just have to be on the PTO at the kid’s school and youth coordinator for our local theatre.
I squeeze the writing in everywhere I can and always feel like I’m creating on a wing and a prayer, even using that “moment of silence” when I’m at school—did I mention I substitute teach, too—to pray for patience, kindness, and creativity.
Pick two 1940s celebrities to be your parents.
John Payne, for my father. You might remember him from “Miracle of 34th Street” and “Sun Valley Serenade.” He’s handsome, humorous, and kind. Have you seen the Hurrell picture of him dressed as a boxer, (ladies do yourself a favor and look it up!). And Hedy Lamarr for my mother, she was not only a classic beauty, but she was brilliant, co-inventor of Spread Spectrum Technology.
Along with George Anthiel, they developed a “Secret Communications System” to help combat the Nazis in World War II. By manipulating radio frequencies at irregular intervals between transmission and reception, the invention formed an unbreakable code to prevent classified messages from interception by the enemy.
They received a patent in 1941, but the impact of their invention was not fully realized until decades later. Naval ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis implemented the technology, which emerged in numerous military applications. Most importantly, the “spread spectrum” technology that Lamarr helped to invent galvanized the digital communications boom, forming the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines, and other wireless operations possible.
If you could only do one dance move the rest of your life, what would it be?
The swing out from the Lindy Hop, of course. It has everything you need. It has distance, closeness and intimacy, speed, centrifugal force, and enough counts and beats to forever play with the rhythm to create and improvise interesting footwork.
Kindle Scout Questions
Now tell me about The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress and the Kindle Scout program.
GitJD is the parallel story of two women coming of age, struggling with loss, love, and redemption, united by a 1940s swing dress. Anyone who liked The Notebook, or Water for Elephants will love reading the past come to life on the dance floor in GitJD.
The Kindle Scout program is a new opportunity for writers to eliminate the middle-man agent, but still have the benefits of a publisher.
Your novel must be ready for publication, professionally edited with a kick-ass professional cover. You submit to KindleScout and if approved, have 30 days to garner nominations or votes. Your goal is to stay in the Hot and Trending category for the most hours. After that, they assess the campaign and then decide whether to offer you a contract. No one has yet to figure out what other aspects KindleScout looks for.
Here’s the cover to GitJD, so you’ll know it when you see it. PLEASE GO VOTE NOW!
Any other quirky questions you want to ask me, Tam Francis or Phil? Do you have any Kindle Scout insights? Did you nominate my book? See anything else there you liked? What are your passions or niche genre? How would you answer these questions? Who would you like to be your celebrity mom and dad?
More about Phil:
Philip McBride is a retired teacher and high school principal, is an avid reader of military historical fiction, and is a compulsive writer. He lives with his wife Juanita and yellow dog Dixie in Lockhart, Texas, a small town which is the acknowledged Barbecue Capital of Texas, and not far from the Alamo. He is currently writing his next Civil War novel, with the working title of John and Levi, set in Virginia in 1862. You can find the first two in the series here.
Tam Francis is a writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page