On Fridays right here, writers talk about their books, their process, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Today we celebrate FERRIS ROBINSON’S win on Kindle Scout with MAKING ARRANGEMENTS, published by Kindle Press on July 5, 2016.
- MAKING ARRANGEMENTS did well on Kindle Scout and won a contract with Kindle Press. How did you manage your campaign, and how have you enjoyed the process of publication since?
Before I actually won the contract, I didn’t have any idea of how difficult it was to be selected – which was good because I probably wouldn’t have put myself out there! Obviously I’m glad I was oblivious. I can truly say my campaign was successful because of my family and friends. They were all incredible about spreading the word and supporting me. Folks who don’t even go online called me on the phone and asked how they could help, and people shared my pitiful pleas on Facebook. Friends forwarded my emails asking for nominations, and friends of friends forwarded again. My kids and nieces sent group texts with the link to Kindle Scout. The Kindle Scout community was an enormous support itself and offered so much insight into the process.
- Can you tell us what motivated your choice of subject matter and genre?
My sister sat with a friend’s mother while she was dying in Tennessee – her friend couldn’t get there from the west coast and the dying woman’s friend sat there as well. The bond formed between my sister and this octogenarian is something special, and I love the origin of it. Friendships that are familial are intriguing to me – how we can find family when there is no blood relation, and how strong friendships can be a lifeline. I find that is a theme in my writing – the depth of relationships that begin almost coincidentally and coming to terms with blood relationships that aren’t ideal as far as being supportive and loving.
- What did this book teach you about yourself as a writer?
I can finish something! I have a few unfinished/unpolished manuscripts that are spending time on the back burner (and have been there longer than you might think!). Finishing Making Arrangements is a huge milestone, as is putting it out there and letting people read it. So scary. I also learned it is necessary to be ruthless in editing – delete everything that doesn’t move the story forward in some way. That was very hard because some of my favorite scenes are gone, but I’m pleased with the final outcome.
- Can you talk about the aspects of being a writer that you find most challenging, and those aspects of creativity that come relatively easily?
Organizing my book (or anything!) is difficult. I know the emotion I want to evoke or the bottom line of the story, but making all the characters, subplots and setting come together with the right timing and intensity is challenging. Keeping up with them is tricky too – I tend to forget that so-and-so was worried about her doctor’s appointment and drop that plot line for too long. And just forget moving chapters to a different order – invariably I bring someone back from the dead when I do that.
I think dialogue might come easier to me – probably because I’m nosy and eavesdrop more than I should. Call me Gladys Kravitz!
- Reviews have raved about your character development in Making Arrangements. Care to share a few secrets of how you flesh out your characters?
So much of my characters comes from my friends. Caramel cake figures prominently in my book, and I have a friend who bakes this cake with its to-die-for-icing, and she presents it when it is most needed – at deaths and births and celebrations. I love that. Another friend irons to relax and another mixed her words up once and we both thought it was hilarious – all this went into the characters in my book.
I keep a notebook and jot down snippets of conversation, interesting names, habits (“So.” after almost every sentence and butchering the English vocabulary), quandaries, and things like that. If I don’t lose the notebook I keep the pages in a file. I make sure the characters are all different from each other – and usually the more of a contrast the more interesting the book is. They all have different backgrounds and goals in life and appearances.
- Tell us about other books you’ve written.
I wrote Never Trust a Hungry Cook in college – my late friend illustrated it and it is still used by a lot of folks. The Southern recipes are family favorites, but her drawings are the best part – funny, clever and detailed. The Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook was a cookbook I wrote after my husband had open-heart surgery at age 34. Those are super-easy low fat recipes – We were actually on the cover of Woman’s World magazine for that. “She saved her husband’s life!” was the headline – dramatic but catchy!
- You get to the end of your life, and there to escort you through the tunnel to the light beyond and show you around is a philosopher/author/artist/scientist/celebrity you’ve always revered. Who is it, and why him/her?
Harriet Tubman – how did she have the bravery and strength and commitment to be the hero she was, especially during that time. How did she get outside herself enough to ‘conduct’ time and time again, despite unspeakable risk.
- How do you see your career as an author developing?
I would love to think of myself as a novelist. Maybe if I finish those books I have scrawled on dozens of legal pads, I can say that out loud! And I’m thinking of a sequel to Making Arrangements after a few readers said they needed to know what happened to so-and-so.
Ferris Robinson lives in a beautiful part of East Tennessee (very similar to Barrington in Making Arrangements) with her husband and two dogs. The mother of three grown sons, she delights in the fact that her dogs obey her – more or less.
A former columnist and feature writer for the Chattanooga News Free Press, she is now the editor of the Lookout Mountain Mirror and the Signal Mountain Mirror. Her work has been published numerous times in the Christian Science Monitor and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She is a columnist at chattanoogan.com.
The author of several cookbooks, including Never Trust a Hungry Cook, which she wrote in college, Simplify Supper and the Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook, Ferris and her husband were featured on the cover of Woman’s World magazine 20 years ago. Promoting her easy but healthy recipes in the Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook, she made numerous television appearances and sold 10,000 copies of the book, pre-Internet.
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