Monday, February 29, 2016

What You Don't Know Now by Marci Diehl Interview, Review & Giveaway

It’s the summer of 1967, and 18-year-old American Bridey McKenna is in Europe for the first time. It’s supposed to be the ultimate mother-daughter vacation, but nothing about it is working out that way. Chances for adventure, romance and enlightenment look slim-to-none until Bridey arrives in Umbria and meets Alessandro — someone who could change everything about her future. Alessandro is no ordinary singing waiter, and he’s the last person on earth Bridey’s mother wants in her daughter’s life. Bridey’s only hope is to connect in Rome with her worldly aunt and uncle — a man who holds a position at the British embassy in Jordan that no one ever quite defines. When an emergency takes Bridey off the tour, on to Athens and further into her aunt and uncle’s world than Bridey ever dreamed, the complex terrain of family, love and womanhood holds a surprising itinerary.

Here is info on the book:

Marci lives in the Finger Lakes area and is a writer by profession. She is also a marketing expert, a closet novelist, editor, and a founder of Merge since its inception. Look out for Marci’s book, What You Don’t Know Now, available this summer by Merge.

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Writing was something I loved from the time I was old enough to write a letter. I was a happy reader as a child, and I read anything I could - from basic children's books to comic books. Everything in English came easily to me. I loved language, and I loved writing assignments. I started showing promise by 6th grade. Early on I was reading books from the library like Sue Barton, Student Nurse, and ones about WW2 submarines. I felt headed for a career in medicine -- until I hit higher maths in high school. Writing until then was something I did in journals and diaries. High school was where my real creative writing talent had a chance to breathe and grow, and be recognized. But at the time, it was either go on to journalism school or find another way to make a living. Creative writing was a sure path to poverty. So I kept on writing just for myself and my friends. I got married, had four sons in 8 years, and wrote fiction, essays, and long letters at night.

2. How long does it take you to write a book?
If I didn't have to make a living (I'm a writer, editor and producer in marketing and have written freelance for magazines for 30+ years), I could probably get a book done in about a year. It took writing parts of What You Don't Know Now several years to get it done, in between many life demands. And by "done," I mean to the point where I felt it was really ready to be seen by agents. It's about 90,000 words, 31 chapters.

3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I've always been a late day/evening writer. I do get up around dawn, but my day is filled with working for myself, reading, and taking care of things around my home.  Writing What You Don't Know Now -- finishing it - became a refuge for me when my mother was in a long term care facility. I'd be with her about 4 or 5 days a week, in between working with clients, spending time with my dad, and getting home in the evening. It was a nightmare time for me, and I wanted to go inside Bridey's world and be with those characters in Italy and Greece. Everything else faded away while I was writing.

4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Having a large Diet Coke with extra ice from McDonald's beside me makes everything more clear and fun when I'm writing.

5. How do books get published?
In so many ways today! My book got published by Merge Publishing -- an indie publisher that is a collaborative of writers, designers and editors.

6. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I see stories everything and in everyone. My life has been full of surprises and experiences that I draw from.  I've got two potential novels started, and titles for two or three more -- with vague ideas what they'd be about. And I have readers saying they hope What You Don't Know Now will have a sequel. They're not ready to let go of Bridey and her journey. (Pretty sure they don't want to see the last of Alessandro, either!)

7. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book at ten. Unpublished, sadly. I illustrated it, too. It was about a girl with cousins on a ranch out in Montana, and she goes to visit them. I remember I chose Montana because I loved the name. I wasn't sure where in Montana the ranch should be, but I also loved the city name Great Falls, so that's where I put it. I stapled the pages together, and that was my first novel! What's amazing is that one of my sons now lives out in NW Montana, near Glacier National Park! Life has so many surprises for us.

8. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I'm a huge Britophile and love watching British series and movies. I love going to the movies, getting a large bag of unbuttered popcorn and a drink , and seeing movies on a big screen. I love walking and being outside, especially in the early morning. I still love reading -- I'm into a period of loving novels set in the WW2 time period.  And I love doing anything at all with my family and good friends.

9. What does your family think of your writing?
I love this question! I've found over my long writing career (non-fiction, essays, and now this novel) that they love knowing I'm writing about things, they're enormously proud and supportive -- but they don't necessarily care about reading things I've written. That goes especially for my novel. They (vaguely) know there are sexual scenes in it -- they don't want to read them. To my sons, I'm their mom, and I think this is pretty common among writers' families -- they don't want to know the person who creates characters and lives they feel might reveal parts of their mother they don't know.  I think for anyone just starting to write -- be prepared for different reactions from your family.
One of my family asked me: "Are you Bridey?"[ in the book]. And I said, yes -- but I'm really all of the characters; the characters come from within me and speak through me.

10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How much a book can change from the time you first start writing it to when it's finally finished. I cut out about 5-6 chapters of the beginning. What started as a comical story about a trip gone bad turned into a book about love, choices and the journey into womanhood.

11. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Read the best writers whose books interest and inspire you. Just by reading and loving those, you'll know more about what makes good writing - almost by osmosis. Let good advice and constructive criticism in - it's there to make things better and clearer. But as for criticism for the sake of criticism (could be from a writing group or beta reader, or someone generally negative) -- let it go in one ear and out the other. Mentally wad it up and toss it in an imaginary trashcan. I was always thankful for the insight of writers I respected -- I saw much more clearly through their unbiased eyes. And in the end -- if your writing comes from your heart and unique, authentic voice, realize you are the ultimate judge of how it should go onto the page. Being curious and observant is important, too.

12. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
So far I've heard about how much they've enjoyed the book. I especially love hearing that they didn't want to see it end, or they hoped there would be a sequel. I had one reader who shared how emotional it made her, reminding her of her own experience of first love in Italy. Another shared that she was blindside by an event in the book -- never saw it coming. And I like knowing a reader is engrossed and doesn't want to put it down to go to work!

13. Do you like to create books for adults?
I do. But I have to say that I adore really wonderful children's books and I wish I could write them. I think it's a completely other gift. I have four grandchildren (so far, with one more just loving to look at toddler books) who are crazy about books and reading -- I'm so thrilled! But writing for adults comes more naturally for me.

14. What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story takes you along on a journey with the protagonist - whether it's literally a journey through time, or a journey of the spirit, the heart inside.  I love stories that draw me into a world, even if it's a small world of a neighborhood, or family, or rooms that contain huge life events (Like The Book Thief). I love a story where the people in it become so real, and you care so much about them, that you miss them when the book is done -- and they keep on living in your head.

15. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I guess I wanted to grow up still being able to live in my imagination.

16. What Would you like my readers to know?
How grateful I am to them for taking the time to read these answers. 

My Review:
This is a great book for young women in their 20's. We have all been there. High school is over and we are at a crossroads. Bridey goes to Europe with Her mother and aunt before she has to decide her future. She gets more than she bargained for. This story has romance, culture, the 60's (Vietnam, free love), family dynamics and travel.  Bridey's uncle and his mysterious plot added an interesting twist. My favorite part was the drama of a relationship. The author did a great job of creating characters that I wanted to end up together, and yet I know that she has to go home. The ending gives me hope and I would love a sequel. I am giving this book a 4/5. I was given a complimentary copy, however all opinions are my own. 
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