Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Gayle Roper is Marianne! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (amy@litfusegroup.com)

This week Hillary Manton Lodge is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Hillary’s latest book, Simply Sara, leave a comment on this post!

Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I’m married with a puppy, writing full-time.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

I write Generation-Next Contemporary fiction. The two books I’ve released are just that, with an Amish twist. I’m interested in all sorts of things, and writing all sorts of genres. In my non-writing world, I love being in the kitchen (cooking, not cleaning), watching movies, taking long walks by the Columbia river with my husband and looking for the perfect lipstick.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?

I always knew I wanted to write books. When I was in grade school, I would write and illustrate my stories; in middle school, I got those bound blank diaries and tried to write books in those. I wouldn’t recommend it, myself.

My parents made sure to connect me with writers they knew through our church, and from there I began to get involved with Oregon Christian Writers. I was about fourteen when I attended my first conference. At OCW, I learned the finer points of writing for publication. Getting to take the conference classes while in high school and college gave me a unique writing education. I finished my first novel about ten years after my first conference.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?

It took me two years to finish my first novel, and another year after that before I signed my first contract. Mind you, it was for a completely different book (Plain Jayne), but it was a contract I got because of the first book. Jayne released about sixteen months later.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?

I don’t actually drink coffee, it makes me weird. I do need to walk, though. Thankfully, I have a dog who needs to stretch her legs often. I also have a terrific husband who will throw ideas around with me on a walk. Getting moving helps me to order my thoughts and settle into my head.

Where I write changes. We’ve actually been moving around quite a lot this last year – I’ve lived in four cities in the last ten months, so it’s messed with my writing habits a bit. I don’t work at a desk very well, but couches and coffee shops tend to be successful. Change is good!

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?

Writer’s conferences, in a big way. I connected with my agent and first publishing house that way. My husband was a huge help, too. I was about two-thirds through my first novel when we met, and I’d been having a hard time writing the love story. Getting to fall in love with a lovely man helped me to write the end – definitely some of the best research I’ve done!

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?

It’s busier and more demanding than I expected, at times, but at other times it’s quieter. It really is a hurry-up-and-wait sort of process. Everything depends on whether you’re in the hurrying or waiting stage!

What are your biggest distractions?

It’s a long, long list. Home chores tend to be big distractors, and the puppy doesn’t help. I actually tend to work better at night because I’m not distracted by things like light and phone calls.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?

Well, the flexible working schedule is a definite plus. And having your work turn into a concrete product is incredibly rewarding. But writing is hard work, and very mentally taxing. Writing isn’t even a writer’s one job – there’s editing and marketing and blogging and networking and shopping for clothes to wear to book signings (wait…that last one might just be me…).

What is the role and importance of an agent?

I’m a bit spoiled, because I’m with Sandra Bishop, who won the Agent of the Year award at ACFW last fall. She takes a 15% commission and she’s worth every single penny.

Your agent is the one who negotiates the terms of your contract, which means she also understands everything in your contract. She knows what’s normal and what’s kinda quirky. She serves as a liaison between you and your publisher when you need it, or if you don’t have a publisher yet, she acts as a yenta for you and your manuscript. That means she needs to be constantly networking, meeting editors who might be looking for what you’ve got. I can’t imagine being in this business without an agent. Even without all of the platform changes (ebooks, etc), it’s a crazy business.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Develop your voice. It has to be yours and yours alone, something that comes naturally to you without feeling like you’re forcing it. For me, figuring out that first-person sassy worked best for me was a huge step – before that, I’d been hanging out in third-person serious and really struggling. Write what comes naturally!

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.

Simply Sara is the must-read follow-up to Plain Jayne, the story of Sara Burkholder’s foray into the English world and all of its complications. Sara gets a job at a bookstore, begins college, falls in love, and figures out how to have a happy ending of her own.

What’s on the book horizon for you?

I’m working on some new projects that I’m very excited about, but nothing official yet. Readers can check my blog for the latest news and musings at www.hillarymantonlodge.com. They can also pop by my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/hmlfiction) or Twitter page (www.twitter.com/hillarylodge).

Last question, how can readers find your books?

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Powells.com – they’re easy to find!

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)

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