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Congratulations to the winner of the Author Spotlight giveaway of The Magnolia Duchess, ANNIE JC. Please email info {at} suzannewoodsfisher {dot} com to claim your prize.

Welcome Hillary Manton Lodge, author of Together at the Table, to Author Spotlight! Keep reading to find out how you can enter to win a copy of her latest release.

hillary manton lodgeIntroduce us to you as an author: When did you get bit with the writing bug? How would you describe your writing style?

I started writing at a young age, attending my first writers’ conference at the age of 13. I studied journalism in college, and finished my first novel a couple years later. By the time I had a book ready to do the rounds, I’d already met my agent and first acquisitions editor.

My writing style – it’s sharp and snappy, with quirk and lots of heart. I’m very invested in my characters, and I like to keep the plot moving at a quick clip.

Tell us about your new release:

Together at the Table is the third in the Two Blue Doors series, and it’s possibly the most romantic book I’ve ever written. But the kind of romance it is – and I can’t describe it without spoilers – but it’s my favorite kind to read. I started referring to it as “the book of squee” early on; I had a lot to do, a lot of threads to tie up. I think readers will be very, very pleased. Pleased and hungry, because it’s got some extra delicious recipes!

How can readers connect with you online?

All the usual places – my website, www.hillarymantonlodge.com, plus Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m working on pulling together a newsletter, so readers can be on the lookout for that!

Anything new for you on the book horizon?

Oooh yes! And it’s very exciting. In Summer of 2017, I’ve got a standalone novel releasing – Jane of Austin! It’s Sense and Sensibility set in modern-day Austin, Texas, and it’s just a heap of fun.

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

That is a good question and I had to dig through my social media to remember the timeline! The first book that I completed (as opposed to the heap of unfinished books tucked away all over the place) I started in September of 2005, finished in October of 2007, three months after getting married. I signed my first publishing contract in September of 2008 for a different book altogether, Plain Jayne, which I turned in Spring of 2009 and released in January of 2010. So if you look at it that way, a little over four years. But if you count the first book I ever pitched to an editor – which I started at 13 – a lot longer!

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?

Lodg_9780307731791_cvr_a01_r1.inddFirst, I’m a caffeine lightweight so my writing drink of choice is a cup of strong, spicy, non-caffeinated chai tea. But what really helps me is to handwrite notes. When I start a new project, I buy a pretty journal, and I’ll handwrite my thoughts about the characters and the plot – it’s all very stream-of-consciousness. But it helps to get my brain going, and I’ve untangled any number of plot conundrums that way. I have a theory that the brain passageways used by handwriting is a part of it – it’s different from typing, so it uses a part of my brain that isn’t so tired and well-worn.

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

For me, it was writers’ conferences. As I mentioned, I attended my first Oregon Christian Writers’ conference at 13. By 14, I was working the book table, getting to meet authors and editors. I read everything I could get my hands on, so I knew most of the books. I started pitching once I had projects that I was more serious about, and the classes augmented what I was learning in school – both high school and college. By the time I had a completed novel, I had contacts at publishing houses and with Sandra Bishop, who’d become my agent.

If you’re serious about writing as a career, I really recommend finding a good conference with classes that appeal to you.

Do you prefer reading physical books or e-readers?

I’m a big, big fan of e-readers, though I feel unpopular for saying so. I will buy physical copies of books I love, but I love the handiness of having a reading app on my smartphone and having a book everywhere I go. And when it comes to both travel and night-reading, e-readers just can’t be beat.

Why do you write?

Because my brain would get itchy with unwritten stories if I didn’t.

What are you best known for … writing or otherwise?

Dialogue, I think – that’s the thing that comes up the most. I have a good ear, and my books are pretty dialogue-heavy. I love what characters reveal about themselves through what they say – and don’t.

What books have you reread the most?

I read Siri Mitchell’s Chateau of Echoes about once a year. Anna Quindlen’s Still Life in Breadcrumbs is another one I reach for a lot. But my favorite book, hands down, is Where’d You Go, Bernadette. That’s the one that I accost strangers about (if they’re holding a copy at a bookstore) and tell them to read. It’s a masterclass of plot and characterization.

Ever had a bad review? How did you handle it?

Oh, scads. But usually it’s a case of “this book isn’t for you.” And I’m okay with that. I listen to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour a lot (a LOT), and one thing they say a bunch is that things that are good aren’t for everybody. It’s okay. My writing style isn’t for everyone – and that’s fine, there are lots of authors out there, so everyone can find the authorial voice that speaks to their heart.

What advice would you give to new writers?

I think that a lot about being a writer comes down to stubbornness. You have to hang in there through the writing, the polishing, and the submitting. It takes a tenaciousness of spirit.

Are you an introvert? Extrovert? In-between?

Ambivert – it’s a thing. I like people and I like my quiet time at home.

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