The winners of April’s Word Weaver Writing Contest share their thoughts on the contest, writing in general, and other stuff.
Today our 2nd place winner, Anne Marie Hilse, answers a few questions about our contest and other writerly things.
(Click HERE to read her contest entry)
Anne Marie has been an equestrienne, chorale singer, candy-striper, EMT, and baseball fan. Roaming the back roads of New Jersey with her family, she found great respect for antiques, historical locations and the stories they hold. Her current list of favorite pastimes include coffee, bourbon, and Les Misérables—which requires more bourbon. She has been known to attend sporting events just for the flyover. The boat she and her husband christened Glory Days, is her escape from the chaos of everyday life.
The inspiration for Anne Marie’s debut novel, Monsters & Angels, is her fascination with vampires and her passion for everything New Orleans. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working nights with the critical care team at a New Jersey trauma center.
Dan: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece?
Anne Marie Hilse: The Crescent is Chapter Two of Monsters & Angels, my debut novel.
What is the journey from idea to published/completed piece?
If I knew how much I didn’t know about writing/editing/publishing, I might have shelved this project until I was “ready”. Multiple characters, multiple POVs, historical setting, vampires…common sense screams to write something easier first. I must have missed all the screaming. Since I was clueless (possibly a blessing), I wrote the story that was in my heart.
My first draft, (yikes) took me about six months to write…the same six months that my husband, Scott, was renovating our kitchen. The house was the scene of disastrous chaos. Writing a fantasy was a welcome escape and once I was in that world, inspiration arrived from every direction. Although Monsters & Angels begins in New York and visits the brutal jungles of Nepal, the main setting is New Orleans. What better muse than the legendary harmony, veiled devilry and decadent soul of New Orleans?
Who or what inspires your characters?
Aside from two or three planned characters, everyone else in the large cast appeared in their own time…exactly when I needed them.
Many of my characters are inspired by people I’ve worked alongside over a thirty-year-plus career in healthcare. Of course doctors, nurses and therapists save lives. But every person who works in the hospital, whether it’s the security guard who gives directions or the volunteer who delivers flowers, has the chance to make a difference with a moment of patience or a kind word. Taking the time to listen to patients’ stories, honoring lifetimes of experience and preserving their dignity is what drives me. That’s what makes me get out of bed and show up, even when I feel like I have nothing left to offer.
Monsters & Angels may be a fantasy, but even my vampires share that passion and their memory is eternal.
Where do you do your writing?
Currently, I write at my dining room table under a crystal chandelier. My view is a second-floor wall of windows…kind of like a treehouse. In the past, I’ve scribbled bits of dialogue on scrap paper and shoved them in my scrub pockets or written scene notes on my phone at the gym.
A few years ago, I wrote an alligator hunting scene (first kiss too…no, not with the alligator), from a rooftop deck in the heart of the French Quarter. I could see the blimp at the racetrack, the towers of the CBD, the levees of Algiers Point and the entire swirly bend of the Mississippi River that gives the Crescent City her nickname. Jasmine and incense battled in the heavy breeze while the riverboat calliope rose above the invisible vibe of power that wafts up from the streets, all day and all night. At the top of every hour, the bells of St. Louis Cathedral rang loud and clear, calling all the sinners and rallying all the saints.
Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?
Pressing the publish button for my first novel is the most immediate goal. Finishing the sequel is my next goal. We may need to renovate the kitchen again.
What helps you most when it comes to writing?
I agree with Ellie Presner—the thesaurus. Even more invaluable to me is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.
I also have a fantastic editor, Jordan Rosenfeld. Her patience and guidance helped make my dream of telling this story come true. Here’s her link: Jordan Rosenfeld .
What does writing success look like to you?
I’m not actually sure what success looks like (maybe a small French Quarter mansion), but…
“I loved it!”
“Why did you kill _________?”
“Oh my God, that ending!”
“You better write the next one now.”
I’m pretty sure that’s what it sounds like.
What are you working on now?
The sequel, currently titled Blood & Diamonds.
I know Dan says “No sequels!”, but the ending of Monsters & Angels begs for…no, wait…demands it!
There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?
This is the first writing contest I’ve entered, so I didn’t expect to win. Believe me, I was floored.
I was drawn to enter by the casual energy on Dan’s blog and his writing style. Everything just flows like a conversation with a long-time friend.
Will we see you again in the July Word Weaver Writing Contest?
I hope so! This was a great experience and the feedback on my chapter was incredibly helpful!
What’s next for you?
The cover reveal for Monsters & Angels is July 19th. I’m working on setting up a blog tour and a few other fun, promotional events, giveaways etc.
The big release date is October 11, 2017!
Scott and I will be in New Orleans for Halloween week, eating everything in sight, drinking bourbon at secret bars, lounging on balconies and making a fashionably late entrance at the Vampire Ball.
Living the dream…
Thanks so much for sharing these insights, Anne Marie! Gang, here are her links:
With a tip of the hat to editor Jordan Rosenfeld .
The next winners will be coming up on the blog soon. Stay tuned!