Interview with Nicola Furlong

I’m pleased to welcome multi-published author Nicola Furlong to the Mine today! Read on for her interview, and make sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.


Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.

I’m the sixth of eight in a long line of rabid readers. Like my father, mysteries were my first love. After devouring whodunits for years, I finally figured I could write ‘the butler did it’, as well as the next armchair Poirot. For my first gumshoe, I stuck close to home and chose a sporty gal named Riley Quinn as my amateur sleuth. After intensive research, which included lugging a forty-pound bag during pouring rain for a couple of professional female golfers, I putted out TEED OFF!, my first crime story.

I was off the first tee, as you might say, and running. Although I had plans for a Riley Quinn series, another idea soon struck home and I delved into darker thriller material for my second novel, A HEMORRHAGING OF SOULS. Once again, my writing plans changed. Though I had this new second series in mind, I lucked into a divine gig and eventually wrote six light-hearted inspirational tales for the CHURCH CHOIR MYSTERIES series from Guideposts.

Definitely diverse! So what’s a day in your life like?
I’m very fortunate. I am semi-retired and live in a small seaside town on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The creative side to my day varies, depending on whether I’m writing, researching, marketing or pondering something new. There are, however, four daily constants in my life: Walking dogs (a giant Yorkie & a spud-coloured Maltese mix; Gardening (crazy about poppies, bamboo & succulents): Exercising (playing hockey with a bunch of old dudes, biking our rural roads or Nordic walking along the seaside), and Eating chocolate fudge (homemade & always available).

What can you tell us about your most recent release?
My latest novel is a departure from the mystery scene. When I was chewing over a new series (by now you’ll know I’m gun-shy of that term), I decided there was enough misogyny and violence out there. I no longer wanted to create stories about heartache; rather I hoped to pen something heart-warming. For the first time, I chose the familiar subject matter of family and gardening, and then planted a question that haunts me: is this all there is to life? Thus in my new inspirational novel HEARTSONG, the Shepherd family and their plant nursery business blossoms, and my main characters discover a calling to help others seek redemption for past wrongs. I think we all have regrets, and it’s these cold cases of the heart that Faith, Hope and Charly Shepherd tackle in the Sisterhood of Shepherds series. And yes, it will be a series as I’m nearly finished Book 2, HOMEFIRES.


 

That sounds very uplifting. 🙂 You’ve written a bit of both non-fiction and fiction. What were the challenges with each one?

This’s a tough question as all writing has many challenges. For fiction, it’s mostly in discovering your author’s voice and unleashing it in the right subject matter. Discovering the voice takes time, experimentation and often results in frustration and dead ends. You have to be persistent and have faith, not easy when you may have few results to show for it. Finding the right subject can be as easy as writing in the genre you generally prefer to read, but hitting upon your ideal vehicle may require diving into new areas.


Non-fiction is more about being recognized as a professional and less about crafting sentences. Once you have the expertise, however, then you need to share it in manner that befits your target audience. For example, the writing style, chapter design and book length will differ greatly between writing about growing blue poppies and playing ice hockey. I have to admit bending some of these rules, though, when I self-published my primers on electronic publishing, mystery writing and gardening. I seized upon the immediacy and popularity of ebooks and traded on my expertise and breezy writing manner to deliver succinct and inexpensive how-to ebooklets.

I noticed on your website that you’ve also done podcasts about the writing process. What’s that process like and what made you want to start the podcasts?

I really appreciate that you noticed THE NOVEL EXPERIENCE Podcast. I believe podcasts in general are an amazing yet relatively unknown medium. I’ve always been interested in radio drama and audio books. Several years ago, while creating videos and music for my interactive online thriller UnnaturalStates, I developed expertise in audio and video software. After using iTunes, I discovered their podcasts and quickly saw the opportunity and manner to post audio clips on the Internet.

As a writer, I’m always hunting for suggestions from experts to improve my work and figured other authors would be, too. Most of the writing world infotainment is fan-oriented, not technique driven. I decided to host my own audio interviews with fellow book professionals (so far, several authors, a screenwriter and an editor) and to post them online as The Novel Experience Podcast. It’s been a lot of fun sharing ideas and learning new writing skills. Listeners can find listening links below.

What’s your favorite book you’ve read?
My all-time favourite is a classic: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Harper Lee’s compelling story of family, racism and redemption. It showed me how a single isolated incident in a small town could be a powerful universal theme. Another inspiration is THE RED FOX by Anthony Hyde. This exciting best-selling thriller proved to me that Canadian genre authors could hit the big time. Well, at least some of them can!



What do you hope readers take away from your writing?

I hope readers relate to the characters and find my stories entertaining. I dig getting behind the scenes to learn new things, and trust others do, too, so anticipate that they’ll enjoy discovering a bit about golf, opera or what it’s like being the middle child. Lastly, I’d be gratified if they would be encouraged to buy more of my books and consider recommending my work to their friends.
 
Thanks for joining us, Nicola! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. Make sure you leave a comment for Nicola, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
Nicola pens mystery and inspirational novels, creates interactive books for the iPad, podcasts about genre writing (The Novel Experience), and teaches electronic publishing, when she’s not playing Old-Timer’s hockey, growing blossoms and bamboo or eating chocolate fudge.
The co-creator of Quillr®, a multimedia storytelling platform, Nicola gardens in a small town on southern Vancouver Island, BC. Her other novels are mysteries and include Teed Off! (recently re-published by OakTreePress), A Hemorrhaging of Souls, and six inspirational cozies from the Church Choir Mysteries series. Her ebook how-to primers include YOUDUNIT WHODUNIT! HOW TO WRITE MYSTERIES, SELF-PUBLISH YOUR EBOOK IN MINUTES! and TOP TEN GARDENING TIPS. She has also created her first children’s story, SAVING GRAPE-JELLY CHEEKS, as an interactive musical tale, available on the iPod/iPad/iPhone devices.
You can connect with Nicola at the following sites:                                                                              
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We have a fun and informative interview with Julie B. Cosgrove this week!!

                                   Let’s welcome  Julie B. Cosgrove to the Mine.
Hey Julie! Thanks for joining us this week. It would be great if you could tell us a little about yourself and what you are trying to accomplish through your writing.
I am a freelance writer, author and professional speaker who leads women’s retreats and workshops for churches.  I write non-fiction as well as novels, but underlying all my works is the desire to help people find God moving in their everyday lives, be it through tragedies, trials or triumphs. That is why I started my blog Where Did You Find God Today almost two years ago.
On a personal level, I am a native Texan, and a widow. I began to write because when my husband was alive, his construction job caused us to move a lot.  With each relocation, it became harder it for me to find work.  So, when the last move brought us back to Texas in 2008, I took the advice of three friends in three different cities and took a simple freelance writing course online. Immediately, I landed clients. Knowing it was a God thing, I promised to tithe my writing to Him first each day.  I began writing regularly for several devotional websites and publications.
My husband died in the shower getting ready for work about fifteen months later, but even without his income as the true breadwinner, God has sustained me. Now, going on eight books later, I am able to only write for Him.
We’re all excited to hear about the book you have coming out this week. Could you give us a little spoiler?
Hush in the Storm, launching through Prism Book Group, is a contemporary suspense romance. While recovering from surgery, I decided on a whim to start out a story, “It was a dark and stormy night” and see where my keyboard, through my Lord’s inspiration, took that journey. Of course, Hush in the Storm doesn’t begin that way now:
“An eerie thought pressed a clammy hand upon my shoulder. What if all you thought was true never actually was?
Widowed unexpectedly at thirty-one, I naturally longed for what could never be again. Regrets and what-if mantras swirled daily through my mind. I’d learned to push them aside. But this sudden, unsolicited notion surged an icy-hot chill through my body.
My logical side chided me. Don’t be silly, Jen. Of course it was true. The diamond band on my left hand glimmered with proof. Robert had cherished me, married me, spent five loving years with me…that one night didn’t mean a thing.”
The plot is this: Jen is kidnapped by a coworker, Tom, and her death faked , at the request of her late husband, Robert, or so Tom says, to protect her from the group who caused her late husband’s “accident.”
Together, they are swirled into a tempest of deceit where no one is who they claim to be. As Jen dodges the cartel traffickers, the Feds and the press who has learned she is alive, can she save two illegal teens, Tom, and herself without drowning in this storm of lies, especially when she begins to suspect her husband may still be alive as well?
I did some research and see you keep very busy. What’s a day in the life of Julie like?
My cats get me up at 6:00 a.m. to be fed because that is when my late husband always fed them.  I try to then do my Bible reading and prayers over a cup of coffee and then go on a brisk walk. Some mornings, to be honest, I roll back over and confess my slothfulness later.  Then I work part-time as a church secretary, which also allows me to write when things are slow… occasionally that happens.  At 3:00 p.m., after the proverbial errands we all do,  I come home and write for about three to four hours  before turning it all off and relax  by reading, playing word games on the computer, or catching a show on Netflix.  That is unless I am leading a Bible study, have church or Toastmasters, or am lecturing somewhere.
I also see you’ve written several very different pieces. What is your favorite and why?
I honestly cannot say. They were all written because I truly felt God wanted me to write them. That may sound trite, but there it is. He teaches me as much, if not more, during that process than my readers will ever learn.  And each time I speak on one of them, I get new insight.
What Can She Tell Us? is a Bible study just for women on the unnamed women in the New Testament and how their faith encounters can bring new meaning to our own. That has been a favorite and a good seller.  My first novel, Focused,  which is a light romance about an empty nest couple finding renewed meaning in their marriage, is liked by many, and I am finishing the second in the trilogy, Grounded, soon.
Hush in the Storm hits my heart because underlying the plot is a peek into the atrocities of human trafficking right in our own backyards. It didn’t start out that way, but God led me down that path. First a missionary who helps women trapped in trafficking joined my writing critique group. Then, while doing a workshop series for a national churchwomen’s convention in Indianapolis, my book booth was placed next to the one for Women at Risk (WAR). You guessed it. Missionaries who establish safe houses and income opportunities for women and children caught in sex slavery throughout the world. By the end of the convention, I’d become one of the representatives in the U.S. who sell their wares at no profit. 95% goes back to the safe houses to keep them operating.  It didn’t take long for me to realize God wanted this theme to be in the novel.  My publisher loved it so much, she has pushed for the next book about the same characters,  Legitimate Lies , to launch in January, 2015. And wouldn’t you know it? My editor is a WAR rep as well.
Could you tell us how big a part God plays in your writing career?
The biggest part.  I am constantly brought to my knees in humble thanks that He’s blessed me with this talent. I want to use it only to His glory. Today, through cyberspace, we Christians can touch so many lives all over the world. I am honored to be a small part of that effort to spread the Word through words.
I am a seat-of-my-pants writer, then edit, edit, edit later. I am always amazed where God leads my thoughts, whether it is a devotional, a blog entry, or a novel.  Whatever I write, His love and redemptive mercy comes through the pages. I write about real topics facing real people today. When I began Legitimate Lies, I stagnated. I took it to the Lord and discovered I didn’t have an underlying theme. God led me to the one He wanted me to write about, and the more I researched it, the faster the words flew onto my computer screen. But to tell you that theme would give away part of the plot…
As a cat owner, I can attest to how jealous they are. How do you manage to get any writing down with those furry creatures breathing down your neck? J
They more like breathe in my face as I type!  My life is more complete with my two“beastie boys”.  They are as different as night and day, but I love them equally. Serenity is a cat purring on your lap. It warms my heart every time.
How has your family reacted to your writing? Are they supportive? If so, how?
Now, yes. In the beginning, not so much. They were concerned for me, being a family of lawyers, architects and managers with nice homes and large bank accounts. Writing isn’t a “real career.” How could God support me as a widow through that means?  Mind you, I still scrimp and save, and am blessed to have my part-time job (another secret desire of my heart the Lord has granted) but He keeps astounding me in how my needs are being met month to month.
After several years of me not starving or being on the streets, they calmed down, and to be truthful, so did I. God truly does provide for widows. When my reputation began to grow, I got more speaking gigs, sold more books, received requests to write for more publications, they began to take notice. One by one, as they came to one of my workshops, they began to understand what this is all about. Now, especially my sister and my nieces are my biggest fans.
One of my favorite things to ask is: What is your favorite book, and why?
(Laughing.) I saw a post on Facebook asking if my TBR (to be read) stack is longer than my lifespan…yep!  Guess that means I haven’t found my fav yet. Seriously, other than the Bible— which by the way I have a plaque on my wall which says, “The Bible is the only book in which the author is always present when you read it,”—I guess it would have to be the first novel that turned me into an avid reader when I was twelve.  Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree.
What is your main genre and why did you choose it?
I love writing devotionals, but fiction is my passion. People love to hear stories.  It is how we relate to each other.  From the first days on earth, people gathered to hear tales. Even in my devos I tell stories. My Master, when He walked the earth, told stories to get His point across. He now gets His point across through us writers.
Could you tell us what it feels like to have accomplished so much in life?
Ask me again in twenty years. I have only begun down this path.
Again, thank you for the interview, it’s been wonderful talking to you.
prof.jpeg - Copy.jpgThanks for allowing me to share a bit about myself, my passion, and my novel, Hush in the Storm.  Those who leave a comment will be placed in a drawing to receive a free copy, which will be sent out sometime around the 18thto the 20th.