Reading the blogs of other writers, especially when they feature author interviews, can be so inspiring! I love the mix of musings, author interviews, and inspiration that is featured on the What Women Write blog. Recently, I had the pleasure of correpsonding with Joan Mora, one of the contributors, and learned that we had both attended the University of Maryland. I also learned that she has family members from Odessa and was amazed by the photos of them on her blog.
There are a lot of ups and downs in publishing, but one of the highlights of being an author has been to reach out to other writers and to learn from them. Today, I am delighted to interview Joan Mora, a CFO/Consultant with a passion for writing fiction. The treasurer of The Writers’ Guild of Texas, Joan is busy on her next two projects, one, a mystery set near London’s Highgate Cemetery, and the second, another collaboration with Pamela Hammonds, this time a dark comedy. I can’t wait to read them!
What took you to Texas?
I was born and raised in a suburb of Washington, D.C., but I’d always dreamed of living somewhere else. Part wanderlust, I suppose, and part aversion to winter! For years I bothered my husband to move somewhere else, and we decided it would be nice to be near his family.
What keeps you in Texas?
In addition to our large extended family, we found the perfect high school for our son. He’s thrived there and, now in his senior year, is busy with college applications. And Texas is also where my What Women Write ladies live!
You are the treasurer of the Writers’ Guild of Texas and a member of What Women Write. Can you tell us why it is important for writers to maintain contact and forge ties with other writers?
There are so many reasons—camaraderie, being around like-minded people, but the beauty of having a large writing network is that you can learn from others, no matter where they are in their careers. You learn from mistakes of newbie writers as well as from incredibly generous authors who share their time and knowledge. Writing is such an isolated career; being around other writers not only maintains contact with the outside world, but in many ways rejuvenates your writing soul. I’ve grown so much as a writer by being part of two critique groups—I’m challenged to look at my work in new ways. With a little luck, I hope to finally blend the invaluable advice I’ve received over the past few years and write a finely crafted novel.
What advice would you give to struggling writers?
Well, since I’m as-yet published, I still consider myself a struggling writer! But, what I tell myself often: Don’t give up the dream because it’s truly what you love to do (and you must love the writing part, not just the idea of fame—which is very rare and also potentially fleeting!) You must also treat it like a job, not a potential job. If you don’t take your work seriously, no one else will either.
Read!!! We’ve heard this so many times, but recently I’ve been struck by how much I’ve gained from reading others (not just the tenth version of my own manuscript!) Just in the last six months, I’ve read novels where I’ve been in awe of character development (Moonlight in Odessa and The Postmistress come to mind!), or plotting genius (The Forgotten Garden!). At the same time, I’ve read overly melodramatic books that had me rolling my eyes, or books with dense, flowery overwritten prose—both issues had me going back through my own manuscript, eliminating anything resembling either one of those. Which brings up another piece of advice for any writer, struggling or otherwise (and I mention this on my blog under a writers job description: http://joanmorawrites.blogspot.com/,) that is, don’t vent on Facebook, Twitter, or blogs about your frustrations with (or jealousy of) another writer, even in vaguely disguised verbiage. Not only is it potentially damaging to your own career, it’s just in poor taste.
What is the best advice you have received?
Don’t just talk about writing or querying or great ideas for books, WRITE!!
What books are on your nightstand?
I’m usually in the middle of five books, not only on my nightstand, but on my iPod, my car CD player, the coffee table, my desk… Right now I’m into two Victorian novels by Michael Cox, Glass of Time and The Meaning of Night, and also Grange House by Sarah Blake, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and, waiting to be cracked open, a book I’ve always meant to read but recently got a push by a friend, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
What is your favorite place to write?
I’m absolutely sure my favorite place to write would be in a cottage in Cornwall or on the Ireland coast. But since I haven’t traveled in the U.K. west of Oxford and I’m not likely to in the foreseeable future, I’ll settle for my shuttered office which I share with lots of clutter, stacked bookshelves and my teenage son. If I’m editing, I like to print a hard copy and sit in the quiet living room in my comfy chaise.
The manuscript I’m working on now is currently titled THE ARCHITECT AT HIGHGATE, a multigenerational tale of love, treachery and murder set in Victorian and present-day London. It features two rival architects—a mid-nineteenth century Italian immigrant and his Irish nemesis—and a present day art restorer who uncovers evidence behind the stone walls of a church, eventually leading her to descendants of the rival architects.
I’m also at the beginning stages of co-writing a second manuscript with Pamela Hammonds, a dark comedy currently titled FIVE DAYS TO KILL BOB.
How did you and your fellow writers decide to come together to form the blog What Women Write?
It started with an informal critique group—several of us trading chapters regularly via email, others not so much, really depending on who is working on what when. I know that if I send any one of them a chapter (or, in some cases, the full manuscript at once!) each one will do her best to fit it in her already-pressed schedule. And of course I’ll do the same. Some of us blogged regularly already, but Pamela suggested we do a joint blog so we could pool our networking resources and none of us would have an unmanageable time commitment.
What advice would you give to writers interested in collaborating on a blog?
Agree on goals for the blog and a set posting schedule before you begin. Our goal was to offer advice and insight into the writing life. From there we thought we’d enlist authors, editors and agents to offer their words as well. Establish ground rules, such as not bad-mouthing others, as I mentioned earlier, or have an understanding that the blog will be strictly a writing venue, not a place to share personal views or vent frustrations. We try to post in advance so others have a chance to read it first and are free to make changes or suggestions.
Thank you so much asking me to join you today! It’s been fun!