Saturday, July 28, 2012

What the Experts Say: Deanna Lynn Sletten, Women's Fiction

Please welcome Deanna Lynn Sletten, a novelist who writes women's fiction and has also written one middle-grade fiction action/adventure novel. Her novels include MEMORIES; WIDOW, VIRGIN, WHORE; and OUTLAW HEROES. She started her writing career as a freelance writer for parenting publications in the early 1990s and transitioned to writing for blogs and websites until she made the jump to novelist.  Deanna is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the trails around her northern Minnesota home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd.  

(1) You have written two romance novels and a children’s middle grade novel. I notice that one of the novels is set following the Vietnam War, the children’s novel is about Butch Cassidy, and the third novel involves AIDs. What inspired these topics? What kind of research did you do for appropriate background? Who are your target readers?

These three novels transpired over a period of ten years. MEMORIES, a romance, was the very first novel I wrote. The main male character in that novel is a Vietnam Veteran who, when he first meets the female character, is still struggling with returning from the war. The Vietnam War ended when I was a teenager, so it was common to know at least a few men who fought in that war. As I grew older, I became very interested in learning more about the Vietnam War and began reading autobiographies by soldiers of their experiences. Their stories hit a cord with me, and I began creating MEMORIES. Even though MEMORIES is a romance at heart and is targeted toward women, I wanted to make sure my facts and characterization of the war veteran in the story were as accurate as possible, so I did a lot of research before writing this novel.

WIDOW, VIRGIN, WHORE started out as a novel about the relationship between sisters and best friends and morphed into a story about struggling with AIDS. I never intended for AIDS to be the focus of the novel, but as I continued writing it, that is what happened. The more research I did on AIDS and the people who suffered from it, the angrier I became over the fact that no one really talks about it. And of course, no publisher wanted this novel – it was too controversial. However, deep down, this is still a story about best friends and sisters, and is therefore targeted toward women.

OUTLAW HEROES is just plain fun! I have always been interested in the old west and outlaws, and the characters of Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and Etta Place intrigued me most because no one knows for certain what became of them. So, I have read practically every book ever written on these characters. One day when I was watching my kids play cowboys, the idea of placing a 12-year-old boy in with the outlaws came to me. I enjoyed every minute of writing Outlaw Heroes and I think that shows in the novel.

(2) How do you create your characters? Are they based on real people? What do you do to make then engaging and compelling?

Except for OUTLAW HEROES, which is based on real-life people, my other two novels are characters I've created from a montage of people I've known, met or read about. I am a people watcher – always have been. I notice details and characteristics in people that other people miss. In my mind, I'm always analyzing why people do the things that they do, what drives them to be the way that they are. Another strange thing is that people are drawn to me and tell me all about themselves. I can be standing in line at the grocery store and a stranger will start telling me their life story. This has happened since I was a child. So, the catalog in my head of people and their unique characteristics is quite large.

When writing a novel, I draw from that catalog to create my characters. I try to give them interesting backgrounds that readers can relate to, flaws, strengths and weaknesses. When creating a character, I want the reader to be able to say, "I know that person" or "I understand what that person is going through".

(3) You have had a successful career as a contributing writer to a variety of newspapers and blogs. How did you transition to become a writer of novels? Were you able to leverage your business writing experience for your novels?

Actually, I was writing novels before I began writing articles for newspapers, magazines and websites. I started writing for regional magazines and local newspapers to earn money doing something I enjoyed. Since I love to research, this worked out well for me. Eventually, I started writing for blogs and websites. I've sold hundreds of articles on the internet and had a nice career doing so. But my first love has always been novel writing, so last year I took the plunge and self-published my novels. What I brought with me from my earlier writing experience is the ability to promote myself across the internet. Without promotion, the best novel in the world will not sell. Luckily, I enjoy doing this aspect of the business too.

(4) Why did you decide to self-publish? What self-publishing tips would you offer other authors?

In all honesty, I decided to self-publish after receiving hundreds of rejection letters from book agents and publishers. Many of the rejection letters were personal and encouraging, but that didn't get me any closer to a publishing contract. I haven't regretted one second of self-publishing though. The ability to self-publish has opened a door to me that wasn't previously open and has given me the opportunity to share my novels with the public. And the readers have been so kind and encouraging, I couldn't ask for anything better.

My tip to other authors who are thinking of self-publishing is to not rush getting your novel out there, but to take the time to proofread and edit your novel. Readers catch everything, so make sure it's as perfect as possible before publishing.

(5) I noticed that you wrote your novels while simultaneously rearing two children. What do you recommend to busy moms who want to become authors?

I was lucky in that I only worked part-time outside of the home and was home with my children the rest of the time. Some days I would drive the kids to school, go home and write for 3-4 hours and then run to get the kids. I also spent many late nights writing when the kids were asleep. And of course, I carried my writing with me everywhere (in those days I hand-wrote my books in notebooks and then transferred them to the computer when I was home). I wrote in the mini-van and I wrote while sitting at baseball practices.

My tip to busy moms: You can write a lot in 15 minutes – so take every moment you have and make the most of it.

(6) Are you working on another novel?  Can you share the topic?

I am currently working on a Women's Fiction/Romance novel. At this point, trying to explain it will only confuse people, so I'll just say that this one may not make you cry, but you might get a few goosebumps when you read it. I am hoping to have it published in paperback and ebook in December 2012.

Deanna Lynn Sletten's Favorites

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Buchan, Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, Alle Wells and Ann Swann                                                                                    
The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre                                                                          
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Beaches, The Way We Were,  Casablanca, The African Queen, The Help                                                   
Fun activity
Katharine Hepburn                                                                                         

Deanna Lynn Sletten LINKS


1 comment:

  1. Hi Joyce,

    This looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing my interview with your readers. :)