Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Meet Multi-Published author, Nancy Lamb

It gives me great pleasure to introduce my guest author, Nancy Lamb. She has written several novels for adults, then fell into writing for children. Nancy's non-fiction book, The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, became my writing bible while I was working on my middle grade book. I'm excited to share that Nancy now has a new book, The Art and Craft of Storytelling for adult fiction authors of all genres. Nancy, can you give a brief overview of your new book, The Art and Craft of Storytelling?

Nancy: This new book grew out of The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children. When I wrote that book, I was forced to consider the craft of writing from an entirely new perspective. I'd published over 40 books by then, but all that time I was creating stories, both fiction and non-fiction, on instinct alone. I hadn't taken classes on writing. And the few books I'd read seemed to be long on theory and short on practical application.

Putting what I knew on paper was a challenge on multiple levels. I had to think about writing in an entirely new way . . . and to put those ideas on paper in an inviting and accessible manner. I suspect the reason so many authors appreciate these books is because I write from personal experience and not from a textbook mentality.

Katie: How did you come about writing this book for adults?

Nancy: Having spent my life consuming fiction, I started out writing novels. This was a natural fit for me at the time. But then I had two sons, and when I saw the opportunity to write for kids (the Which Way Books, written under the pseudonym of R. G. Austin), I ended up publishing 26 of them with a friend of mine who was an author of children's books. I continued working for children because I had a reputation in the field. In fact, it was this body of work that propelled me into writing for adults again . . . even though the subject was children's literature. So in a way, I've come full circle. And it feels right to me at this time in my life.

Katie: How is your new book, The Art and Craft of Storytelling, similar to and different from the non-fiction book about writing for children?
Nancy: Actually, the books share common themes, in that the time-tested verities of storytelling don't change with the age of the audience. For instance, you'll see perfect examples of the Hero Quest in Where the Wild Things Are, Catcher in the Rye, and The Kite Runner.

The primary difference between my two books is that the examples I cite in The Art and Craft of Storytelling are drawn from published fiction and narrative non-fiction books targeted to adults. I also amplified specific elements of storytelling and added a long chapter and appendix on genres and sub-genres--everything from romance novel and science fiction to memoir and thrillers.

Katie: Since you've written stories for both children and adults, which do you find is the easiest and, perhaps, the most favorite of your genres?

Nancy: That's a tough one, Katie. None of the books have been easy to write. I sweat blood over every one of them. I've published 35 books for children and loved them all. And at the moment, I'm actually toying with (note the evasive verb) an idea for an early reader. On the other hand, I'm also working with two friends on an oddball novel for adults. So I really don't have a favorite audience. However, in a rude intrusion of reality, I do need to make a living from writing and editing. And as a consequence, I often love--or learn to love--what I am paid to write or edit.

Katie: How have you grown and changes over the years as a writer?

Nancy: My instant response is how my prose has changed. In the beginning, I adored adjectives and adverbs. My prose was fraught with the ruffles and frills of those pesky intruders. It took me years to understand that 90% of those words impede the flow of prose more than they enhance it. Beyond the actual writing, I think my greatest growth is a result of having lived and loved and worked for a lot of years. Age, with all its drawbacks, repays us for our years of living and overcoming in the currency of accumulated insight and wisdom.

Katie: For today's authors, it is a must to master, or at least utilize, varying forms of marketing and promotion. Do you market your books? If not, why not. If so, what is your favorite marketing strategy?

Marketing has never been my strong suit, something I'm working to change. In my day, I did lots of school visits. I've also done some radio and print interviews. But times have changed. And I spent this very morning with a friend kind enough to help me set up my new blog. This form of marketing is so new to me that I haven't yet created any material for the blog. But I will. Soon . . . any day now.

There's also another issue that affects (and sometimes afflicts) writers like me: I love being with friends. But I need, and seek out, solitude. I'm not a natural at publicity. As a consequence, when I teach at one of the Big Sur Writing Conferences, I prefer working with small groups of writers instead of lecturing to large groups.

Katie: Have your marketing strategies changed over the years as marketing and promoting have fallen more and more on the author's plate?

Nancy: Up until my last book, the publisher handled most of the publicity issues. But everything has changed with this economy. With my newest book, for instance, the publisher simply canceled the primary promotion plans. Like it or not, I am now beginning to reach outside my familiar comfort zones. Hence, my wannabe-blog and my website.

Katie: In looking back at your writing career, what are the three most important things you have learned as a writer?

Nancy: (1) To be selective in using adjectives and adverbs. (2) If I want my book to capture the attention of an agent or editor, I must create a dynamite opening chapter and paragraph. In today's competitive economic climate, this is not an option. (3) My biggest challenge is to not to take rejections personally.

Katie: What advice do you have for young authors?

Nancy: Write. And above all, rewrite.

Katie: I'll close this interview with a quote that I love from Nancy's new book synopsis: "The Art and Craft of Storytelling gives you all the tools you need to contribute your own story to our great tradition, to open new worlds to readers and introduce new ways of thinking. This is the power and purpose of story. And by writing, this is the tradition you honor."

You can find The Art and Craft of Storytelling on Amazon. The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children can also be ordered from Amazon. Check out Nancy's website and blog.


BonnieA said...

My copy of The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children is always nearby, bristling with bookmarks at the passages I reread frequently.

Thanks for a great interview!

orcalover said...

This looks like a book I need. I write short stories.

Donna McDine said...

I too own a very worn copy of The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children. Nancy thanks for sharing your expertise with us all. Katie, terrific interview!

Best wishes,

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a wonderful interview. Thanks, Katie and Nancy. I love learning how other writers work and will check on your book about writing.


Barbara Ehrentreu said...

This was a great interview and I think it's great that there is finally a book for crafting adult stories. I have had a lot of writing classes for writing children's stories, but not many for adult stories. I found myself writing an adult novel this year for NaNoWriMo and I'm in distress over how to revise it.:) I will definitely get this book for help.

Thank you Katie for hosting Nancy Lamb. Nancy your comments about writing will help me very much.:)