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Q & A with Author Heather Vogel Frederick

Hi Heather, thanks for joining me! I know you have been super busy! What are your ambitions for your writing career?

My ambitions are simple: I hope I’m writing (and publishing) stories for many years to come. And I hope readers continue to love my stories. What more could a writer wish for?

Which writers inspire you?

Good ones!  I have old favorites I return to again and again for inspiration — E. B. White and Jane Austen are both touchstones for me — as well as new writers I come across (Jacqueline Winspear!), and my writer friends. If you haven’t read Susan Hill Long’s Whistle in the Dark, what are you waiting for?

Oh, I will add those to my To-Read list now! Give us an insight into how you create your main characters.

My main characters usually start with the barest glimmer. Sometimes it’s a name, sometimes it’s just a vague outline  — Emma Hawthorne in The Mother-Daughter Book Club, for instance, started out life as nothing more then “the librarian’s daughter.” Sometimes I have a flash of insight into a character, as with Truly Lovejoy in Absolutely Truly. whom I knew from the start would be a very tall middle child, struggling with both of those things.

How do you pick names for your characters?

I’ve been keeping a notebook of names since I was in college — which was a LONG time ago, I might add!  I jot down interesting names that I read, hear, or just dream up. I also look at baby name books and lists, and I used to check the telephone book (back when there were still such creatures), and I’ve even poached a name or two from gravestones…

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on revisions for Yours Truly, another Pumpkin Falls mystery. 

Awesome! I can't wait until that one comes out! What draws you to writing children's stories?

Good question. I’ve always loved reading children’s literature, so there’s that factor. But it’s more than that. I wrote for adults for decades as a journalist, and I still write for adults in my day job as head of research & publications for a museum. When I sit down to write fiction, however, the voice that comes out is usually about 12. 

How much research do you do before writing a book?

It depends on the book. Historical fiction requires a great deal more than, say, a Mother-Daughter Book Club novel. I spent over two years researching my first book, The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, which is set in 1835 aboard a Nantucket whaling ship. There was a lot I needed to learn about life in the 19th century, and about the whaling industry. Most of my other books only require light research — maybe a month or two.

Why did you pick the town Pumpkin Falls for Absolutely Truly?

I wanted to set a story in the kind of small New England town that I grew up in. I have a special place in my heart for small towns, and the quirky characters that often inhabit them.

Why did you pick Charlotte’s Web to be the book that goes missing?

It’s one of my favorite novels. In fact, I think it’s pretty much a perfect novel. I re-read it every year, and every year I learn something new. I think of it as taking a writing class with Mr. White.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I’ve recently experimented with this, as up until now I just flew by the seat of my pants. I’m finding it's actually helpful to set a goal and then work toward achieving it. I shoot for 1,000 words minimum, on the days that I write (I don’t write every day).

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’m pretty much a pantster — as opposed to a plotter. I love the surprise of just sitting down and telling myself a story. That being said, at some point I do have to noodle around with a bit of a loose map of where things are going.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Writing. OK, I’m being sassy. But seriously, the just sitting down and DOING it is always the hardest thing. Life holds so many distractions, many of them quite delightful. Writing takes a great deal of discipline.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Generally about a year. Sometimes I’m a little faster, and sometimes, for example if I’m writing historical fiction, I’m a little slower.

What book/s are you reading at present?

Dead Wake by Eric Larsen. It’s about the sinking of the Lusitania. I LOVE non-fiction!

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

Marketing is a total mystery to me. At the end of the day, it really boils down to writing the best book you possibly can. 

That's great advice! How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Through my website and my blog, both of which can be found at  Oh, and if you read the Author’s Notes at the back of many of my books, you’ll find tidbits about me in all of them...

Thanks for participating in this interview and good luck in all your future writing!

o Amber Gregg o

Check out my review of Heather's book, Absolutely Truly!

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