Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Tricia Ballad


Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with Wild Rose Press author Tricia Ballad. Her short story "The Perfect Candidate" just released last month, and today it's received a 5 Book review over at The Long and the Short of It!

Hi Tricia, and thanks for joining us today! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I took the scenic route getting here. I wrote constantly in high school, but when I started considering career options and college majors, a certain well-meaning advisor strongly suggested that I focus on a career path that would give me a fighting chance at supporting myself. As I'm rather fond of having food on the table and a roof over my head - and the occasional bout of retail therapy - I majored in Computer Science. Five years later, I graduated and landed a job as a web applications developer. A few years and a few babies later, I realized my heart wasn't in the world of software development. I was good at it, but I was bored.

So I made a huge change, quit my job, and sat down to become a professional writer. Over the past three years, I've become fairly successful in writing non-fiction - mostly technical works drawing on my web development background. Earlier this year, I realized that I've been doing everything BUT what I've always dreamed of doing: writing stories. Once that realization hit, I knew it was time to focus on fiction with the intensity and commitment that got me this far in non-fiction. I wrote two short stories, to test the waters. One was rejected by a weekly print publication and the other is currently available from Wild Rose Press

Congrats on your publication! Tell us a little more about it.

"The Perfect Candidate" is the story of Caroline, a young woman who takes a big step forward in her career - only to find out that she may end up sacrificing her relationship with the man she loves. She senses changes afoot in their relationship and fears that by the time her work life settles down, her romance with Joshua may be nothing more than a lifelong regret. Caroline hopes to heal the cracks she sees forming in their relationship, before it's too late - but Joshua has other plans.



OK, now what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Research markets and submit your work! I've known so many beginning writers who agonize over every word in their manuscripts until they are simply too terrified to actually send anything out. Accept that nothing you write will ever be 100% perfect, and that 90% of the time, you're the only one who will see the imperfections. Ok, having said that, the opposite is also true. No matter how brilliant your work is, expect it to be edited. You will get the manuscript back full of comments and suggestions from your editor - and that's a good thing. If you aren't comfortable with having your work edited, the cold hard truth is, you're not going to make it professionally. Keep a journal, write a blog, have fun - but unless you can accept constructive criticism and suggestions, you won't make it as a professional writer.

Writers have a lot of luxuries - we get to work curled up on the couch in our PJs if we want to - but that can also make it harder to take our work or our commitments as seriously as we would if we put on a suit every morning and drove into the office.

What it really comes down to is finding a balance between professionalism and artistry. That's the secret of most successful authors.

That's truly great advice, Tricia. So what do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult part of writing fiction has been my own mental block - It's taken me a long time to get to the point where I can sit down and dream up characters and storylines and honestly call it working. I've been stuck in the mindset that working meant writing non-fiction because quite frankly stories are just too much fun to write! Nothing that energizing and fun could be work, right? Once I got past that, I was finally able to set aside the hours I needed to get this story written, edited, and published.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I brute force my way through it, or go back and do some more brainstorming and outlining. For me, writer's block comes from one of two sources. Either I'm not prepared to write, so I need to go back and do more research, brainstorming, and outlining, or I'm just distracted by the fifteen other things that are constantly competing for my attention. In that case, I either rearrange my schedule so I can write after my husband comes home from work and give the kids the attention they need at that moment, or if it's something like the perpetual sink full of dirty dishes, I just flat out ignore it. Militantly sometimes! I refuse to allow dirty dishes to interfere with my career - after all, if I were working a corporate job, my boss wouldn't let me take the afternoon off to clean my house. My writing career is just as much a commitment and a priority as a corporate job.

That's a terrific attitude! Now let us in...describe your writing space.

I write all over the place. I got a laptop so I could work wherever the kids are playing. That way, I'm on hand to mediate disputes and I'm there with them while they play. I even took it with me to pick up my son from school this afternoon so I could work on this interview while I was waiting for him! I've had a dedicated home office in the past, but in our current home there really isn't the extra space, so when I have kid-free work time I write at my desk in the bedroom or curled up on the bed under a quilt - depending on what I'm working on and the mood I'm in!

The one thing I simply must have in order to work - aside from my laptop of course - is a cup of good coffee. It's a psychological thing, I guess. Without my cup of coffee, I can't seem to focus on the task at hand.

Ah, coffee...the life blood of many an author (and working mother) out there! Thanks, Tricia, and good luck with your future writing, non-fiction and fiction both!

If you'd like to know more about this author, visit her website at http://www.triciaballad.com/ And she'll be stopping in today periodically to read your comments and answer your questions, so have at it!

8 comments:

Marianne Arkins said...

Ha! Great timing at LASR, and completely unintentional.

Congrats on your great review, Tricia!

Tricia Ballad said...

Thanks - actually, I didn't even realize they had reviewed the story until I read about it on Allie's blog. Today is a charmed day - a great interview by Allie, a good review, and my new website design should be up by this afternoon!

windycindy said...

Hello! What a great interview. I learn so much from them! Not only about the author's book, but their experiences. Thanks,Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

lainey bancroft said...

"My writing career is just as much a commitment and a priority as a corporate job."

Well said, Tricia! Even though I work at home, I struggle with that and often tend to think my writing time is a 'treat' I'm allowed to indulge in when EVERYTHING else is done. Like everything else will EVER be done. =)

Congrats on the great review.

Thanks for hosting, Allie.

Tricia Ballad said...

Thanks!

I think that as women, we instinctively put everything else - including the dirty dishes! - ahead of our own personal goals. We're practically hard-wired to take care of everyone else before we take time for ourselves!

But I'd like to share a bit of wisdom from my best friend and husband. When I was really struggling with my desire to write fiction as more than a side hobby, he pointed out two things:

First, the best way for me to help the family is to do what I'm really good at, not just something I can do if I have to.

Second, if I'm doing work that I really love, I'm not exhausted and burned out by the end of the day, so I have the energy to take care of all the other things that need my attention.

As usual, he's right. As soon as I stopped viewing writing time as a luxury, and started seeing it as my "real job" success was inevitable!

Rebecca said...

Hi Tricia,

Loved the interview, and your great advice. Congrats on the great review! I look forward to seeing your name on the top of the New York Times bestseller list in the future! Then I can say...aaahh... I knew her way back when she was interviewed for Writer's Wednesday!

All the best,
Rebecca from momwriters

Emma Sanders said...

Great interview. I love the inspirational story about how you got started. And of course your advice to other writers. One fear of mine is that it isn't 100% so I can't submit yet. On the other hand, of course, we have to strive to make it as perfect as possible.

Congrats on the review! And thanks, Allie, for the interview.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Really Great Interview, Tricia!

You've said some really important things here about how important writing is to a writer...even when others don't understand!

Good luck and God's blessings on your career!
Pamt