A Sit Down With Nancy Christie – Author, Writer & Podcast Host
Nancy Christie is an impressive author – of many books – publisher and has a national blog and podcast. In early November of this year, she sent me an email saying she had heard about me, visited my website, and read some of my stories. Apparently, she was impressed enough to invite me to be featured in this month’s blog on her website.
Nancy credits her childhood to where her love affair started. “Books carried me into worlds I never knew existed, and, once I learned how to write, my imagination kept me there. With paper and pen, I could bring people to life who never before existed. With 26 letters, I could create a universe of my own,” she reflects on her website.
I look forward to reading a proof of her latest book, Mistletoe Magic and Other Holiday Tales, which is expected to become available in the Fall of 2023. You can learn more about the eight stories that appear in this book here on Nancy’s website.
In the meantime, I encourage you to check out Nancy’s other writings – along with the numerous helpful resources you can find on her website – nancychristie.com!
You can read the full Q&A between Nancy and I below for your convenience:
NC: How long have you been writing fiction? What started you down this path?
LD: I’m 72 and I started writing when I was in my early 60’s. I was, at the time, divorced and living on my own for the better part of ten years. My age, and having some distance in time from the divorce, gave me a different and ideal perspective on my life. Writing proved to be very cathartic. It allowed me to vent in a positive and productive manner.
I was fortunate to find a local college English professor, Marian Frances Wolbers, who is a brilliant and published writer, playwright, and poet to edit my novel. She then suggested I learn how to write short stories by giving me college textbooks of some of the best short stories ever written by some of the best writers, and told me to, “figure it out.” The rest is, as they say, history.
With her guidance and patience, my short stories have been published in over two dozen print and online literary journals. My first anthology of short stories, It’s Always My Fault & Other Short Stories, was published by Pretzel City Press LLC, two years ago, and is available on Amazon and through the publisher. As an aside, Professor Wolbers is the owner and founder of Pretzel City Press.
NC: Why do you like to write fiction and short fiction in particular?
LD: Although my preferred genre is Creative Nonfiction (CNF), I do enjoy writing fiction because it allows me to create the worlds in which my characters live and breathe. I’m not drawing on my own past—I’m creating another character’s past, present, and future. I can shape it whichever way I want.
But make no mistake, fiction—unless you are delving into fantasy—cannot defy the laws of nature, common sense, or physics. You do so at your own risk. Readers will not believe the story or the characters and will lose interest in your story…and you.
Most fiction has some element of fact. My fictional characters may be based on someone I know/knew or met, or they may be a compilation of several people. The same goes for the settings. But that doesn’t mean you can only write about people or events that you may have experienced. Thankfully, I’ve never been homeless, but that doesn’t mean I can’t imagine how the world appears to someone who is. That said, it would be helpful to gain some actual insight into their world.
Although I may have a general outline in my head for a story, I let the story shape its own destiny and follow it to its natural conclusion. By that, I mean I never ‘force’ an ending. The story will end the way it is supposed to end. I cannot tell you how many times I pictured a story ending one way, only to have it end in a totally unpredictable way as the story took shape.
NC: Do you feel that there are specific challenges in marketing and promoting short fiction collections compared to novels? How do you promote your collection?
LD: Promotion is an interesting topic, whether it’s a novel or a short story collection/anthology. There was a time when publishers—especially the larger publishing houses—would actively promote a novel or collection. Those days are going, if not already gone. Even TV celebrities who have written missives are on the road doing book signings/tours.
If you’re a well-known author, with a large following and/or the finances to do so, you can afford to do your own wide-scale promotion. Otherwise, you are going to do a great deal of self-promotion on a more restrictive budget. You will be doing the leg work.
I have targeted colleges/universities of all sizes, independent booksellers, book clubs, libraries, and veterans’ groups—being I am a veteran. In fact, my publisher donates a portion of her proceeds of each anthology sold to a local veterans’ group. My reach was national in scope. I left no stone unturned.
During the pandemic, I did many Zoom readings. I still do Zoom readings if the venue is beyond the distance I wish, or is practical, to travel.
I have invested countless hours developing lists, doing initial and follow up emails, and even phone calls, but it has paid off. I am now getting repeat invitations from many of the above groups. It’s difficult and time-consuming work, but if you want to promote your novel or collection, this is what—in my opinion—you must do. It’s not only necessary, it’s required. Whether your novel or collection was published by a publisher or was self-published, it will not sell itself.
NC: Based on your own experience, what advice do you have for short story writers who want to get published in literary magazines?
LD: I am a disciplined submitter of my short stories. I use the Poets & Writers website, along with other sites, to gather publications which to submit. (My blog post, “Submit and Succeed,” gives you the outline of what I have done successfully.) One of the reasons I have been published in as many journals as I have, is because I am willing to do the mundane work of submitting.
It’s a form of promotion. Just like your novel or collection won’t sell itself, your story will not get published by itself.
There have been stories I submitted to less than a dozen journals before it was accepted for publication. I have had others where I have submitted to over forty journals before it was accepted. I’ve been in sales all of my working, adult life. Submitting to me, like sales, is a numbers game. You have to do it and do it almost every day. The lottery has a saying: “You have to play to win.” The same goes for promoting your missive and getting published.
NC: What role does an editor play in helping writers develop and refine their fiction?
LD: Everyone needs an editor and, as my editor says, “Every editor needs an editor.” An editor is essential. Not just for grammar, spelling, or punctuation, but to give you feedback on content. There might be a better way to express what you’ve written. An editor is another set of eyes.
Finding a good editor who will really work with and perhaps even mentor you is indeed rare. There are many who provide editorial services, but few who will actually nurture and guide you to becoming a better writer. I am indeed fortunate to have found one in Professor Wolbers, and I do not intend to let her go!
NC: You’re also an Associate Editor at Evening Street Review. What is it like to be on the other side of the writing table, so to speak?
LD: It is interesting being on the other side of the ‘Accept/Reject’ equation. It’s a humbling experience. I now have a better understanding, and appreciation, of what editors go through when deciding what gets published in their journals.
NC: What is your writing process like?
LD: My wife and I repurposed one of the bedrooms in our apartment into my office/library. It is there I go to write. I sit in front of my computer with a solitary high-intensity LED light to one side. On the other side is a five-finger-high glass filled with an adult beverage—preferably Scotch or Irish whiskey. When I’m ready to write, I go into my office, shut the door, fill up that glass, and start tapping on the keyboard.
Sometimes I will complete the story in one sitting, even if it takes hours. Other times I will write until I complete a certain portion of the story I have already thought through, then go and ponder on the story until I have the next part settled in my mind.
Of course, once I start writing, all bets are off as to where the story goes. My wife never, ever, interrupts me out of respect to my process. There is no specific writing time. It could be 2 a.m. or 7 p.m. It makes no difference to me.
Once the story, or a certain portion of the story, is written, I’ll do light editing—the things that are obvious. Once the story is complete, I’ll let it sit for a few days, or a week, before going back to it. After a bit more refining, I give it to my wife to critique. If further editing is required—or I desire to do so—I then email it to my editor.
NC: What is the best advice you have received about writing?
LD: The Best Advice: “The best cure for writer’s block is to just start writing.” I cannot remember who said it, but it has always worked for me. Write something, anything, even if it’s how you’re feeling at the moment, the weather, or something you heard or saw on the news. Eventually, a story—or an idea for one—may develop.
NC: You’re a member of The Bold Writers. How does being part of a group help you creatively?
LD: The group has been together about six years—five of those years with the same five members. Most write fiction in our group. There is some poetry and even plays, and all of us have a different style or voice, and that is what makes it interesting, rewarding, educational, and insightful.
Speaking for myself, I believe I have become a better writer—or at least have a better understanding of the craft—because of my association with the group.
Wishing you the best in your writing adventure,