Tuesday, November 06, 2007
We're here today with award winning author Nancy Moser. Nancy is the best-selling author of sixteen novels and three books of inspirational humor including The Good Nearby, Mozart’s Sister, the Christy-award winning, Time Lottery, as well as the Sister Circle series coauthored with Campus Crusade co-founder, Vonette Bright. Nancy gives Said So Sister Seminars around the country, encouraging women to tap into their personal gifts as well as the gift of sisterhood. Nancy has been married 32 years—to the same man. She and her husband have three grown children and two grandchildren. She's been blessed with a varied life. She's earned a degree in architecture; run a business with her husband; traveled extensively in Europe; and performed in various theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She needlepoints voraciously, kills all her houseplants, and can wire an electrical fixture without getting shocked. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your writing, and your publishing journey.
My degree is in architecture and I’ve never had a writing course, yet I’ve always liked to write stories. I wrote my first novel as a child—about a British maid in Victorian England—though I got stuck rewriting chapter one over and over.
What is the greatest historical novel you’ve ever read and why?
Gone with the Wind. I have probably read it a dozen times because I cared about the characters and they drew me into their lives. Plus, the weaving of their stories into real history . . . it was captivating. I was also obsessed with Scarlett’s 13” waist that had the gall to increase to 17” after she had a baby. I don’t think I had that size of waist when I was born.
Another series that grabbed me in college were the Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes. I liked how they showcased one family’s experience through history.
Did you have any experiences that prompted your love of fiction and historical fiction in particular?
I’ll tell you how I got into writing bio-novels—which is a bit bizarre.
The event that opened my eyes happened while I was standing in the Mozart family home in Salzburg in the summer of 2004—that little three-room apartment where both Wolfgang and his sister, Nannerl, were born. In truth, I was only half-listening to the guide, being very close to tourist-information overload. Yet one statement reached into my weary brain and ignited it: Most people don’t know this, but Mozart’s sister was just as talented as he was, but because she was a woman, she had little chance to do anything with her talent. That one statement stayed with me all the way home to the States.
At the time I was putting together a proposal for a contemporary novel (I only wrote novels set in the present day.) Because of the tour guide’s comment, I got the idea to have one of my characters write a book called Mozart’s Sister. My agent sent the proposal to publishers.
Within days we got a call from Dave Horton, an editor at Bethany House Publishers. “I don’t want the contemporary book, I want the book the character is writing: Mozart’s Sister, an historical book about the sister’s life.”
“But I don’t write historicals.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
“But I don’t write in first-person, in one person’s point-of-view throughout an entire book. I write big-cast novels in third person.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
“I hate research.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
Well then. He seemed so sure, so excited. I could not ignore him—actually, I could, but I didn’t.
The rest is history. And so, as so often happens when God offers us an opportunity and we say “yes”, it turned out to be the best experience of my writing life. And, irony of ironies, as I sat in my office with four reference books opened before me, I even found that I enjoyed the research. Imagine that.
Since then I’ve written Just Jane about Jane Austen, and coming out on the 4th of July, 2008 is Washington’s Lady about Martha Washington. I have another one contracted—yet unnamed. I really enjoy writing about these women. I take great pains to make their stories accurate (as far as I can). I even use their own words taken from letters.
During my research for Just Jane, I discovered a Jane Austen I would have liked to call friend. She was witty, wise, discerning, creative, and loyal. She was also stubborn, judgmental, insecure, and needy. She was . . . a lot like us.
They all are. For no matter when these women-in-history lived, or where, the core of who they were and what they desired from life parallels our own issues and quests to find purpose and meaning. Their life-long search to find a place to belong, to feel secure and confident in their self, is our search.
How much time does it take to research your stories – what balance would you say there is between research and actual writing?
I have a year to write each bio-novel, but during that year I am also contracted to write a contemporary novel, so while I am writing that novel, I research the bio-novel. I would say the research takes as much time as the writing. Taking notes, reading about the woman-of-history’s life from multiple sources, choosing the scenes . . . the writing is the easy part. The main difference between a regular historical novel and a bio-novel is that I can’t just write about a “time” in history, I am chronicling a particular real person. The need to get it right is very strong.
Describe for us, if you will, your writing style, as in plotter vs. seat of the pants, and do you put more time into developing characters or plot or are they equal?
When I write contemporaries, I write seat-of-the-pants. I have a general idea that drives the novel, cast it, and then see where the characters take me. It constantly evolves.
But for the bio-novels, I have to keep it factual; their lives dictate the story. The two genres are obviously very different in style. Plus, with contemporaries I write big-cast, third person novels, but the historical bio-novels are first-person so they read as though the woman is telling her own life-story. And the contemporaries use modern language, and the historical uses more refined language. I am constantly checking Webster’s to check out the origin of a word. For instance, I couldn’t use “spotlight” for Mozart’s Sister or “long shot” or “soul mate” for Just Jane. The terms didn’t exist. Sometimes it’s difficult flipping from one genre to the other.
Thank you, Nancy! Join us tomorrow for part two of our interview. And don't forget to post a comment to win a copy of Nancy's newest book Just Jane or Mozart's Sister - winner's choice.