Friday, 3 October 2014

Debut Spotlight: Liesel Schmidt

This afternoon it's my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Liesel Schmidt whose debut novel Coming Home to You is being published next Monday by Carina UK.

Liesel Schmidt lives in Pensacola, Florida, where she spends her time writing, drawing, and reading everything she can get her hands on.  She is currently working on her next novel and spends most of her days busily writing freelance for a list of local magazines that sometimes keeps her head spinning in a dizzy attempt to keep all the deadlines straight!

When she has a few free moments, Liesel plnks away at her blog, Finding Words (, where she posts product reviews and offers her readers a peek at the inner-musings of a writer slogging her way through the challenges of living a creative career and early-widowhood.  

Having harbored a passionate dread of writing assignments when she was in school, Liesel never imagined that she would ever make a living at putting words on paper, but life sometimes has a funny way of working out... When she's not writing, reading, or drawing, Liesel likes to indulge her guilty pleasure of watching competition television shows like Top Chef, Chopped and Project Runway.  Follow her Twitter at @laswrites  

Have you always wanted to be a writer? 
Actually, no! When I was in school, I always hated writing assignments! They terrified me––so much so that I literally could not even hold a pencil! I panicked every time I was given a report to write, and I remember dreading research papers with a passion. I never quite felt like anything I wrote was very good, even though I seemed to have a million ideas for stories I wanted to create. Later on, every time I started trying my hand at writing a book or short story, I wrote only so far before getting frustrated and giving up. 

How long did it take you to write the book and get it published? 
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you start to finish. The manuscript was begun as a hobby, something I did here and there on weekends. But with a full-time job, I didn’t have much focus on getting it done within a certain time frame. I decided to make a full-on go of writing it and completing it, though, in January of 2008. I was finished with it in April of that year, and then it took a very painful, stressful year of query letters, proposals, rejections, and tears––many, many tears!––before I finally found an agent. I was with that agency until early this year, when we came to the decision that the lack of success in finding a publisher probably meant that we should part ways. A bit depressing, of course, but after five years of getting rejections from publishing houses, I wasn’t terribly shocked at the suggestion. Still, I wasn’t ready to give up, and I started scouring Twitter for advice and for new agents to approach. Back to the query letter drawing board, so to speak. And then I found Carina...

When one door closes…

Zoë and her fiancé Paul had everything ahead of them. So when Paul dies suddenly, Zoë doesn’t recognise the life she’s left with. Helping a friend by housesitting for a stranger is the last thing she wants to do – but she can’t deny that she needs time away from the memories which crowd her flat. So, collecting the keys, Zoë lets herself into her temporary home.…another one opens.

Surrounded by a stranger’s belongings – his toothbrush, his favourite records, the pictures on his walls – Zoë begins to build a picture of the flat’s owner, Neil, who is away in the military. Driven by a need to know more, Zoë begins writing to Neil and finds herself feeling an unlikely connection with him. But while some people are destined to share our lives forever, others are sent simply to help us on the way. And for Zoë, a new life is just beginning…

Kate believes Zoe needs a change of scenery to gain fresh perspective. What do you think would help someone to achieve this in life?  
I don’t think there’s really a definitive answer to that…Really, I think it depends on the person and the situation. For some people, it may be moving to another city; for some people, it might be changing jobs. For someone else, it might just be as simple as changing routines. 

Zoe writes letters as a way to address her emotions. Why did you use this method considering the art of letter writing is not as common as it once was? 
I’ve often found that writing letters is therapeutic because you’re having to look at something through fresh eyes, to be able to explain to someone else what you’re seeing or feeling. 

What message would you like readers to take from your novel? 
I want my readers to know that there’s always a possibility of more, even when things aren’t following the path you might have designed or hoped for. There are little twists and turns in our lives that, later on, we can look back over and realize that even in the midst of all the pain, there was good being worked. Those are the things that shape you and sometimes what awaken dreams you might never have realized. 

Where were you when you heard about the book deal and what did you do to celebrate? 
I have an unofficial “office” at a local cafe, so I was there when I received the email about their interest in seeing more of the book than just the few pages I’d sent with the query letter. I kind of thought it would be one more road to nowhere, but a couple of days later, back at the “office,” Clio called me and offered me the contract. I would have fallen down if I hadn’t already been sitting! Still haven’t really done anything to celebrate. I called my mom and told her, and then I told a few other people over the course of the next few days, but I was still kind of worried that they would rescind their offer! Have I mentioned that I’m a teenie tiny bit insecure? Only now have I gone full out and let the news fly. But I still haven’t celebrated yet. Maybe I should remedy that...

Did you plot out your novel or just see where the characters take you? 
This would sound strange to anyone who’s never been a writer, but sometimes I felt like I was just along for the ride! Things would start to unfold in the story and I remember thinking, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming!” I had very, very loose ideas of where I thought things should go, but even those seemed to be rebelled against by the characters at times! That was fine, though––the last thing I wanted was for the story to be predictable. 

What essentials do you need nearby when you're writing? 
Really good coffee or steaming mugs of hot peppermint tea. And an endless supply of both, especially if it’s cold in the cafe!

If you could go on a writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you choose? 
Either London or New York. Preferably at a time of year that’s nice and warm!

What does a typical writing day look like for you? 
Starting up the computer between eight and nine am, checking my work emails to see what assignments might need to be taken care of––I’m a freelance writer now, so book writing happens only in between my other projects. And I have my nose to the grindstone and my fingers glued to the keyboard until around six in the evening. I don’t usually feel like I have the right to take much time away from work, since I depend so much on landing projects. I’d love to be able to ease up on that a bit! I suppose that would make me a workaholic?

Have you got anything exciting planned for publication day? 
See above. Ha ha. Seriously, though...

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
I don’t want to sound cliché, but I think I would have to say to write what you know, and research what you don’t. Observe other people around you to get inspiration––watch their interactions and their body language and listen to them. You want your own characters to resemble real people, not odd creations who don’t have realistic responses or ways of doing things. And of course, never give up. Beat on every door you have to, and keep doing it!

Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything about it?
Yes, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise!

Are you going to treat yourself to something nice for publishing your first book? 
Have to think about that one…

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