Yesterday Lin Stepp’s novel SAVING LAUREL SPRINGS was featured. It’s out in stores now!
I’m Dr. Lin Stepp, a native Tennessean, a businesswoman, and educator—and now an author with Kensington Publishing. I’ve taught psychology courses and research for 16 years with Tusculum College … and worked in marketing, sales, production art, and regional publishing for over 25 years. My latest novel SAVING LAUREL SPRINGS just released with Kensington on September 29th and to date I have eight published novels set in the Smokies, a novella in Kensington’s 2014 Christmas anthology When the Snow Falls and a hiking guidebook THE AFTERNOON HIKER, co-authored with my husband J.L., describing 110 trails in the Great Smoky Mountains with over 300 color photos throughout.
You can find me via my website, Kensington Publishing’s website, and on Facebook and Twitter at:
AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE: www.facebook.com/Lin-Stepp/715932788428635
My FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/linstepp
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Lin-Stepp/e/B0028OJMPA
Give me a random tidbit about you. It could be anything. Anything at all.
I grew up in East Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains. My relatives trekked down the Appalachian Trail to help settle this area and I have explored the mountains and loved them all my life. One of my greatest joys is to bring readers to visit in the Smoky Mountains I love so much through my books. One of my readers said: “You are without doubt east Tennessee’s best ambassador for tourism (don’t tell Dolly though!) that I know of.” I cherish that comment and the idea that I make readers yearn to visit the mountains of east Tennessee. The comment “don’t tell Dolly though” comes from the fact that Dolly Parton sent me a wonderful endorsement for my first Smokies-set novel, which my publisher and I loved, and she asked that I send her a copy of every Smoky Mtn novel I published, and I have. It’s fun having Dolly Parton as a book fan!
Wow — Dolly Parton! That is fun! How long have you been writing? How many books have you written? They can be published or not published.
As a younger woman I wrote copy as a production artist and occasional articles in business and academic fields—and dabbled with fiction—but I never seriously pursued writing until mid-life. This should be an encouragement to many reading this, and one of my favorite quotes is: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
I have ten published novels; I made the USA Today and Publishers Weekly Best-Seller lists last year and went international with my books.
I write contemporary Southern fiction with a bit of romance, a touch of suspense, a sprinkling of inspiration, and a big dollop of Appalachian flavor. To date, all my novels have been set in different regions around the Smoky Mountains … and another is due out in March 2016 titled WELCOME BACK. I love taking readers to a different location around the mountains in each book with a new, stand-alone story and a new set of characters in every novel. My 2014 book DOWN BY THE RIVER was set on the quiet side of the Smokies in Townsend, Tennessee, MAKIN’ MIRACLES (Jan 2015) was set amid the charm of downtown Gatlinburg, SAVING LAUREL SPRINGS (Sept 2015) takes readers to the rural community of Cosby on the northeast side of the Smokies, and WELCOME BACK (coming Mar 2016) is set in Maggie Valley on the North Carolina side of the mountains.
Challenges in writing books in a specific locale are in bringing that setting to life for the reader in a “real” way –with actual places, bits of factual history, characters true to the region, and an engaging story. My publisher even uses one of my hand-drawn maps in the front of each of my books to bring the setting to life for my readers.
You make me want to book a trip to Tennessee. Tell me more about
SAVING LAUREL SPRINGS.
In studying Appalachian history, I enjoyed reading about the many resorts and campground that built up on old assembly grounds, mineral springs sites, and mountain retreat areas. In their prime eras, many were visited by dignitaries and famous names and were truly elegant places. A few still remain, although many have disappeared or declined. I liked the idea of setting a novel on one of these old assembly-campgrounds and creating a story around it, which is what I did in the novel set in the fictitious Laurel Springs Camp Assembly Grounds.
Characters Rhea Dean and Carter Layman had grown up at Laurel Springs and always dreamed of bringing it back to its old glory. But Carter went away and married someone else, with Rhea staying on, trying to keep Laurel Springs going. When Carter returns, widowed with a small son, wealthy and determined to turn Laurel Springs into the place he and Rhea once dreamed of … the two face many challenges. The big question is: Can they forgive the past and trust in each other again? And can the old love they once knew find life again?
Around Carter and Rhea’s story spins the story of Laurel Springs, the Cosby area of the Smoky Mountains, the families and friends of the couple, and several unsolved mysteries and problems going on at Laurel Springs.
How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or see where the story leads?
I am a consummate planner. Once I envision and lay out the general idea, main characters, and conflicts of a book … I spend about three months researching, planning and working on a book’s characters, setting, and plot before starting the writing. I create a chapter-to-chapter outline, locate photos of characters and places that may be in my books (I’m very visually inspired) and I visit the books’ settings to saturate myself in the feeling of the area. Once those stages are complete, I write my books, each taking about three months to finish. So, around my teaching and other jobs, it takes me about six months to write a book.
Editing can be quite the challenge. How do you go about editing your work? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?
For me, writing and editing are like wearing two different hats. Writing is highly creative – so when I write I wear that “artist” hat and I write. Except for minor editing, the main task is to write the book. I read through the chapter I finished the day before to get back into the flow of the story and then move on into the next chapter or section.
When my book is complete, I lay it aside for a time and then return wearing my analytical “professor” hat to edit. Now I’m reading with an outside view to tighten, correct, and improve the work previously created. Usually as a final edit—preferably a few weeks later—I read the book out loud to myself to do the final edit before submission to my publishing editor. It’s amazing the things an author can “hear” that are wrong when reading a book out loud.
When I work with my publishing editors, I understand, always, that they are trying to help me strengthen my work to make it even better—and I value their input. Every book needs to be edited and every author needs to self-edit prior to submission and to work with good, professional outside editors before publishing a book, no matter what publishing route is pursued.
A favorite phrase of mine is: “Your book is your business.” It’s your product. It will sell if it’s good and it will sell if you advertise, work, and market it. No one comes to your door knocking to look at your book. You have to get out there to work—to find and connect with your readers to help your book be successful and to build readership for your writing.
Each author is an individual, but most successful authors utilize: (1) a good website; (2) social media used regularly; and (3) marketing both in-office and out of office to make their books successful. In-office marketing could be connecting with reviewers and bloggers, gaining interviews for newspapers, magazines, and online sites, calling libraries and bookstores to tell them about your book and its availability. Out-of-office marketing means doing book signings at bookstores and other venues, calling on book sales locations to drop off order information and to tell them about your product, doing radio and television interviews, and speaking for book clubs, civic groups and organizations, literary festivals, and other events.
I truly believe we all ‘reap what we sow.’ … If you sow little and sit back expecting your books to sell themselves or for your publisher to do it all for you, you’ll reap scantily. If you sow more, and work diligently to promote and market your books, those efforts will multiply and you’ll see good results and a good return.
What advice would you give a writer who is just starting out?
Be teachable. Writing and publishing books is a business – and an author has to learn that business as they go. Just as you might go to school to learn nursing or some other profession … you will have to work hard to “learn” the business of writing and publishing from other professionals – but in a more “self-educated” ever-growing, ever-gaining way, being willing to study and learn, and without a “know-it-all” arrogance.
Some people will truly help you and some will exploit you, knowing you are green, young, and growing. But persevere. There is nothing more joyous to an artist of any type than sharing their creative work with others.
Thank you again, Lin! I wish you all the best!
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