Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Stories, Stephanie Humphreys

Today's guest for Saturday Stories is published author Stephanie Humphreys. Make sure to go check out her BLOG!

Q--Would you please share some fun facts with us?
I was born in Utah but spent most of my childhood in Canada. I have two brothers and three sisters. We moved a lot when I was a kid although I did manage to go to the same school from grade seven to twelve. By the time I turned 30 I had moved 30 times. My best friend and I would write silly plays and then gather all the neighborhood kids to take part in the productions. One year we decided instead of a play, our little community needed a beauty pageant, so we organized the event for all the neighborhood girls. We made sure every girl won some sort of prize and even built a float for the 24th of July parade. All these years later, the neighbors still mention the pageant with a chuckle. We always entertained ourselves by using our imaginations.

Q--Would you please share with us any awards you've won and what you've published?
I've had two pieces take second place in the First Chapters contest at the LDStorymakers conference. My novel, Finding Rose, was published in August 2010. 

Q--Where did your idea come from for writing Finding Rose?
Finding Rose started out as single scene. After I wrote that scene, I just examined the characters and tried to figure out what would happen to them next. I actually wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo. There aren't that many LDS publishers and so I just started at the largest one and went from there. I received four rejections before Walnut Springs Press decided to publish it. I have really enjoyed working with them.

Q--How did you learn that you were going to be published?
When I received the email telling me that my book had been accepted, I didn't know what to think. I seem to remember holding my breath and wondering if I was dreaming. Of course, I called my husband first, then I printed the email and took it to the school were my sister-in-law/writing buddy worked. I waited in the hall until recess and then let her read the email. I'm sure the librarian down the hall wondered what all the screaming was in the grade one room.

Q--What was it like when you held the first copy of your book?
It was overwhelming. I had always imagined having a box delivered to my door and being able to open it and see my books for the first time. I tried to imagine who I would call first to come see the new book. Instead, my editor found out I would be in Utah during the LDSBA convention. They told me they could have the first case of books delivered there if I would be willing to do a signing. The first time I saw one of my books was on a bookshelf at this convention. I don't usually show how excited I am and being surrounded by so many people I felt like I had to contain my emotion and excitement a little more than normal, but it was still pretty cool. 

Q--What have you done to help improve your writing talent? Any advice?
I've been attending the LDStorymakers writers conference since 2007 and learn so much there. My personal library is full of writing books that I study often and I also subscribe to Writer's Digest. I have a networks of other friends and writers who are a great support. I actively participate in a critique group as well.
I think one of the biggest ways I improve my talent is by always being willing to learn. This means taking advice and listening to criticism with an open mind. I try to take something from each review of my book or each conversation I have with a reader and try to figure out how to use those opinions to make the next book better. Sometimes I learn as much or more from what is not said than what is said. 

Q--Computer or Notebook?
I prefer writing on my laptop because I can't keep up with my thoughts when I write by hand. I also better at ignoring the mistakes and fixing them later when I write on the computer. 

Q--What is the strangest thing, person, place, or event that has inspired your writing?
The world is full of strange things, but people are the strangest. I love to sit in the mall or a park, watch people, and figure out their stories. My kids and I have made a game of it. Most of my stories are inspired by interesting people I know or observe. 

Q--Would you please share a story about writing with us?
Most of of my favourite writing memories involve my children. Like many parents, I used to make up stories for them at bedtime and they loved to help me shape the characters and add to a plotline that would be continued night after night. A few years ago, I realized how much they were influenced by my earlier storytelling. 
My three children and I were weeding the vegetable garden and I was trying to keep them distracted so I wouldn't have to listen to them complain about the chore. I suggested that they make up a story to keep their minds busy. We have a serious problem with the weed morning glory in our area and it is always a huge task to pull it out of the garden so it won't choke the vegetables. They began weaving an elaborate tale about the evil Morning Glory and his nemesis, Captain Potato. Their tale was exciting, the characters were interesting, it made the time pass quickly, and in the end, good conquered evil. (Unlike the weeds in my garden.) As they wove their tale and I listened to them, I was reminded of the power of a good story. Fiction entertains and teaches us, it allows us to become someone else for a little while, and it often touches us emotionally. As authors, we never know who our work will influence and inspire in some way. The experience reminded me of the responsibility I have as a writer to to continue to strengthen my skills and tell the best story I can. 

Q--At what point did you begin considering yourself a bona-fide writer?
I've always considered myself a writer, but it was difficult to tell people I wrote and have them dismiss my hopes and dreams as little more than a waste of time. About four years ago, my husband started introducing me to people as, "his wife who is a writer." It was his belief in my abilities and potential that helped my embrace who I am and to be able to say it without apology.

Q--Do you have a certain process you go through when you write or do you just wait for the "muse" to come out of hiding?
I'm still trying to find what works for me. Each book I write seems to go through a different process. I don't like outlining, but I am learning to use it more so that my books are more cohesive and the plots flow better. Even when I outline, I have to start at the beginning. I'll rewrite the first chapter, exploring different avenues of telling the story. When I find something that feels right, the rest of the story flows. When the muse takes a vacation, I do writing exercises to get the creative juices flowing again.

Q--Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
If you feel like you have to write, then keep at it. There will always be people who don't understand why you do it. There will always be people who don't like what you have written. So write because you love to do it and you have something to say. Be willing to learn from others and improve your skills. Attend conferences, talk to other writers, and read as much as you can. But most of all, never give up.

Q--How do you balance your writing and your family?
My family respects my abilities and dreams and they want to see me succeed, so they are willing to do a little extra work around the house so I can have time when I need it. I try not to abuse the privilege, though. There are times when I don't write for days on end because life gets hectic. My family always comes first, and sometimes that means the writing gets put aside. It helps that I am a night person and do some of my best work after my husband and children go to bed.

Q--What is your favorite genre to write?
I'm still trying to figure out how Finding Rose ended up being a romance. I certainly didn't set out to write a love story. My favorite genre to read and write is suspense. I love trying to figure out all the twists and turns of the story. Usually I just write what is floating around in my head, though.

Q--What is the best book you've read in the last six months?
I loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Q--Are you a cat or dog person?

Q--Neither? Okay, what kind of pets do you like?
I like animals as long as they don't live in my house. We did have a few fish once. Do plants count?

Q--If you could live or experience any story/book you've read, what story would it be and what character would you choose?
Anne of Green Gables. Of course I would want to be Anne. She had it all - adventure, romance, comedy.

Q--Are you a daydreamer? If so, do you have any advice on how to transform them into a story? 
Daydreaming used to get me into trouble, now I just tell people I'm working. When I dream something up I try to focus on why the story has caught my attention. Sometimes it is a fascinating character or an absorbing plot. I pull that element from my daydream and build on it. Most of my daydreams don't make it into stories exactly as as they come to me, but they always leave me something to work with. The biggest key is to write the ideas down. Don't be afraid to write down something silly and play with it. Some of the strangest ideas are the ones I shape into stories.

Next week my guest will be Silvina Riboldi Niccum. Silvina's debut novel "Veiled" is coming out soon so make sure to stop by to learn more about both Silvina and her book.

As always, I'm on the look-out for more guests for Saturday Stories. Make sure you don't miss out on your chance to shine in the MMW limelight. Drop me a comment if you're interested.


  1. I love your comment about daydreaming is now working. Awesome.
    Also, what a great story with your kids and gardening. Part of my nighttime routine with my kids is to ask them to make up a story. We've come with all sorts of things.

  2. Jolene, what a great tradition to have with your children. They will always treasure that time with you.

    Lisa, thank you for letting me be your guest. It was fun.



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