Most of y’all have heard me spew beautiful adjectives about Heathers work before, but I’m guessing there is a side of her you have yet to meet. So today, on the book birthday of her very much anticipated novel “Planning to Live” I let you see the side of her she wishes I never would have exposed. Brace yourselves people…it’s about to get deep in here.
KO: It’s funny the things we learn about people through the internet huh? LOL. Ok, enough of the badgering I promise. So tell me please (since you completely avoided this question on your bio) What is your favorite book and why?
Heather: I would so love to be on “Survivor”. I’m Canadian so I’m not eligible, but I would love it. But yes, the wipe-out in the jungle that I gave my main character was indeed based on my tripping over a sidewalk during a training run. This picture shows the immediate aftermath for my poor face, but not the mess I made of my knees and shoulder or the spectacular bruising that came up later. It did hurt, and it scared the stuffing out of me, but by the time I’d stopped bleeding I was already deciding how to work it into “Seven”, which I was writing at the time. I guess that’s a sure sign I’m really a writer?
As for other “real life to book” moments, I have tons. Since I had no outline for “Polar Bear” when I started writing it back in May 2005, it’s full of my real l ife. Even the polar bear tattoo of the title, which the main character has tattooed on her back in the book… to get the details of it I just had to look in the mirror at my own back!
Beside that and the fall, I also like the “airplane flight with an ear infection” in my “Go Small or Go Home” (short version: you can feel the pressure building and building and it doesn’t settle until the
plane levels and by then you don’t care if the eardrum does rupture just so long as the pressure goes away). It happened to me on a trip to a writing conference and I knew it had to be in a book.
Once I have some kernel of something to explore, I create this long Word file, usually seventy pages or so, which I call “ramblings”, and just type away. I hit dead ends, change direction, write things like, “Don’t give up” right in there, and eventually find the book somewhere in that mess of words. Then I make an outline and get to writing the first draft, referring to the ramblings file if I can’t remember why I decided something. It feels wildly chaotic at the beginning, and occasionally frustrating, but it works for me.
I deliberately don’t bounce ideas off of friends, at least not until I’ve got the book clear in my mind. I find that exposing them to light too soon seems to kill them somehow for me, and besides, it’s fun to know something nobody else knows.
KO: So tell me a little about your upcoming novel “Planning to Live” what’s it about? Can I expect a classic Wardell ending? And by classic I mean, where I want to smack you for leaving me hanging until the very last second?
“Determined to lose weight for her best friend’s wedding, goal-obsessed Rhiannon flees her parents’ Christmas Day feast to avoid overeating but her car skids off the deserted road into a tree. Trapped and bleeding, with her cell phone out of reach, she struggles to escape, and to accept that she’s spent her whole life planning but hasn’t ever really lived. Will she get the chance to change that?”
Since we’ve talked about how I come up with plots, let me tell you about this one’s process. While driving on a deserted road, I had the idea of a woman trapped in her car and waiting for rescue after calling 911. When I started looking for my next book, I saw that idea (I keep a list) and thought, “But what if she can’t call 911? Then what?”
It’s a darker book than I’ve done before, and it was painful to write at times, but I truly believe it’s why I became a writer. I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but writing and re-reading that book has changed my life forever, and I hope it will help others change their lives too.
I’m honestly not sure! I would like Rhiannon to be played by a somewhat bigger girl, not a Hollywood size zero who puts on a few pounds for the role, and a natural redhead would be nice. I wandered around online looking for appropriate actresses, and I’m leaning toward Kate Winslet (although she might not still have red hair) or possibly Melissa Gilbert. Ooh. My online search just paid off. Christina Hendricks. I think she’d be perfect. I think.
It’s tricky! I think I’ll stick to writing books and let a casting director handle all that stuff.
KO: And finally, (because I’m fairly certain I have worn out my welcome,) do you feel any remorse for leaving those poor, helpless, education deprived children behind in your quest to become the greatest author of the 21st century?
Heather: I suspect I did them a favor! I was famous in one school for talking to volleyballs, so probably removing that weirdness from the kids could only help them. (I suppose I should explain… I was teaching phys ed and the kids wouldn’t stop talking and I just held my volleyball up to my ear and said, “What’s that? I know, they are loud. Should I? I could ask them again to be quiet, sure, but do you think it would work?” By that point the kids were silently staring at me like I’d lost my mind. But they were quiet. Mission accomplished!)
Thanks so much! I had a great time answering these. 🙂