An author’s brand is important, but sometimes it takes a while to figure out exactly what it is. Christian fiction author Ane Mulligan wrote several books before realizing her brand wasn’t genre specific. She’s here to tell us about it, as well as sharing some of her fiction writing tips and tricks.
Welcome! Let’s start with the basics: what do you write? How did you pick your genre?
I started writing contemporary women’s fiction, but a story set in the Great Depression continued perking in my brain. After the four contemporary books were published, my agent told me to go ahead and write the depression era one. She had noted that all my books feature an ensemble cast of strong Southern women, helping one another through life’s issues. That became my brand/genre: Southern-fried Fiction.
How long does it take you to: write the book? Edit it? Finalize it?
I used to write one a year, since I am the managing director of a theatre company. But when COVID-19 shut the theatre down, I wrote 2 ½ books in nine months. The two were edited and turned in. Now that our theatre is open again, I’m trying to find the middle road and write two per year. We’ll see.
What’s your favorite book on writing? What do you like about it?
Early in my career, I loved James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure. It taught me a lot about the structure of a book. Jim has a great way of teaching. Then his book Quantum Story helped take my writing to another level. I must add my favorite writing companion book is The Flip Dictionary. It’s more than a thesaurus. For example, the word fear: The Flip Dictionary gives you synonyms for different types of fear. I love it and always have it beside me when I write.
What’s your favorite writers conference? What do you like about it?
The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is my favorite. It’s at a retreat center near Ashville, NC. The accommodations are beautiful, but the main reason is the selection of classes. It’s amazing! They offer a wider variety of classes of any conference I know. I took a continuing, in-depth class on Scrivener, the writing software I use. I found a class I loved on Bullet Journaling. Who knew I could design and customize my own planner?
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different? Describe your strategy.
Once I have that “what if” of an idea, I choose my characters’ photos and names. I’m a visual writer and I must have photos to interview them. I also believe names are so important. I’ve had characters change names on me after I’m part way through a book. So, I spend a good amount of time finding those things first.
Then I do an intense interview and write their backstory, sometimes going back several generations. Most of this never goes into a book, but I’ve got to learn about the character’s fears, the lie they believe about themselves, and their motivation, before I can begin to write word one. At that point, I will finally note a few scenes I know must happen to get from the beginning to the end.
With every book I write, I find I get stopped about one quarter or a third of the way in. That’s when I stop and call a critique partner to brainstorm. After a few minutes, I’m filled with ideas and have no problem finishing book.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
I always edit yesterday’s work top start my new writing day. I also have three of the world’s best critique partners. They catch everything. Interestingly, each of our editors (and we are all at different publishing houses) say we have the cleanest manuscripts they see. And finally, before I turn in the manuscript, I have two beta readers who pick-up little details we might have missed.
To make ends meet, the Fitzgerald women must open their home as a boardinghouse, but will the secrets they uncover prove their undoing?
The day Cora Fitzgerald turned sixteen, she fled Sugar Hill for the bright lights of New York City, leaving behind her senator father’s abuse. But just as her career takes off, she’s summoned home.
The stock market has crashed. The senator is dead. Her mother is delusional, and her mute Aunt Clara pens novels that expose the town’s secrets. Then there’s Boone Robertson, who never knew she was alive back in high school but now manages to be around whenever she needs help.
And the Fitzgerald women need a lot of help, indeed. They are forced to find a way to make ends meet, whether it’s mining for gold or doing what Southern women have done for generations in times of need—turning their home into a boardinghouse.
But will the people of Cora’s past keep her from returning to a brilliant future?
Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, BookBub, Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, and The Write Conversation.