Interview with Therese Fowler, Author of Reunion

Therese Fowler has believed in the magic of a good story since she learned to read at the age of four. At age thirty, as a newly single parent, she put herself into college, earning a degree in sociology (and finding her real Mr. Right) before deciding to scratch her longtime fiction-writing itch. That led to an MFA in creative writing, and the composition of stories that explore the nature of our families, our culture, our mistakes, and our desires. The author of two novels, with a third scheduled for 2010, Therese lives in Wake Forest, NC, with her supportive husband and sons, and two largely indifferent cats. You can visit her website at www.theresfowler.com or her blog, www.theresefowler.blogspot.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Therese. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I'm the author of two novels, to date: Souvenir, which was published in hardcover last year ('08) and in trade paperback this spring, and Reunion, which just came out in late March. I have two sons, two stepsons, and two cats—but only one husband.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Reunion is the story of a woman from very humble beginnings who, at nineteen, gave up a child for adoption and kept the entire matter a secret. When she later becomes a celebrated talk-show host, she undertakes a search for the child—but not necessarily so that they can meet; rather, to assuage her need to know what became of him.

She's also trying to reconnect with the person she is behind the facade she's built—which she hopes will open up possibilities for new personal connections as well. There are risks, though; if the past she's hidden for so long is discovered, it may jeopardize her career and her efforts toward fulfillment. Ultimately, Reunion is a story about redemption, self-actualization, and love.

For most of my life I've been fascinated by the concept of celebrity, and how it might feel to be the person inside the fishbowl. Coming from a lower-class background as I did, fame and fortune held great appeal--not so much for what it might give a me materially, but rather for the way it could remake me entirely. I wanted to be so much more than I was or could expect to become.

When I was in my thirties, I divorced and went back to school for a degree in sociology. I think it's the sociologist in me who continues to be intrigued with celebrity and with culture in general. So I tend to create characters who battle the forces of society as well as their own mistakes and shortcomings. What motivates us? What changes us?

At the base of all my stories is love, in all its forms. In my view, we need more stories about love's power to repair or remake us, when life is so challenging and happiness can be so difficult to find.

What kind of research was involved in writing Reunion?

I did a lot of setting-related research because most of the story takes place in Key West, FL. Part of that included a week-long trip to the island, which I admit wasn't terribly hard work. Other research involved digging into the three main characters' very different occupations: talk-show host, Hemingway scholar/English professor, and freelance photojournalist.

Julian, the photojournalist, has been to all kinds of war zones and disaster locales, and has scenes in Afghanistan and Iraq—places I have not been, and didn't intend to visit anytime soon. So that research was all done long-distance. Julian has a particular interest in birds, which required me to learn more about the kinds he sees. His father, Mitch, is the scholar—which meant I had to become a bit of one myself, re-reading Hemingway and brushing up on his bio.

I always try to make my characters interested or involved in things that interest me, in part so that I bring my own curiosity and enthusiasm for those things to the story.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?


I'm always consulted ahead of time, and then given a say about what's proposed—but ultimately the decision is my publisher's. I'm delighted with the covers they've crafted, Reunion's especially. It's such a beautiful, evocative image.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Is any author's publishing journey smooth sailing? Some people find their way into print more easily than others, but I think it's always a bit bumpy somewhere along the way. For me, I had about six years of squalls before finding sunnier weather. Since then—almost three years now—there's been a lot more sun than rain.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Reunion was the second book in the two-book contract I signed in late '06. My publisher wanted to position the first book, Souvenir, carefully, so they scheduled it for early '08, about sixteen months after the initial sale. Reunion was then set for a year later. Now I'm on a roughly book-a-year schedule.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I do have an agent, Wendy Sherman, who has been an excellent steward of my career so far. There is no question about the value of a good agent to any writer who hopes to make a career of writing. The business is complex and ever-changing, which alone is reason enough to pay someone to manage your affairs. More than that, though, is the expertise, contacts, and wisdom a really good agent brings to the equation. If I had to manage all the things my agent handles, there would be no time left for writing.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Absolutely! In fact, I'm just a few weeks away from turning in what will be my 2010 release, a novel currently titled Breakaway. It's the first book in my second two-book deal; by late summer I'll be starting work on what I call, brilliantly, book #4.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I'm a daytime writer who can also do evenings. Generally my schedule is to work during traditional work hours (I write full-time) and do my best to have a life in the off hours. When deadline is approaching, however, all bets are off!

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A Therese Fowler Books television network hosted by my favorite celebrities? No, I'm kidding. I'd probably give away a lot more advance reader copies, because the biggest challenge for new authors is simply getting readers to know they exist and then to give them a try.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I have mixed feelings about self-promotion, mostly because I'm a self-conscious sort. But I believe it's necessary, and I think it's important to do as much as is both effective and tasteful (knowing, of course, that opinions about “tasteful” vary). I maintain a blog and website, I do a fair amount of cyber touring like this interview, and I try to accept all reasonable invitations to speak at events and to visit or chat with book groups.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

There's always room for another good book, so sharpen your storytelling skills until they're irresistible and THEN go looking for publication.

Thank you for coming, Therese! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Thank you so much for having me here! If readers would like to buy either of my books, please, buy NEW from a recognized retailer—either a local bookseller or an online store—both to support booksellers and because authors don't get a penny, nor any credit, for books sold secondhand. And if you want to see what's going on with me or want to get in touch, you can find me at www.theresefowler.com.

Editor's note: Therese is on a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion this month! Be sure to check out tomorrow's guest post at The Book Faery Reviews and an up close and personal interview at As the Pages Turn!
Powered by Blogger.