Sunday, February 28, 2010

7 Questions For: Author Christine Blevins

Christine Blevins is the author of Midwife of the Blue Ridge and The Tory Widow, both historical novels. From the bio section of her website: “Christine Blevins grew up on the south side of Chicago. She is the youngest of four children born to Ukrainian immigrants. Like most immigrant kids, she was expected to study hard and excel in school. She spent a lot of time with her nose in a book, and in her beloved books, she found the pathways to worlds beyond the grimy neighborhood she lived in. Christine eventually left the old neighborhood, completed design school, landed a job as an interior designer, fell in love with Brian Blevins (a wonderful guy), married him, had children (four great kids), veered into the graphic design business (partners with Brian), all the while never losing her ability to become wholeheartedly immersed in a good story.” Mrs. Blevins lives in Illinois with her family and their golden retriever, Dude. 

And now Christine Blevens faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Oy! I hate this question. I have too many! In keeping with me being a historical novelist and all, my three favorites books today are stories that absolutely swept me away to another time and place:

THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien
SHOGUN by James Clavell

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

With a job (I’m a marketing director for a construction company) and a family that I like to spend time with (happily married for almost 30 years, four grown kids, and one lovely granddaughter) I have to maintain a pretty structured routine in order to meet my writing deadlines. I have recently shifted to a four-day workweek, and I devote most of my three-day weekend to writing, and to writing-business stuff, like answering these questions ;-).

I do “write” on workdays from about 7 pm to 11, but that time is mainly spent tuning up whatever I accomplished on the weekend, and compiling research for the upcoming segment.

I have to say I’m extraordinarily lucky to have a very supportive family that pitches in to help me keep the house in order, the laundry done, and the fridge stocked, otherwise, I’d be at wits end.


Unfortunately, to keep up a pace of producing a book a year, reading for pleasure is something I don’t have much time for. As a historical fiction writer, I have to read an awful lot of non-fiction in order to really “know” my time period, my setting, and how my characters exist within it. My WIP is a sequel to THE TORY WIDOW—published this past April, it’s a story set in New York City at the onset of the American Revolution—and even though I do have a good handle on Revolutionary America, I still end up having to do a lot of research to keep the details alive and accurate. I do read for pleasure when I’m on vacation though.

We just spent a week in Mexico, and I gobbled up four books. Yum!

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

About 8 years ago, when my younger two became old enough to require less of my attention, I began writing fiction as a hobby. I floundered around on my own for a while, and then joined a writer’s group that met once a week at my local community college. In group, I began to write a novel in my favorite genre—historical fiction.

The group was essential in providing me the camaraderie and structure I needed. Three years later, the novel was finished and polished, and I looked at the stack of 487 manuscript pages and thought, “Now what?”

My husband Brian’s hobby is painting, and when he finishes a piece, it is hung on a wall to be admired and enjoyed. Well, it’s hard to hang a manuscript on the wall! Though I enjoy the writing process, I realized my greatest pleasure is derived in sharing my stories. I write to entertain, and I decided I had to at least try to pursue publication. I figured, what the heck?

So I dove into the business of getting published. I researched the process, compiled a list of literary agents and began sending out query letters. After eight months, and about a zillion rejections, I landed a wonderful agent, Nancy Coffey. Seven months after signing with Nancy, we had a two-book deal from Jackie Cantor at Berkley.

That was a surprise! I had to get cracking on writing THE TORY WIDOW, which Nancy sold based on a five-page synopsis I cobbled together at the eleventh hour in answer to the question “What else does she have?”

This last January, I signed a new contract with Berkley for two sequels to TORY, and so before I knew it, my dream of getting the one book published had turned into a writing career.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I think people are born with talents that need to be developed with guidance and dedication. A talented musician might take lessons and spend hours practicing to master his instrument. A fine artist might need to be taught theory and technique. A writer might take classes to learn how to command the elements storytelling and language. These paths of development will vary in method and in intensity, but the talent—the ability to create—I think that is innate.

Which was true for me? Both. I think I am a born storyteller who developed into a good writer by observing life, by reading a ton of good writing, by being part of a great writer’s group, and by being lucky enough to get advice from a wonderful editor. I continue to work hard to better my abilities, and I am always learning.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

I love when my characters surprise me.

What is my least favorite thing? Those not-so-positive reviews. I don’t like those very much at all. I put a ton of effort into writing the kind of book I like to read, and I totally understand that I can’t please ‘em all, but still—reading a negative review can be quite painful. I am happy to add that the pain is made bearable by way more oh-so-positive reviews, and lots of email from readers who enjoy my stories.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Grow a thick skin.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I would love to buy lunch for Bernard Cornwell on his birthday. Why? Four reasons:

1- I so admire his work.
2- We have the same birthday.
3- He was kind enough to read my debut novel MIDWIFE OF THE BLUE RIDGE, and give me a great blurb for the cover.
4- He seems like a really cool guy.

Actual Interview Date: 8/27/2009

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