Stevie, welcome and let’s jump right into it today.
What inspired your latest book?
Two things: I got a high-energy dog who needed lots of walks. Daily walking down by the CT River near the ferry in South Glastonbury really calmed her down and offered infinite sniffing possibilities. While walking her, I slowed down my rush-rush habits and really looked at nature, experienced being in it like never before. met so many different and interesting people who loved the river, who enjoyed my dog and who shared stories with me.
What is your typical day like?
I teach English at several universities in CT. When the Fall and Spring semesters start, it’s a whole new ballgame of busy. All of my courses are expository writing course so there are endless essays to comment on and grade. Summers and winter break flow much more spontaneously.
How much time do you spend promoting your books? What works best for you?
River Rules is my first book. I am figuring it out by connecting with other writers, my publisher, social media, and local events. Promoting the book is a completely different kind of commitment than writing it!
How has your experience with self-publishing been?
I’m not self-published.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
From current events, friends and strangers as well as pet interests/peeves.
What advice do you have for other authors wanting to self-publish?
Do you have critique partners?
Yes, a few friends who write, too. But we don’t do anything regularly.
What is your favorite dessert/food?
Italian ice– all flavors except anything with melon or kiwi (allergic).
How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?
Some characteristics might be blended into a character that I invent. However, no one will say, “that’s me!.” I do use common first and last names.
Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?
It was fraught with self-doubt. I knew I wanted to tell this story but I needed to believe in my writing, that it would do justice to the plot I wanted to create. I had to commit to“write forward.” This can be really hard for someone with perfectionist tendencies…
Give us an elevator pitch for your book.
River Rules, a small-town suspense novel with a deep heart and powerful conscience, reveals a New England community under attack by environmental exploitation. Old rivalries flare as love and friendships are threatened by treachery. Can Peter Russo, a part-time farmer who rambles along the Connecticut River with his rescue dog, be the everyday hero that Bridgeville needs?
Do you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like?
I don’t have a writing space. I write a lot in my car when I can grab an hour here and there. I try to park near the river or a pretty spot with trees. I also like to write at Panera. They have free wi-fi, lots of tables, and ,so long as I buy a coffee, a relatively hassle-free environment. Sometimes I write while sitting next to my dog in the corner of my beat-up couch. I’m not a desk person. I like to write to music or baseball.
Tell us about your hero. Give us one of his strengths and one of his weaknesses.
Peter: He has a big heart and believes in the power of second chances. He also is stubborn about his beliefs and somewhat dense when it comes to reading women well, especially Carmen.
Tell us about your heroine. Give us one of her strengths and one of her weaknesses.
Carmen: Tough as nails and strong-willed. The death of her daughter and mother within 3 years upended her emotionally. She shut down and kicked Peter out of her life.
What genres are you drawn to as a reader?
Mysteries, thrillers, some memoir
Do you prefer to read in the same genres you write in or do you avoid reading that genre? Why?
Yes, I like to write for myself as a reader. I like ensemble pieces with richly drawn characters and an exciting plot.
How far do you plan ahead?
I am a fairly disorganized writer in some people’s’ eyes, meaning I don’t write in linear sequential style. I might write a chapter that I know will work in the last-third of the book and save it. Then I might write a chapter for a specific character. I stitch it together by rereading constantly and looking for plot holes. I use post-its and text myself ideas that I want to incorporate, but I don’t use a formal outline.
Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring authors?
Read a lot and pay attention to the world. Listening is so important, too. Don’t be a perfectionist. Get your ideas out of your head and onto your laptop. If you work in Google Docs, everything will be saved.
What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I always admired the creative process and adored the arts. But, I was a voracious reader and not a creative writer. The writing I used in my very practical career (banking, Wall Street) was persuasive and analytical. I never had the goal of being a writer until I had kids. Opening up that nurturing side of me really tapped into hopes and dreams I never really dealt with. I’ve taught academic, business and professional writing at the college level for the past 10 years. With the publication of River Rules, I’m now trying to own my journey as a creative writer.
Do you or have you belonged to a writing organization?
I joined CAPA recently but I wrote the book without being part of a formal writing group. I have friends who I turn to occasionally to give me feedback and with whom I can write side-by-side but separately in our own worlds. Using a story editor really helped after the first draft.
Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.
A small-town environmental suspense novel along the Connecticut River with a deep heart and compelling conscience. River Rules explores the dynamics of power, nature and people in a New England community wrestling with real-life issues. How can people living life outside of the spotlight push back when corporate and governmental greed threaten their land, water and way of life?
Describe the genre of this particular title, and is the only genre you write in?
Suspense/thriller. Kirkus called in “an endearing thriller.” My next book will be a sequel to River Rules, so I’m staying in this genre.
Here’s a short excerpt from River Rules:
Carmen had shut Peter out abruptly from her life two years ago, right after her daughter, Becky, died at twenty-three, high and drunk after yet another night of partying at the quarry. Although Peter supported her lovingly when her mother finally passed away from Alzheimer’s, a gut-wrenching shadow of her former self, Carmen couldn’t handle him after Becky died. She knew he cared about Becky and Jimmy, but the double whammy of losing her mother and her only child in three years destroyed her world.
After the overwhelming awfulness of Becky’s funeral, which Carmen remembered in precise detail, she forced him to leave. She felt her edges sharp as glass and didn’t hesitate to skewer even the well-wishers. When a woman came up to her at the gas station and said she was so brave, Carmen stared at her with disgust.
“Here’s a word of advice, die before your children so you don’t have to be brave.”
Carmen boiled it down to simple calculations, all of them zero-sum decisions: cling to Peter and depend utterly on him or crawl out of the wreckage and depend on herself, somehow rising like a phoenix from the ashes of her life. And it had to be her, not only for Jimmy’s sake but for her own. So, she built an impregnable iron fortress, reinforced with barbed wire and snarling wolves, to chase Peter away and keep him out for good.
“You destroyed your own happiness,” her grief counselor said when Carmen could finally do more than cry during their sessions.
Stevie’s Bio: Stevie Z Fischer writes about the dynamics of people, nature, and power in small-town New England. Her first novel, River Rules, looks at how everyday heroes can be forged as lives are changed by forces seemingly beyond our control. Stevie’s focus on the bonds of friendship, love of nature, and refusal to be marginalized shines through in River Rules. Although she has worked in jobs ranging from cheese slicing to strategic analysis, nothing has been so transformational as paying attention, walking her dog, and never meeting a stranger. Stevie teaches writing and lives in Connecticut