Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli and I talk about writing and her new book TEMPORARY BRIDESMAID

Veteran writer Lu Ann Brobst Staheli has just released a romance, Temporary Bridesmaid. Here's part of the review I posted on Amazon. "It’s a book with an interesting main character—not the dewy, young, just-turned-twenty miss of so many romances, but a successful career woman of thirty-nine with a closet full of bridesmaid dresses . . .With some nice, unexpected plot twists, Ms. Staheli carries us through the expected romance format to a sweet conclusion that leaves us smiling." You can read the whole review by clicking here.

I wanted my friends and readers to know more about Lu Ann, as she's such a force in the Utah writing community, and she graciously consented to do an interview.

 LIZ: I’m aware that you’ve been writing in the nonfiction area for awhile. Before we talk about your foray into fiction, tell me about the books you have already published.

LU ANN: I’ve published in both the non-fiction and fiction genres before. When Hearts Conjoin: The True Story of Utah’s Conjoined Twins (Richard Paul Evans, Inc.) and Psychic Madman (Source Books) are both biographies and each won Utah’s Best of State for Non-Fiction. My most recent non-fiction is also a biography of sorts. Men of Destiny: Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith (Walnut Springs Press) is a comparative study of the similarities of the lives of these two men, one the leader of a country, the other the leader of a church.

Also in the non-fiction realm, I’ve published two books for Language Arts teachers. Books, Books, and More Books: A Parent and Teacher’s Guide to Adolescent Literature was my Christa McAulliffe project, and One Day at a Time: Teaching Secondary Language Arts is a compilation of the newspaper columns on literacy which I wrote for two local newspapers.

But non-fiction is not my only genre. I’ve also published a series, Small-Town U.S.A., which includes one middle grade novel (Leona & Me, Helen Marie) about my mother’s childhood in 1922 southern Indiana during the first depression, and two young adult novels (Just Like Elizabeth Taylor and A Note Worth Taking), each about a young girl and her experiences coming of age. The first book in the Explorers series (Tides Across the Sea) has also been published. Each of them won awards from the League of Utah Writers and Elizabeth Taylor was the winner of the Utah Arts Council Juvenile Novel of the Year.

LIZ: So, with all this different, heavier-weight-type writing that you’ve done, why did you decide to write anything as fluffy as a romance? I say this without prejudice, because I’ve written romance myself.

LU ANN: Temporary Bridesmaid came about because people kept asking me to tell my own story. Although the novel is fiction, those who know me well will recognize elements of my life. I met my husband later in life and we married when I was 40 and he 35. We met at Payson Jr. High School where I was a fulltime English teacher and he came as a substitute—a temp. I had given up on ever finding a husband, and he on finding a wife. In addition, I was taking care of my elderly mother who suffered from dementia, the early stages of Alzheimer ’s disease.

LIZ: Temporary Bridesmaid is about a single, career-track woman who falls in love at thirty-nine. After reading your acknowledgements, I have to ask, are there any autobiographical elements to this story?

I guess I spoiled this one in the answer above. ;-)

LIZ: I was interested in your third story line, the character of Stephie. Why did you decide to include her as a prominent subplot?

LU ANN: Stephie just appeared out of nowhere one day as I was writing—something authors understand. I had known some young couples who were suffering from the same break-down in communication that she and Phil were experiencing. I’ve also known some young men who had become so wrapped up in their gaming that they had withdrawn from those who loved them. Her part of the story practically wrote itself. I felt the contrast to Jenny’s desire to marry and the happier couples around them both was important to the full development of the story. Life doesn’t always work out the way we—or our characters—expect it to. My plan is to eventually give Stephie a new, and perhaps happier, love story in a sequel to this book.

LIZ: What have new have you learned about writing from the experience of Temporary Bridesmaid? Or maybe I should ask, was this process any different from the nonfiction writing you’ve done?

LU ANN: With non-fiction, you do a lot of research, often needing sources you can footnote, so the process can be time intensive. But the same can be said for fiction. This novel started out to be my story, so the first draft was fairly easy—it was my NANOWRIMO book three years ago. But during the revisions, I discovered that what I thought was romantic, because it was actually how my love story had developed, didn’t read as all that romantic to people who read and wrote nothing but romance. Luckily, I have great friends and several romance writer mentors in my critique group. I think I’ve managed to keep the elements of my own personal romance true, but added just enough to satisfy other readers who enjoy a good romance.  

LIZ: What’s the next project we can expect from the pen of LuAnn Brobst Staheli?

LU ANN: I’m in final revisions for a novella that will be in the Timeless Romance Anthology Silver Bells edition. I haven’t settled on a title yet, but I will tell you it’s about Dick Wilkins and Pricilla Fezziwig, and includes the more familiar character of Ebenezer Scrooge.

After that, it’s back to non-fiction as I’m finishing a memoir titled Living in an Osmond World, which is a collection of experiences I had from the time I met the Osmond family through the years I worked for Alan Osmond Productions as an Associate Producer of Stadium of Fire.

LIZ: Is there anything else you’d like to add, anything you’d like to say to readers or potential readers?

LU ANN: My childhood dream was to be a published author, and I’ve been thrilled to see this dream coming true. I’ve always been an avid and eclectic reader, and I suppose you can use the same labels to describe me as a writer. When you follow your passion, as I am doing now, the money is nice, but the true reward is making someone smile. I hope that somewhere in my crazy list of publications I have something that does that very thing for each of you.

Thanks for letting me be a part of your blog, Liz. And thanks for bringing a smile to my face!   

LIZ: Thanks for letting us all get to know you better.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writers Standing Against Plagiarism

Plagiarism is wrong. We’ve been taught that since we were children. I distinctly remember being taught the principle when I was in the fifth grade when I was writing an essay that involved some research. I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I mean, the information was written in a book. What was the difference whether I copied it directly or just used the information? It’s a tough distinction to teach to a child.
Plagiarism isn’t a crime you can be arrested for. However, if you are a proven plagiarist, you can be expelled from school or lose your job or certification. And, the person whose copyright you infringed upon can sue you and collect money.

I’ve been aware for quite awhile that teachers are constantly on the lookout for this type of theft among the work of their students. Some have even begun employing software that can detect identical phrases in two different essays. Others will Google a student’s unusually well-honed paragraph to see if it may have been lifted from someone else’s work.

My interest in the subject of plagiarism deepened this last week when a fellow writer had her intellectual property stolen. Rachel Ann Nunes, a popular Utah writer, found out that someone had taken one of  her clean romances, changed  characters’ names, added steamy sex scenes and was publishing it through Amazon as erotica. The person was writing under the pen name of Sam Taylor Mullens.

I imagine “Ms. Mullens” felt she was safe, figuring the readership of the two genres was so different, but she was wrong. She had sent an advanced readers copy to someone who was familiar with the book she stole, and she let Rachel Nunes know.

Quite a few writers have been watching developments as Rachel has tried to find out the identity of Sam Taylor Mullens. I can tell you that, if I had written the scenario I’ve watched play out as fiction, people would tell me it was too outlandish. No one would be so stupid as to try that trick and then, when caught, react in the manner that “Ms. Mullens” did.

If you’re interested in reading about what happened—or if you just like intrigue-- it’s been chronicled on several blogs. But you might want to read about it from Rachel herself—her diary of what happened and comments from friends and (possibly) sock puppets of the perpetrator. You can find it on Rachel's blog.

There are also interesting comments on a blog called The Passive Voice

Notice as you read Rachel's blog that Dave Farland set up a fundraising site for her to help defray attorney’s fees. If you’d like to help, here’s where you do it.

You can understand why the writing community is concerned. After recently publishing my first indie book, I’m amazed at how easy it was—after the blood-sweat-tears of the writing and editing process, that is. That wasn’t easy. If you've never learned the plagiarism-is-wrong lesson, and you’ve got something somebody else wrote, boom, put it up and slap your name on it and, you’re an author.

Rachel was lucky to have an honest reviewer who was familiar with her earlier book. I wonder how many writers there are out there who are not so lucky.