Sid, would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I'm a retired computer programmer/systems analyst who also taught computer science courses at Austin Community College, and still do. I'm a singer, currently in a community chorus and a church choir. I've been in 45 musical stage productions, primarily as a chorus member in the Austin Lyric Opera. I play trumpet in my church's orchestra.
My wife died of pancreatic cancer in 2008 and I spent eight life-changing months with her, staying with her at the hospital nearly every day and night. She encouraged me to finish the book during that time, but I didn't write a single word until months after her death. At that time White Rose Publishing had asked me to make some changes and resubmit. I eventually did, but only to hear that since my story wasn't really a romance, they couldn't contract it.
At that time I decided to self publish. It had been five or six years since I first started working on the book and I had been turned down by many agents and publishers. I considered my age and felt it was time to publish.
Although I hadn't planned to, and hadn't thought about dating again, the first time I ventured out and started singing again, I met a wonderful woman and we were married in March. We both believe God brought us together.
When did you first become interested in writing?
My earliest memory of writing is when my older sister decided we would publish a neighborhood magazine. I was about twelve years old. The magazine was handwritten and each copy was handwritten as well. So there wasn't a wide distribution and the endeavor only lasted for a summer. When school started we were too busy to continue it. But I remember the excitement of writing and having others read what I wrote.
Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?
I had the writing bug from then on. Aptitude tests showed an interest in creative writing, but my school counselors said I should think of it as a hobby since few people made a living from writing. So, I ended up majoring in computer science and wrote for the fun of it. At one time I took correspondence classes in writing short stories and non-fiction articles. This was before the Internet and online classes, which I took later.
One short story was published. What a thrill that was to see something I wrote actually published in a magazine, even if it was a publication called Navy with limited distribution. I eventually had more than a hundred articles published in special publications, but never another piece of fiction.
I published one computer book, Automated Law Office Systems , using a traditional publisher, but it was short lived due to the rapid changes in computers and the royalties were small. When they asked for a new edition, I decided it wasn't worth the time required.
How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?
Where Love Once Lived was my first book and I had a lot to learn while writing it. I'll answer this question for my second book, Vengeance is Mine.
Writing the second book, by the way, was a lot easier than writing the first. One major problem I had with the first book was maintaining point of view. Now, it is second nature for me and I help unpublished writers who make the same mistakes I did.
Now, back to the question. I started my second book with a simple premise of what would a Christian do when his fiancé is killed in a robbery. With just that much information, I researched the market place. With this premise, it couldn't be a romance. It wasn't a mystery, and thriller sounded too strong. I found similar books I liked and checked with the publishers to find out how many words they liked best. Then, I divided the number of words into scenes of 2,000 words each. After that, I marked where Acts 1, 2, and 3 would be. Act 1 is about twenty-five percent of the book, Act 2, fifty percent, and Act 3, twenty-five percent. You can find definitions of the three acts on the Internet.
The next step was a simple description of each scene followed by the scene goal and why the goal wouldn't be achieved (the conflict), and information about setting, date, time, weather, etc. for each scene.
From all this, I created a spreadsheet to track the information and keep me on track. This is too long to describe here, but I have blog describing the spreadsheet and will provide a copy in Excel to anyone who asks.
Before I wrote any of the book, I created the bio for each character.
Tell us about your book, Where Love Once Lived?
I wrote this book while taking an advanced novel online class from Writer's Digest. You were supposed to have a completed novel before you signed up. I had already taken the beginning novel class and had only three chapters written. The advanced class lasted ten weeks and we were to turn in 10,000 words every two weeks. I needed the pressure of meeting a deadline to help me write.
So the story grew based on comments from classmates and the teacher. Some of the other students who had followed the rules and waited until they had finished the book, kept getting the same comments for every assignment. I took the comments from one assignment and used them to make my next assignment better.
My first idea about the book was sort of an episodic type of story about the bookmobile librarian. You're probably too young to remember this, but I visualized Mary Lasswell's Suds in Your Eye, a humorous story about some women who worked the factories while the men went off to war in World War II.
As I learned about scene goals, conflict and point of view, I tried to create something my teacher would like. By the way her name is Bonnie Hearn Hill, a YA author, who at the time was writing and publishing excellent thrillers.
What I ended up with was a male and female protagonist, thus the confusion about it being a romance. I even called it an Inspirational Romance for awhile, but it wouldn't cooperate. I asked Bonnie to edit my press releases recently and she calls my book a coming of age novel. Who'd think a 54 year-old guy could finally come to age, but I think she's right.
I gave Karen some of the actions I had planned to give Liz, the librarian, and made Liz a supporting character. She still pops out too strong at places and I had to edit many scenes to keep her from stealing the show. She did manage to get into my next book, Vengeance is Mine, which should be out soon. She is the only character who is in both books. That is if you don't count the bookmobile as a character.
In reviewing this response, I don't think I answered your question. However, I think this discussion could be useful to your readers who are thinking about writing a book or who are in the midst of writing.
What inspired you to write this story?
The idea for Where Love Once Lived came to me back in the 1960's when I was driving a bookmobile part time while going to the University of Texas in Austin. On each run there was a librarian and a driver. We went to schools, rest homes, and sometimes to a shopping center being considered for a library substation.
There was one librarian most of the drivers tried to avoid. Being the new guy, I ended up riding with her frequently. She was outspoken and had a rough exterior, but I soon learned she had a heart of gold. She did extras for patrons, helping them in ways not related to the library.
I made notes for a book then, but was not qualified to do more. That idea kept bugging me from time to time over the years, but it wasn't until I retired that I took time to write it.
As I wrote, the bookmobile and Liz, the librarian, became secondary characters to a man and woman who had said goodbye on a bookmobile thirty years before. The book opens with them being reunited on a bookmobile.
Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them , and what endears them to you?
As I mentioned in response to the previous question, I patterned the bookmobile librarian after a real bookmobile librarian I once worked with. However, I changed the character to meet my goals for the book. Liz, my character, also helped the patrons in many ways. In the book, they get together and take up a collection for a trip to England for Liz. She is large, overweight, not too concerned about hair or clothes. She loves to hug people. She gets excited and jumps up and down easily. She is an excellent cook, and she loves the Lord, and makes sure everyone knows it.
I also gave her some problems she can't do anything about. An alcoholic husband who she stayed with too long, and a grandson she raised who is now in prison.
The main characters are Karen and Brian. They had dated in college and at one time thought they would get married. Circumstances changed that causing Karen to move closer to God and Brian to move totally away. He concentrates on his daughter and his work. Karen has a daughter also and both Karen and Brian are divorced when the story begins.
While in college, Brian was a part of a group of six men who called themselves the Combine. When Brian gets back to Austin to try to win over Karen, he also gets back together with his friends. Since this is a lot of supporting characters, I limit the exposure to them. Phil, who is black, is Brian's best friend. Ron, Brian's accountant is involved some, too. As is Tony, who helps get Brian and Karen together by inviting them to an opera he is singing in. Phil's father also plays a big part in the book and he also helps bring in some of the history of Austin.
Since my main characters are in their mid-fifties, I let Phil's daughter and Ron's son have a subplot that may be appealing to some younger readers. This also provides for a mixed marriage and gives me as the author room to talk about equality versus diversity, hopefully without taking away from the story.
Wow! Lots of characters for such a small book. I haven't mentioned the evil head librarian, the city mayor, the patron who helped get Liz that trip to England, and many more.
What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?
When I started my first book, my goal was to have one reader in all the world move a little closer to God because of reading my book. I wanted to write a book showing how real people make mistakes and still become good Christians. To achieve my goal, I know the book needs to be entertaining and not come across like a documentary. I may never know if I reach anyone, but I've had readers tell me they were moved by the story.
Any ideas for future projects?
Vengeance is Mine is my next book and it should be out early next year unless I find a traditional publisher who needs more time. It isn't a sequel to Where Love Once Lived, but that is being planned, too. Liz, the bookmobile librarian in Where Love Once Lived who is promoted to head librarian by the end of the book has a secondary, but fairly prominent role in Vengeance is Mine. Also, the bookmobile shows up in Vengeance, too, to help track down some killers. The main character is a computer science professor who uses his technological expertise to track down the ones who killed his fiancée during a robbery.
What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?
I see a variety of movies, but my favorites are romantic comedies. Not sure why. I don't care for too much violence and I particularly like it when good wins out over evil. My wife enjoys a good drama or mystery.
Being a Texan, my favorite foods are Mexican and barbeque.
I've had the opportunity to travel to 20 plus countries and have found many places that interest me enough to return. I spent the last two New Year's Eves in Halifax, but my wife insists on going to the British Virgin Islands this time. I love Germany. I wrote most of Where Love Once Lived while in Germany visiting a son stationed there. There are several references to Germany in the book. I can't say more because it might spoil the story.
Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along? I haven't read it yet, but since I loved all of Jan Karon's other books (except one), I know her recently released book, In the Company of Others, will be a book I can recommend. I bought it, but haven't read it yet. In case you are wondering, the one Karon book I didn't think was up to par was A Common Live. It was book six in the Mitford Series, but timewise came between books two and three. I think it was written quickly to fill a need and wasn't written in the same style as the others.
Sid, your book sounds really interesting! I love the idea of a coming of age story at 54. It also sounds like you've had a rich life to draw from. I bet your book packs an emotional punch.
Sid's book is featured on Inspirational Ebooks and he's doing a giveaway there of either a digital or print copy. There's an excerpt and reviews there if you'd like to know more. Leave a comment. Here's the link. http://inspirationalebooks.blogspot.com/2010/11/where-love-once-lived-sid-frost.html
For more about Sidney W. Frost you can find him at http://sidneywfrost.com/ and also be sure to check out his blog, http://christianbookmobile.blogspot.com/.
For a list of places to purchase Where Love Once Lived, go here: http://sidneywfrost.com/wlol_buy.htm