Today we have Chloe Flanagan with us as a guest. Hi Chloe, thank you for granting us this interview.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog. It’s really an honor!
Tell us a little about your new book. What is the main storyline?
My book, Forward to What Lies Ahead, is about a young woman that relies on her strong, independent nature to look out for herself and the younger sister she’s cared for since their parents died. But she soon learns that she needs more than her own strength when she’s forced to confront grief, secrets from her past, and a dangerous adversary. Her journey leads her to encounter God’s grace and love, but she has to be willing to accept them.
That sounds interesting. I can relate to that in so many ways. How long have you been writing?
Although I always enjoyed writing in high school, college and beyond, I didn’t really do much real writing until the last couple of years, then I dove in! I was blessed to find my current position as a technical writer two years ago. Then, about a year and a half ago, I felt called to start my blog The Candid Corinthian, featuring reflections, poetry, and interviews about the faith journey. Finally, last July, I started work on my first longer fiction piece, which became my debut novel, Forward to What Lies Ahead.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
It seems like ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always had storylines or bits of dialogue rolling around in my head, but I often trivialized these thoughts as being distractions from “serious” or “real-world” things. I had this notion that writing fiction was not a grownup thing to do. But I started reading and coming in contact with some great contemporary authors, and they inspired me to take another look at my love of fiction and writing. So it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve allowed myself the space and time to really embrace and grow into this type of creativity.
What inspired you to write this book?
The concept for this book came to me as a single scene: a confrontation, actually, between two of the main characters. The idea behind the confrontation was the dangerous, but often understandable desire for revenge we can feel when someone hurts a person we love. These feelings don’t help the person we love and can be harmful to everyone. This idea is not the main focus of the book, but it felt thought-provoking enough for me to make it a springboard for my characters’ personalities and narratives.
Did it turn out the way you first thought it would? If not, what was different?
The plot turned out the way I thought it would, but I didn’t expect Regina, the main character, to undertake as much of an emotional journey as she did. She became more complicated and her struggles more intense as I wrote.
Those characters can really surprise us, can’t they? How long did it take you to write? Tell us a little about the process.
It took about four months. I began writing in July of last year when I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo. During that month, I wrote an extended outline and a pretty sparse rough draft of the novel. I spent the next three months fleshing out the story and getting input from some amazing Beta readers and editor friends. The final product was ready in mid-November.
That’s pretty quick for a first book. Did you need to do any special research?
I did a small amount of research for one or two plot points. Also, I needed some help for a part of the story where one of the characters gives support and spiritual guidance to another character. The issue made up a couple of important scenes, and I had a general idea of what needed to be said, but I wasn’t sure how to execute it. To help with that, I had a conversation with a clergy friend who tossed ideas back and forth with me until I came up with a plan for the kinds of scenes I wanted.
Do you have a special place or atmosphere you like to write in best?
I wrote some of my outline and chapters in my local public library. It was quiet and homelike to me. Also, there is something encouraging and inspirational about being surrounded by all those books.
That’s a nice place to write, I like writing there, myself. Are you like your main character?
In physical appearance, I’m not much like my main character, but we have some similar personality traits. Like me, Regina is introverted, tough, and I must admit, prone to a prideful degree of self-reliance. She is actually tougher than I am, though, because she’s been through a lot more.
What character do you relate to or like best?
I like Regina’s neighbor, Madeline (“Mad” for short) the best. She’s blunt, compassionate, and funny—all things I admire.
Did you learn anything new about yourself while writing this book?
I’ve always thought I was a bit disorganized and chronically incapable of adhering to any self-imposed structure, but I found out that’s not true. I received a lot of advice about using outlines for my writing, so I followed my own outline and a clear, but flexible schedule when writing this book. It worked out. I guess I need the structure to thrive.
What project are you working on now?
I’m working on the sequel to my first novel. It will be available this spring.
I can’t wait for that! What advice would you give a new author?
Be tenacious and trust your God-given drive to write. There will most certainly be one or more times when you’ll doubt everything you’ve written up to that point and don’t think you can or should do anymore, but press on anyway. Your writing is important and you don’t have to do it alone.
How many books have you written and how can we find your books?
I’ve written one, so far, and it can be found as an ebook or paperback on Amazon.
Do you have any closing comments for us today?
I’m thrilled to have this chance to talk with you. I think it’s wonderful that you put so much time and effort into building this dialogue with stories and authors. Also, I’m grateful to your readers for stopping by for the chat.