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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Author Interview: Ann Yost

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Ann Yost, author of That Voodoo that You Do, which was a LASR Book of the Week, winner of the Published Beacon Contest, romantic suspense division, and was a finalist in the WisRWA Write Touch Readers Contest, and About a Baby, which was just named a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence contest in the contemporary category.

Ann told me that the publication of the first was especially thrilling for her, not only because it was the first, but because it was romantic suspense plus included a touch of magic. She also loved the cover.

Ann grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and for several years thought the city was named after her. However, she got over her disappointment about finding out the truth and got busy with her life. She loves to read and was thrilled to discover that just reading the classics and filling a few bluebooks, she could get a college degree. She worked as a newspaper reporter on a total of three daily papers for ten years and then turned her hand to writing humor columns about her experiences as a wife and mom.

"It was a wonderful time for writers and journalism," she told me, "and I wish those papers were not disappearing. I’ve written short humorous essays, light verse and features for various papers and magazines but I always wanted to write books and I am just having the best time of my life."

Her favorite author is Jane Austen, and she's been at the top of Ann's "favorite author list" since high school. In fact, if Ann could be a fictional character, she would choose to be either Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse.

"I so admire Austen's ability to build complex stories on everyday Events without ever resorting to anything fantastic or even grand. Her humor, satire and facility with words is unparalleled," she said, then paused and added, "I am aware that I am not the only person with this opinion."

Ann is currently working on a Regency era romp because, even though she's done all her work so far in the contemporary sub-genre, she's still in love with Austen's time period and couldn't resist trying to write something set in it.

"The constraints are completely different and offer new plot possibilities and I just love the formality of the period contrasted with the hot sex in modern-day historical," she explained.

Both Ann's father and husband worked as newsmen (her husband is with Associated Press), and her father was also an author. Many years ago, a psychologist told Ann that both men would have trouble with her having a writing career.

"My husband is totally supportive, emotionally and financially," Ann said. "The strange thing though is that I did not start writing novels until my dad died ten years ago. I started that very same year. Even though I can’t imagine him trying to hold me back maybe there was some unconscious competitiveness there."

"What's the best piece of advice you've ever had on writing?" I wondered.

"It came from my adult son who spent a semester with a writing teacher in Prague. He said to start from the archetypes (either story or character) and develop the small details that make your story unique," Ann responded. "It kind of takes the pressure off that sense of having to come up with something totally original which is pretty much impossible anyway!"

One book Ann feels that no writer should be without is Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

"It provides an easily understandable chart for a writer to be able to see where there are weaknesses and strengths in her ideas. It is easy to understand but coming up with great GMC for the characters, especially conflicting ones for the hero and antagonist…THAT is not easy!"

"Do you believe in outlining?" I asked.

"I absolutely believe in outlining but I totally suck at it. I am quite possibly the world’s most disorganized person. I have to leave food and dishes and spices, etc. out on the countertop just to remember I have them and I can never ever find any of the countless notes I write myself. I have tried outlining and storyboarding and I love the concepts…just can’t stick to whatever I’ve written. I am a big, big, BIG re-writer. I can’t even take an excerpt out of a published book without re-writing it!"

On a more personal note, I asked Ann about the most embarrassing thing her mother had ever done to her.

"My mother is an older lady but quite sharp and spry (she plays golf, bridge, etc.) She reads nearly all the latest books thanks to a book club so she is not protected from steamy writing. She was embarrassed by the sensuality in my first book THAT VOODOO THAT YOU DO. Her comment: 'You had a nice little plot going there but is it really necessary to have all that stuff about bulges?' It was pretty embarrassing."

Ann feels that her hobbies, other than reading and talking with friends, are pretty silly. She enjoys needlework, including cross-stitch, knitting, and quilting, but doesn't consider herself very good at any of them, even though she's practiced for years.

"I also LOVE to do jigsaw puzzles," she told me. "I always choose puzzles of small towns and while I am searching for the pieces I imagine I am living in those small towns." She paused. "That sounds even stranger than I thought it would!"

For years, her favorite movie was What's Up, Doc? with Barbara Streisand and Ryan O'Neal, but now she believes it is The Bird Cage.

"I like to laugh in movies," she explained. "My favorite television show was The Gilmore Girls. That show was right up my alley: small town, quirky characters, love stories, a strong, strong mother-daughter bond."

"Writers are known to set their own schedules and work at their own pace," I said. "Do you enjoy that kind of spontaneity in your life? How great is it to be able to take a vacation or just take a day off without calling in sick?"

"It is great to be able to set your own hours but I really hate taking a day off. I feel as if I lose momentum and mostly I’d rather be able to fit a few hours of writing into the day. That isn’t to say I use my time effectively. I spend way too much time every day looking up stuff like which couple from The Bachelor has just broken up and lurking on my daughter’s Facebook page and checking out the latest styles at Nordstrom’s and other online stores. Still, my ideal day always includes writing."

In fact, her ideal day… that time where she could be anywhere in the world she wanted… she would spend right where she is.

"In my little office at my corner desk. I go other places but I like to be here. Possibly laziness but more likely anxiety. Also, I am totally a person who likes to be surrounded by familiar people and places. I write about the kinds of towns I’d like to live in."

Finally, I asked Ann, "Do you think the internet will ultimately change the publishing industry?"

"Yes, I really do. I love to hold a book in my hand or a newspaper or magazine but I think the future in publishing is with the handheld readers like Kindle. Our library here already has books that can be loaned out electronically. And, to my sorrow, the newspaper and magazine industries are fading fast. I’m sure we’ll all get used to it though!"

You can keep up with Ann on her blog,

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