Lynn Montagano, Book Country member since 2012, has just published her debut romance novel, CATCH MY BREATH! Lynn shares her advice to writers workshopping their books on Book Country. Connect with Lynn!
Janet Umenta: On your Book Country profile page, you note that you are an avid traveler. In CATCH MY BREATH, you take the reader to amazing places such as Glasgow, Scotland and London, England. How did your traveling experience help you write such vivid descriptions in your novel?
Lynn Montagano: The traveling bug first bit me when I was young and my parents took my brother and I to Disney World. The whole experience amazed me: the airplane, being somewhere that wasn’t home, meeting new people, etc. I’m from a small town in Rhode Island so venturing away from there sparked something in me.
I first went to London when I was in college and absolutely fell in love with the city. It reminded me so much of Boston and New York. I made it my mission to try and go there once a year, if finances allowed. A friend of mine suggested adding Glasgow to my itinerary, so off we went. I can’t really explain what it is about London or Glasgow or Edinburgh that dazzles me so much. It might just be the accents. When I was in Glasgow, I’d been toying around with the idea to write a story about an American girl who meets a British guy. The setting just seemed so natural for them to meet that I used it in the book. By that point, I’d been to the UK so many times I felt like a local. It was pretty easy for me to describe the different settings because I was basically pulling it from memory.
JU: How did you use Book Country to workshop your manuscript? What specific advice would you give other Book Country members currently working on their manuscripts?
LM: I’d pretty much decided nobody would ever see this series after I wrote it. I stuck it in a file on my computer, fully expecting to leave it there. One day, I don’t even know why, I decided to post the first few chapters of Catch My Breath on Book Country just to see if anyone would read it. Within a few days I had some reviews. They were mostly positive with some suggestions here and there. I added more chapters and received more positive feedback. I think that helped build confidence that what I’d written might actually be good!
My advice? Do what makes you feel comfortable in regards to posting chapters. If you only want to put up the first three, do that. If you want to jump in no holds barred and post the whole book, do that too! The feedback you’ll get is priceless. Sure there are some critiques that may not help you specifically but it’s good to see what it is about your book that sticks with people, positive or negative. Try not to take the critiques personally and be open to their suggestions. If it works for you, great. If not, play around with your manuscript anyway and see if there’s something you can find to make it stronger.
JU: On your social media accounts, you seem to naturally blend promoting your book while still being personable. What advice would you give authors who are just starting out on social media and may not know the best practices?
LM: I’ve had Twitter for so long it’s hard for me not to be personable! The best thing about Twitter is you can follow anything or anyone that interests you. For anyone just starting out on Twitter, do that first. Follow your favorite authors, actors, sports teams, news organizations, etc. Follow people you know. Follow people you don’t know who seem interesting to you. Interact with your followers and whomever you follow. Use the hashtags wisely!
The more conversational and interesting your tweets are, the better chance you’ll have at gaining followers. Try not to only promote your book or only use Twitter as a means to find readers. People don’t want to feel like they’re being pitched or sold to all the time. Also, seek out other aspiring writers. Many of them have blogs and host contests to pitch your work to agents or publishers. The writing community is very supportive. Reach out to them. I’ve made some great contacts and friends through Twitter. =)
JU: CATCH MY BREATH is being published by HarperImpulse. What do you think helped you get this publishing deal, and what advice would you give other Book Country members who are considering the traditional publishing route?
LM: I can’t really say what helped me get this deal with HarperImpulse other than they loved my book as much as I do. As everyone knows, the world of publishing is very subjective. One person may be head over heels in love with your book and tell you to submit it, but that may not ring true for the publisher or agent who receives it. My experience wasn’t typical. I only submitted to six publishers and within a few weeks I had four contract offers. My best advice would be to believe in what you’ve written, make sure it’s the absolute best version possible, have a killer query letter and keep writing. Just because a publisher or agent rejects one manuscript doesn’t mean they’ll reject another one that you’ve written.
JU: You do a great job in showing how Amelia and Alastair, the lovers in your novel, overcome tragic events in their past to love each other. What advice would you give Book Country members currently working on character development?
LS: For me personally, I have to really believe what the characters are going through. When I wrote Amelia and Alastair, they became real to me. I know almost everything about them. Several authors suggest using a list of questions to ask your characters in an effort to fully flesh them out. I didn’t do that. Obviously, I knew what their backstories were, but for the most part I let them evolve organically. They grow and change in each book. Catch My Breath really only scratched the surface, especially with Alastair. He reveals himself slowly. As frustrating as that can be while I’m writing him, it’s just how he is. One thing I did do was write out scenes with them behaving in the most extreme manner of their personalities. Then I’d rework it, scaling down their reactions. It really helped with the more emotional scenes.
JU: How did Book Country’s Peer Reviews help you revise your manuscript?
LM: The peer reviews scared me at first. I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, everyone is very supportive and genuinely wants to see the best version of your book. On the other hand, everyone also has varying opinions on how you should tweak a scene or start a sentence or what have you. I made it a point to really take into consideration what others said and as I would reread Catch My Breath, I’d try to see where their suggestions would fit. If they enhanced the story or helped fill a hole here and there, fantastic. But if their suggestions really didn’t, in my opinion, add anything to what I’d already written, I’d move on.
The most important thing is to be open to their reviews. Not everyone is going to like your book. If the biggest problems you have relate to grammar or plot or characterization, and it’s something more than a few reviewers mention, it’s probably smart to take another critical look at your story. If they just don’t like it because it’s not a genre they normally read or they’re not a fan of first person POV, then that’s cool too. Remember to enjoy the journey. =)
About Lynn Montagano
Lynn Montagano is a writer from California. Lynn has been a part of Book Country since 2012. CATCH MY BREATH is her debut novel, published by HarperImpulse. Connect with Lynn on Book Country, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and her personal blog.