Margo Candela is the author of The Brenda Diaries, Good-bye To All That, More Than This, Life Over Easy and many more. Learn more about her here.
NAW- Without giving away too many spoilers, can you tell us about your forthcoming books?
My next novel takes place in Los Angeles, like Good-bye To All That, and was inspired by a short story I wrote for a blog tour a few years back. It’s set in Los Angeles and features a main character whose life starts to fall apart but it ends up being the best thing that could have ever happened to her. My goal is to get it polished and sent off to the poor agent who’s been waiting way too long for it later this summer. I’m looking forward to writing a novel based on Brenda from The Brenda Diaries.
NAW- Tell us about your other works. How difficult (or easy) was it getting published?
I was very determined that my hard work would pay off even though, especially at first, I had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into when I decided to write a book, find an agent and sign a publishing contract. I learned as I went along and am now a much savvier writer for it.
I’m very proud of the novels I wrote and saw published, Underneath It All and Life Over Easy with Kensington and More Than This and Good-bye To All That with Touchstone, and it was a wonderful experience to get to work with the same editor on all of them. From those four books, I learned that for me to do my best work, I have to work with someone who has my back. Writing is a solitary endeavour, but it takes a team of people to make a book happen.
NAW- How do you decide the names for your characters?
I obsess over the names of my characters. Once I have an idea that has promise, I stop what I’m doing to name the main characters. If I realize that one of them has the wrong name, I stop writing and work on getting the right one. I love all my character names but there is one, who I won’t name, who wound up with the wrong name. It still galls me to this day that I didn’t go with my gut and change it.
NAW- Tell us about your publishing journey. How difficult (or easy) was it finding a publisher?
I treated finding an agent as a job. I researched which agents represented authors in my genre, queried them and kept a spreadsheet to track their responses. I queried a lot of agents and ended up working with four or five which, for me, was the most difficult part of the publishing process. It did teach me to say no, not to settle and to ask uncomfortable questions because, in the end, it’s a business relationship. If there’s friendship there, great, but first and foremost a represented author shouldn’t have to worry about whether an agent is doing his or her job.
I was very lucky to work with the same editor on all four of my first novels. She found me through a late night search for authors writing Latina-centric commercial fiction. She immediately clicked with my first manuscript, Underneath It All, and I’d been proactive and already was polishing up my second, Life Over Easy, so I signed with Kensington for a two book deal. When she moved to Touchstone, she took me with her for another two book deal. Now for my fifth novel, I have contacts at a few houses, but want to work with an agent and I’ve been lucky enough to be in contact with one who I really clicked with. I’m hoping to have some good news to share about this manuscript in the fall.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, which is a shocking amount of time, I work, parent, walk the dog and live a normal, mundane life. I love to read and stick to magazines and non-fiction when I am writing. I’m also amazing at what I like to call productive procrastination—I’ve rearranged and redecorated my home office three or four time (maybe five?) in seven years.
I’ve been freelancing since Good-bye To All That was published in 2011. It pays the bills, but does cut into my writing time. The good thing about not having as much time to write is that I find myself wanting to write. It’s really a luxury and I’m lucky that I’ve been able to scale back some of responsibilities to focus on finishing this next book.
NAW- Who are your favourite writers?
I love Anne Tyler and Max Barry. They are my go-to authors for when I’m craving an engrossing novel. I read a lot of non-fiction and long form journalism on a daily basis which has had the pleasant side effect of making me really good at Jeopardy! or any sort of trivia based games. I also am a big fan of Gillian Flynn. I heard her on the radio and she seems to have a great sense of humour which makes her dark, twisted novels even more delightful.
NAW- How do you write, planning the complete plot beforehand or do you let the book take its course? Take us through your writing process.
I have a fairly set process—idea, title, short synopsis, character sketches, outline. I work on some concurrently, but I can’t get started until I have all the elements in place. Once I start writing, I use my outline as a guide and if the story takes a natural turn away from it, I edit my outline to reflect new arcs and subplots. I know a few writers who just sit down and write, but that’s not me. I like to have a pretty definite idea of where things start and end up. Once the first draft is done, I give myself a lot more leeway to tinker and even cut chapters and sections because I have a good hold on the story and characters. First drafts aren’t much fun, but I love revising and polishing.
NAW-What are you currently reading?
Day to day, I read a shocking amount of magazines, both online and print. I subscribe to a whole lot of magazines including Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, New Yorker and my sister renews Us Magazine for my birthday every year. I also read a lot of stuff online at Grantland, Slate, Salon and visit Longform at least once a day to see what they have featured. As for books, I have a stack of Mary Roach and Simon Sighn nonfiction books and just added The Patrick Melrose Series by Edward St. Aubyn and Gemma, Singing Songs and First Time by Meg Tilly to my pile. Once I turn in this manuscript, I’m going to take a reading vacation and devour all of them one right after the other.
NAW- Any advice for struggling writers?
I’m can’t say writing is easy or share some secret tricks that will make is easier or the results better because the truth is—writing is work. Sometimes you enjoy it, sometimes you want to bang your head on the keyboard. I like to set goals, either daily word counts or a finish by date. Talking to someone who understands why you need to whine about having to write is also helpful as long as they don’t enable you to just whine and not get around to writing. In the end, it’s up to the writer to write or shut up about not writing and move on to something else. That might sound harsh, but I’ve found that when I don’t have the option to write, that’s when I really feel like I have to. It is a luxury and shouldn’t be taken for granted, but having to work for that time and space does put a lot of what gets in the way of writing (online shopping for things you don’t need and will end up returning, taking care of a family, working,doing laundry, paying bills, etc.) into perspective. Compared to mundane, stressful, never ending life and living stuff, writing is easy.