Monday, June 21, 2010

A visit with author Nancy Famolari

Nancy Famolari lives with her husband, five horses, two dogs and five white cats on a farm in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. Before moving to Pennsylvania, she and her husband owned a small Standardbred breeding farm in Central New Jersey. Her novel, Unwelcome Guest at Fair Hill Farm, based on her experience raising Standardbred horses, is available from In The Lake House, her second novel, a young romance novelist solves the mystery of a brutal murder in her new home – the lake house. This book is also available from

Welcome, Nancy. What books came along at just the right time to influence your reading/writing?

This is a hard question. I love books, like most authors, and have so many favorites it's hard to pick. I'm a fan of Dorothy Sayers. After reading Gaudy Night I knew I wanted to write mysteries with a strong female protagonist.

What are your writing goals?
My near term goal is to finish my Montbleu Murders series. I have one book published and another ready to go with two more in draft. Beyond that, I want to continue to grow in my writing, try new things, and hopefully develop a readership.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
The message in both my YA novel, Unwelcome Guest at Fair Hill Farm, and in my mysteries is rather simple. We all need other people. No one goes it alone; everyone has useful talents.

Great message, indeed. Tell us more.
The Lake House is romantic suspense. The story takes place in a house that has been vacant for ten years because it was the site of a brutal murder. Tory and her husband buy the house so that Tory, a romance novelist, will have a quiet place to work. The house turns out to be anything but quiet when the ghost of the murdered woman shows up and the murderer, who was never caught, tries to silence Tory because she's researching the old murder.

What’s the hook for the book?

A murder that occurred ten years ago and is still haunting the town of Montbleu as well as the lake house.

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? In what way?
My writing has definitely improved since my early tries. I made all the mistakes, too much back story in the opening, telling not showing, and spotty grammar. I've worked on all those technical things and now I think I've got a handle on most of them. Now that I've mastered more craft, I want to concentrate on making the story come alive.

The Lake House has been my most challenging book so far. I have an important sub-plot woven into the mystery. I have also given more of a glimpse into the lives of my characters as they solve the mystery. It wasn't easy for me to keep both threads going and keep the tension mounting.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
For characters, I wander around and imagine them. Names are important. I can see the person once I have a name. After I visualize the character, I do an extensive profile. I usually only do it for main characters, but occasionally, I've done it for minor characters as well if they had a pivotal role.
For setting, I try to use areas I'm familiar with and modify them. Montbleu is based on the little towns in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. I can't say I use one town, but I take features from several. Since I'm doing a series based in this town, I have a map and a break down of the history of the town. I find it makes it easier if you know the place you're writing about.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
Tory's strength is that she's very determined. In the book, people keep telling her to leave the old murder alone. She can't. She has to know what happened. This gets her into trouble, but it also leads to a happy ending. Her major flaw is feeling guilty. Like many women, she feels responsible for making her relationships work, and she tries very hard. However, there are some things you can't fix by yourself. It takes two.

How do you determine voice in your writing?
That's another very difficult question. One of the members of my critique group told me that I'm a very visual writer. This surprised me because I don't even watch television. However, I do describe what I see happening in my head, so I guess my voice has a large visual component. My characters, so far, are all based on an amalgam of people I know. I try to present them mostly through actions and some inner dialog. I think the reader has a right to their interpretation of the character. I know people see real people in different ways, even if they witness the same scene. I think the same should be true for fictional characters.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
Another member of my crit group said I'm a “seat of the pants” writer. My technique is to first write the book. I find plotting works best when I know the end game. Working toward it, I ask myself what is the next logical step for my character to take. Once the book is finished, I go back and make a plot outline that includes a time line. At this point, I may change some of the scenes, add more, or eliminate others. It may not be the most efficient way to get to the second draft, but by then, I know my characters and how they will react in various settings. I also know the setting and feel comfortable in the world I've created.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
My environment is what I write about. My first novel, Summer's Story, and my young adult book are based on my experiences breeding, training and racing Standardbred horses. The Montbleu series is based on the naughty happenings in small towns. I live in a small town and while the books are an exaggeration, there are elements of truth.

How do you promote yourself online and off?
Online, I have a website ( I also have two blogs (Nancy Famolari's Place: and Nancy Famolari's Author Spotlight: I'm on Twitter, Facebook and My Space. I also belong to a great group, VBT, Writers on the Move. It's a virtual book tour group. Each month we host a member on our blog. It's a good way to meet people and publicize your blog. It also give us publicity for our books once a month.

Offline, I try to do presentations. I'm doing one at a local library in June. I also tell people about my books and give them away in contests.

Where do you write? When? What do you have around you?
I am extremely lucky in my writing space. The Pennsylvania farm has an apartment in the barn. I claimed it and that's where I work. I can look out, see the mountains and trees. It's great. My desk was made by a local carpenter from old barn wood. The boards on the top are more than twelve inches wide and and inch and a half thick. I love the desk. I designed it, and it's a perfect place to write.

I'm envious.
I like to write in the morning. I find I'm most alert and able to concentrate. During the day, little things build up that have to be done and often I don't get back to the computer after lunch, much as I'd like to.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
We have Paso Finos, so I try to go riding as often as possible. It's good exercise and a great way to see our property. Having animals, caring for them, and working with them takes your mind off other things and cheers you up. I have admit I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Just looking out a the mountains and trees is relaxing.

What are your current projects?
I'm getting the second Montbleu novel ready to publish. I'm also working on a romance novella based on a short story I did awhile ago.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
I publicize my events on Twitter and Facebook. I also have the information on my blog: Nancy Famolari's Place. If you live in the area, sometimes you can even find my in the local paper.

Thanks for giving us more insight, Nancy, and continued good fortune.


Nancy Famolari said...

Thanks for inviting me today, Susan. The interview looks great!

Magdalena Ball said...

Great, detailed interview Nancy. I loved the 'seat of the pants' plotting. Thanks for sharing with us.

Margaret Fieland said...

Nancy, loved learning more about you -- and I'm especially interested to hear that you're not an outliner ..Do you have a method for going back and filling in those plot holes? I haven't outlined either my first book or my current WIP but I'm seriously considering it for my next book..

Martha said...

The Lake House sounds wonderful! A perfect summer read.
Thanks so much for the interview. I loved learning more about you.

Martha Swirzinski

Vivian Zabel said...

Susan, you asked questions that brought out much about Nancy and her writing.

Nancy, I liked your answer about "voice." So many people believe "voice" means whatever they write and however they write it. That any changes requested by an editor is changing their "voice."

Nancy Famolari said...

Thanks for the great comments. Margaret, I don't have any secrets about not outlining. I find that when I reread the book, some things don't work in the time line. I guess the answer is that I make a detailed timeline and make sure all the incidents fit. That usually entails considerable rewriting.

Vivian, thanks for the comments about voice. I completely agree with you. It's not a reason to go against your editor!

Janet Ann Collins said...

I enjoyed learning more about Nancy and her books. The mystery series sounds exciting!

Karen Cioffi said...

I love the cover of The Lake House. I'm not an outlines either, but then again I haven't written any novels.:)
I like the idea of a timeline.

kathy stemke said...

Great interview , ladies. I enjoyed learning about your writing process, Nancy.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting interview. Thoughtful questions & answers.
J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer
Children's picture Book Klutzy Kantor
Coming Soon Marta Gargantuan Wings

Beth Reinke said...

Nice interview, Nancy and Susan. I like your "seat of the pants" plotting technique, Nancy. Makes sense!

Nancy Famolari said...

Thanks for the great comments. Karen, you should try a novel sometime!! Susan, thank you for a fun day!

J D Webb said...

Great interview, Susan.

Nancy wonderful to learn more about a fellow Museitup Clubber. Wishing you much success with your book.

Dallas said...

What a great interview! I love reading books with strong female protagonists. Best of luck, Nancy!

Susan Whitfield said...

Thanks for the wonderful comments. Nancy, is indeed, talented.

Virginia S Grenier said...

Nancy, I'm the same way with my characters. I never fully see them until they have a name.

Great interview!

Nancy Famolari said...

Thanks for all the comments. I had a wonderful time, Susan!