Catching Up with Bonnie Schroeder

On September 30, 2013, my life changed forever, but in a good way. That was the day I got an email from Champlain Avenue Books, telling me that they wanted to publish my novel, Mending Dreams. It’s been a wild ride since. 

On the glorious day I held an honest-to-God copy of my novel, I barely had time to savor the moment before launching into my first-ever marketing campaign, which has become a never-ending process. 

The best thing about being published? Hands down, it’s connecting with readers, listening to their take on the novel, answering (or trying to answer) their questions. I have been so gratified by the response to Mending Dreams. My writer friends and colleagues have really come through for me, too: they’ve written reviews, told their friends to buy it, and so on. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the writing community is one of the most generous in the world, and I feel blessed to be a part of this wacky but wonderful profession. 

So, 2013 ended on a high note, and January 2014 saw the actual release of my novel. I tell you, typing my name in the Amazon search box and seeing my novel come up was one of the highlights of my life. I just stared at the computer screen for a while as reality sank in. I felt so validated. 

Things went downhill from there for a while. In February, I lost one of my best friends, my 12-year-old German shepherd, Echo, to bone cancer. It was a rough ending to her life, and my beauty endured it with more courage and grace than I did. Reeling from that loss, I faced another: my 15-year-old kitty, Elvie, succumbed to squamous cell carcinoma, and suddenly my animal family was cut in half.  

I was grateful for the distraction of my writing career as I immersed myself in marketing Mending Dreams; getting my website up and running, meeting with book club members and participating in “local author” events, approaching librarians and bookstore managers about carrying my book and letting me do a talk in their venue.  Meanwhile, I finished a solid draft of my next novel, with the help of my online critique group, and once it “cools”, I’m ready to clean it up and start the dance all over again. 

And last September–almost a year to the day since that exhilarating email from Champlain Avenue Books–I found my new best friend, a little whirlwind of white fur and puppy teeth: Thunder, a Swiss shepherd who has all the makings of a great dog if I don’t mess up her training completely.  She has definitely halted my writing process for the moment, but the pages are sitting in plain sight, calling my name, and any day now, while Thunder’s taking a rare nap, I’ll sit down at the table and dive back into the fictional world I’ve been building. 

Stay tuned…

Jacqueline Vick’s Blog: A Writer’s Jumble: Bonnie Schroeder Lives Her Dream with "Mending Dre…

Jacqueline Vick’s Blog: A Writer’s Jumble: Bonnie Schroeder Lives Her Dream with “Mending Dre…: Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the 5th grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing f…

Interview with WinR Bonnie Schroeder

We are very excited to introduce you to WinR Bonnie Schroeder. An author of women’s fiction and short stories, Bonnie can effortlessly move her readers from tears to spine-tingling chills. She can also make you laugh while you squirm, recognizing yourself in her characters. You can read a sample of her fiction on The Rose City Sisters blog by clicking here.

Bonnie, you are one of the most positive people I know. Good fiction includes tension, but it surprises me how well you are able to show pain and anger and frustration in your characters. How do you access these “darker” places without bringing yourself down?

Therapy, and years of practice! Seriously, it’s kind of cathartic for me, to let all that dark stuff out, transfer my own bad feelings and experiences onto the page and give them to someone else. I learned in writing classes that you have to “let your characters get dirty.” And after dragging my protagonist through the mud, I can look at my own life and think, “Heck, it’s not so bad.” And when all else fails, I hug my sweet Elvie cat; it is impossible to feel down when a cat is purring in your ear.

I’ve heard speakers dismiss writing groups as a waste of time. You belong to several as well as a book club. What would you say are the benefits offered by both types of groups?

Each has its own advantages. From my writing groups I get support, encouragement and specific suggestions on how to improve my craft. Seeing my fellow writers struggle with language, plot, characterization, internal logic, etc., is priceless reassurance that I’m not alone on this weird journey.

And I’m very blessed to have found some amazing, insightful, sensitive writers whose work I admire and who have mastered the art of the critique: first tell the writer what worked, so he or she doesn’t want to give up and knows what strengths to build on. Then move on to what didn’t work, without rewriting the story from the ground up.

There are not that many writing groups around who can pull this off. But don’t give up until you find one, or build one yourself. Trust me: it’s worth the struggle.

My book club also contains several writers – fortunately none are in direct competition! The club introduces me to work by writers I might otherwise have overlooked and suggests new directions for my own fiction. The members are all intelligent, perceptive people with strong and specific opinions on the books we read. Their comments and reactions give me a ton of insight into what appeals to readers, and what turns them off.

You read a wide range of subjects. Can you tell us what your favorite type of fiction is?

I have a lot of faves. I like well done suspense thrillers like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, and then again I’m a sucker for anything by Alice Hoffman or Anne Tyler, those sweetly incisive, literary, relationship-type novels.

I also enjoy well-written fiction that involves animals, such as Spencer Quinn’s “Chet and Bernie” mystery series, or The Art of Racing in the Rain – a two-hankie novel if ever there was one!!!

I’m a huge fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) with all its violence and gore. I know, go figure. . .

Actually, my favorite book is one that doesn’t cheat the reader, that delivers on its initial promise. I can tolerate a few technical errors if the book meets that mark.

I know how to plot a murder mystery, but how do you plot a literary novel or women’s fiction? Do you start with a character? An inciting incident? A character goal?

It’s weird, because they come to me in different ways. Sometimes it’s a “situation”: for example in my novel Remember to Breathe, it started out as an idea involving a woman whose husband had left her for another man. What if. . . . what if she learned he was dying? How would she feel? What would she do? What kind of woman would she be? And the story evolved from that.

My latest project is mostly character-driven. I started by seeing the two main characters and am in the process of following them around and trying to figure out who they are and what they want. I know the beginning and the very end, but everything in between is still a mystery to me.

Can you tell us anything about your current project?

I’m kind of superstitious in that I think telling the story dissipates its energy. . . and other such whoo-whoo beliefs. But it’s (I hope) a literary/commercial novel about a woman who marries an artist. Starts in 1966 and ends in 2000-something. Famous artists romp through the pages, along with pot-smoking hippies, corporate pirates, and a folksinger/rock star. All of which is subject to change, of course.

My main challenge is that I was actually married to an artist in the swinging 60’s, and although the story is purely the product of my imagination, I worry people will think, “Oh, that’s all about her and John.” Take my word for it: it’s not. If only my life had been that interesting!