By day I work 60 hour weeks. At night I am a devoted father and husband to the world's greatest family. Somewhere in the non-existent time between the two, I am a writer. Join me from the beginning as I chronicle my adventures to become a successful published author.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 50 - Interview with Tristi Pinkston, Blog Bash Winner, and More! - Writing Wisdom

Alright, so there are four major things to cover today, but one one is lengthy:

1) It finally happened. For the first time since this blog was created, I missed a blog post! Yesterday, day 49, I simply could not get an interview quick enough. However, the ever awesome an wonderful Tristi Pinkston, author of 6 books and the Secret Sisters mystery series agreed to do an interview. As I knew the interview was in progress, I made the decision to post it today. So yes, I missed a day... but I was working on it, so I count it as a tardy!

2) Interview with Tristi will be below. She has some really great answers and in the midst of my hard day today, she made me laugh. So thanks a million Tristi!

3) Blog Bash Winner! I am two days late, and I apologize. I think me saying it's been crazy busy is probably redundant now, as it should be apparent that my life is... interesting. To top it off,  I drowned my work phone in water yesterday. No joke. Was submerged for a good 20 minutes before I realized what was happening.

Anyway... drumroll.... the winner is...:

Renae W. Mackley!

 Congratulations Renae! You have won two all natural bath bombs/fizzies from Serendipity Gourmet Bath! Contact me at to arrange for your prize!

4) Another "it finally happened" moment. I lost my first follower. No idea who it was, other than I believe it was one my the new people from the blog bash. I am totally comfortable with this, though there is still a very tiny twinge of sadness. However, the Blog Bash brought people from multiple interests in the blogosphere, and I certainly understand that perhaps a dedicated writing blog isn't everyone's cup of tea.

As an FYI, the writing wisdom for today is short and sweet due to the interview and other items:

One of my favorite quotes growing up was from Mark Twain. He once said:

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
I think it would be hard to argue this point, and he said it so beautifully too. Sometimes lightning bugs are beautiful. They are beautiful if you don't look too closely, and there are tons of them. Lightning on the other hand is not just a pretty glow, it's an illuminating blast that can light our path and shake our world. We don't always need to have lightning, but sometimes we know there is "the right word" for a certain segment in our writing. Don't get lazy or frustrated. Mark it in red to come back to later if you must, but don't let it go.


Tristi Pinkston is the author of six novels. Originally beginning in historical fiction, she has since expanded to mysteries and romantic suspense. Additionally, she has taken the experience she has had with publishing and editing and turned it into a side business as an editor, virtual book tour coordinator, and online writing instructor. Further, she sends out a weekly email to those who have signed up for weekly writing tips. You can visit her main website at, where you will find links to her books, services, blog, and more!

Matt: When did you first fall in love with writing?
Tristi: When I was about five.  I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer—it’s just always been a part of me.
Matt: When did you begin earnest work on your first novel?
Tristi: In 1999.  I had dabbled with writing up until then, but I hadn't hit on an idea that felt really right to me.  The plot for my first novel, Nothing to Regret, actually came to me as part of a dream, and when I woke up, I knew I’d found something I could work with.

Matt: Did you have much support from those around you initially?
Tristi: Yes and no.  My parents were supportive, but my husband wasn’t so sure at first.  He wondered if it would actually bring in money, but then he started to notice how happy it was making me, and became supportive because he knew it was bringing me joy. I’m sorry to say that some of my friends didn’t take it too well, but I’ve made wonderful new friends through the writing community.

Matt: What struggles did you face trying to finish your first novel? Do you feel it's easier now? Why?
Tristi: When you’re first writing, there’s so much to learn.  I had to get a handle on plotting and transitioning, and that was a struggle for me at times.  I also dealt with self-doubt, the fact that my research hadn’t uncovered certain facts I needed to know, etc. Now it’s easier because I know how to keep from making certain mistakes in the first place—I can now write in three drafts instead of eight—and I have the elements down.  But there are still struggles.  I worry that my next book won’t be as good as my last one, I worry about how to effectively market, I worry about having enough time to write.  I’d say that there are challenges at every stage.  They just are a little different.

Matt: How many rejection letters did you go through at first?
Tristi: My story is unique in that I actually didn’t go through too many.  I was rejected by Deseret Book, Covenant had it for a year and a rewrite before deciding against it, and then I had an offer from another company, but they needed me to help pay for the printing, and I decided not to go that route.  Then I approached Granite, and they picked it up.  So I didn’t have
to look as long and as hard as some others.  I did literally have a baby while I waited for Covenant to get back with me, though.  J
Matt: You've written six novels, but the last two have been the beginning of a mystery series (I love mystery series!) called Secret Sisters. Had this idea been boiling for a while?
Tristi: I hadn't intended to write mysteries.  In fact, when I started out my career, I thought I’d be happy for the rest of my life writing historical fiction.  I still love historical fiction and will continue to write it, but when the idea for Secret Sisters hit, I knew I had to run with it.  Let’s see … I got the idea probably four years ago.  Our former stake leadership had asked us to find out who in our wards had food storage and 72-hour kits so they’d know who needed help in getting prepared, and some ward members felt that was nosy, that they were being spied on.  My husband and I were talking about the situation, and suddenly
I said, “What if home teachers and visiting teachers really were spying on people?” That sparked off a hysterical conversation that became the basis for the book.

Matt: What are your plans for the series?
Tristi: The series is all written and just waiting for publication.  The next book, Hang ‘em High, takes Ida Mae and her friends to a dude ranch in Montana.  That one will be released at the end of July/early August.  The fourth book, Targets in Ties, will come out in November and is set in Mexico.  When Ida Mae, Tansy, and Arlette travel south of the border to pick Ren up from his mission, you know something wild is going to happen.  The fifth book, Till Death Do Us Part, concludes the series and ties up all the plot arcs,romantic and otherwise. I don’t know exactly when it’s coming out yet – I would presume spring of next year.

Matt: Where and how do you write (ie, in a recliner, outside, whenever you can, block time, listening to music, etc)?
Tristi: I have a laptop and I sometimes write sitting up in bed, but my most effective writing takes place right here at my desktop computer on my ball chair and with my ergonomic keyboard.  I can’t listen to music when I write—I have to sing along when there’s music, and I can’t sing and write at the same time.  I usually write late at night after the kids are in bed.

Matt: What is your favorite moment you've had as an author?
Tristi: I’ve had several.  I love it when people tell me I kept them up all night because they were reading my book and couldn’t put it down.  I’ve gotten to meet amazing people that I’ve looked up to for years.  One was meeting John Bytheway – he’d read one of the manuscripts I submitted to Deseret Book and really liked it, so he was excited to meet me, which was new and unusual for me.  Usually I’m the one excited to meet famous people, not the other way around.  I’ve also gotten to see several authors that I’ve mentored become published – that’s so neat.

Matt: The most embarrassing?
Tristi: Any time I say something stupid when I’m presenting.  One was while teaching dialogue to the League of Utah Writers.I was trying to demonstrate chit-chat and how it doesn't work in a book.  I asked one of the audience members (Keith Fisher) how he’d arrived at the meeting.  I meant to ask, “Did you fly in a plane, or did you come by boat?” What I actually said was, “Did you fly a boat?”  Um … yeah, that one got Tweeted pretty instantly.

Matt: The worst? 
Tristi: Some of the worst moments are when I feel I’m not living up to my potential, or when I feel I have and I still didn’t quite hit what I was trying for.  It’s hard when you’ve given your absolute all to something and it wasn’t quite good enough.

Matt: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Tristi: Shut the mouth and open the ears.  In my work as an editor, I have seen the difference between authors who listen and implement, and authors who want to defend every little thing and never make changes for the betterment of their book. The more you listen to sound advice from those who know what they are talking about, the stronger your writing will be. No one writes perfectly out of the gate, and you need to be willing to continually work to hone your craft.

Matt: What are you working on right now in terms of writing?
Tristi: I’m working on several things, actually.  First is a YA contemporary novel—something I never thought I’d write, but I got the idea and here I am.  Second is a nonfiction inspirational book geared toward women which will be released around Mother’s Day next year.  My other project is a new series, a spin-off of The Secret Sisters Mysteries.  Two FBI agents go to Utah to bring down a Mafia family, and they have to learn how to act like Mormons so they can blend in.  Oh, and there’s a cookbook that goes along with the Secret Sisters series, too.

Matt: Can you share a short piece? 
Tristi: Oh, sure.  Why not?  This is a snippet from Marigolds and Murder, the first book in the new series. Jack and Molly are working undercover in a floral shop.  They are FBI agents, not shopkeepers, and Molly isn’t even remotely craftsy.  This is what happens when she can’t arrange a dozen roses in a vase:

            After twenty agonizing minutes, all twelve roses were in the vase, and Molly was in tears.  No matter what she did, the arrangement looked terrible.  She wasn’t cut out for this.  She had tried to tell Agent Blevins, but he seemed to think it was the easiest thing in the world.
            She grabbed one of the bows Esther had left behind and jammed it into the vase.  It was like putting a silk negligee on a Jersey cow—didn’t matter how you dressed it up, it was still ugly.  She pulled her gun out of its holster, took a stance, and leveled the barrel.
            “So, you’re gonna be a wise guy, are you? You’re gonna mess with my head, are you? Well, go ahead. Make my day.”
            She heard the back door to the shop open behind her.  Jack came to her side.  “Honey, we can’t shoot the flowers.”
            “Why not? They’re behaving illegally all over the place.”
            “I’m sure they are, but I don’t think shooting them is the answer.”
Matt: Any final words for our readers and your devotees?
Tristi: Never give up.  Never surrender. And thank you for this fun opportunity, Matthew!


What a fun interview, Matt! Thanks for sharing. Tristi Pinkston and Mark Twain in the same post? How will you ever top that?

Great interview!

Just incase you were wondering, I didn't leave you. True and Blue to the end!

Oh my. I didn't realize I wasn't following you, Matt. There. Fixed. So I just made up for the poor, misguided soul who decided to unfollow you ;-)

I loved this post, Matt! Wonderful interview!

And I wouldn't worry about the unfollower. I had one unfollow me the same day, too. They probably just followed us for the contest, and unfollowed afterward.

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