Saturday, June 5, 2010

Not Afraid of the "F" Word...Judy Merrill Larsen Stops in for a Visit

Today I’d like to introduce you to my friend and women’s fiction writer Judy Merrill Larsen. I met Judy several years ago through Laura Bradford (Elizabeth Lynn Casey). Judy and I were on Laura’s MS walk team. (Late this month, I’ll introduce you to another one of Laura’s team members.) I hope you enjoy the interview and stick around for the drawing.

Me: Judy, ALL THE NUMBERS is one of my favorite adult books. I took it with me on to a conference. I remember crying on the plane. (Not big out loud crying, tears running down cheeks crying.) It was the best conference I’ve ever been to, but every night I was dying to get to bed so I could read your book. My roommate went straight to sleep and laid there reading and crying until 1 in the morning every night, until I finished your book. It was emotionally overwhelming. Did any particular event cause you to write it?

Judy: The idea for the book came to me when I was at my best friend's lake house and our kids were playing in the lake while we watched from the dock. A jet skier went by and I thought, "what if?" What if one of the kids had been out too far? What would that do to me as a mother? As a friend? How would I recover from something like that? The whole story just flowed from there.

Me: Judy, even though you have one published book, do you ever doubt yourself?

Judy: Of course. I think all writers struggle at times--is this manuscript good enough? Will I ever get published again? Will readers connect with my work? But you have to learn to push those doubts aside and control what you can control--and that's the writing.

Me: What advice can you give to aspiring authors?

Judy: Read everything you can--things in your genre, things in other genres--it doesn't matter, just read. And then write. Set goals and aim toward them. Don't ever give up.

Me: I’ve done several posts on writing routines and setting weekly goals. Do you have a writing routine?

Judy: Yes. I try to write nearly every day--even if it's just to tweak what I write the day before. When I'm in full writing mode, my goal is to write 1500 words a day. And I never let myself stop when I'm stuck. I always make myself write through the "dead zone" and I always try to stop when I'm excited about what comes next.

Me: I love researching, what is your favorite type of research?

Judy: I love talking to people who have "inside information"--they always give me such wonderful details and usually I'm surprised by some of the things I learn from them which not only add depth to my story but often also take me in a new direction with it.

Me: Do you have an agent? How does having an agent help you?

Judy: I love, love, love my agent. A good agent is your link to publishing. She knows which editors are looking for which manuscripts and she also knows the business side so I all I have to worry about is writing the best book I can write.

Me: Do you have a favorite book?

Judy: My favorite book of all time is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It's such a perfect, sweet, powerful story. And my 15 years as an English teacher really developed my love of classics--GRAPES OF WRATH, THE SOUND AND THE FURY, and THE THINGS THEY CARRIED.

Me: At this point in your career, do have a critiquing partner or beta reader?

Judy: Not officially. I have several good writing friends and we'll exchange work at times, but it's nothing formal or structured or organized.

Me: As an aspiring writer I hear that being socially available is so important. Do you do school visits? Book signings? Library visits?

Judy: Oh, my gosh, I love to visit school and libraries and book stores to meet readers and talk about books and writing. I've probably visited (in person or by phone) with close to 100 book clubs since my novel came out--it's one of my absolute favorite things to do!

I’d like to thank Judy for stopping by today. I’ll be using to give away two signed hardback copies of Judy’s book ALL THE NUMBERS on Friday, June 11th at 3:00. (I know that’s an odd time, but I’m doing a cancer walk from 6 to midnight.) Here’s what you have to do: be a follower on my blog, leave a comment telling your favorite adult book (Yeah, I know most of you read young adult…), hop over and check out Judy’s blog (Not Afraid of the “F” word) and her website.


  1. Hi Sharon and Judy ... I met Judy on the blogs back when I started blogging, and it's good to "see" her again! I agree with what she said about researching, and find that it's a great way of really layering a story, adding those authentic details.

    Great interview Ladies, have a nice weekend :)

  2. Oh wow - another lovely author interview! Thank you Sharon and thank you Judy! I know I always say this but I do find how writers work very very interesting - from writing x amount of words everyday to how they schedule their lives around their writing. Very inspiring! I like how she got the idea for this book btw - asking what if and weaving a story from the possibilities!

    Thank you!
    take care

  3. Great interview! Don't enter me in the contest (I've won enough prizes and am feeling greedy), but my favorite adult book is probably Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None) by Agatha Christie. I know, it's an oldie, but you're right, I don't read many adult books anymore. It was nice to "meet" Judy!

  4. Great interview, Sharon. And Judy had some great advice, like not allowing herself to get stuck, making herself write through the 'dead zone.' That can be so hard to do. Anyway, great job with your blog. I really enjoy your posts and appreciate all of the time and effort you put into them. Thank you. Blessings, Buffy

  5. A fun post with an interesting interview; I really enjoyed reading this and now, I will have to read Judy Larsen's book!...One of my favorite books since childhood (I was about 12 the first time I read it) was To Kill A Mockingbird as well...Hope you guys are having a happy weekend, Sharon.

  6. What an awesome interview! I loved to Kill a Mocking bird and I think it will always be my favorite book!

    The book she's written sounds really good though, what a "what if" moment! How powerful it must be! On my list of books to read for sure!

  7. I'm jealous, Sharon... surrounded by all these talented friends of yours, some good luck is bound to rub off on you! Thanks for another great interview! Too many favorite books to mention here...

  8. Hi Sharon,
    thanks for popping by my blog. I love how you refer to me as "writer" in your right hand links column. One day, one day... When there's more time, I hope it will be writer over teacher.

    I've noticed that US schools tend to let out earlier and go back earlier.My friends in California are off now, as of Friday, but need to go back in mid August. Same for Georgia, which goes back in early August. We have until after Labour Day, so getting out so late is not a problem. Actually, the only real problem is we've had a heatwave for the last 3 weeks and the classrooms are more like ovens. What's the Michigan schedule like? I'm always curious.


  9. My favorite adult books are A Time to Kill by John Grisham and The Dirt by Motley Crue :)

    Wonderful interview, ladies. That book sounds like a tearjerker!
    I'm so overprotective of my kids (though I'm slowly giving them a little more freedom), but I can seriously bring myself to tears thinking about the "what ifs" that could happen to them.

  10. Sharon, thank you for pointing me to Judy and her blog! I would love to check it out. I'm intrigued by All the Numbers. The cover is beautiful, and OMG, a book that made you cry like that? A rare gem, for sure. Thanks for the recommendation.

  11. Great interview, I also like The sound and the fury!
    Lovely blog you have here! =D

  12. This was a great interview. I can really feel Judy's enthusiasm. :)

    All the best,

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  13. thanks for the great interview Sharon and Judy ... it is always fun and interesting to peek inside an author's mind :)

  14. A beautiful cover!!

    I mostly read women's fiction (which I suppose is why I write it!), but I don't often hear of good referrals, so I will have to check this one out!

  15. That cover is incredible!

    I love and have always loved THE BEAN TREES.

  16. What a great interview. Thanks, ladies! I never get tired of hearing advice from authors. It's so encouraging and helpful.

    I don't read a lot of Adult fiction, but I'm reading Marisa de los Santos' Love Walked In right now and I love it.

    Good luck with the cancer walk, Sharon!

  17. Awesome Interview. Thanks to both of you. My favorite adult books are All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy) and The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway).

  18. Great interview! Sounds like a must read. Growing up I knew a kid who was killed by his brother who was on a jet ski. So traumatic. Horrible. Poor kid. How do you move past something like that? Definitely curious to read the book.

    And I'll have to go with Wild Swans by Jung Chang. I didn't intend to read the whole thing, but it was fascinating non-fiction about 3 generation of women growing up in China.

  19. Wow, I'm envious. Surrounded by all those famous friends. And all I have is one feline princess in my circle. Unless you count the ghosts. Another great interview. Great job, Roland

  20. Great interview, great blog. keri a.k.a. sam

  21. hi miss sharon! its neat how some times a little thing could make a idea for a story just jump right inside you. i like how you shared out your talk with your friend. she sounds real nice. ...hugs from lenny

  22. What a delightful interview! I'm just finishing up spring classes, and I needed something to get me to write once the grading is all over. Thanks!

    My current favorite is L.M. Montgomery's only adult novel, The Blue Castle.

  23. Great author interview! I love reading these. My favorite book? May be cliche but it's a tie between Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

  24. How the heck did I miss this? Great interview, yet another book for my list! ;)

    My favorite classic book is Pride & Prejudice. I have a lot of favorite contemporaries, but I LOVED the Witching Hour by Anne Rice. There are more but that's the first one that came to mind.

  25. I'd love to win a copy!!! I'll post this contest on my sidebar and I'll pray that would love to pick me as a winner! LOL

  26. Oh this was a really good interview! I have to say that I love the concept and cover and it looks like my kind of book:)) (did that sound like I wanted to be picked??? Cause I do!!)

  27. Thanks so much for introducing me to all your friends, Sharon!

  28. You are welcome, Judy. It was a delight having you visit. :) Best wishes on your next book...