Long and Short welcomes Liese Sherwood-Fabre whose debut novel Saving Hope is being released today. Alexandra's daughter in the novel is Nadezhda, which means “hope” in Russian. That’s where the title comes from—saving her daughter Hope.
Liese is currently working on another suspense/thriller novel set in Mexico and loosely based on the Lori Berenson case. She was an American woman arrested in Peru in 1995 for supporting a terrorist organization there. In mine, a young woman is arrested by the Mexican army and charged with terrorism—only in this case, the woman is the daughter of a U.S. Senator.
"How do you do your research for your books?" I asked.
"Thank goodness for the Internet! I can look up most of the information I need there. When that doesn’t work, there are books (I recently purchased one on how U.S. embassies operate). I also will put questions out to some writing groups. There’s a lot of expertise among different writers. Finally, so far, I have written about places I know--such as Mexico and Russia."
While doing her research, Liese found out that the US Foreign Service provides a formal system for any employee to influence policy through what is known as the dissenting channel. Anyone who is in disagreement with a situation or policy can send a message straight to the top of the State Department. Of course, they need to be able to support their position and to truly make changes, need to document it thoroughly, but it has been used successfully since the 1970s to affect foreign policy.
"I know I’m going to be putting that bit of info to good use somewhere, sometime," she told me.
Liese grew up in Dallas, Texas, and lived there until she went to college—forty-five minutes from home in Fort Worth.
"I could’ve done without the heat in the summer, but as a child there was Six Flags (we went every summer from the time it opened) and were close enough to Oklahoma where my cousins lived to drive up on a regular basis to visit them," she said. "Having lived other places, I’ve become aware of how proud Texans are of their state and its heritage. It was the only one that formed its own independent country with a president and currency before joining the Union."
One of the other places she lived was in Moscow and that's where she experienced one of the scariest moments of her life, shortly after the US entered the war in Bosnia. A man fired an anti-tank missile into the US embassy.
"I didn’t work in the embassy building. The US Agency for International Development (USAID, the foreign assistance arm of the US government) occupied the building behind it," she explained. "The missile went through the embassy’s outer wall and hit the copy machine. I heard the explosion, but felt relatively safe being surrounded by other buildings. Luckily, the room where the missile hit was empty at the time and no one was hurt."
Liese dabbled in creative writing throughout high school and undergraduate school, even winning two honorable mentions during her undergrad years at TCU in their annual writing contest. She began pursuing it seriously when she was working in Mexico in the 1990s.
"I had a subscription to Isaac Asimov’s science fiction magazine, and after reading one story, I thought to myself, 'I can do that.' Despite that first story’s rejection, I learned I could find the time to write and turned to writing a novel about a group of expatriate women living in Mexico. It will probably never be published, but I learned even more about writing from that experience."
In terms of books on writing, she found Sol Stein’s, Stephen King’s, and Robert McKee’s books very good in providing direction, however there are too many fiction writers who have inspired her for her to name.
When she was very little, however, she wanted to be an archeologist.
"Long before Indiana Jones was ever created, I thought it would be fun to seek out and discover ancient worlds," she told me. "Then I read about the work the work and knew I didn’t have the skill set needed to be a good one. I’m too impatient to sift through dirt one centimeter at a time. I’d want to hack away at something and probably destroy things in the process."
"Are you a plotter or a pantser?" I wondered.
"I would like to think I’m a plotter, but I often find myself going off the track I’ve laid out, so I’d have to say I’m a mix. I have an idea of where I want to go, but things pop up as I start writing, so I just keep writing, knowing that I’ll figure it out at some point. Once it’s finished, however, I do lay out the plot to determine if I’m hitting the turning points—what sends the story forward and into different directions—at the appropriate times."
Saving Hope is out in e-book format today through Musa Publishing and I asked Liese what she thought of the whole e-publishing trend.
"The e-reader market is exploding. Amazon sold more than 4 million Kindle units in the month of December. Not to mention Nook, iPad, Kobo, etc. All publishers are seeking to provide the material for all those readers. Traditional publishers were slow to pick up on this trend, and the e-publishers have been able to exploit this niche to their advantage. In addition, they are willing to take more of a chance on books that traditional publishers would say they can’t easily categorize. Traditional publisher are concerned with placing books on the shelves in brick and mortar stores where interested readers can find them. Where such labeling is a problem, they’ll often pass. E-publishers, on the other hand, can list books in several different categories on a Web site without a problem, increasing the type of reader a book might reach as well as offering readers a greater variety."
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"The most basic is: perseverance. Every once in a while, you might hear of someone who writes one book, finds a publisher immediately, and has a bestseller overnight, but I haven’t met them personally. Start writing, find a writers’ group to help you learn the both the craft and business ends, and find another writer and work as critique partners. Only start submitting to editors or agents when you have a finished product you can be proud of. Also, reading in the genre you’re writing will also help you with the cadence and vocabulary in your own works."
About the Author:
In one of Siberia's formerly closed cities, Alexandra Pavlova, an unemployed microbiologist, struggles to save her daughter’s life. When she turns to Vladimir, her oldest friend, for help, she's drawn into Russia’s underworld. His business dealings with the Iranians come to the attention of Sergei Borisov, an FSB (formerly the KGB) agent. Alexandra finds herself joining forces with Sergei to stop the export of a deadly virus in a race to save both her daughter and the world.