"I never even took any classes until I was quite far along with writing – I wish I had!”
An Interview with Eva Woods, Author of SOMETHING LIKE HAPPY
By B. Lynn Goodwin
Our Emotions Fluctuate
Did you ever try #100 Days of Happiness, which swept through Facebook not long ago? Is it possible or is it pie-in-the-sky? Eva Woods, the author of Something Like Happy first thought of this novel because of that Facebook challenge. The result is a story that will embrace you, just as one of the characters, Polly, embraces life to the best of her ability.
Annie Hebden hates her job, her past, her present, and the terrible loss that made everything spiral downhill. Colorfully, bubbly Polly breaks up the black cloud Annie carries around, because she knows time is too short to waste even a day. So she challenges Annie to 100 Days of Happiness, Surprise, and Participation in Life. No one says no to Polly, except for one. (Spoiler alert; I may have overstepped my boundaries.)
Something Like Happy is the premiere publication of Graydon House Books, an imprint of Harlequin. Note: This is not a Harlequin romance. The company is expanding to meet the needs of a changing market and the ever-evolving
world of publishing.
Eva Woods’ writing will fill you with joy, amazement, and perspective as she takes you on a whirlwind celebration of life. Here she talks about her unique process, publishing today, and much more. Let her ideas inspire you.
BLG: Tell us about your background. How did you become interested in writing and how did you develop your skills?
EW: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a geeky kid living in an Irish village and reading everything I could get from the library. However, I didn’t think this was a job people actually did, so I spent my 20s writing in secret and not finishing or sending anything out, before I finally realized I had to just go for it and try to finish a book. I never even took any classes until I was quite far along with writing – I wish I had!
BLG: Did Something Like Happy start with Polly, Annie, cancer, Alzheimer’s, a combination or something else? How did it grow into material for a novel?
EW: It initially grew out of the #100HappyDays challenge, and I started to wonder how that would apply if you weren’t a happy, positive person — or if, in fact, you’d had a lot of terrible things happen to you and hated the whole idea of it. Once I hit on the 100 chapters/100 days structure, it all came together nicely.
BLG: Your characters are wonderfully three-dimensional. Any tips for letting readers inside the heads of characters dealing with emotional situations?
EW: Thank you! One good tip I came across recently was that people don’t always react the way you might think, for example screaming with fear or crying with sadness. We often bury our emotions or feel something that might seem inappropriate while we’re in the middle of difficult situations. Sometimes you just get your head down and try to survive it, and you only feel sad later. Also, no one is happy or sad all the time. Our emotions fluctuate.
BLG: Your voice is so strong. How did you develop your effective and engaging voice?
EW: I love writing “in voice,” although that’s usually easier in the first person, which this book isn’t. I try to think of what words and references the character would use, not just when speaking but also when thinking, and I also like to use a lot of direct thoughts and internal monologue to get close to them.
BLG: What would you, Eva Woods, do if you only had 100 days to live?
EW: I would have to travel a lot – I have a long list of places I still want to go. And I would definitely stop trying to eat healthily and just have a lot of cake, as Polly does in the book.
BLG: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever got from an editor?
EW: My agent is a great editor and she’s helped me realize I often make the same point too many times – that I can trust the reader to get what I’m saying the first time, even if it is quite subtle. This also makes the book pacier!
BLG: How has the publishing world changed since your first book came out?
EW: It was only five years ago, but things have changed a lot! There’s much more emphasis on ebooks, hardbacks have almost disappeared, book launches are becoming scarcer, and advances are down for many experienced authors, while first-time writers are sometimes getting enormous payouts. I think the industry hasn’t quite got to grips with digital yet, but I’m hopeful that we will.
BLG: What are you working on now?
EW: I’m always working on several things. I’ve finished the follow-up to Something Like Happy and am trying to work out what the book after that will be. I know the basic idea but once again it’s going to have an unusual structure, so I need to figure that out!
BLG: I like the way you keep going and the ideas keep flowing. Thank you for all that you shared in this interview. I’m happy to have you share any or all of it on your webpage, and of course I’d be delighted if you link it to Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com.
Life is a combination of joy, sadness, humdrum, tension, right, wrong, and much more. Sometimes you need to focus or reset, and Something Like Happy will help you do this. Take a break, observe these characters, and sit back and enjoy the ride.