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Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Anna Collins!!

Today we’re welcoming another Omega, Anna Collins, whose book RESURRECTING ANNIE WOLFF is a finalist in the Mainstream with Central Romance category!

Anna grew up in a land far far away – Sweden to be exact – but moved to the US after meeting her American husband back in 2002. After two more international moves and several domestic ones, she now lives in the greater Seattle area with said husband, their 12-year-old son, and 10-year-old daughter. A puppy will be joining the brood later this year. A former high school teacher, Anna currently spends her time not really at all using her master’s degree in educational psychology, instead rearing children and indulging whatever creative fancies arise, be it writing, making music, painting and drawing, baking, sewing, or light carpentry. Why choose one?

Here’s a blurb for RESURRECTING ANNIE WOLFF (Trigger warning: depression/suicide)

Eight years ago, Annie Wolff abdicated motherhood to spare her children her maternal legacy of depression and suicide. But when their dad dies and Annie finds out relatives are looking to adopt the now teenage kids, she decides to come out of her self-imposed exile to make sure they are all right. The last thing she expects is to be pulled close enough for someone to do the same for her.

 Before long, she is sucked back not only into the lives of her unfamiliar family, but also that of Wic Dubray – the handsome but annoyingly honest former pot dealer who leases her a room. Amidst old memories, hostile family members, her own internal monster, and Wic, she must learn to believe she can shape her own destiny apart from the generations before her in order to win back her children, her life, and love.

Ooh!! This is why I’m so happy RWA brought back the Mainstream with a Central Romance category!! This sounds like such an interesting and rich and complicated story, even though the subject matter probably wouldn’t fit in any traditional Romance lines.

Congrats, Anna, on your final!!

Gather round, everybody. My backyard’s wonderfully sunny this morning, and my family just adopted our puppy a few weeks ago, so it’s a good place to be!! (Anna, I won’t say anything about the 1 a.m. whining-puppy trips outside or the struggle to teach her that the cats really DON’T enjoy puppy bounces or the mysterious disappearances of all our socks or the current condition of my carpets, sigh…just the wonderful bits!! Which are truly wonderful.)

So let’s settle back in some Adirondack chairs and take turns tossing a tennis ball to this sweet girl while I lob some questions Anna’s way.

 

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Welcome, Anna! Wonderful to have you with us! Can you tell us a little more about RESURRECTING ANNIE WOLFF and the process of writing it?

I should say right off the bat that my GH book is Women’s Fiction so I feel a teensy weensy bit out of place in the hallowed halls of romance. I suppose I tend to use romance as seasoning in my stories, rather than as the main course.

That’s all good! Anyone who’s a fan of the Outlander books or series, or a fan of Darynda Jones, or a fan of Deeana Raybourn (and if you’re not, folks, get cracking!!!) knows that romance in a non-“Romance” book makes a very good seasoning indeed! And those can be the most amazing love stories!! (Gonna put in a good word for The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry while I’m at it!) Sorry, Annie, do go on….

The seed for this book was really a two-page brain dump I wrote seven years ago when my son started Kindergarten. I think I was feeling all the mom feels of leaving my oldest somewhere, so I wrote a scene in which a mother drops her kids off at school knowing it’s the last time she’ll ever see them, because something internal is forcing her to leave. I remember ugly-crying in front of my laptop in an almost cathartic way – and then I probably went and picked my son up again. (Those half-days went by real fast…)

Oh my gosh! I’m all up in my feels already—and my youngest is 14. So it started out cathartic…or a way to process an intense emotion by taking to it an absolute extreme. And then what?

That scene sat untouched until last year when I was looking for inspiration for a new story. Voila! Annie was born. It’s such a taboo topic – mothers abandoning their children – and I wanted to explore the possibility of redemption. While Annie is still alive after eight years away from her family, she’s battled depression all along and forged her own sort of prison to atone for her maternal failure, so the story is not only about rebuilding a relationship with her now teenage children, but also about forgiving herself and allowing herself to come back to life. Hence the title. Of course, this is the Golden Heart, so part of Annie’s journey is also a love story with a car crash meet-cute in the rain, lots of pining, and that glorious release when she finally gives in to the possibility of happiness with her guy.

Yay!! And that’s the best part of Romance, after all! So is Women’s Fiction what you usually write, or do you move into other genres? Is there a common thread in the types of stories you write? What influences them?

 Women’s Fiction is my jam, but I do switch between contemporary and historical on occasion. I have to think about the ‘common thread’ question . . . . Something I see in most of my stories is a general theme of reinvention of self. I suppose it’s not that far-fetched to see a parallel to my own journey of making a life in a country very different from the one I grew up in. I like to say I have a Swedish personality and an American one. People interact differently here, and that forced me to unearth sides of myself I hadn’t really accessed before. Some changes I’ve consciously worked on, others have snuck up on me, and I guess I just enjoy analyzing myself and others that way. If nothing else, it’s helpful for the stories!

That’s so fascinating! Yes, you’ve made a huge leap! Americans definitely have their own style of interacting with people…and it’s different even in different parts of the country. So you’ve learned a lot about yourself—analyzing yourself, as you say. What have you learned about yourself as a writer? What aspects of your personality do you draw on most? What parts get in the way?

 While I dabbled in song writing when I was younger, I didn’t start writing fiction until I was 32 and not seriously until I was 37, so for me that meant life had already taught me about blind spots. What really helps me is I ask lots of questions and willingly acknowledge that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. I seek out opportunities to learn more, such as PitchWars (class of -17, yeah!), and that has helped SO MUCH! I really credit PW as a crash course in craft and editing, not to mention discipline. I’m also pretty good with deadlines. The only way I can get my first drafts down is to do 80k words in two months with daily word goals and no days off. It’s a bit insane, but works for me. (Don’t ask my family what they think…)

On the flip side, I’m a terrible procrastinator when I don’t set a deadline, so I basically have super productive spurts throughout the year with periods of thumb-twiddling and social media deep-dives in between.

I hear you on the thumb-twiddling and the social media deep-dives. I call it the “binge and purge” approach to writing. Luckily, I once heard a quote from John Updike (which I can’t find again) that said something about writer’s NEEDING to waste time and stare at the sky…it’s all part of filling the well so the writing can happen. So, anyway, when the writing does happen for you, what are the bursts like?

Like I said, I tend to draft quickly. The past few years that’s meant I usually write a new book around Feb/March (mornings are best – BEFORE checking email in case rejections lurk therein…), do a few rounds of revisions, have CPs read in the summer, revise more in the fall, another round of beta reads, send off to agent end of year. Rinse and repeat. I honestly couldn’t do any of it without my CPs and the greater writing community I’ve found with PitchWars (and now the GH!). From brain storming ideas, walking through plot snags, and generally commiserating when the impostor syndrome gets too real, to their thoughtful feedback on the full script – I’m SO thankful to have them! I learn something new each time.

I definitely plot at least the main beats of the story before I write, and I like to know my MC’s arc, but other than that, I don’t plot details. I tried chapter by chapter plotting for one book, and while it was pretty easy to write, it also took some of the enjoyment out of it for me. My favorite writing books at the moment are “Save the Cat writes a novel,” “No plot? No problem,” and “Take off your pants.” They’re pretty to the point and offer plenty of practical advice. I also use “The Emotion Thesaurus” a lot when I draft.

Great books! I found the “Take Off Your Pants” book to be genuinely useful for my spreadsheet-allergic brain. And the Pitch Wars connection sounds great—it’s been a big part of several Omegas’ journeys! What are some of the most important lesson or things you’ve learned so far about the publishing industry?

 At this point, I’m pursuing traditional publication and I currently have two manuscripts on sub through my agent. The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is that it’s the actual writing, the putting-words-on-the-page, that matters most. It’s so easy to get bogged down by all of the waiting, all the rejections, all the mulling over what the wording in an editor’s response means, and that kills creativity dead. So once my GH book went on sub in January, I made a conscious decision not to think about it and wrote a new book, which I’m currently editing. Distraction really is the best remedy. The publishing industry is SO slow and SO subjective, all we can do is keep making stuff up! For me it’s important to try and keep the flow of the creative writing process separate from the business part (not that I always succeed…), and I do that by moving forward once a book is done.

Yes! Yes! Yes!! Just keep writing the next book!! Sounds like you’ve found your groove! So, do you have a question for our readers today to get the conversation going?

One of my favorite writing quotes is from Terry Pratchett, who says, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” It keeps me focused when my drafting feels like sloppy run-off from the sausage factory.

So, readers, what’s your favorite writing quote and why?

 

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Connect with Anna Collins on Social Media:

https://twitter.com/AEC_Writer

https://www.instagram.com/aeccreates/

https://www.aecollinsbooks.com/

26 responses to “Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Anna Collins!!”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Anna! Great to have you with us!

    My favorite writing quote? That’s tough…I have so many.

    Maybe my favorite is from Doctorow: ‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Thanks so much for having me!

      Yes, I love that quote because it’s so true. I think of that sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by a big project – how you only really have to take a few steps forward at any given time and by doing small chunks like that you eventually do eventually get to The End.

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  2. Jennifer Whitney Bray-Weber says:

    I am in love with your premise for Resurrecting Annie Wolff. Such a fresh spin. What a great interview, too. I am completely with you on life teaching the blind spots. I, too, started this writing business in my mid-to-late 30s. And I have a thirst for knowledge. I especially love research.

    My favorite quote isn’t really a writing quote, but it still rings true.

    If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain. ~ Dolly Parton

    Congrats on your GH final, Anna. I wish you the best of luck!!!

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear I’m not the only one who didn’t get into this in their teens or twenties!!

      Dolly Parton is a wise woman. If everything was cake and roses, what would we have to write about?

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  3. Becke Turner says:

    Anna,

    Wow! The Omegas rock and I love reading about the fascinating stories they create and lead. I’m humbled to be included.

    I love the depth allowed in women’s fiction and tend to favor it for reading pleasure. I was also intrigued with your writing process. Your draft creation sounds like a hard push, but I understand the drive to finish.

    I guess that leads me to a quote, many which were quips from my late father: Strike while the iron is hot. I’d say you have that one down in spades!

    I love your reinvention theme. I think women do this throughout life because of the daughter, lover, wife, mother, and grandmother roles we fill.

    I’m sure this story will be a huge success.
    b

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Thanks Becke! Yes, it’s that depth I love so much about WF too – the complicated inner lives of women. Not always easy to capture in writing, but I aspire to one day be great at it! 🙂 Fingers crossed.

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  4. Congrats on your final, Anna! I love this interview and how your book feels so different and fresh. Can’t wait to see it out in the world.

    Favorite writing quotes… I don’t know if it counts as a quote, but my first mentor used to tell me, “Just generate.” It helped me turn off my internal editor and focus on filling pages with words.

    Good luck in NYC!

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Yes! Just generate. I love that! I should put that on a sticky note next to my screen. I try really hard not to edit as I go, because that kills the flow for me. It’s not easy though.

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  5. Hi Anne! Great to learn a bit more about you and your book. I love that Terry Pratchett quote too – but I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman quotes…all of which are a bit long. 😉 So let’s go with the: “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll just be one year older when you do,” by Warren Miller. A reminder for hope and perseverance.

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    • Anna Collins says:

      I definitely agree with that sentiment! All that matters is that you keep on keeping on! Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Tracy Brody says:

    Anna, That sounds like a very moving story and topic especially since depression affects several members of my family. Congrats on being a Golden Heart finalist and best wishes with getting the right publishing deal.

    It’s not exactly a writing related quote but something I learned from my former addiction to scrapbooking: “Done is better than perfect.” I think it applies because every time you go through your manuscript you’ll find something you want to tweak or change, however, at some point, you have to let it go and move on. Hope that resonates with someone.

    Look forward to meeting you in NYC!

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Thanks Tracy – yes that definitely resonates with me! Perfection is an illusion because everything with writing is subjective anyway. I look forward to meeting you too!

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  7. So good to see you here Anna! I love when my multiple writing groups overlap.

    The best thing I took away from Pitch Wars revisions was a Gaiman quote-“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

    Basically, deep dive with critiques, to find out where mentors/CPs/betas had a problem with a ms, then trust myself to come up with a solution.

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    • Anna Collins says:

      That’s really good advice Janet! I think when you’re first starting out, it’s so easy to downplay your own gut feeling because everyone else “knows” more than you. Nothing wrong with listening to others, but ultimately it’s OUR stories and they need to stay that way, I think, to come across as true.

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  8. Glenda Cooper says:

    Great Interview, Anna! I love the topic of your book and your willingness to address a touchy subject of depression.

    One of my favorite quotes is about art but I am sure it can be applied to writing, too. “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” by Scott Adams

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Thanks for stopping by Glenda! Love that quote! It’s truly in the revision process art happens. 🙂

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  9. Jeanine Englert says:

    Hi Anna!

    Congrats on your GH final and for an amazing interview today!

    I love the premise of your book, and I am a sucker for a redemption story. 🙂

    One of my favorite quotes is: “Your story could be the key to unlock someone else’s prison. Don’t be afraid to share it.”

    Best of luck to you Anna, and fingers crossed for you for the GH in July!

    -Jeanine

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Hi Jeanine! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂 That’s another great quote and I think something most of us aspire to do – to move people beyond just reading our words. One day…

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  10. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Hi Anna! What a great post. I’m a fast drafter too, it’s what comes after that takes a long time! Your GH book sounds amazing–huge congrats on being a finalist. I’m so happy to be an Omega with you and looking forwarsd to meeting in NY.

    I have a lot of fave writing quotes but to get a laugh, I’ll go with good old Dorothy Parker: I hate writing, I love having written.

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    • Anna Collins says:

      LOL – isn’t that the truth! Not that I really hate writing, but it’s definitely a relief to type The End! Revisions can take foooreeever. 🙂

      Looking forward to meeting you too!

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  11. Fenley Grant says:

    Hi, Anna!

    I’m light on the pre-plotting, too. I know the beginning, the end, and a few key points in between those. I tried outlining once, too, and found it choked my creativity.

    I wish I could fast draft, like you. I’m trying to pick up my pace, but I don’t seem to be gaining much speed. Thank heaven for edits.

    Which brings me to my quote of the day:

    “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” – James Michener

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Right?!? Outlining definitely has its moments, but I need some freedom for creativity to flow!

      I wish that quote was true for me. Editing is haaard. 😉

      (Sorry this got double posted in the wrong field…)

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  12. Anna Collins says:

    Right?!? Outlining definitely has its moments, but I need some freedom for creativity to flow!

    I wish that quote was true for me. Editing is haaard. 😉

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  13. Lisa Heartman says:

    Anna, I cannot wait to read this book! It sounds so fresh, and I’m sure there are some real hard emotions in here to make us all ugly-cry. I write a similar outline that gets tossed as the writing happens, but it’s there as a guide not as the rule. If inspiration hits, you run with it and see where it takes you.

    My favorite writing quote these days is “And one day the girl with the books became the woman writing them.” It totally describes how I feel my life has progressed. Sounds like that fits you too.

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    • Anna Collins says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes, that is for sure true about me! It’s definitely a dream of mine to see my books at my childhood library – kind of far-fetched, it being in Sweden and all… 😉 But still. The dreaming is free!

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  14. Claire DeWolf says:

    Hi, Anna,

    Your book sounds amazing. Can’t wait to meet you at Nationals.

    My favorite quote is glued onto a pair of big-girl panties (It was something we did for fun at one of our chapter birthday parties. If you’re curious, ask me about it at Nationals) It say: “Writers live twice” and it’s from Natalie Goldberg. I love that we get to make up worlds and explore new ideas. It is like living twice.

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