I have had the pleasure recently of getting to know new author L.M. Stull, who has recently released her debut novel A Thirty-Something Girl, a chronicle of a, well, thirty-something girl named Hope, who is struggling with her adult life not quite working out the way she thinks it should.
Life has been anything but kind, and everything that can go wrong has. At an age when life should be coming together, and questions should start to be answered, Hope finds herself feeling very alone and terribly confused. As her life spirals out of control, she realizes she needs help. And she needs it quickly.
With the love and support of some dear friends, Hope slowly begins to find her true self, and along the way, she meets someone. Someone who makes her feel like living to see another day might just be worth it.
But with happiness, comes pain. Pain from a past that simply won’t be forgotten. Walking a dangerously fine line between joy and utter despair, Hope wonders if happy endings really do exist. And if they do, is there one waiting for her?
When did you come up with the idea of A Thirty-Something Girl?
The idea actually came to me while I was putting the finishing touches of what was originally slated to be my debut novel, Memoirs of a Monkey. As with most of my book ideas, it was during the wee hours of the morning when I was supposed to be sleeping that the muse began to poke and prod me (my muse is mean… ha). It started with the opening, then more and more of the story came to me. Finally, I was so distracted by Hope and her story that I had to stop working on my rewrites and edits of Memoirs. The story came pouring out of me, and spoke to me like nothing had ever before. That is when I knew that this was the type of writing I was meant to do.
The typical author advice (for good or for bad) is to “write what you know.” How much of that went into A Thirty-Something Girl? What inspired the character of Hope? Any bit of autobiography involved in the book?
I completely agree. If you write about something you are passionate about, you will be amazed at how that emotion bleeds onto the page. I hold a degree in psychology, so the human condition, emotions, and the mind have always been something that fascinated me, so my stories tend to center around my characters’ feelings and interactions with each other.
A Thirty-Something Girl is not an autobiography. However, with that said, the emotional struggles that Hope encounters, as well as her personal journey to find happiness, are very personal to me. So, yes, in essence, my very own life inspired the character of Hope.
How long did it take you to write A Thirty-Something Girl, from start to finish?
I word-vomited this book out. From start to finish (including rewrites and final edits), it took me six months to complete.
Many authors write more pages than actually appear in the finished product, much like movie directors who cut out entire scenes. (A reviewer on Amazon even said your book made her feel like she was watching a movie.) How many pages/words did you actually write before it was whittled down to the final book?
I only cut about 3,000 words from this manuscript. Unlike my previous larger works, the editing process for this book comprised of refining the words that I had originally written to make them stronger/clearer.
Take us through your writing process.
I am and am not a plotter (confusing, right?). I do outline the basic storyline of the book using index cards to map out the main character’s journey. As for all the bits and pieces that go between those major acts, well, they come as I write them. I also write character cards to help me get to know who I’m writing about. I’ll often even write little snippets in their voice to help connect them with me. And, as I am a very visual person, I scour the internet looking for pictures of what these characters might look like.
What was it like trying to write a major novel and hold down a full-time job at a law firm at the same time? Did you write it all at home? What was a typical day like?
Um, hard! I write all at home (and at coffee shops). There are days when I get home and I simply cannot write, even though I very much want to. Creativity, like muscles, need exercise, so I do try to write a little each day. Whether it be a blog post, journal entry, or even simply three lines in my WIP, I write.
Most of my novel writing occurs late at night. There is something about the blackness and stillness of night that gets my muse going. Which can be unfortunate, since I end up staying up very late on work nights. But…it’s all worth it.
Last, but not least, is there going to be a sequel?
I have actually thought about that. I think, in the very future, there might be a Forty-Something Girl and will be told from the vantage point of one of Hope’s friends. We shall see what happens in time.
A Washington, D.C. native, L.M. Stull spends her days chained to a desk at a law firm in southern Virginia. When she’s not feverishly taking orders from attorneys, she writes. Her stories tell of the human spirit – sometimes sad, sometimes not – most can relate to them on some level or another.