The Secret Library Podcast

The truth about writing books. By speaking to authors and other book lovers, I'm diving into the mystery that is the book world today. From writing to editing to publishing and all that goes into the creation of a book – all of it is open for discussion on the show.
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The Secret Library Podcast





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Apr 18, 2019
What happens when your editor asks you to change a major plot point?
Martine Fournier Watson was faced with a curveball late in the publishing process with her first novel, The Dream Peddler. Even after selling the manuscript to a major publishing house, her editor had notes that involved changing an important part of the plot. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to pull off what they were asking, but decided to trust their instincts and go for it.
In this conversation, we go behind the scenes and review the impact that the rewriting had on Martine, and on her book. Thankfully, she was up to the challenge and realized that undertaking it has made her a stronger writer. Most of us believe that a book is virtually set in stone once it's sold, but that's not the case. I hope this conversation sheds light on one way things can unfold inside the publishing process and how the collaboration between writer and editor can open up entirely new possibilities. Fans of L.M. Montgomery will be particular fans of this episode- Martine has a real soft spot for her writing, which was a central source of inspiration for the Dream Peddler.
Apr 11, 2019
At about 40, there is a new level of clarity about the urgency of being creative.
I was delighted to speak with Kusi Okamura, Editor of The Wild Word magazine and the publisher of Mike Hembury's novel New Clone City, which we discussed a few episodes back. We get into detail about how Kusi created the press, the process of publishing Mike's book from her vantage point, as well as the beauty of taking writing and creativity seriously in our 40s.
There is so much attention given to bright young things and 30 Under 30 lists of writers, so it was refreshing and validating to have an open conversation about how we have each thought about our creative process and the urgency we feel about getting work on the page at this point in life. Writing in my 40s feels more real than it ever has, and it was empowering to find a kindred spirit on this topic. If you're writing over 40 (or even over 30) you will feel reassured that you are in the right place. We need to hear more from women in mid-life and especially to see a representation of characters at a wider range of ages in books and all media. If you're craving this, this episode is for you. I promise it will fire you up just like it did for me.
Apr 4, 2019
Akiko Busch wanted to look at how invisibility could be a superpower.
These days, so much of our time is spent worrying about how to be more visible as writers. Do we have enough presence on social media? Will a publisher accept our book if we send it to them, or will enough readers find our books if we publish them ourselves? In the midst of this intense quest for visibility and transparency in a world that is increasingly connected, Akiko Busch sought to look at how invisibility is a power as well when it is employed by choice.
In her beautiful book, she explores examples of invisibility in nature, her own home, and family, and as far away as Iceland, where their legends include invisible people who live alongside the visible ones, and who are just a bit better than the rest of us. This book opens us up to the magic of not being seen when we want to hide, and was a total sigh of relief to read and discuss since we writers love to be hermits, don't we? I can't wait for you to listen to this conversation and find permission to disappear for a while.
Mar 28, 2019
Maisie Dobbs has been a favorite character of mine for years.
So when I found out that Jacqueline Winspear had TWO books coming out this March, I knew we had to have her on the show. I have been a dedicated reader of this brilliant series since the beginning, as this unconventional detective navigates life after WWI and now well into WWII.
Jacqueline spoke very eloquently about the impact her family history has had on her writing this series and how this went from a single story and one book she wanted to write very quickly into a hit series. We dive into character development over the course of a series, and most importantly how to take care of yourself as an author while writing about difficult topics. I know you'll be motivated and uplifted as I was after speaking with Jacqueline, yet another author I've adored even more after the interview. Happy listening!
Mar 21, 2019
Most people don't have to face all their worst fears in a single week.
Raynor Winn and her husband were left homeless when an investment went bad. Within days, her husband Moth received a terrifying medical diagnosis that predicted a dramatic decline. What did they do? They decided to wild camp (that's camping without campgrounds or rules, for those outside the UK) and walk the over 600 miles of the coast path in England.
In this episode, we not only discuss Raynor's incredible life experience, but she also tells to story of how she wrote and got the book published, which is almost as dramatic a tale as her memoir! If you worry that you need more qualifications, or think that your story won't make a difference, listening to Raynor Winn describe going from homeless to the bestselling author will brighten your day and your outlook as much as it did for me. This episode promises to be a fast favorite and I know you'll want to keep it around for inspiration long into the future.
Happy listening!
Mar 14, 2019
Most people have heard the rhyme about Lizzie Borden and forty whacks of an axe.
But most don't know the case behind the rhyme and the trial that enthralled the nation in the late 1800s. Well before there was OJ, there was Lizzie Borden. Cara Robertson first wrote about the trial in undergraduate school at Harvard and the story stayed with her. Over the past decades, the idea of documenting the trial persisted, becoming the book out this month.
Cara went through many stages of research, spent time in the maze of facts that were available in order to write this book, having to return an advance and resell the book several years later to be certain she could get it right. If you have thought about true crime, nitty-gritty historical research, or trying to get to the bottom of a mystery over a century old, this is your episode. Enjoy!
Mar 7, 2019
Mike Hembury has a permission slip for you
In speaking with Mike about his novel New Clone city and the wild ride of a story that it is, he mentioned that when he writes, he likes to cut out all the boring bits. This struck me as a piece of true freedom: as writers, some scenes feel like taking vitamins, thinks that have to be included, but what if that wasn't true?
If you are not having fun writing a scene, it's quite likely that your reader won't have fun reading it either. Instead, let Mike be your guide this week as you connect with your characters and let them lead you through their adventures. Mike's book is a steampunk alternate reality romp that carries a full cast along through interconnected discoveries and mishaps. Our conversation was a wide series of discoveries as well as we covered character, plot, politics and writing about place in a way that isn't reductionistic but captures the spirit of the setting.
Happy listening and happy writing this week!
Feb 28, 2019
I've loved Jasper Fforde for years and years.
Ever since Lost in Austen, I was hooked on his witty book-nerd stories. A little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy, and a whole lot wacky dry British wit, it was an easy sell to see him speak at the Edinburgh Book Festival.
But when he spoke about the devastating experience of writer's block he endured through the process of writing his latest novel, Early Riser, I knew we had to have him on the show. His honesty about how fragile the writing routine actually is – and what got him through to writing again as well as ever – felt like essential information for all of you. In addition, we get into one of my favorite writing tricks ever- the narrative dare. This one is required listening, promise!
Feb 21, 2019
Point of View is Everything
Christopher Castellani told me this as we discussed the ins and outs of writing his latest novel, Leading Men. Not only does he believe that POV is everything, he went so far as to write a book on the topic in order to get it right for his novel.
With so many books out these days with shifting POV and the tricky question of which one to use and how it impacts your book, this was a topic that I knew we needed to discuss on the show. In addition, we dive into language and how you can get it right in your book. Happy listening!
Feb 14, 2019
I love getting meta on the show.
Lauren Wilkinson was so much fun to talk to, not only because American Spy is such a satisfying read, but also because she was more than willing to dive into deep topics like figuring out what it means to tell the truth when writing fiction.
I adore talking about craft on this show, but sometimes even more than craft it's important to go further into what it means to be a writer, what we're striving to achieve by writing books, and how we know when we've gotten it right. After trudging through six (SIX!) drafts of American Spy to reach the book that has just been released, Lauren has tons of experience in this area. I know you'll love hearing from her as much as I did.
Feb 7, 2019
Sometimes the siren call of ambition is just too seductive to resist.
When Theresa Reed's publisher pitched TWO books for her to write last year, she thought "Sure- I can do that." What followed was a year of early mornings, a schedule that eliminated her social life AND a near meltdown when a draft got eaten by the cruel technology gods.
Learn how Theresa calibrated her schedule to get all the work done on deadline and use her tips to get your writing done in a much less stressful manner. Plus, we dive into how Theresa uses tarot in her writing including a live card pull she does right on the show. So much fun!
Jan 31, 2019
When you don't sweat the small stuff and just write
I was lucky enough to get connected to Caroline Wright and immediately wanted her to come on the show. She has that groovy job so many of us have dreamed of, food stylist, recipe creator and big glossy cookbook author. Swoon! However, there's much more than meets the eye to Caroline.
Several years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor and given a very short prognosis by her doctors. Miraculously, she's surpassed their expectations and is currently healthy. But what changes about your career when you've just spent more than a year setting everything aside and trying to get well. How does your work change when every day feels like bonus time?
I am so grateful to have had this conversation with Caroline and I feel even more excited about it because I get to share it with all of you. Caroline really is a gift.
Jan 24, 2019

Bigger isn't always better for writing.

Of course, we'd all love a movie deal for our books or a huge advance, but the actual process of writing isn't about making everything bigger and better.

Paul Jarvis lives in the woods in Canada and has managed to make a successful living centered around writing for nearly twenty years. In this conversation, we explore what it means to be a Company of One as a writer, why staying small lets you write more, and what caused him to go with traditional publishing this time around- it's not what you'd think!

Happy listening, writers. Here's hoping this episode has you sighing in relief.

Jan 17, 2019
I honestly think of a more intimidating character to write than Anne Frank
Not only is she an actual historical figure, she's also known and beloved by generations who've begun writing diaries -as I did- after reading hers.
David Gillham had an idea for a book based on Anne Frank but taking an alternative historical approach, one in which Anne survived the Holocaust along with her father. he set the project aside numerous times, worried it was just too difficult to complete, but the story wouldn't leave him alone. So after six years of research and immersion in Anne's life, Annelies, his novel is now out.
David spoke with me about the challenge of taking on a fictional Anne Frank, how he tried to find her voice and write a version of her story that worked on the page. If you have shied away from a big challenge in your writing, or have ever been drawn in by writing historical characters but were afraid to start, you must hear this conversation. Happy listening!
Jan 10, 2019
I thought I'd never do a solo episode
But after nearly 3 years of the show, it was time. Through the process of interviewing nearly 150 writers, I've learned a lot about the process of writing and publishing books, but I've never talked about the process of writing my own novel.
Moving into a new year, here are the goals and plans I'm putting in place for a successful writing year, as well as a bunch of ways you can join in the challenge. Let's crush this year and get all those words floating in our heads down on the page.
Jan 3, 2019
Talking to Ryder Carroll was a particularly meta experience
As both the creator of the Bullet Journal Method and author of a book with the same title, we not only got to talk about the process of writing a book about Bullet journaling, we also got to talk about using the Bullet Journal method in the process of writing a book about, you guessed it... The Bullet Journal Method. It almost hurts my brain to think about it too much.
It won't hurt your brain at all to listen to this episode, however. Ryder gives straightforward and actionable advice to support you as you plan your writing goals for 2019 and beyond. The difference between an unachieved goal and one that you celebrate at the end of the year is often just making the steps in between manageable. I can't say enough about how this method has helped me keep track of my life and my writing.
You're in for a treat, and a big blast of inspiration. Have your fresh clean notebooks ready to go when you listen to this one – it's a powerhouse.
Dec 27, 2018

As writers, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can take care of our words.

On the other side, we don't spend nearly as much time thinking about how words can take care of us as well.

For the past 4 or 5 years, I've been picking a word for the year to guide me along in both my living and my writing. Since we work with language after all, why not use language for a supportive purpose as well as a creative one?

One of my favorite guides in this process has been my friend Susannah Conway, creator of Find Your Word course and who has also been creating a workbook to Unravel the Year ahead for nearly a decade. Barry and I have made it our New Years ritual to hide out somewhere quiet and remote and work through this brilliant workbook and set intentions and get clear on our hopes for the coming year.

In fact, it was in this very workbook that living abroad first appeared as a hope for us. Since we spend so much time writing for readers, I wanted to wrap up 2018 by spending some time with writing that is for our eyes alone. By taking this time to reflect on what you hope to gain in the coming year, I know your writing will stand to gain so much.

Enjoy this chat Susannah and I had as we wrap up 2018 and start dreaming for the coming year. Happy listening, and happy dreaming.

Dec 20, 2018
What if you didn't have to be a scientist to write science fiction?
Guess what people, Mary Robinette Kowal is about to blow your mind. She has the most incredible background I have heard on the show so far: Jim Henson Puppeteer, Voiceover actor, and Hugo-award-winning Science Fiction author. YES. There is nothing I love more than writers who are multi-passionate and unafraid to pursue everything they love.
So when Mary Robinette wrote a short story that started to stray into the history of space exploration, she wasn't afraid to follow its lead. Instead, she asked for help. She worked with consultants to make the story believable and accurate while not giving up on the book she wanted to write. Have a story that feels over your head in terms of knowledge and technical information? Look no further than this episode. It can be written, promise.
Dec 13, 2018
It's obvious: I love having Mary Laura Philpott on the show.
I just couldn't wait to talk about her essay collection, I Miss You When I Blink, coming in spring 2019, so we dive into the experience she's having now: the book is finished and in the pipeline for publication, and the Messy Middle is in full effect. We talk about the feelings having the book out in the world with early readers brings up, and why you should always bring a copy of your book in your carry-on when traveling.
And, of course, because we are obsessed with books, Mary Laura and I do what we love most: geek out about all the amazing books that are just waiting for you to snatch them up as holiday gifts this year. There's something for everyone on your list in this episode, from non-fiction to novels to short stories. Happy listening!
Dec 6, 2018
A.J. Jacobs has been on my wishlist of guests for ages.
From The Know-It-All to The Year of Living Biblically, I have loved reading along through his lifestyle experiments that took on challenges I wish I was dedicated enough to undertake: reading the entire encyclopedia? Following all the rules in the Bible for a year even as a non-religious person? He has incredible guts to both start and finish these projects.
So when I heard about Thanks A Thousand, his latest book and a project that sought to thank everyone who was involved with the production of his morning cup of coffee, I was determined to have him on. I had myself set up for my own quest to convince him, but it turns out he was delighted to come on as soon as I asked. This conversation was a great joy, as we looked at all the small design masterpieces there are in the world around us, just how many people collaborate on the creation of a book, and how much better it makes your life to thank the people you meet every day. I couldn't be happier to share this with you.
Nov 29, 2018
I could have easily talked to Ada Palmer for Six Hours.
You might wish I had after listening to our conversation. Ada is the author of the Terra Ignota series, a science fiction epic saga that stole my will to read anything else the entire time I was in the clutches of the first book. I cannot wait for my next long flight to continue the journey.
Ada is also a history professor, and we talk about the unique ability science fiction and fantasy have to explore other options and other pathways. We explore the ways fiction can communicate ideas very differently from non-fiction and how her teaching impacts her writing - and vice versa.
Finally, we discuss the intricacies of censorship and the project she is working on with former guest Cory Doctorow to draw parallels between attempts at censorship during the advent of the printing press and what we are seeing in the digital landscape today. Definitely a must-listen. Enjoy!
Nov 22, 2018
Ever caught yourself thinking "I could never write like that?" when reading a published book?
It's so important to remember that a lot goes on behind the scenes between writing "the end" and seeing the book out in the world. It's hard to remember that beyond the drafts the author goes through, there are also rounds of edits that follow.
This week, I chat with the founder and two editors from NY Book Editors, a company that employs editors with Big 5 publishing experience to work with authors planning to publish both traditionally and independently. Whether you're a fiction writer or working on non-fiction, we've got you covered.
Get ready to take notes PLUS listen to learn about the before and after download, we've made to show what a piece of writing looked like fresh from the writer and after the editor had reviewed it. Finally! We're taking you behind the scenes into the transformation from draft to finished manuscript. Happy listening.
Nov 15, 2018

By Day, Sarah St. Vincent is a researcher and advocate, but by night and early morning, she is a novelist.

Sarah St. Vincent studied law at the University of Michigan and now works for the US Program of Human Rights Watch, specializing in national security, surveillance and domestic law enforcement.
At the same time as working in this important area, Sarah has been working on the novel, Ways to Hide in Winter, out now from Melville House. In this episode, we talk about the importance of day job/writing life balance as well as the topics she felt were better covered in fiction than nonfiction articles. If you think your day job is a restriction on your writing life, think again, because this conversation reminded me of the many ways work out in the world can enrich what we explore as writers. I know you'll enjoy this conversation and this brilliant new book.
Nov 8, 2018

With hundreds of audiobooks narrated, Rachel Fulginiti was the perfect guest to lead us through the wild world of audio.

This episode will take you through the entire process, from finding potential narrators to audition, how to hire them, pricing, the timeline from booking to recording to receiving the finished product. Full of tips to get the best audiobook possible, you'll be ready to make the leap into creating an audio version of your book after listening to this jam-packed episode.


Nov 1, 2018

Every year November 1 brings the same question to writers: to NaNo or not to NaNo?

Tasha Harrison and I dive into NaNo 2.0: tips and hacks for writers looking to do more than just bang out 50,000 words of a brand new project. Already working on a book? Great. We'll walk you through ways to approach the madness of NaNoWriMo so you come out the other side with something you're proud of.

Here's hoping you're ready for a major jolt of inspiration!

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