Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interview with Claudia Whitsitt

Please start by telling us a little about yourself (education, jobs, significant other, children, pets, etc.) 

I’m old. I retired from a rewarding teaching career last June after thirty-seven years of service. My primary focus was on special education, but I was fortunate to teach writing to 5th graders for the last few years of my career. I also survived growing up with five brothers and then raised five children of my own. I guess you could say my life has been filled with the joys of children since the time I was very small. I love kids. Especially adolescents. Good thing, too, because my hubby still thinks he’s twelve!

Tell us about your latest New Adult book and what inspired you to write it.

The Wrong Guy was inspired by my own college career. I attended Eastern Michigan University on the heels of the brutal slayings of seven co-eds. My college experience was far different from what one would consider a normal four year stint because the community was fraught with worry that even though a suspect was behind bars, he might be The Wrong Guy. The book also deals with all the wonderful college firsts, finding love, negotiating sexuality and friendships, leaving home. I love the romance element of the book.

Here’s the back cover blurb for The Wrong Guy:

It's 1969 and Catholic girls are a species of their own. When Katie Hayes arrives at Eastern Michigan University to attend college, John Norman Collins has just been arrested as a suspect in the brutal rapes and murders of 7 co-eds.

Armed with her rosary and her Nancy Drew books, Katie settles into a picture perfect life…until she becomes the victim of a vicious crime. Now, her life and the lives of those she loves are at risk.

She must use her wits to trap the real murderer.

And she must make certain that the man already behind bars isn’t THE WRONG GUY!

The New Adult genre is fairly new. What's your definition of it? How does it differ from Young Adult or just regular Adult books?

The New Adult genre addresses the issues young men and women face as they leave the safety of home and begin to establish themselves as independent beings, not teen issues that Young Adult addresses, but serious life-changing decisions and their repercussions. I found it to be wonderful age albeit full of more thought and emotion than any other time of my life, and I definitely believe it deserves its own genre, precisely because of the unique issues presented during that time of life.

It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times. There’s a newness and excitement about life (romance, independence), but it’s also a period of serious decisions, deep-reflection, and can oftentimes be scary and overwhelming.

Do you belong to any critique groups and/or do you have other people read your work as you're writing it? Who's brutally honest and who's a cheerleader? Which do you prefer?

I belong to a critique group and also use beta readers and professional editors. Like the next guy, I love positive feedback, but I also hold a great appreciation for honest feedback. My husband is my biggest fan, and he’s learned over the years how to be both my cheerleader and to provide me with honest feedback (often framed as suggestions—smart man). I realize how fortunate I am to have a man in my life who loves my writing and so generously offers me his time and opinion. It’s like living with my own personal editor, although I do leave the final edits to a pro.

What are your all-time favorite authors/books?

Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, and Fault in our Stars by John Green are my top three favorites right now, but I also LOVE mysteries and am currently reading T. Jefferson Parker’s Merci Rayburn series. It seems everything I write has an element of mystery to it, probably because I grew up with a steady diet of Nancy Drew books and am drawn to solving puzzles.

Do you outline before you write or just dive head-first into a manuscript? Do you maintain a schedule for writing, or is it more haphazard?

I often grab a story seed and begin writing. I’ve tried outlining, but often abandon my plan once my characters take hold and make their own decisions about how they react to situations I create for them. I do take the time to do a fairly intense sketch of my characters though. I want to make sure I know them better than anyone, and aim to construct relatable, realistic characters that readers can easily connect with.

Where do you do your best writing? (Ex: desk in your office, public library, under a tree in the park, in front of a Real Housewives TV marathon, etc.) Do you like music or some other background noise, or do you need quiet?

I work in my study. Back when I had children living at home, I’d close the study doors. That was the signal that NO ONE should bother me. I can’t tell you how many times one of my children or my husband would lurk outside, peering through the glass. Thank goodness, as a teacher, I learned the art of ignoring many moons ago. I require complete and total quiet, but have also learned that when I’m headlong into my manuscript, I block out interruptions. It’s easy to do when I’ve entered my character’s world and am far too wrapped up in their lives to acknowledge my own.

What are the best and worst parts of writing a book? 

This is the hard question, right? The best parts are the adrenalin high from writing a decent scene or being so in the story with my characters that I lose all sense of time and place. Sometimes I even forget to eat, I’m so lost in my story. That’s that absolute magic of being a writer. The worst parts are when I back my characters into a corner and don’t recognize it until after the fact, or when I sit down to write and can’t get the words to flow. I hate those days. Also, the “after” the book work is sometimes a struggle—promotion and marketing don’t come to me naturally, so I’m required to stretch outside my comfort zone. I figure it’s like anything else though, the more I do it, the more it will become part of my nature. (Fingers crossed!)

When you're driving and you have a sudden, brilliant idea for the new manuscript you're working on, what do you do? (Ex: pull over and fire up the laptop, keep driving while scribbling on a McDonald's bag, tell Siri, etc.)

I text myself. I know, it sounds crazy, but I tell Siri to send me a text. I’ve even dictated an email to myself so I don’t forget an idea, a sentence, a new character I want to develop further. My best ideas come to me when I’m power walking. Siri is a lifesaver then, too. What did we do before Siri?

Imagine you have a whole day free for shopping. Where do you go? (Mall, unique boutiques, flea market, antique shops, bookstore, home improvement store, etc.)

Wow! This is fun. An entire day? I would probably start at the mall, but poking around boutiques and antique shops holds tons of appeal. I love TJs and Marshalls, too. Bargains thrill me. When do we leave?

What are the top 5 titles in your Netflix queue? (Be honest.) Or if you don't have a Netflix queue, which books are on your bedside table? (Again, be honest.)

I don’t watch TV much at all but did watch Homeland, Masters of Sex, and am currently watching House of Cards with my hubby. We love the freedom to watch shows at our leisure.

Do you prefer to read ebooks or print?

I have gigantic libraries of both. We have a pool in our backyard, so on those rare summer afternoons when I take a break from writing, I need a print book that can withstand being dropped in the water. When I’m inside reading, I often pick up my iPad. (I cheat when I’m reading and stop and play some games when I’m thinking about a particular character and what they’re up to.)

Where is your favorite place in the world?

I love Paris, but my all time favorite place is my backyard. Our lot is filled with over a hundred trees, and the lush landscape is incredibly peaceful. The scenery provides me with beautiful calming views and allows me the opportunity to reflect on life and the characters I’m writing.

Do you have any advice for people who want to write a book?

Writing is not for the faint of heart. It requires an unequaled amount of dedication and perseverance. Surround yourself with a support network and remember that there is a world outside of the writing experience. It’s important to live life too. Writing is such an isolating occupation; it’s easy to get lost in the process and block out the world. It’s essential to stay in touch with others and turn to friends and socialize!


You walk into class and feel his eyes on you. You feel the spark even before you allow your gaze to rest on his face. His glorious smile lights up the room and his eyes twinkle as he holds your image in the palm of his heart. At least that’s what you imagine he’s doing every instance he looks at you. Time fades away and the rest of the world pales as butterflies take hold. Pin pricks of excitement dance up your arms. Your face flushes. Your heart pounds like a jackhammer. If only the moment would last forever. You glance at the clock and notice the second hand is still circling. Incomprehensible. Then, the anxiety sets in. Am I imagining the weight in his gaze? Then your mind fast-forwards. How can I give him my contact information without seeming too forward?

So many questions, too few answers. If only you had a crystal ball.

But then the spark takes hold. He wants your number. You spend the remainder of the day staring at your cell. Why isn’t it ringing? Is it broken? Is the volume turned down? Maybe he’s at work. Wait. Maybe he’s breaking up with his current girlfriend all because he knew just like you did, that you were meant to be. None of your thoughts are rational, except the gut instinct that he seemed interested. Genuinely interested, not like some maniacal jerk who spoke to you in order to stroke his own ego, but a nice guy with a drop-dead smile. Maybe you’re crazy. Maybe he never intended to call, but was just taking pity on you because you embarrassed yourself last week when you dropped a tampon in the hall.

You could walk past the library, look for his car in the lot. If you spot it, what will you do? Go inside? Where would he sit? He’s majoring in archaeology, right? Jitters consume you as you open the heavy glass door and inch your way into the vestibule. You can hardly breathe. It’s official…you’re a stalker. You’ve lost your mind.

You have a marketing exam tomorrow, but it’s impossible to concentrate on your studies, wrapped up as you are in the possibilities, entranced as you are by his spicy smell. Cloves? You envision pulling out the spices when you stop by home, unscrewing the lids off of countless little bottles, trying to get a whiff of him. The way his blonde eyelashes curl and curtain the deep blue of his eyes—the lot of him is intoxicating. His t-shirt clings to his pecs, and the hair on his arms is soft and silky. You can tell without touching.

You force a deep inhale and turn to head back to the dorm, but spin with such force, that you slam head first into the person behind you. You mutter an apology, “Sorry. Please forgive me.”

“No worries,” he says. “Hey, I was planning to call you after I finished up this paper I’m working on. Any chance you want to grab a bite?”

Every chance, you think. And you’re hungers extends far beyond food.

Writing about falling in love was the best part of writing The Wrong Guy. Even though the book is packed with mystery and suspense, the romance aspect of the novel was a huge incentive for me as an author. College is about firsts, and Katie, my protagonist, is experiencing so many of them she can hardly blink without being faced with a gut-wrenching decision, a fresh impression of the world she thought she knew, but quickly realizes she did not.


It's 1969 and Catholic girls are a species of their own. When Katie Hayes arrives at Eastern Michigan University to attend college, John Norman Collins has just been arrested as a suspect in the brutal rapes and murders of seven co-eds.

Armed with her rosary and her Nancy Drew books, Katie settles into a picture perfect life with Bobby Kirsch…until she becomes the victim of a vicious crime. Now, her life and the lives of those she loves are at risk.

She must use her wits to trap the real murderer.

And she must make certain that the man already behind bars isn’t THE WRONG GUY!

Links: lists all of my current published books as well as information on my current works in progress. All of my books are available on Amazon, and The Samantha Series books are also available at Barnes and Noble and on iBooks.

Links for The Wrong Guy:
The Wrong Guy

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