Q & A: My First Novel!

Hi all! I know I mentioned that last year I wrote my first novel, “Oil & Ink.” I’m so happy to share that it’ll be available on Tuesday, Feb. 9! In preparation for it coming out in just a few days (!), I thought I’d do a little Q&A so you can learn more about it. Enjoy!

What is your book about?

“Oil & Ink” is about a tattoo artist named Charlie who has a small tattoo shop inside a truck stop in South Dakota. He wants to have his own shop one day, possibly in a big city, but he’s not entirely sure how to reach that dream. Meanwhile, there’s a possibility the truck stop might get acquired by a corporate big wig who isn’t interested in keeping Charlie’s shop.

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

The core of the plot — a tattoo artist working out of a truck stop in the middle of nowhere — was actually a dream I had in college. I was taking a capstone English class my senior year (14 years ago) and I used the idea for one of my short story assignments. For some reason, I started thinking about this story again, and after attending so many author events via Zoom in 2020, I remember one of them said to never ignore stories that keep bugging you. So, I was interested in opening up this idea and expanding it.

Did you know how the book was going to end when you started it?

Hell no! When I started writing the book, I referred to the short story I wrote. It was maybe 2,000 words so there really wasn’t much plot there. In the short story, it ends with Charlie opening his shop in the other half of his duplex, and his dad comes to get a tattoo. Cute ending, but I wanted something much bigger for Charlie in this book — higher stakes — and I wanted to include a road trip in the book.

There were some days when I sat down to write and I knew what I was going to write, but most of the time I just wrote whatever came to my mind and let the plot run on its own. I came up with a majority of the book while I was writing it, which is very against my nature.

Why did you put your characters in South Dakota?

The original short story also took place in South Dakota and I kept it there because it needed to be a place where travelers were passing through to another, bigger, better place. It also had to be a place where there were truck stops and not much else.

Part of me wished I could’ve written it about a place I’ve actually BEEN to, but I also didn’t want the location to be a character in the story and take away from the people in the book. I pulled from any rural place I’ve ever been to imagine this place, and honestly had a good view of it in my mind as I was writing.

How did you get information about tattooing?

During my freshman year in college, we were supposed to interview someone for an assignment and I picked a local (to Baton Rouge) tattoo artist. He was incredibly talented and let me shadow him for a while, and I really learned a lot about the art of tattooing even though I have 0 tattoos. I interviewed him a second-time years later for the University paper I wrote for and it was cool to follow his career.

I also watched a few tattoo shows on TV (documentary-type shows) while I was writing the book to learn more about training to become an artist. In a non-COVID world, I would have preferred to shadow an artist local to Austin. I crowd-sourced ideas for tattoos using social media because I needed lots of different ones for every tourist stopping into Charlie’s shop. The main tattoo in the book was something I imagined based on my general fear of ocean depths.

Did you pull from personal experience to create your characters?

A little. I see a lot of myself in Charlie as a creative who has big dreams. With any creative career, it’s difficult to know the steps to take to reach your goals since they’re not so defined like they are in corporate jobs. I pulled from my own memories for some of his past and pulled from people I know to create the other characters in the book.

There’s Sara, who works at the same truck stop as Charlie and she goes to the local community college and lives at home with her parents. Her friend and classmate Amanda works retail and I pulled lots and lots of retail experience for her character, plus I used a few EXACT dating stories from my life for her. Sorry, Amanda 🙂

When did you write your novel?

I wrote the entire novel in November 2020, for #NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. I started writing on November 1st and wrote the last of the book on November 30th. This was my first time participating in NaNoWriMo and my first time writing a novel… all during a pandemic and a crazy election! I follow a lot of writers on Twitter and randomly saw someone Tweet asking about who was doing #NaNoWriMo this year?

Work was slow for me so I thought, why not? It would be a great way to work on my craft and if I hated it, no one had to see it. I also felt like there wasn’t a lot that I was excited about in 2020, so this would give me something to do. I ended up getting lots of work in the second half of the month, which made for some interesting days.

How are you publishing it?

I’ll be self-publishing it using Amazon Kindle Publishing. I haven’t decided if I’ll make a printed version. I probably will so I can have a copy to put on my bookshelf 🙂

Have you written and/or published other books?

Yes! I’ve written and published two memoirs — both heavily based on my dating past. One, “How I Fell” is solely about my relationship with an alcoholic. I also have a book of poems and shorts called “Lemon Drops,” which I love. And I also have a book full of blogging tips that I created for my blogging students. But, this is my first novel… and it’s been years since I’ve published something!

Do you have ideas for other books?

Yes! I don’t know what I thought would happen after I wrote this book, but I did not think that I’d actually come up with more ideas for other books. That’s been the best part about writing this — I realized that putting something out there doesn’t mean I’m minus one idea, I actually opened the floodgates for more ideas.

I wrote another short story in college about a hockey player — it’s more of a rom com style — and I’d like to see if there’s a bigger plot there. I also have an idea about a social media influencer. Could be sad. Could be dark. I’ll definitely be participating in #NaNoWriMo again this year!

If you have additional questions about the book, feel free to ask anything in the comments and I’ll get back to you ASAP. 

If you want to get a glimpse into the book, I read chapter one on my YouTube channel earlier this week. I also documented my entire writing process throughout the month of November and it’s all on Patreon

“Oil & Ink” will be ready for YOU to read Tuesday, Feb. 9! I love the characters in this book so much, and the adventure they go on, and I hope anyone who reads it does, too. I’ll be sharing all the details right here on Tuesday!

To see more writing from me, be sure to subscribe to The Bitter Lemon by clicking “subscribe” on the right side of your screen. Want even more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get roundups, book recs and lifestyle tips. 


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