Guest Post: Author Valerie Fraser Luesse on How to Write a Book – The Key to Everything Blog Tour

THE KEY TO EVERYTHING
by
Valerie Fraser Luesse Contemporary Christian Romance
Publisher: Revell Date of Publication: June 2, 2020
Number of Pages: 352
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Based on a true story, Valerie Fraser Luesse’s new novel takes readers on an incredible journey of self-discovery. The poignant prose, enchanting characters, and captivating settings in The Key to Everything make this a moving story that readers won’t soon forget. Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon, and distancing himself from his son. When a tragic accident separates Peyton from his parents, and the girl of his dreams seems out of reach, he struggles to cope with a young life upended. Pushed to his limit, Peyton makes a daring decision: he will retrace a slice of the journey his father took at fifteen by riding his bicycle all the way from St. Augustine to Key West, Florida. Part loving tribute, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will unlock more than he ever could have imagined, including the key to his distant father, a calling that will shape the rest of his life, and the realization that he’s willing to risk absolutely everything for the girl he loves.
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How to Write a Book

Valerie Fraser Luesse

Most of us feel like we have a novel or a memoir inside of us, and now is as good a time as any to find out.

I’ve been a magazine writer for most of my adult life (I predate email at Southern Living), but it wasn’t until 2018 that my first novel, Missing Isaac, was published. I started writing it in 2009. You can do the math on that journey, which was long, with all kinds of twists and turns, ups and downs. I learned a thing or two, which I’m happy to share if you’re thinking about taking the plunge.

Start with what you know and what you love.

I will never set a novel in eighteenth-century France because my knowledge of French culture is limited, and I’m not especially interested in eighteenth-century history. If you aspire to fiction writing, you will be spending a lot of time wherever you set your story. You need to be completely fascinated with that place and time, or you’ll get bored before you finish, and you’ll struggle with authenticity. For me, the South is the most interesting place on Earth, so that’s where I set my stories. I find the past more fascinating than the present, so I tend toward periods from World War II through the 1960s. And I think some of the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard were told to me by my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles—our family’s oral history. I’ve brought those stories into my books more than once.

Let time and place lead character and plot.

Once you know where and when your story takes place, you know a lot about the characters—real or fictional. When and where we live shapes everything from what we wear and what we eat to how we talk. I don’t think I could ever create a character in a void, without knowing their when and where.

Realize that everybody’s exotic to somebody.

Whether you’re writing fiction or memoir, know that what’s familiar and everyday to you can be intriguing to readers from someplace else. If you’re from the South, you can just open your mouth and attract a crowd anyplace outside our region. It’s the same with storytelling. You bring your own experience and culture to a book, and the more aware you are of what makes it unique, the more you can tap into it.

Accept that a big part of writing is listening.

The best writers are great listeners. They hear not just what people say but how they say it. For example, my Alabama mama doesn’t say, “I’m exhausted.” Mama says, “I am just give out.” Hear the difference?

Know that writing a book and marketing a book are two different things.

My own feeling is that you should sit down to write with only one thing in mind: telling a great story. Everything else—who will publish it, who will read it—those are things you can’t control, at least not in the beginning. But you can control the quality of your story. That’s where you should focus. Write, rewrite, repeat. Show to a few friends you trust to be objective and honest. And ignore any website that guarantees a bestseller—for a price.

Fear not.

At conferences and other events, I’ve talked with readers who said they really wanted to write a book but were afraid it wouldn’t be any good. Here’s the thing: it won’t be. Not on the first draft, anyway. But you can write as many drafts as you want to. And here’s the other thing: nobody gets to see it until you say so. You will never be more in control of anything in your life than a story you haven’t let anyone else see. So there’s nothing to be afraid of. Just enjoy the freedom and the ownership you have during the creative process.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and Almost Home, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave. 
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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY.  Or, visit the blogs directly:
6/16/20
Author Interview
6/16/20
BONUS Post
6/17/20
Review
6/18/20
Guest Post
6/19/20
Review
6/20/20
Excerpt
6/21/20
Excerpt
6/22/20
Review
6/23/20
Author Interview
6/24/20
Review
6/25/20
Review
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