I am very VERY excited about having author Hallee Bridgeman on 'Expression Express' today. I have read and loved several of her books (the Jewel Trilogy in particular) and I also admire her for her work ethic, productivity and creativity. Her latest release is called AN ARIA FOR NICK, and although I have not read it I have no doubt it will be just as good as her other work. Here is our interview.
Q: I have read several of your books and enjoyed each one. Can you briefly tell us about your writing journey? What inspires you to write?
I never knew I had an interest in writing. I was an avid reader, but I never picked up a pen and paper. When I was 27 (in 1999), the company for which I worked got new computers. My boss gave me an old one and I took it home – until that moment, we’d never had a computer in our home. About a month later, I had a dream that woke me at 2AM. I could not get it out of my head. I got out of bed, went to my “new” computer, and started writing. Six weeks later, the first draft of A Melody for James was written.
Over the course of the next two years, I wrote ten more books. I wrote in private, getting up at 4AM and writing as fast as I could until 6AM. I tabled everything, never dreaming of getting anything published.
I met my husband, who is also a writer, in a writer’s group on a loooooooooong time ago AOL dial-up chat room. We were married, he deployed to war, he came home, we moved across country, we had babies – when our youngest child was one, we decided that it was time to publish my books.
I re-wrote them, edited them, formatted them, and published them, one at a time. So far, out of the ten I’d written, I have published five. I’ve also written one more book, a novella, and two cookbooks.
Q: I am always impressed with your productivity – the sheer amount of new releases is phenomenal! How do you maintain this level of productivity?
Part of it is that the base of most of the stories has already been written – I’m writing old (decade-old) books that were originally written for a contemporary secular market, and revamping them, redeeming them, and writing them for a Christian market. It’s still a lot of work, and there have been a couple of books that required a complete overhaul, where I’ve kept almost nothing of the original story. But, most of the ground work is already laid.
I also write really fast. I type about 120 wpm can barely keep up with the story in my head. I just churn out the story as fast as my mind and fingers will allow, and then go back through and fill in the holes and gaps where scene, emotions, thoughts, and feelings need to go in. If I am able to write every school day for 4-6 hours a day, then I can get an entire book shell written in about a two week period, and in another two weeks, go through and fill in all the gaps.
However, I have three children, one of whom is special needs, so I can only write when my children are at school. I find that I cannot tap that inner muse when they’re home. So, school vacations, weekends, and snow days really hurt my level of productivity.
Q: Besides romance novels, you have written some humorous and ‘inspired’ cookbooks. Tell us about that aspect of your writing.
I have been blogging for over four years as Hallee the Homemaker(TM). In that time, I have published over 440 recipes - most of which are "whole food/real food" (although, I'll admit that such recipes as Devil's Food Cupcakes aren't even pretending to be whole food.) Also, most of them are Biblically inspired due to our family's commitment to a Levitical diet. We knew I'd eventually publish a cookbook focusing on whole food/real food ingredients, but we just didn't know what or when or how.
Christmas 2012, right when Fifty Shades of Grey was at its peak, I'd just published Greater Than Rubies and was on a semi-break for the holidays. We were driving through Maryland in a terrible snow storm. During a stop at a country store while we let some of the weather pass, my husband was looking through a rack of Christian books and came across a devotion called "Fifty Shades of Grace." He bemoaned the fact he hadn't thought of that, because how clever was that? We loaded back into the vehicle and it was my turn to drive. I was navigating some pretty rough roads, the snow was just pouring and the wind was insane, so we were quiet. About an hour into the trip, my husband spoke out of the blue and said, "Fifty Shades of Gravy!" I laughed, but he was serious. He asked, "Do you think you can come up with fifty gravy recipes?"
So, I did. And the parody cookbook series was born. Fifty Shades of Gravy, A Christian Gets Saucy! was quickly followed by The Walking Bread, The Bread Will Rise! Releasing in March will be Iron Skillet Man, The Stark Truth About Pepper and Pots! which will be followed by Hallee Crockpotter and the Chamber of Secret Ingredients. Hopefully, by Thanksgiving, I'll release Seasonings Greetings.
Q: These are SO clever! Love all the titles. Another thing that impresses me is your marketing and promotion. You seem to have carved out a solid readership and have garnered quite a few accolades. Are there any ‘secrets to your success’ that you can share?
I appreciate that, because I feel like I’ve always just been behind you in everything marketing. I love that you have Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers – it was one of the first sites I joined when I began my self publishing journey.
I think my biggest plus in marketing is that I already had an online presence. I have been blogging for a long time, and in the area of Christian living, clean food, homemaking – even in parenting and marriage, I’m readers’ go-to site. And, I’ve always been 100% real – I’ve never tried to be anything but Hallee Bridgeman. My voice online is my voice in person. I live wide-open. People tend to like that.
So, I was comfortable in social media, and it rolled over well as I shifted focus from blogging to writing. I didn’t necessarily keep the same group of followers from one to the other, but my comfort zone was already established. Blogging is like second nature to me; social media is always available for a quick post whether it’s funny, serious, or thought-provoking; and I’m not afraid to approach other writers/bloggers and present myself as a colleague.
I’m also two people – my husband is an insomniac. So, he spends a lot of nights scheduling Twitter feeds, reaching out to other writers, researching what is trending as far as marketing goes. That’s a huge help.
Q: That is definitely handy! (Although I'm sure he would appreciate more sleep...) What are you working on now?
Beyond the cookbooks I have already mentioned, I will be venturing into unknown territory in releasing a serialized story. I have a love for the WWII era, and have a fascination with female spies in that war. Through years of research, I've developed a story that will be something I don't know that another author has done. I have created a fictional special team of women - spies and support team - I have a radio transmitter, a courier, a pilot, an entertainer, a doctor, a code-breaker, and an all around Rambo-type woman who form the "Virtues" team. Each one has a code-name of a virtue: Temperance, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Grace, Mercy, Faith.
Here's the really fascinating part for me as the author: Each and every single story, every character, is inspired by a true heroine of WWII and a synopsis of the real woman's story is included in each book.
This serialized story will be released in novellas, and every novella will be from the perspective of a different character. In the first novella, Temperance's Trial, Temperance (a wireless radio operator) is captured in Occupied France by the Nazis. The subsequent 6 books, Homeland's Hope, Charity's Code, A Parcel for Prudence, Grace's Ground War, Mission of Mercy, and Flight of Faith, will tell the story of the planning and execution of her rescue. I will release the first two at one time, then release one a month for six months.
After that, A Carol for Kent, Book 3 in the Song of Suspense Series will release, followed by A Harmony for Steven, Book 4 in the Song of Suspense series. I have started outlining a homemaking book, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to release it this year or not. The cookbook, Seasonings Greetings, should round up the end of 2014 for me.
Q: These sound amazing. I can hardly wait to read them. Where we can find you on the web?
THANK YOU! Keep on writing - you're amazing!