I met Lisa Patton a few years ago online after reading Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter (I have to cheat and look at the cover to know where to put the apostrophes) and then Googling and finding out that she was a member of Backspace — which meant I emailed her with even more fervor than my usual gottawritetothisauthor fervor. Lisa was generous in emailing with me about writing while mothering her two sons — something I was doing while raising a son and a daughter. Below, Lisa talks about Yankee Doodle Dixie, the sequel to Whistlin’ Dixie and share with us her fourteen-year journey to publication and how flying by the seat of her pants resulted in a three-book series!
Please welcome Lisa Patton to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Women’s Fiction Author Lisa Patton Talks About Perseverance, Pantsing and Her Publishing Journey
LP: My inspiration for writing came from my two little boys. I had grown up in an all-girls family and to make matters even more complicated I attended an all-girls school from kindergarten through twelfth grade. To be perfectly honest, I knew nothing about raising sons. As they grew, I found everything they did to be hilarious, not to mention calamitous, and I found myself writing anecdotes about our escapades together. When my first son was born and I had to dress his circumcision, I called the doctor in a panic. After shouting over the phone, “Help me doctor, my son’s vasectomy is bleeding,” I knew I was in for a wild ride. Forever the consummate adventurer I moved a few years later from Tennessee to Vermont. A quaint little Vermont inn was calling my name. Once I experienced the differences between the North and the South first hand I knew I had a story to tell. All my years of writing about the comedic capers with my sons finally paid off and I embarked upon the journey of my life . . . writing my first novel. Unfortunately, my road to publication was not one to brag about. Fourteen years after I dreamed the title, Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, I saw my first copy on the shelf at a Borders in my home town. I can paper my bathroom wall with rejection letters from literary agents and my near-misses with publishers almost caused me to give up. But perseverance is my middle name and I’m thrilled today to be a guest on Women’s Fiction Writers.
ASN: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have writing rituals that go along with how you write?
LP: This is my favorite question, Amy. I love that I had to ask you what you meant by a “panster.” I’m one of those for sure. Flying by the seat of my pants is a way of life for me. That’s not something I’m particularly proud of but it’s just the way I operate. I’m not particularly organized either. When I’m listening to a lecturer for instance, I look around and lots of the people around me are taking notes. My pen is tucked away in my purse. I do make “To Do” Lists, but that’s about the extent of my organizing. When it comes to writing I don’t outline or plan. So each chapter of my books starts with me closing my eyes and imagining what’s happening to my characters on a big screen. Once I get a mental picture, I let my fingers fly across the laptop.
ASN: Yankee Doodle Dixie is a follow-up/sequel to to Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter — how are the books similar?
LP: It is my greatest hope that my readers would find both of the books funny. Both of the novels have the same protagonist, Leelee Satterfield, who is my definition of a woman deliciously flawed. She’s a cross between Lucille Ball and Rachel Green from Friends. Her three best friends are present in both books, peppering her with advice and assisting her in all of her misadventures. The love of friendship and home is central to both books. How are they different? The novels are only different in their settings. The first one is set in Vermont and the second is set back in Memphis. Other than that they are very similar with humor coursing through both.
ASN: Did you set out to write a two-book series?
LP: Actually I was only focused on the first book when I started writing, however I set it up for a continuation. St. Martin’s Press bought the unwritten sequel when I was offered my first contract so I knew I had to write another book about Leelee’s world.
ASN: Is there another Leelee novel in the works?
LP: Of course. Leelee and her friends are way too much fun to leave with only two books. The third in the series will be on the shelves sometime in 2013. I’m very excited about it because one of the original characters from the first book returns.
ASN: How do you define women’s fiction?
LP: It’s fiction that showcases the total woman, the stories that show women at their best and their worst. It covers their strengths and their weaknesses both, no apologies.
ASN: What is your best advice specifically for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
LP: To never ever give up. It took me fourteen years to write my first novel and finally see it on the shelves. I’m particularly tender-hearted, like many women I know, but I had to put that aside and toughen my shell. I was willing to put in the time, no matter how long it took.
After thirteen years at an all-girls school and a house full of sisters, Lisa Patton headed for co-ed life at the University of Alabama where she received a BA in Communications. Forever the music lover, Lisa landed her first job at the Historic Orpheum Theatre in Memphis as a manager and show promoter before transitioning into radio promotions at WMC–FM 100, the top-rated Memphis landmark station. It was there she received Billboard Magazine’s Promotion Director of the Year award. The birth of her two sons made it difficult to emcee nightly charity auctions and movie premieres and Lisa shifted into TV promotion at the NBC affiliate, WMC-TV Channel 5. Writing radio and TV promotional spots, character voice bits and news promos made up a large part of both jobs. A three-year stint in the restaurant business as an innkeeper in Vermont, added diversity to her deeply rooted southern heritage and it was there that Lisa got the inspiration for her bestselling novel, Whistlin’ Dixie Though A Nor’easter. After returning to Tennessee, Lisa went to work for music legend, Michael McDonald and worked on several albums and DVD projects including the Grammy nominated, certified Platinum, Motown. Through each position in the entertainment industry, Lisa honed her writing skills with bios, press releases, and album copy. When Historic Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee called with an offer to head the Special Events Department and produce the Summer Concert Series, Lisa eagerly accepted and remained in that position until promoting Whistlin Dixie became a full-time job. Selected by Target Stores as an “Emerging Author,” Lisa has high hopes for her second novel, Yankee Doodle Dixie, which is already a SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Association) bestseller. On becoming a novelist Lisa says, “It had been my dream for many years to become a published author, but often times I felt weighted down by the enormity of the thought. It’s hard to imagine that I’m writing a third book, positive proof that perseverance always pays off.” Currently, Lisa guides walking tours of Historic Downtown Franklin with Franklin on Foot and is at work on the third book in the Whistlin’ Dixie series.