I always loved reading, but I’d find myself changing endings or plot elements in books. I loved bookstores and libraries and wondered how did all those books get published. Then I read some books by local authors and the novels seemed so basic and simple. It was then the idea was planted that maybe I could write a novel. I was very rusty on the fundamentals and had to do a lot of homework first.
How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I started writing my first novel in 2001. It was like the floodgates were opened. My fourth novel written was the first one published. I submitted it in February 2003, and it was accepted in January 2004, then released September 2004.
What type of writing schedule do you have?
It varies with the time of year. In the summer I was putting in late hours, starting around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. With school in session, I write four mornings a week for two hours when my youngest is in playgroup or preschool. Any other time is a bonus. In the past, I’ve written during naptimes or early mornings. I do have a lap top, but it’s hard for me to write on the move. But I haul around books with me to read for research.
The series that your new book concludes is based on scriptures of the LDS faith; therefore, some of your characters already have their names set in stone. How do you choose your other characters' names?
First you have to understand that my series is set in 600 B.C., so the names are traditional as well as ancient. The first book contained mostly ancient Hebrew people, so I went to the books of Genesis and Exodus to find names. As the series progressed, the characters encountered people in Southern Arabia, so I looked up Arabic names. By the fourth book the family settled in Mesoamerica, so any new character names come from either the Hebrew heritage or the local Mayan language.
There is one female character whose name is Isaabel. I purposely used two a’s in her name because I didn’t want her mixed up with another Isabel—a harlot—that is introduced in a later book of LDS scripture.
Given that your books are fact-based, I'd imagine you plot and research extensively as opposed to writing off the top of your head. Where avenues did you take in your research?
I usually do some initial research before starting to write so that I can develop characters and a basic plot guideline. As I write, I continue to research which sometimes gives me new plot or conflict ideas. When I’m in the midst of a scene and don’t want to pause in writing to look up something, I’ll make a note to myself to look it up later. Then the flow of writing isn’t interrupted. When I go through my first draft, I spend a lot of that time in looking up the small details—like authentic food, description of a geographic location, etc. I also use a footnote system when I’m inserting information from my research. These footnotes later become chapter notes at the end of my books.
How do you handle life interruptions?
I set word count goals that are realistic. Right now, I write 1,000 words a day (4-5 days a week). This can be accomplished in an hour if I don’t have interruptions. Once I can complete that, it’s easier to relax and get to the other things. If things get too hectic, I just miss a little sleep.
Do you get blocked? Any hints on how to stave it off?
I haven’t been blocked as far as what to write next. The motivation tool I use is “I can always change it later . . .” Sometimes I feel blocked on character development. I’ll write the “skeleton” of the plot with all the dialog and action, then in the second draft, I add in more characterization and try to delve a lot deeper into motivations.
What have you always dreamed of writing, but haven't yet?
This is a tough one. I’ve written several genre novels: Historical Romance, WWII Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Book of Mormon historical, Children’s . . . I think I dream more of getting what I have already written published. I can’t seem to stop writing novels, so it’s tough when one slides by without finding a publisher. I guess my dream would be to get my thriller published nationally and to be able to continue writing in that genre.
What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
I love the initial creative process. When I start writing a book, I don’t know where it’s going. I don’t know who all the characters are, and I’m not even sure how it’s going to end. I just finished “revising” the thriller. When I wrote it last year, it wasn’t until I was 200 pages into it that I realized I needed one more character to bring together several elements of the story. When I added him in, he became the strongest character of the book. Now he’s the main character.
The least favorite part about writing is finding typos even after I’ve edited and edited. I usually have several people read my manuscript before I submit to my publisher. It’s great to get feedback, but it’s very tedious to go through comment after comment . . . fixing and tweaking.
What is your next project?
I’m currently writing another inspirational historical that takes place in Ancient Mesoamerica. It’s based on a character named Abinadi . . . unfortunately he dies a brutal death in the end (not my choice), but I have enjoyed creating his character and those who surround him.
I also just finished editing the thriller (titled Queen). It’s based on the search for the Queen of Sheba’s tomb. The research was very interesting since there are so many strange legends surrounding her life. No one can agree on where she lived and died. Some even dispute her existence. The Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and the Yemenis all have differing opinions. In my story, a renowned historian is about to uncover the true location of her tomb . . . but he’s killed. Other characters come into play and must pick up the trail of clues that reveal the truth about her life and death.
What is your advice for other writers?
Work hard at your craft. Join a critique group and attend writers’ conferences. Read books on writing and learn to take criticism. Set your manuscript aside for a couple of months, then look at it with a fresh eye. Have several trusted readers. Then switch them around so you don’t get too comfortable.
Tell us about your new book, and where it is available.
Land of Inheritance, the fourth book in my Out of Jerusalem series, was just released at the beginning of September, 2007. It begins like this:
"Saving the ship," he said, looking at her through bleary eyes. His chest seized as he coughed.
. . . He turned to face Isaabel, seeing the reflection of the fire in her gaze. "Every part of that ship was instructed by the Lord. It's like losing a part of that experience."
Isaabel wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head against his sodden chest. "I hate to see the ship burn too. But we must let it go, Nephi. Your relationship with the Lord can never be destroyed. . . . And your older brothers cannot sever that, no matter what they do."
. . Nephi let his head rest on hers. A tear moved to the surface as he watched his ship disintegrate into the night.
I keep updated reviews on my website: hbmoore.com and my blog: mywriterslair.
Here is a list of Heather's books, from first to latest:
Out of Jerusalem: Of Goodly Parents, volume 1, 2004
Out of Jerusalem: A Light in the Wilderness, volume 2, 2005
Out of Jerusalem: Towards the Promised Land, volume 3, 2006
Out of Jerusalem: Land of Inheritance, volume 4, 2007