Friday, September 20, 2013

"What Else Do You Have?" A Conversation with Lisa Kline


In the next two blog posts Lisa Kline, author of the Sisters in All Seasons books shares how this five book series was born. 

I imagine that many series first come into being as a proposal with a synopsis for each book. Mine didn’t come about that way.

Several years ago, I wrote a book about two stepsisters, Stephanie and Diana, on vacation at a mountain ranch with their newly married parents. My publisher wasn’t interested. I sent it to a few more publishers, and they weren’t interested, either. With great sadness, I put those characters behind me, wrote some other books, and a couple of years went by.

After my agent sold Write Before Your Eyes, she said, “What else do you have?” And I told her I had this manuscript about two stepsisters. “Send it to me,” she said. I had a rush of emotion.  I wanted the manuscript to have another chance, but didn’t want to get my hopes too high. But after she read it, she suggested I change it from third person to first. I balked. I had so carefully chosen third when I wrote it. But I decided the change was worth a try. This was a fairly extensive process, much more than just changing pronouns. It involved “revisioning” everything and working to differentiate the girls’ voices better. Making that change brought me closer to both characters. It seemed to open channels of understanding for me. Only a few months later, my agent sold the manuscript to Zondervan. But they didn’t just want Summer of the Wolves. They also wanted three more books about Stephanie and Diana. And their schedule called for me to write each of the books in about seven months.

It was a surreal feeling. I was exhilarated and panicking at the same time. I’d never written a book that fast before. Eleanor Hill, my first book, which was historical fiction, took about three years. The others had taken about two years apiece. But wasn’t this what I’d always dreamed of? And the hardest part, the character development, was already mostly done. No matter how intimidated I was, how could I say “no?”

The pub board immediately asked me for ideas for settings and plotlines. I spent several weeks feverishly brainstorming. I knew that I didn’t have time to actually visit locations for the books, so I decided to write about places I’d already been. There was a wildlife adventure in Summer of the Wolves, so I decided each book should have a wildlife adventure. And somehow the idea that the books might take place in different seasons formed. So my editor and I hit on the title for the series – Sisters in All Seasons.

I bombarded my agent and writers’ group with scenarios and they helped me refine them. After I submitted these ideas to the pub board, they chose their top three. My editor then told me that the covers for all of the books would be shot over a two-day shoot so that the girls they’d chosen as models for Diana and Stephanie wouldn’t age too much between covers. So, the covers were shot before I had written the first words of the books. I’ll be honest, I was freaking out!

Lisa will continue her story next week and will also be giving away a copy of the last book in this series, Seasons of Change


If you are attending the SCBWI Carolinas annual conference, Lisa and her good friend Chris Woodworth, are co-presenting a workshop on "Characters we Care About."

18 comments:

Barbara Younger said...

I love the books! How fun to learn that the covers were finished before the stories. Did you keep them near as you wrote?

Linda A. said...

Lisa,
What an interesting story about how your series evolved. Wow.

I enjoyed a workshop you presented years back about using photos to brainstorm a story. I imagine the book covers had an influence on your manuscripts. Did they?

Carol, thanks for having Lisa share with us. You always have quality posts.

Rosi said...

Very interesting interview. Thanks for posting it. Since I've read Season of Change, let someone else win.

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Thanks for sharing Lisa's march towards publication of her books. Great story in itself and very encouraging!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Wow! Nothing like a deadline to keep your on task. I totally get the combo of panic and thrill.

But,congrats! You're pulling it off.

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, I was interested in the "pictures first" part of Lisa's story--that's what prompted this interview! Thanks for the comments, friends.

Lisa Kline said...

Thanks everyone for the comments!
It was funny because I gave my editor detailed descriptions of what the girls looked like and the kinds of clothes they each wore, and they were very careful to follow exactly what I said. Still, of course, their faces weren't exactly the way I'd imagined them. I must say, the way I imagined the girls in my head did not change after the covers were shot. I love the covers, especially the last one, which looks so much like Lake Norman. And it's fascinating that the decision was made not to show the girls' faces on most of the books. That way, the reader can imagine a face of her own choosing. Linda, so glad you enjoyed the presentation on Eleanor Hill. That makes me feel really good! Carol, thanks for giving me this chance to guest post.

sheri levy said...

Hi Lisa,
I love reading about how an idea forms and develops into the book. I think this process is the fun part of writing! Can't wait to read the series and see you at the conference!!

Ann Eisenstein said...

Thanks for a wonderful post, Carol and a glimpse into birth of Lisa's step-sister series. I am looking forward to hearing more at our conference next week!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Sheri and ANn, for stopping by. See you soon!

Kathy B said...

Carol, thank you for having Lisa at your blog. Lisa, thank you for sharing your experience. What a great way to describe how you felt in the process as exhilarated and panicking. What a roller coaster ride that whole process must have been. I look forward to hearing you and Chris Woodworth speak at the conference!

Carol Baldwin said...

Kathy, Thanks for stopping by. Make sure you introduce yourself at the conference--so I can put a face with your name!

Lisa Kline said...

Thanks, Sheri and Ann and Kathy for your comments! I look forward to seeing you all at the conference next weekend. The presentation Chris and I are making is at 8:00 (whew!) Sunday morning!

Young Authors Program said...

Inspiring! Can't wait to read more.

Lisa Kline said...


Thanks, Young Author's Program! I appreciate the feedback.

Kim Van Sickler said...

What a happy ending. I love it when works that are set aside get another chance! And that shelved manuscript gave birth to a series. Love it. Congrats, Lisa.

Lisa Kline said...

I felt that way, too, Kim! Thanks.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Kim and Dorothy. Yes, Lisa's story does inspire us all!