Starting from Scratch by Jessica Goodwin
What led you into writing?
I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a kid. For me, writing came in waves. It was something I studied here and there in college, but then set aside so that I could start my teaching career. I returned to writing when my marriage began to crumble… It was one of the few things that brought me happiness (and happily ever afters!) during that unhappy time. I balanced writing and teaching for about five years. I eventually remarried and when my son was born in 2015, my husband suggested that I go for it – that I stay home and start writing full time. Since then I’ve written three more books and hundreds of articles both online and in print.
How does a typical day look?
I don’t wake up early enough. (Ha ha.) I try to get up around 6 or 7 to snag some time to myself before my son (almost 4) wakes up. I’ll catch up on the news, social media, and try to figure out what I need to do with my day. I get my son up around 7:30 every day and we eat breakfast before he heads off to preschool from 9-12. Those three hours are when I get most of my work done. I cram a lot into those three hours because that’s my biggest chunk of time during the day. I pick him up from school at noon and we have lunch together. He takes a rest for an hour or half to two hours and I sit down and try to finish up whatever I was working on. He gets up around 3 and then we play the afternoon away! One or two nights a week I’ll have class (I’m in grad school, studying Creative Writing and Literature at Harvard University Extension School) so I’ll say good night and get to work, but usually, after he goes to bed, I start to wind down myself. There are some nights where I might sit in bed with my laptop, but usually the evening is for downtime… I’ll read or watch something on Netflix.
In what ways do your characters test your abilities?
They talk too much! I’ve been told in the past that my stories can be very dialogue-heavy at times so that’s something I try to keep in check when I’m writing.
What’s your setup?
My husband and I share an office at home. We have an enormous T-shaped desk that takes up one side of the wall. We each get half of the T, with a long, shared workspace down the window. I have a giant dry-erase board where I scribble my to-do list and other notes. My side of the desk is kind of cluttered… a cup of mechanical pencils, another cup of pens and highlighters, my calendar, and books and notes and papers everywhere. I have a big sign above my desk that says “She believed she could, so she did.” My husband got it for me – the word “believed” is painted in Harvard crimson… to remind me to believe in myself and that I can do whatever I set my mind to!
What lasting effects have your favourite authors had on your writing and style?
Joyce Maynard taught me not to be afraid to revisit subjects and write about them again and again, because you always get a slightly different story every time. Stephen King taught me that a little bit of writing adds up. And all of the writing teachers that I’ve had have told me not to write for other people, not to write for the market, but to write the story that you want to tell.
What do you do for inspiration?
I always have music going. It changes depending on my mood. And several of my professors have talked about keeping a file of ideas… Even if it’s not a fully-formed plot, even if you’re working on something else, just jot it down somewhere so when you need some inspiration, you can take a look at the ideas you’ve saved over time.
What repeating themes do you find yourself pulling into your stories?
Second chances. Long lost loves. The idea that friends can be your family.
How do you wind down?
I don’t know if I wind down enough, that’s my problem. I feel like lately I have been go-go-going constantly. With my son, though, there’s lots of playtime – blocks and cars and art projects. On the weekends, I try to put work aside so I can concentrate on spending time with the family. I won’t pass up the chance to take a long bubble bath, though!
What sort of challenges do you regularly overcome while world-building?
I always worry that I’m inserting too much of myself into what I’m writing. I’ve never written in first person because I’m afraid I’d see too much of myself in every character. As for settings, most of them have been based on places I’ve lived over the years. Or an amalgam of what I loved (or disliked) about those places.
What’s the most useful advice you could give to an aspiring author?
Just keep writing. Make yourself write every single day. Even if you can barely squeak out a paragraph. Don’t worry about editing and making things perfect. Just write. Edit later. People always say things like “But I don’t have time to…” Yes, you do. Close Twitter, put down your phone, and start writing.
Tell us about the book you’re promoting.
I started writing Starting from Scratch in the fall of 2016. I was taking a “Plotting Your Novel” course online for fun and was really excited about the story; the ideas just came out of nowhere. It was slow going because our son was a little over one and had just started walking, he went down to one nap a day, and things were pretty hectic at our house while we adjusted. Then, in December of 2016, we lost our home and everything we owned to a fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it was a devastating experience, one that we struggled with for months and months.
I had a hard time working on the story while dealing with the aftermath of the fire. Normally, writing has always been my escape, but this time, it was just too difficult for me to confront the situation in the story while I was dealing with a loss of my own.
You see, Starting from Scratch is a story of starting over after loss. When Caroline “Cookie” Walker loses her husband unexpectedly, she doesn’t know how she’s supposed live her life without him. She’s only ever been a housewife and a stay-at-home-mom to her three kids. She’s never had a job – her only job has been taking care of her family. She doesn’t know what to do. Her family, friends, and the gossipy PTA moms at her daughter’s school aren’t convinced she can do anything, either.
When she finally accepts that she needs to start her life from scratch, she decides it’s time to make some big changes. Her family undergoes some changes as well – her three children must adjust to life without their father, her sister is struggling to get pregnant, and her parents’ business is failing.
Even with all that going on around her, Cookie starts spending a lot of time with Dylan Cooper, a friend of the family who is in the middle of a nasty divorce. While Cookie is glad to have found someone who understands her feelings of loss, she’s oblivious to the fact that Cooper has developed romantic feelings for her. He eventually makes his feelings known and Cookie has to decide if she is ready to juggle three kids, a new business, and a possible new romance… something everybody in town is talking about!