Ever since making treks to the public library as a child, Frances has been amazed by the new worlds, people, and experiences one encounters in the pages of a book. She loves books that will make you laugh, cry, think, and dream.
In her debut novel, Life in Spades, four African-American women rely on their friendship as they face insecurities, negotiate love, and define happiness:
- Gina, an admittedly unathletic runner training for a marathon with her White boyfriend in an effort to change her mother’s mind about interracial dating;
- Sherry, a divorcee enjoying her new single life, but still debating motherhood;
- Cookie, a cupcake baker wrestling with memories of her late fiancée and an obvious attraction to the delivery man who comes by every day; and
- Laura, a professional escort who plays by a strict set of self-imposed rules in order to maintain her one-woman business.
With humor and insight, Frances Frost weaves a story of these women as they face their personal insecurities, negotiate love, strengthen their friendship, and define happiness as they consider their cards and wonder which will be the trump that wins.
In her second novel, due in Spring 2016, Frances returns to her native South Korea to explore family relationships, cultures, and secrets.
Frances is an independent author and publisher. She writes fiction and her blog, Just Piddlin’ from her home in Maryland, where she lives with her husband and their four children.
By Sarah Baker
This installment in our exclusive interview series puts the spotlight on Frances Frost, an independent author and publisher. Frances’ debut novel, Life in Spades, chronicles the friendships between four African-American women as they face insecurities, negotiate love, and define happiness. Her second book is due to be released this spring and will be available, along with Life in Spades, at the festival.
Tell us about your writing process. When do you like to write? Where? Do you use a computer or write longhand? What do you advise to deal with writer’s block?
Writing is an ongoing process. I carry a journal and write whenever I’m inspired by a scene, by people walking along the street, by an idea that comes to me. The passage may go nowhere beyond my journal, it may grow into a short story, or become a chapter in a novel. I never know, but it’s always great practice and keeps my imagination active.
When I’m writing intentionally, I mostly write on the computer. Usually, in the morning after my children have left for school or late at night, after everyone’s gone to bed. Either way, I have a cup of coffee at hand.
Writer’s block is often our fight with perfection. How does the saying go – perfection is the enemy of good. When faced with writer’s block, we’re looking for the perfect next thing to happen or a great line of dialogue. Instead of stopping, writers should keep writing and allow the great thing to come to you. Or if you really don’t like that method, move on to an entirely different activity. I find swimming and running are great activities to allow ideas to flow freely. Exercising requires little concentration and doesn’t allow for multi-tasking. It’s a great time for the unfettered pieces and loose story lines to come together. Of course, the challenge is remembering it all until I get back to paper and pencil.
Why is the book nearly always better than the movie?
The book is always better than the movie. I can’t think of one movie that was better than the book. Which is probably why I rarely watch a movie if I know there’s a book.
In a book, the author can get so much deeper into the character – their thoughts, their feelings, their backstory. You can’t express that in a movie. Not in 2 hours. As the reader, you have so much more time to understand and get to know your character and their story.
Additionally, the story in a book belongs to the reader. What the character looks like, how they walk, how they talk, what the scenery looks like is the creation of the reader. In a movie – it’s the director, actor. How many times have you watched a movie and thought “that’s not what I thought he’d look like?” And how many movies have left out your favorite scene from the book? In a book – it’s all up to the reader’s imagination.
That’s not to say that there aren’t good movies made from books. But the book is always better.
Which of your characters do you identify with most? Tell us about that character. (If non-fiction, which characters did you find most compelling, and why?)
In my first novel, Life in Spades, I identified with Cookie the most, partially because of my love of baking and the desire to open a bakery in some other life. She’s also a little more emotional than her friends. She holds on to love and it takes until her friends push her that she is starts to move forward. I’ve never been in her situation, of losing the man she loves, but I think if I was, it would take me a long time to move on.
I share similarities with the two main characters in my upcoming novel, Mourning Calm. Like them, I am Asian and African-American; this combination and all that goes with it, is part of my story as well as theirs.
What do you think makes a good story?
Human connection. There must be a little bit of “I know that person,” “I can empathize with that person” to make a story work. I generally finish books all the way through – if I somehow connect with a character, even if I don’t like her. The books I don’t finish or don’t like are the ones where I am really annoyed by the characters or don’t like them, or have no emotional connection at all with them.
Aside from the characters, a really good story stays with you after you finish the last page. There has to be a compelling tale, it can be hilarious or serious, but somehow requires your attention and challenges your curiosity. If you are still wondering what happened to the character, thinking “what would I do if that happened to me,” or relating the story somehow to your real life – that’s a good story. I hope that in my novels, I inspire that curiosity of thought.
Is there a question you’re never asked as a writer that you’d like to address? This is your chance!
Many people say to me “I want to write a book, too” or “I’ve started writing a book.” So I’ll answer the often unasked question – What’s the scariest thing about writing a book? Answer: Hoping that someone likes your book.
Writers have to be prepared for criticism and the fact that everyone will not like your book. As a writer, you put your heart and soul, time – months, even years – into all these pages until eventually you are ready to release your ideas out into the world. And you sit back, and hope someone likes it, knowing that everyone won’t.
When I finally got the nerve to say “I’m going to publish this book,” I wasn’t sure I was ready for other people to actually read it. When I finally held the first printed copy in my hands, I still had doubts – like, am I really really going to put this out in the world, because I could quit now and still say I published a book. As a writer, you have to know that what you wrote is good, love the work that you have done, believe in the work that you have done, and be ready for the love, as well as the bruises. Writing and publishing is so much scarier than you may imagine.