Title: I'm Not Her
Author: Cara Sue Achterberg
Publisher: The Story Plant
Release Date: 4th August 2015
BLURB supplied by the author
It was a Tuesday like any other. And then it wasn’t. A simple encounter at a supermarket changed Carin Fletcher’s and Leann Cane’s lives – literally. Suddenly Carin, a pretty, self-absorbed, underemployed young college graduate, finds her life is switched with Leann, an uneducated, perennially poor, obese checkout clerk.
Both women are forced into lives opposite all they’ve ever known. Leann, at first thrilled to look and live like her favorite soap opera stars, discovers that the insecurities and desperation she’s grown up with don’t disappear because she looks like a model now. Fighting off the affections of a boyfriend she never chose and a controlling, plastic mother is hard enough, but she must fight off her own demons and figure out how to survive when her dreams come true.
Carin, suddenly fat, poor, meagerly employed, saddled with a kid, and married to a loser, must face her own, and the world’s, preconceived notions about life on the bottom rung. Carin spends her days avoiding the threats of Leann’s abusive husband, working two jobs to save money for her escape, and wrestling with her role as a mom to a precocious 6-year-old. She is surprised to learn that life can be rich even while destitute. She is even more surprised when she falls for a stock boy who repairs juke boxes and drives a hearse in his spare time.
More than a case of trading places, I’m Not Her explores the question of whether appearances or circumstances make us who we are. A brilliant, nuanced, and surprising tale about the way the world sees us and the course we are on, I’m Not Her is a remarkably assured first novel that introduces a profound new storyteller.
What is your name, where were you born and where to you live now?
My name is Cara Sue Achterberg. I was born in Wilmington, Delaware, but I now live in a small town in South Central, Pennsylvania called New Freedom.
Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
Yes! It took ten years of writing, pitching, querying, being rejected, re-writing, going to writer’s conferences, reading, giving up, trying again, starting over, entering contests, until I finally gave up. Two weeks later I was signed by an agent. Two months later I was a runner-up in a writing contest I’d forgotten I entered and landed a three book deal with The Story Plant/Authors First, the sponsors of the contest.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words, what would you say?
I’m Not Her: It’s a work of women's fiction that explores what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.
Do you have a favourite character from your books? And why are they your favourite?
I love Jimmy from I’m Not Her. Actually I love Mr. G, Trevor, and Bruce, too (funny they are all male characters! Hadn’t realized this.), but Jimmy is so special. He is that rare soul that truly listens to others and thinks before he speaks. He sees Leann as a person and not an obese woman. He falls for her soul, rather than her body. But mostly I love him because he is so happy where he is. He’s content. So few people in this world are content.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self publish?
I have published both ways. My novel which will be released August 4, 2015 by The Story Plant is a traditionally published book, while my book, Live Intentionally: 65 Challenges for a Healthier Happier Life was self-published last November through Amazon’s Createspace.
What can we expect of you in the future? Ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
My deal with Story Plant means there will be two more books of womens fiction coming soon, but I have also written a young adult novel that my agent is currently shopping, and I’ve put my heart and soul into a memoir that I hope to publish someday called, Cowboy Mom, which tells the story of raising my difficult daughter and training an even more difficult horse.
What do you do to unwind? Do you have a hobby?
I don’t unwind too well. There are too many gardens, horses, children, and books to keep me busy. But, my newest thing is becoming a dog foster mom. I absolutely love welcoming dogs (and puppies!) into our home through the organization ophrescue.org. Many times the dogs are scared and not in the best of health. It’s a joy to see them blossom in our care and yes, it’s a bit of a heartbreak to let them go. Helping them find their forever homes is a privilege that I write about on the blog anothergooddog.wordpress.com.
Where do you get your book plot ideas from? What/who is your inspiration?
My ideas come from everywhere, from life, from the people I encounter in our little town, from the guy who flipped me off driving on the interstate. I read the obituaries every day and try to speculate on how someone died if it’s not clear. Many of my characters probably come from that odd habit. When I sit down to start a novel, I don’t have an outline or even a synopsis. I usually have a character and a situation.
Writing the first draft is the part I enjoy the most. I usually dedicate about two hours a day to it and it takes me about three months to finish. For me, sitting down each afternoon with my story is like watching a good movie. I start typing and the story tells itself. I know that sounds kind of corny, but I really don’t know what will happen until I start typing. I’m not sure I could do it any other way. It wouldn’t be nearly as fun. Sometimes the story takes me off on weird tangents that get cut later, but the first time through, I put it all on the page – every thought, every detour, every character who appears. Some days I write 5000 words, and others I write 300. It depends on my muse and my distractions.
Is there a certain Author that influenced your writing?
I love John Irving. He’s a master. A Prayer for Owen Meany is probably still my favorite book. Irving has the strangest, most vivid characters. He writes bizarre situations and excellent dialogue. His books are way too long. I would guess that there is more of him in each of his books than in most author’s books. By that I mean, he’s unafraid to write about anything – the embarrassing thought, the sick idea, the bizarre situation. I could never write like he does, but reading his work is inspiring for me. I’m reading Trying to Save Piggy Sneed right now and enjoying every word (except all the excessive discussion of wrestling, but I’m reading that, too).
What do you think makes a good book/bestseller?
They are not always the same thing, but…I think a book that is written in such a way that I look forward to opening it and I want to turn the page, but also challenges me to reconsider how I look at the world, other people, or myself is a good book. Some of my best teachers have been well written books – fiction and nonfiction.
Do you think ebooks will ever replace printed books?
No. There’s something special about the feel of a book in your hand. I have a kindle and an ipad mini, both loaded down with books I will probably never read because I don’t enjoy the format. They never feel like “real” books. I like to write on my books, fold down corners on passages I love, write questions on the inside of the cover. When I finish a book, I usually give it away, unless it’s a book I really, really loved. Then it finds it’s way to one of my many bookshelves (I even have built-in bookshelves in my bathrooms!). When I’m dusting or looking for something and pass by a book I have loved, I remember why and I like that. Okay, I’m a book nerd and an odd one at that, but I can’t imagine not being surrounded by real books. I don’t think I’m an anomaly on this.
What advice would you give new writers?
Just put it out there. Don’t be afraid, because you have nothing to lose. Write from your heart. Write every day. Write the stories you want to read. Read books on writing like Stephen King’s On Writing and Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write. And if you really want to get published, submit your writing everywhere and anywhere. Again, you have nothing to lose. It’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall – if you toss enough of it, eventually something will stick.
Where can readers find you?