The See Jane Write Member of the Month for November is author and blogger Stephanie Naman.
By day, Stephanie is the VP/Creative Director at the advertising agency Luckie & Company, where she works with big-name clients like Regions Bank, Little Debbie, and Alabama Power. By night, she’s the author behind the mother-daughter mysteries Murder on the First Day of Christmas and Murder in a Two-Seater.
And recently Stephanie launched a new blog — Auntie Venom, a website for teen girls aimed at “taking the sting out of growing up.”
I am tempted to try to write something to show you that Stephane is one of the smartest and funniest women writers that I know. But I think letting her speak for herself will get the job done.
What inspired you to start your new blog and what can girls and grownup girls alike expect from your site?
My niece will be 18 in December and is headed off to college next fall. We’re very close and this new phase of her life had me thinking about all the things I wish I’d known before I ventured out on my own. I was such a late bloomer and figured things out much too late in life. My blog, Auntie Venom, is my way of giving her a few spoiler alerts, cautionary tales, plus a proper ’80s pop culture education to take the sting out of growing up. I’ll be blogging about college, career development, money management, health, relationships, and adventure. It’s pretty much a love letter to awkward girls of all ages.
You’ve been quite busy these days because in addition to your new blog you also recently released a new book. Tell us about Murder in a Two-Seater.
Having my book come out right as I was launching a blog and starting my busy time at work was a perfect storm of craziness. But I’m really excited about the second book in the Chloe Carstairs mystery series. In Murder in a Two-Seater, interior decorators turned amateur investigators Chloe and Amanda Carstairs are just finishing a huge project, transforming their client’s creepy old castle into a luxury hotel. But before the first guest checks in, the owner’s wife checks out – with the help of a bullet to the head. When Chloe’s dad is accused of the crime, there’s no time for the ladies to drown their sorrows in the hotel’s mini bar. Instead, they have to contend with a sneaky blackmailer, an unsolved murder from the past, and a cunning killer with nothing to lose.
Your books and your blog are hilarious and being funny on paper is so hard! What practical advice would you give to folks wanting to add more humor to their writing?
My golden rule for fiction: know thy character. Having a thorough understanding of what makes your character tick allows you to understand how they relate to situations or to other characters. If you’re blogging, that rule applies to your ideal reader. Is your character/ideal reader a fish out of water? The humor may come from the trial and error of how she adapts to her new circumstances. Is she a highly driven perfectionist? You can find humor in all the ways she falls short of her impossibly high standards. The humor in both my books and my blog posts is usually based on the observations of a highly sensitive, socially awkward over-thinker who often makes things far harder than they have to be. Talk about writing what I know! Oh and I try to make my humor self-deprecating rather than mean. Snark gets very tiresome very quickly.
What time management tips would you offer other writers and bloggers? How have you managed to work on a book and a blog while also working a full-time job?
My job is intense! That alone could suck up all my creative energy, but I still want to work on personal writing projects that feed my soul. I can’t just manage my time, I have to wrestle it to the ground and wring the life out of it. To do that, I’ve learned when to hustle and when to focus. First drafts fall into the hustle category. Like you, Javacia, I’m a big fan of Pomodoro Technique, 25-minute intense work segments separated by five or 10-minutes breaks. I use it at work and when I’m writing blog posts. I stockpile first drafts of several posts to come back to and polish later. For my fiction writing, my friends and I do something called Fast Draft every year, where you write 5000 words a day for two weeks and end up with a messy 70,000 word first draft. The Pomodoro technique is the only way I could survive such foolishness. During the revision stage, I’m much more focused and deliberate.
I use this focus/hustle strategy in my personal life too. I speed-clean my house and speed-shop for groceries but take my time when I cook because it relaxes me. I have short, intense workouts for when I’m slammed, and longer, more measured workouts when I have more time. (I never completely abandon my workouts when I’m busy. Stress builds up if you don’t sweat it out.)
And most importantly, I don’t crumble under pressure. I don’t allow myself to. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead, I tell myself that I work better when I’m busy and take a little time to congratulate myself on everything I accomplished. (And by congratulate myself, I mean reward myself with a little something from Anthropologie.)
You’ve been a supporter of See Jane Write for years, for which I am very grateful. What is it that you enjoy most about being a part of See Jane Write?
I love writing! When the words are flowing and I’m in my groove, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. So hanging out with, getting inspired by and learning from the women in See Jane Write who share my passion brings me such joy. I always come away from events fired up to start two more books or ready to quit my job so I can blog full-time. You ladies challenge and motivate me. (BTW, networking fills me with anxiety, so the sweaty girl on the fringes of the SJW events with the crazy eyes clinging to Sherri Ross and Jennifer King like a baby monkey – that’s me. Please introduce yourself!)
Would you like to be the next See Jane Write member of the month or do you know someone who would? Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.