Meet Novelist Florence fOIS

Florence fOIS has been writing in different ways all her life. Like many others, her early stories center around the family, “that unit of people in their varied combinations who mold and shape our thinking.” She began with poetry and odd short stories, “writing the memories that linger and leave footprints in the sand.” Her current manuscript is a paranormal romance, a love story which pairs two lovers in our world and reunites two lost lovers in the after world.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Florence started her life in the neighborhood of Sunset Park. Her family moved to various other neighborhoods in Brooklyn. She took a two-year detour to New Jersey before returning to Brooklyn. She moved with her two children to Washington Heights in Manhattan, where she remained until her retirement. Her degree is in English, which she utilized doing technical writing and in her work for not-for-profit organizations before turning her energies to crafting stories.

When she’s not writing, Florence reads or indulges in television, movies, and music. Her true passion is writing, but she’s spent many a carefree day puttering in the kitchen and crafting in any space where she can make a happy mess.

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Florence Embarks on Her Journey

•With your penchant for words and your educational background and work experience, I’m guessing you’re one of those people who was born with a pen in her hand. Am I right?

My mother might have said I was kissed by the Blarney Stone. Tongue in cheek, I was a verbal story teller from childhood, following my mom as she cooked or hung the laundry, telling stories to classmates and being the one who always got pulled out of line for chattering too much.

The books I read have been a strong influence. When I began crafting stories of my own, like an art student who begins by reproducing the masters, I copied the style of the writer I was currently reading. When it was Nancy Drew, my brother became Carson Drew and I imagined sleuthing while hiding behind the counter of our local grocer. It continued like this for years, though college when I read the Russian classics and became depressed, to the modern classics and my love of Salinger. It was from Salinger that I became most intrigued with dialogue and the language and nuances of conversations. My early poetry was influenced by a host of poets like Syliva Plath, and one of my favorites, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks.

What I am doing now is the direct result of three journals I kept as a young mother; Ramblings, Mad Mother From Brooklyn and Hello Friend. These journals and snippets of prose and poetry morphed into my first short story and later into my first rather “dramatic” novel. Some of these will see the light of day, the others will remain hidden in a dusty bookcase.

When did you fall in love with romance novels and decide to write your own?

The first romance novel I read was Montana Sky, by Nora Roberts. I have read quite a number of others since, yet always considered myself a mystery buff. Last year I rewrote a draft of a novel with strong romantic elements. It began as two people’s journey to find themselves and love in the process, and evolved into a warm romantic story. That’s how I got hooked.

•How many manuscripts have you completed?

I have completed and edited three novels. I also have drafts and outlines for others and a series of short stories I want to convert into a series of novellas.

•You joined Romance Writers of America® last year and made some great connections. How did this come about? In what ways has your involvement in RWA® helped you grow as a writer?

I met another writer in a local critique group who had joined and loved the people she met and the wonderful resources RWA has. I joined the national organization and two on-line chapters. The group that has helped me the most with my stories, and especially the dreaded query, is the Women’s Fiction Chapter of RWA. I love the RWA newsletters and have taken workshops at other chapters and entered two chapter’s contest. No win, but great feedback.

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Florence’s Versatility

•Your stories represent a wide range of sub-genres: paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction with strong romantic elements. What is it you like about each of them? Has one become your favorite?

Each book is different and brings me to another sub-genre. Solving mysteries with a twist of humor or romance, paranormal romance with three lost misfit time travelers, and of course, the exploration of women in fiction. I could not choose and would probably say the book I am writing at the moment is my favorite.

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Florence’s Published Pieces

•Although you’ve yet to receive a contract for one of your novel-length stories, you’ve seen your name in print several times? What have you had published?

I have had poetry and short stories published in university press and small indie journals, also in my college magazine. I also spent a year working on a women’s newspaper doing a weekly feature column for single parents.

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Florence’s Perseverance

•What’s kept you moving toward your goals in spite of some challenges?

Life and happenstance can sideline our dreams. At different times in my young adult life I was needed to help my family, in particular my mom. Later as a single parent, my main goals centered around supporting the children.

I don’t consider these times as terrible and I didn’t see any of it as a sacrifice of what I wanted. When we put our dreams on hold and persevere, we learn other valuable life-lessons. Everything happens for a reason. Remove one obstacle, change too many of those “moments” in our life, and we change the outcome.

The opportunity to write came to me three times. When I could not push through and find the time or wit to write fiction, I merely internalized and used that skill for something else.

Persevere and learn something new. Put the dream aside and find another to take its place. I do not believe in the adage that “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” because what I didn’t use in one way, helped me in another.

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Florence, Budding Blogger

•You’ve wholeheartedly embraced blogging. What is it that most appeals to you, and what is your approach?

I began my blog, Ramblings From The Left, in October, 2009. The line in the header “where we all begin…” means we all write in English from left to right. It is also an inside joke because I am left-handed.

I began collecting ideas for posts after several months of reading other blogs and thinking how I wanted to approach mine. There are dozens, perhaps, hundreds of blogs in the writing world devoted to helping new and aspiring writers. Those with writing workshops, tips and helpful advice, are joined by those of professionals in the field, such as editors, agents and successful authors.

I feel no need to reinvent the wheel and I am in no way a writing expert, so the word that is at the center of my blog is humor. I love it and think of it as fun. I try to veer far from anything political and as we were taught as children … never write anything in a letter you would not want on the front page of your local newspaper.

I wanted to create a blog that was pleasant looking (I use a great deal of my daughter’s photography) and also pleasant to read. Easy and often fun, I can still get in some of my satirical bent, a bit of my pet rants, and not create something dark or negative. I blog on the average of three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with an occasional special edition blog.

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Florence fOIS: New Yorker to the Core

•What is it about New York that makes it an integral part of who you are?

The most important thing about me is not the blog or an upcoming novel. The most important thing about me is the moniker I use to sign off … fOIS In The City. It is at the core of who I am and where I come from.

New York City is a patchwork of neighborhoods as different as the colors of the rainbow, like a field of wild flowers it spreads out into five boroughs; from the majestic hills of Inwood Park in Northern Manhattan to the quaint Victorian homes of Tottenville, Staten Island; from the winding vistas along the Brooklyn Narrows heading into the New York Harbor to the bright lights of Broadway. Nowhere else and nothing else compares to the cultural diversity and complexities of its people. New York is the most linguistically diverse city in the world with over eight hundred languages spoken in her five boroughs.

New York speaks to me in dreams and keeps me company during my waking hours. While I am no longer sitting inside one of its historic apartment buildings, there is no doubt … You can take the New Yorker out of The City, but you can never take The City out of a New Yorker.

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Florence’s Journey Continues

•What captivating new ideas are swirling in your creative mind? Have new characters begun chattering away?

For my current novel, which I might turn into a trilogy, I am enjoying the research about the Broadway stage. I love the research phase of each subject I explore. I have met interesting people in college and now because of my love of research. I once called the Brooklyn Medical Examiner’s Office and asked if anyone would be able to answer a few questions regarding autopsy procedures. They were kind enough to answer a list of questions and offered their help in the future if needed.

I have several new characters I have begun to flesh out. It is the first phase of what may become a romantic suspense trilogy about three friends caught in the dead of winter during a series of snow storms that cripple New York City. The entire trilogy take place during that one winter, each book a month and another crazy set of circumstances about what happens when the unprepared citizens of New York face the weather that our friends in the northeast live with seven months a year.

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Five Fun Questions for Florence

•What are your favorite places in The City?

I should start by saying it is almost impossible to have a favorite part of New York. The City, as we call it, is actually Manhattan. An island 13.4 miles in length, she is an illusive dream, a devilish mistress, a delight and the most exciting piece of real estate in the country.

About my favorites, they would include Rockefeller Plaza and the Music Hall, The Village, and the hills of Inwood Park in Northern Manhattan. In Brooklyn my favorites are the parks, Brooklyn Heights, the vistas along Shore Parkway and the bike path along the Brooklyn Narrows which lead into New York harbor.

•If rain could fall in any scent, what scent would you want it to be?

I love the scent of the leaves and grass, and the sweetness of wet flowers or the steam rising from a hot sidewalk in the summer. In other words, I don’t think I could improve on what Nature has to offer.

•Everyone hears discussions that they consider boring. What topic can put you to sleep more quickly than any other?

Sadly, I am most inept at accounting. Having a long relationship with an accountant, it took all my will power to pretend the intricacies of debits and credits were interesting. In short, he could put me to sleep better than a tablet.

•What thought or sentiment would you like to have copied and put into one million fortune cookies?

Honestly, it has all been said. I would venture … dare to dream … an all time great.

•In your not-so-humble opinion, what is your most likeable quality?

My sense of humor and my ability to make people laugh. From grade school to college to the workplace, it has always been my way of being in the world, coping or just plain having fun.

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Florence’s Questions for You

What inspires you to begin writing a story; what one moment or spark starts your juices flowing?

How do you find and flesh out your different characters? How do you name each of them; do you research a culture or language, use phone books or Google.com to find names?

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Florence’s Drawing

Florence has generously offered to give away a $15.00 Amazon.com gift card.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Florence by midnight February 27th (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On February 28th, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)

Congratulations to the winner of the gift card: Anne R. Allen!

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

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Learn More About Florence

Visit her personal blog ~ Ramblings from the Left

Follow her on Twitter ~ tonifois

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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38 Responses to Meet Novelist Florence fOIS

  1. Jilian says:

    Great interview, ladies! I can’t wait to check out your blog, Florence. Often I’m inspired to write a story after reading the “How We Met” article in the Sunday paper. I’ve been saving the articles for the past year. Keli, I assume you meant February…time flies doesn’t it! 🙂

  2. christicorbett says:

    Florence,

    As a long-time reader of your blog, I really enjoyed getting to know you even further through this interview.

    As to your questions…

    What inspires me to write a story would be an idea that won’t leave me alone, that keeps twisting and turning and developing and begging for my attention and for me to get out my notebook and set the details in stone with pen. Then, I’m able to breathe a bit, until the idea visits me in dreams and other moments of my day.

    How do I name and flesh out my characters is a great question. I write historical fiction so names are a bit different back then compared to now. But, I have an amazing resource, a book titled, “The Official Registrer of the United States: The Post Office Department and the Postal Service.” It’s from 1885, really huge, and I’ve been known to flip through it for hours, finding the perfect first and last names for my characters.

    Thanks for sharing your writing journey in this interview!

    Christi Corbett
    http://christicorbett.wordpress.com

  3. Laura Drake says:

    I feel like I know you a lot better now, Florence!

    Plots, to me. are just a framework to hang a theme on – guilt, grief, gut-level emotion is what snags me and won’t let me go.
    My favorite thing to write is secondary characters – I love that you can go over the top with them, and readers love them!

    • Good to hear from you, Laura. I love that “hang a theme” … also I think we store characters in our minds like photos and momentoes in an old trunk.

      Thanks for stopping by to say hello 🙂

  4. Edie Ramer says:

    Great interview. Florence, I wish I could meet you in person. I’m more on the introvert side. Maybe that’s why I enjoy my extrovert friends so much.

  5. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Florence! I’ve been looking forward to your interview going live. It’s great to learn more about you and your writing journey.

    Sorry I wasn’t here to greet you when the post was published. Gwynly and I spent the day visiting our college daughter and had a wonderful time. Home safe and sound now, although bit lonesome for the Fashion Queen.

    Most of my stories are sparked by pictures. I write historicals and love looking at the vintage photographs from the time. I’ve enjoyed some great times perusing baskets of cartes de visite at our local antique stores. When I come across an image of a person from the past who piques my interest and causes ideas to flow, I know I’ve found a character who will work well in a story.

    • The pleasure is all mine, Keli and I thank you so much for this opportunity to let people get to know me and my work. Sounds like you had a good time and it was sad to let go.

      My first memories are of being in a crib in my parents bedroom, where among so many other things my brother built a make-shift darkroom. I have been fascinated by vintage black and white and have collected some of the old factory districts in the place where we lived.

      Pictures can pull you into a moment, that one frozen moment in time. How wonderful that you use them for your historical novels.

  6. Patti Yager Delagrange says:

    Nice interview. I got a real sense of who Florence is through the questions she answered. Enjoyable blog.
    Patti

    • Thank you so much Patti. I enjoy getting to know so many of the wonderful women in our chapter. It was wonderful last week to celebrate with you about your book.

      I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment 🙂

  7. PK Hrezo says:

    What a great interview, Keli! I love the fortune cookie question! Brill! And always great to learn more about the lovely and talented Florence Fois. Just love her.

    Let’s all meet in the city for coffee and writing one day. What d’ya say? In answer to your questions, I find inspiration in just about everything from nature walks to trips to the DMV. Odd real life peeps inspire my characters and nature inspires my imagination. Everything in between has effects on me as well, but I have to be open to it.

    As for naming my characters, it’s my fave part. I love names and I have a notebook of them. I work for an international airline so I hear names all the time and I write them down.

    Nice to meet you, Keli! 🙂

    • Thanks, PK … I enjoy the everyday things that stay with me. DMV is a new one and your job must be great for names. I use phone books.

      Put Keli on your must read list. She is one of the best! It would be great to meet in the city for coffee and writing 🙂 Gives me something to shoot for. Glad you came by to say hello.

  8. karenwintersschwartz says:

    Hi Florence! Keli, great interview with my cyber-friend, Florence! As a fellow writer, I love reading about what other people are doing. And Florence, you always make me laugh!

  9. Hi Florence! Great interview.

    Fun questions about characters. All my main characters seem to come to me named, although I do utilize baby name databases online to make sure I’ve got their heritage correct or to give me ideas for secondary characters. I love Keli’s idea of looking at cartes de vistes; sometimes antiques, like furniture or atomizers or bootjacks, get me thinking, and I can see the characters using them.

    Nice getting to know you, Florence!

    • Susanne, I am glad you came by to say hello. That’s great that your characters come to you already named. Like getting a package in the mail, ready to use, no batteries required.

      I also think Keli’s wanderings are great fun. I have a very good friend who is a collector and she spends much of her time in odd shops and galleries.

      What I love most about this process we all use is meeting new and interesting people every day 🙂

  10. I’m a big fan of Florence’s blog. I follow 100s of blogs, but hers is one I try not to miss. When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, New York was the center of the universe, and although I’ve lived in California for decades now, I still long for a little New York in my life. Florence gives that to me. Thanks for the great interview.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Anne. You know one of the things I look forward to every Sunday night is your weekly post. You are one of the best and most informative blogs I read 🙂

      And I do love giving people a view of my “city” !

  11. Hi Florence, Nice to meet you! I had to laugh at your boring discussions answer because I’m a former accountant (now a stay-at-home mom). Even in my accounting days, I promise I didn’t find discussions about debits and credits all that interesting either! 🙂

  12. Rosemary says:

    Florence,
    Love the Nancy Drew reference–it’s one I recognize only too well. ;>

  13. Hi Florence (and Keli)!

    Great interview–really enjoyed getting to know you better. I’ll be in your grand city this summer for the RWA conference. My first time in the Big Apple. It’ll be a great time!

    • It’s such a thrill being here with Keli and I’m glad you took the time to stop by.

      Oh yes, Tracey … you will have the best time. Hope you venture beyond the hotel to see some of the sights. Taking the first bite of The Big Apple is so juicy and sweet. Enjoy 🙂

  14. Great interview, Florence and Keli! I always enjoy getting to know all the interesting tidbits about various writers thanks to the wonderful questions Keli poses.

    My stories always begin with a mental image of a character. As it reoccurs I begin exploring who it is, what might be happening, when, where and why. The character usually seems to name himself (or herself), but the rest of the cast are given temporary names until I find more suitable ones. I love choosing names. I watch the credits on TV programs and movies for names that catch my attention. I also peruse lists of names that give their origins and meanings because I like all my characters’ names to have subtle meanings that fit into the story.

  15. Yes Carol, like you, I think Keli does a great job knowing just the right questions to ask each of her guests.

    The reason I posed the questions I did was motivated to get responses like yours. I am enjoying the unique way in which my writing friends find names, and develop characters. I have for years been one of those three people sitting in the darkened movie house reading the long list of credits. You have taken that to another and more interesting level.

    Thanks for sharing and for coming over to say hello 🙂

  16. Hi Florence,
    It’s nice to meet you through Keli’s blog–thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. If I ever visit New York (and I’d dearly love to!) I will look you up. 🙂

  17. Hello Julie: Keli’s blog is a great way to meet nice people. I’d love nothing more than to meet. Maybe at a conference 🙂 I appreciate you coming over to visit.

  18. Thanks Babe, you’re pretty cool yourself 🙂

  19. themommyvan says:

    Florence… it’s so helpful to read your thoughts on writing. It always is. Really? Blogging just three times a week and not every day?!? Imagine that.. setting a more realistic goal and moving from there. I would venture to guess that most writers’ problems with finding the time to write is being to lofty with their goals. Sigh…

    I love reading your descriptions of NYC. As a native New Yorker who now lives in the outer suburbs, i can always see, feel, smell and taste NY whenever you write about it. For me, that’s the next best thing to being there.

  20. Thanks Mommyvan … I’m glad some of my writing advice is helpful. You are at the beginning of so many wonderful times with your family. I am sure you will find “time” to do all the things you love 🙂

    The truth is, I love writing about NYC … and as a native New Yorker who is also in an outer location (she laughs) … it makes me happy to bring the city that never sleeps to the rest of the country. And of course, writing about her, is the next best thing to being there 🙂

  21. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by and to those who left a comment for Florence.

    I’ve held the drawing, and the winner of the Amazon gift card Florence so generously offered as a prize is Anne R. Allen.

    Congratulations, Anne! I’ll be in touch.

  22. Keli, this has been a wonderful experience for me and I thank you so very much for the interview and for your kind words.

    Anne, congratulations!

    To Keli and to Anne and to all the people who left me their comments, I say thank you. This is a very new and strange experience. I will work hard and hope that one day soon I can join so many others for “the call” … “the happy dance” … the day I find my perfect connection in an agent and a publisher.

    Good writing to all of you 🙂 Affectionately, Florence fOIS In The City

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