Christine Adamec started her 30-plus year writing career discovering what she shouldn’t be: a counselor! Now, as a career freelance writer and author, she has numerous books and hundreds of magazine, newspaper and Internet articles to her credit. (For more information, visit her website.)
How did you begin your writing career?
My launch into writing was a little strange. I was attending graduate school
to obtain a degree in counseling, and in the first course, the professor required a very detailed written description of our past and a discussion of strengths and weaknesses. It became clear to me from writing the paper that I would NOT be a good counselor (too empathetic) but instead, should become a writer. I quit school and launched my writing career. (I do have an MBA.)
What were some of your first writing assignments?
At the beginning of my career, I convinced a local free newspaper to let me write for them. They paid a pittance but it was paid work, so it counted! They wanted articles on party planning. I am no party person—but some friends and relatives were. So I interviewed them, and wrote up what they told me, and the editor loved my articles. I moved to writing articles for a local and much larger newspaper and then on to writing magazine articles on many different topics.
Sometimes I have been asked to write about topics on which I knew nothing beforehand, such as mining or fishing. What’s important is being able to research and then meet the needs of the customer. I’m adaptable.
What was your first book?
My first book was There ARE Babies to Adopt, published by a small publisher in 1987, and that book was picked up by Kensington for several updated editions. I met an editor at a writer’s conference in Florida and she hired me to write The Encyclopedia of Adoption for Facts On File, which was my second book. I’ve written three editions of that book and many other books for Facts. I have written and ghostwritten 40-plus books.
What was your “writer dream”—your goal— when you began to write? Has it changed over the years? What is your “writer dream” now?
My writer dream when I started was to provide information that people need and get paid well for it and that dream hasn’t changed. I sometimes say I want to “Do good and do well.”
What type of writing do you do? If you do more than one kind or prefer one genre over another, what type is your favorite?
I primarily write health and medical books, but if things are slow, I write press releases or other items that people need. I write self-help and reference books. The medical and reference books are usually coauthored with a physician.
Writing books is what I love best. My favorite genre/format is the one used by the Dummies series for Wiley and my Fibromyalgia for Dummies is my most successful book. This is a tough type of job for many writers because the manuscript is constantly broken up with sidebars, bullets, lists and so forth, and when it’s edited, you will receive comments from four to five people in all colors, in the tracking mode. This does not bother me. I have ADHD and believe ADHD can be an asset if channeled and controlled.
Do you find it difficult to switch from one writing type to another? What techniques do you use that help you switch “writing gears”?
No. I have worked on up to four books in the same timeframe but generally stick with one book on a given day. Say, Book A on Monday and Tuesday and then Book B on Wednesday and so forth. Sometimes I am interrupted on Book A day by an editor for Book B, but take it in stride.
What do you usually wear when you’re writing? Do you “dress for work” or dress for comfort?
Clothes are not important to me, as long as they are clean, comfortable and cotton!
On average, how much time do you spend writing a day? Do you have a schedule that you keep?
My schedule depends on deadlines. If I have pressing deadlines, I work as hard as I need to in order to meet them. If my schedule is light, I hang out with my family or play Words with Friends on Facebook.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? The least?
I love researching. Sometimes I feel like a detective, such as when I am researching very hard to find information. In fact, it’s difficult for me to give up on finding what I need.
The hardest part for me is starting the writing. Just getting something, anything, composed and staring at me, is difficult. I don’t have writer’s block and will do it, but don’t like writing the first draft. After that, I have no problem. I’m all “in.”
Have you worked with another author on a book project?
I have worked with other authors on projects. I have mostly worked with doctors and I have learned that the secret to working with doctors is to treat them with the utmost respect, while at the same time retaining as much editorial control as possible—prior to submitting to the editor.
What is the next project you have in the works?
I am finalizing a book on the illegal drug phencyclidine (PCP), which, sadly, is making a minor resurgence. This is a really bad drug! The book is for Chelsea House.
What was your favorite childhood book?
The Little Engine That Could. Then in high school, A Tale of Two Cities and MacBeth.
What type of books do you prefer: non-fiction, fiction, essays, poetry?
I prefer fiction. Probably since I only write non-fiction.
Which three authors would you love to have a “One on One” with?
Do they have to be alive? If not, my first two choices would be Daphne du Maurier and Anya Seton. Then my third choice would be Nicci French (a husband and wife team in the UK—who are alive).
How do you blend your writing life with your “real life”—do you find it challenging to make time for both sides? If so, what are some of the difficulties and how do you resolve them?
I am raising my 6 year old grandson Tyler with my husband. We’ve had custody of him since he was 6 months old and adopted him about a year ago. I work when he’s in school or daycare or is asleep. I can become extremely focused on my work and shut everything else out. In fact, I can lose three or more hours of time when hyperfocusing, and forget to eat or do anything else except what I am working on. This level of concentration can be an asset or a liability, depending on the situation. I don’t allow myself to hyperfocus when Tyler is around.
What do you find the hardest part about the “writing business”?
The cash flow is insanely irregular. You can get $20K or more in two months and then nothing for six months. There is no way to even it out. You just have to save some money from the big checks for the barren months.
How do you define success as a writer?
Success is researching and writing material that people need and getting paid for it. It’s just that simple.
What advice do you have for other writers who are contemplating pursuing a writing career?
Don’t expect instant success. However, don’t listen to people who say you can never write a book, a magazine article or whatever it is that you want to do.
Don’t be afraid. Believe in yourself. Talk to other writers. Don’t expect an experienced writer to give you a mind meld of everything she/he knows, but most writers will answer a few questions.
Once you are a writer, don’t fall in love with your own words such that you can’t bear to give them up, such as a wonderful phrase or example that you love. That’s a fatal flaw of many writers. Reality check: We have to be edited. In fact, it’s best if you edit yourself mercilessly. Then submit the piece to the editor and expect more slashing. However, if something you wrote is really important to you, be sure to tell the editor. Sometimes they agree. And other times, they don’t. At least you tried.
Always, always, always meet deadlines. This really impressed editors.
What do you want your writer’s epitaph to be?
Here lies a writer who helped some people achieve life-changing goals.
My thanks to Christine Adamec for being part of One on One: Insights Into the Writer’s Life