Maintaining Control Over Your Story, with Lynne Golodner


Links in this Episode

Lynne Golodner

Scotia Road Books

Woman of Valor (novel)

Make Meaning podcast



Well, hey there, Writer. Welcome to The Resilient Writers Radio Show. I'm your host, Rhonda Douglas. And this is the podcast for writers who want to create and sustain a writing life they love. 

Because let's face it, the writing life has its ups and downs, and we want to not just write, but also to be able to enjoy the process so that we'll spend more time with our butt-in chair-getting those words on the page. This podcast is for writers who love books and everything that goes into the making of them. 

For writers who want to learn and grow in their craft and improve their writing skills. Writers who want to finish their books and get them out into the world so their ideal readers can enjoy them. Writers who want to spend more time in that flow state. Writers who want to connect with other writers to celebrate and be in community. In this crazy roller coaster ride, we call the writing life. 

We are resilient writers. We're writing for the rest of our lives and we're having a good time doing it. So welcome, Writer. I'm so glad you're here. Let's jump right into today's show. 


Well, hey there, Writer. Welcome back to another episode of the resilient writers radio show. And I'm here today with Lynne Golodner. Lynne is the author of nine books at this point and thousands of articles. She's also a writing coach and the host of the Make Meaning podcast. I'll put a link to the podcast in the show notes. 

Her novel, Woman of Valor came out in September, 2023. And it is based in part on Lynne's own experience of being in the Orthodox Jewish community. I'd love to talk about that, Lynne. First of all, welcome. Thanks for being here with me. 


Thank you for having me. I'm thrilled. 


So I'd love to talk about how that started for you. When did you decide that you were going to write that novel that drew on your own experience? Was it a decade you spent? 


I was Orthodox for a decade. I would say the book is not based on it. It was inspired by. 


Inspired by. 


Yeah, and it's interesting. I started writing it in 2011 but wrote 60 pages, sort of got stuck, didn't know where I was going. And that was only three years after I left my first marriage and decided that orthodoxy wasn't for me. So it was still pretty fresh.

And my main character, Sally, at the time in those first 60 pages was very whiny, very unhappy with her life, all kinds of complaining. And I was just bored. I was annoyed by her, you know? So I put it aside. And I said, I'll come back to this later. 

And it really took 10 years before I came back and I was ready to pivot my career once again and focus on writing novels full time. And I thought, what am I starting with? And I liked the kernel of what was in those 60 pages, but I needed to change it.

And so I made a decision that, having that distance and that perspective, I didn't want to trash the Orthodox community even though I left it. There was so much that was beautiful about it. And I just felt like there are plenty of books in the world that are about how people don't like being religious in any religion and they leave. And it's really sort of trashing that decision. 

And so I made a conscious choice to create a character who not only chooses orthodoxy, makes that unusual choice, but loves it. And even when she has challenges that really threaten her standing in the community, she wants to find a way to stay. And I think that's an unusual angle to take. And so that was how it reinvigorated the concept for me and I went forward. 


Wow, okay. So 60 pages, I mean, it's like it's a good start, you know, like onto something if you, as you say, if you find that little kernel. Yeah. What was the process of writing the book like for you? Like what, take us through your own creative process as you were writing the book. 


So I will say that I am a born pantser and I have converted to plotting since writing Woman of Valor. 


Oh, okay. After or during? 


After. After, because I really, you know, I struggled. I got to a point where I wasn't sure where it was going because I hadn't plotted it out. I lost track of, you know, which characters have this color hair or that color, like who belongs to whom. And so I had like a document open on the computer right next to the manuscript that was like a loose outline of like this one is connected to that one. And so it was kind of haphazard. 

And a few times the main arc of the story changed because I'm like, oh, I don't think I like that plot point. Now I need to reinvent. And so, but I did write it rather quickly. I think I wrote the first messy draft in about three months. And then I really went back and revised and revised and revised. I went through several rounds myself. of revising and editing. 

And then I hired a developmental editor since it was my first novel. It wasn't my first novel. I wrote a novel in the year 2000 that's in a drawer. We'll probably stay there. But this was the first one I was serious about. Well, I got at least a novel in a drawer, right? Of course. It's like a rite of passage.

So I hired a developmental editor. And she was amazing. She gave me great feedback. I went back and revised again, sent her a new version of the first 100 pages after that. And then I still had a few more rounds of revision, and I had a couple of final readers who took a look at it before I sent it out. 

And I actually did query for a hot minute because my eight previous books were all published by publishers. And I was really trained in journalism and in publishing at a time when you didn't self-publish.

But something was gnawing at me, and I really felt like, I don't think I want to jump through hoops at this point in my life. And I also don't want someone to water down the Jewish identity in the book. So I decided to go my own route and created a publishing house. And yeah, then that was the journey. 


Wow, that's amazing. I wanted to ask, because in the book, there's a moment where her son ends up being abused. How did you handle the sensitivity of that? And then other than yourself, did you have any other sensitivity readers or any feedback on other aspects of the book that might be quote unquote triggering for readers? 


Yeah, I didn't for Woman of Valor. My next novel, which is coming out in August, I did have a sensitivity reader for because one of the main characters is gay, is a gay man, and I'm not a gay man. So I felt that I needed somebody to look at it and make sure I was treating it properly. With the abuse, abuse does happen in schools and more so in parochial schools, I think, than in public. 

The type of abuse in Woman of Valor is physical abuse, not sexual abuse. And I made a deliberate decision because I don't think I could write that. I'm very sensitive to anything bad happening to children. And...

If I have to spend all the time creating the scene and I want to write vividly, I just I didn't think I could stomach it so even though sexual abuse does happen at Schools, unfortunately, especially parochial schools I chose for it to be more physical abuse which still does happen in some of these more conservative right-wing schools in religious communities Because you know, kept corporal punishment is still alive and well. 

So yeah, I did not I didn't check in with anyone. I just tried to handle it with grace. 


Right, yeah, I hear what you're saying there. So you say this is inspired by your own experience of being in an Orthodox community and then leaving, right? 


Yes, yes. 


Where is that line for you? Like, what are you willing to mine from your own life and use and where do you draw the line with it? 


I think a lot of things come from lived experiences that the writer has. And I think first novels above all else are much closer to the author's experience than subsequent novels are, unless they're in like science fiction, or even then it could be pulled from their lives.

I was Orthodox. I did become Orthodox when I didn't grow up that way. But, you know, and I did love it when I was there. I wasn't as religious as Sally, my main character. I was more what they call modern Orthodox. So I never wore a wig. I didn't do a lot of those things. I've never lived in Chicago where she's based.

And it's funny, my daughter is convinced that every novel I write is based on her family and she can find a way to make her point. So when I was telling her about Woman of Valor, I have three biological children plus a stepdaughter. my three children that I gave birth to are boy, girl, boy, and Sally's kids are. I didn't do that deliberately. I think I just did it because that's what I know. And my daughter was like, well, that's us, Mom. And I'm like, OK, fine. 

But I think those little unconscious influences do come in. But yeah, I think that's probably where it stops. My father was not a senator. My parents were both Jewish. They loved being Jewish. And Sally's parents were Jewish. You know, her mother is, but she doesn't like it at all. And so they're all things like that. So but of course, like Sally grew up in Michigan. I live in Michigan. So my next novel partially takes place in Michigan, too. It's what I know. So I think we all mind our lives for a story. I do. 


Yeah, absolutely. I also I love how you are not representing or even, you know, pretending to represent like the homogenized monolithic like Orthodox Jewish narrative. Do you know what I mean? 

Like, yeah, everyone's an individual. It's not like, you know, so was that something you were consciously trying to do as you wrote the novel? Like to really not just to kind of, I don't know, be sensitive to how you were portraying this Jewish woman? 


Absolutely. I think that I depart from stereotypes in quite a few ways in the book. You know, Sally is a strong woman and A lot of people assume that women in the Orthodox Jewish community are meek, subservient, and I didn't want to, I don't think it's true. I know a lot of amazing and strong women who are Orthodox, and so I wanted to show this really strong, independent person. 

She and her husband have a very passionate relationship, and I don't shy away from those scenes. And a lot of people would not assume that in the Orthodox world. there's this intimacy. And obviously, they have kids. But when somebody asked me that when I spoke to a book club, actually, about the book, like, oh, I thought that it was only for procreation. 

And I'm like, absolutely not. Actually, it's in the wedding contract, the ketubah, that it's the husband's obligation to satisfy the wife, not just have children, but to satisfy her. And so I wanted it to bust the myth and really show an unusual portrait of an Orthodox Jewish community. 


Fabulous. Wow. And you, so you chose to not just self-publish, like a lot of authors say, you know what, I'm going to put this out myself. I'm going to do the indie route, but you actually went the whole road and went like, I'm going to become a publisher. Like this really interests me. 

So can we talk a little bit about Scotia Road Books? And you're a hybrid publisher. So let's just kind of like start with some of the language because that gets confusing, right? So we have, you know, traditional publishing where you kind of go through the agent, the publisher, the gatekeeping, if you like, and then they take it all on. Then we have the DIY indie publishing, self-publish, where you do everything yourself. 

And then hybrid, as I understand it is, you are working with someone who is taking on a lot of the things that otherwise might be really intimidating for you, whether it's the editing, the layout, the promotion and so on. Does that seem fair to you? 


Well, the hybrid is really a combination of traditional and self-publishing. I mean, it's like a traditional publisher in the vetting process, but, and they do everything for you, but you get a higher rate of royalties and you pay a fee upfront. And so that's, that's the difference, pretty much. Yeah. 

It's become legit – when it first started, there were a lot of scams, but I think there are some really good ones now. And you just, a lot of people just don't wanna go through all of the work. And so a hybrid publisher can shepherd you through it.

And the big piece is distribution. And so a lot of self publishers, just self published authors feel that they don't know how to get their books in libraries and bookstores and things like that. And... a hybrid publisher can help them with that. 


Right, yeah. No, that's a really good distinction because I think it is the missing piece. So many self-published authors just kind of click the button on, click the publish button on Amazon and go, but then they're kind of limiting what's possible for the book. 

So for Scotia Road Books, what is the kind of the raison d'etre or like the... Right. overall objective for you? Like, what are you really interested in? 


Sure, so we publish, we're a publisher for women over 40 with strong voices that need to be heard. That's sort of the mission. 


Amen, that's great. 


Yes, yeah, I think so many women at Midlife who always wanted to write are finally taking it seriously. And I want them to have a sorority and a support network. I think strong voices, especially in women, are shunned, stifled in this 21st century day and age. And I want to celebrate them. 

And so we will publish contemporary fiction and historical fiction, narrative, nonfiction, and memoir. That's all we're publishing right now, no poetry, even though my MFA is in poetry. 

And we're really, like, I don't have a, it's not my main business, so I don't need a certain number of titles a year. It's sort of there for the author who sees herself in our mission. And we take it, you know, author by author and decide who is a fit and who do we want to work with. And we priced it really competitively compared to other hybrid publishers because we're new. 

And I'm not looking to make money off of this. This isn't my business. It's something I'm doing to provide a service for the writing community and... Yeah, it's been great.

And I did it because I am an entrepreneur. I know how to run businesses. I know how to lift up other people and be in service in business. And it also legitimizes my self-publishing. So we have my Scotiabank Books logo on the back of the books and all that. And so it's a slow build, but I think it's a really meaningful pursuit. 


Oh, wow. And you vet the books. Like, you're not taking out the books. everything that comes to you, you're taking on the things that fit the vision that you have for the publisher. 


Yes, we do and that's what hybrid publishers do. They do that. They have a vetting process. But yes, I am going to be very selective and I don't necessarily need to publish more than two or three books a year at the most. 

But like, for example, recently somebody came to me. She's working on a book about her family really for her family. It's a book of essays. And I said, you know what, I can coach you to do this. You just pay me for the coaching because I do that a lot. I don't think it's worth your money to really invest in hybrid publishing because all they want to do is publish this and print a limited number for their family. So I'd rather coach them through the process than have them waste money that isn't worthwhile because there's not a life for that book. It's limited. There's not a commercial kind of viability behind it. 


Exactly, yeah, exactly. Which doesn't mean it isn't a worthwhile book to finish, you know. Yeah, for sure. Hmm. 

Can we talk a little bit about the book marketing piece of things? How do you think about that when you're, so Woman of Valor, for example? Like, how do you think about getting the word out about your books? Is it something that you find intimidating or do you kind of just take it as part and parcel of the whole overall process? 


Well, I've owned a marketing company since 2007, so I'm pretty good at marketing, you know, and I pivoted it when I was pivoting my career to write more. I decided that the marketing company would focus on working with authors to help them build their brands and their marketing strategies, but I don't do it for authors. 

I coach them to do it because it's super important that every author be comfortable with some. aspect of marketing because even if you're traditionally published, you're going to need to do a lot of it on your own.

And so what I teach and what I coach writers in is that let's find what will be fun for you because no one's going to love your book more than you and if you hate TikTok, don't be on TikTok. Like just let's find the mix that works for you. 

So for me, I'm all about building relationships. I think marketing is all about relationships. And I recognize that I want an author career, not just one book. So it's going to be a slow burn. And I have to be patient with that over time.

I'm all about the in-person events. And so I've had a couple of book tours in select places. And I also, even though my book really resonates with, I would say, women age 35 and older, all kinds of backgrounds. I really do target Jewish communities and universities and book clubs for my speaking engagements because it's really niche. 

And the universities, I teach writing all the time, so that's where I can bring in a writing workshop. Jewish communities because I'm dedicated to creating compelling Jewish characters as part of my author brand. And book clubs are just dedicated readers who love to read good stories. And so, yeah, I love those conversations. So... I focus heavily on in-person events. I also do social media. I have a weekly sub stack about writing and publishing. I have a podcast, the Make Meaning podcast. 

So I have different platforms, but I would say to really move the books, it's about relationships for me and being in person with people. And that means I'm gonna sell 10 here, 20 there. And over time, it's going to build an audience. It's gonna keep wanting to read what I put out there. 


Yeah. I'm so glad you said that because I think the default right now when we think about book marketing, it is TikTok or Instagram, whatever. And so many authors, you know, maybe we're introverts or maybe we just don't feel like social media savvy or whatever.

We just don't want to, we feel like, oh, we'd have to be dancing and pointing, you know, but there's no reason why this can't be done in a way that as you say, is sort of, you know, meets you with who you are. you know, talk to people, you can do podcast tours and you can do in-person events with book clubs and that kind of thing. 


Yeah, absolutely. 


So what's next for you? What are you working on now? You've got something in August, you said, right? 


Yeah. So my next novel comes out August 27th. It is called Cave of Secrets. And it's really different. I mean, there's still Jewish identity in it. But there's four main characters. It's really interesting. It takes place in Michigan and in Scotland. There's a little magical realism. There's antisemitism, homophobia, aristocracy, all kinds of things. Romance, of course, I like that. It's a little spicy, just like the Woman of Valor. 

And then, so that's done and it's with the cover designers right now. And I'm just working on some planning, some launch events, trying to figure out if it's gonna be like a whiskey tasting because it's Scotland or I don't know. And then I'm... pretty much putting the finishing touches on the plans for my third novel, which will be a book too in the Woman of Valor series. And so I'm going to be starting to write that probably next month. 


Wow. So, I mean, I just wanted to say we're mentioning cover, cover is so important. Yes. And I love the Woman of Valor cover. It's great. 


Thank you. Thank you. So... 


So this is a series now, was it a series when you started it or and how are you conceiving of the series? 


So I envisioned it as a three book series. So the next book is not related to this at all, Cave of Secrets, it's totally standalone. And I'll probably do that again. After I finish book two, I'll probably write another standalone and then I'll write the third book. Yeah, I envisioned the first book would be about Sally.

The second book is gonna be about Batya, her best friend. The third book, I originally had thought it would be about one of each of their kids when they're grown, but I'm thinking more it's going to be about their mothers and Fatiya's mother-in-law, so more like matriarchs. So we'll see what happens with that. 


Oh, I love the matriarchs idea. Yeah, that's fun. So, and when did it occur to you? Like I'm always fascinated about when writers decide, this is a series? Like, was it during the writing of the first book? Was it like where, at what point?

And did you then kind of stop and map out the next books? Or did you finish Woman of Valor and then say, No, I'll move to the next one when I'm ready. 


You know, I think it was after Woman of Valor was done that I thought I could do a three book series here. And I just have like a document that's about all the books I want to write, because when I have an idea, I want to jot it down. So I don't forget. And so I sort of just thumbnail sketch, like this is what I think it's about. 

It turns out that in the book about Batya and Svi, her husband, there's very little information in my notes from Woman of Valor. And Sally's sidekick, she's her best friend, but there's not much standalone information.

So I'm really starting from scratch. And so it's a lot of fun just to create it and to see who she is and what's her motivation and what brings her to this point in Woman of Valor. 

And it's through planning Batya's book started to think about the matriarchs because her mother and her mother-in-law are becoming really cool characters. And I'm like, oh, well, maybe there's something there. And Sally's mother in Woman of Valor is, she doesn't really feature heavily, but she's a really interesting character because she is almost like, you know, like avoidant of her Jewish identity and not a very nurturing mother. You know, she's married to one of Michigan senators who's not Jewish. And so, I think it could be interesting to figure out who she is too. 


So fun. Yeah. I like, I mean, I think many readers love a series. I love a series. And my daughter tends to think, she even is like, is this at least a two book series? Because if it doesn't go to three, I'm not even interested. 

But I think particularly if you're going the independent publishing route, people do want to come back to an author and a book. set of characters and a time and a community kind of again and again. It's fun. It's fun as a reader. 


I totally agree. And I love series as well. I am a huge fan of the Outlander books, Diana Gabaldon. And then, when I finished all those books, and I loved her writing so much, I started googling what other series are like hers. And I stumbled upon some. And I like even more. Sarah Donati, which is a pen name for Rosina Lippi. And it's the Wilderness series and there's six books. And I literally was like crying when I finished the last one. So it's just amazing to, yeah. 


Yes, you have to for sure. All right, awesome. So as you know, Lynne, this is the Resilient Writers Radio Show. So I'd like to ask people, what does it mean to you if I say, OK, we need to become resilient writers or we are resilient writers? What does that mean to you to be a resilient writer? 


You know, for me, it means that you need to be able to weather the ups and downs, the self-doubt, the isolation of writing. You have to be in it for the long haul, which means I think resiliency demands that you have a support network, you have a writing community, you have people around you who you can turn to when you're like, who's ever going to read this? Or, you know, I thought this was good and it's utter trash, you know? which it may not be. It just might be the mood you're in or you're feeling down or it feels really impossible. 

And so resilience comes from staying the course but also having a network and a support system. And I think that's super important for writers. 


So important, yeah. And so fun, like who wants to do it alone, right? 


Yeah, exactly. In fact, I do a monthly write along on Zoom that's free, anybody can join and we write in community and I provide prompts and everything. A writer there who I've worked with one-on-one he said, I didn't even know this existed. It is so cool to see other writers there. It just motivates me. Like didn't even know it existed. And there are many writing communities that you can join locally, globally, on Zoom, whatever. And it's really important. It is, community is everything really. 


So thank you so much, Lynne. It's been just a delight talking to you. And we'll link up to Women of Valor and Scotia Road Books and also your podcast, which is awesome. So that way people can find you and have a way to connect. 


Thanks. Great. Thank you so much. 


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