Debut Author Interview: Anna Loan-Wilsey, Author of A LACK OF TEMPERANCE

It's time to meet another debut author and see how they found their literary agent and got published. These interviews are a great opportunity to see what debut writers did right on their journey as well as what they wished they did different. Today, we meet novelist Anna Loan-Wilsey, author of the historical mystery A LACK OF TEMPERANCE.
Publish date:

It's time to meet another debut author and see how they found their literary agent and got published. These interviews are a great opportunity to see what debut writers did right on their journey as well as what they wished they did different. Today, we meet novelist Anna Loan-Wilsey, author of the historical mystery A LACK OF TEMPERANCE.

A LACK OF TEMPERANCE is Anna's debut novel. It is the first in the Hattie Davish mysteries. Publishers Weekly said, "Loan-Wilsey's delightful debut introduces Hattie Davish... Cozy fans will eagerly await Hattie's next adventure," while Library Journal added that "This historical cozy debut showcases the author's superb research. Readers will be fascinated by the volatility within the 1890s women's temperance movement and by the Victorian obsession with healing spas ... this is a warm beginning."

(How much should an outside edit cost writers?)


What is the book’s genre/category?

Historical Mystery

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Hattie Davish, a private secretary, arrives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on the eve of the 1892 Presidential election, to work for the leader of a temperance union, only to find saloons set on fire, women demonstrating in the streets and her new employer missing. (This is the first in a new series set in historic towns, each story drawing on the unique character and history of the real place.)

Where do you write from?

I live in a Victorian farmhouse just outside Ames, Iowa. We converted one of the bedrooms into a library (complete with a Victorian bust of Louis Agassiz). I use it as my office. My desktop sits on top of an antique Singer sewing machine and a turn of the century card table is my desk. When I’m in need of a caramel steamer or just want to get out of the house though, I work as long as my battery will allow at Café Diem, the coffee shop on Main Street.

(Can your query be longer than one page?)

Briefly, what led up to this book?

This was my first novel and first attempt at writing fiction. In college I had a few poems published in the literary magazine but for most of my life, the only writing I’d been doing was academic including co-authoring several scientific papers and government reports. It was only after I lost my job at the university that I was motived to write a novel. There’s no going back now!

What was the time frame for writing this book?

It took me about five years and five complete drafts to write this book. At first writing was a hobby I indulged in when I had time but eventually, with the support of my family, I invested the time and treated writing like a full time job. It was soon after that I had an agent request the first 50 pages. He didn’t take me on but he did give me some excellent advice which resulted in draft five, the one the publisher bought almost a year later.

How did you find your agent (and who is your agent)?

My agent is John Talbot, of the Talbot Fortune Agency. I had several strategies for finding agents to query: consulting several directories of literary agents, trolling writer’s discussion groups online and reading the acknowledgements of writers in my genre. I created a database to keep track of each agent and the status of each query letter. John, who had been acknowledged by several highly successful cozy mystery authors, was probably one of forty agents I queried over a two year period.

(Learn how to find and get a literary agent.)

What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?

One of my biggest surprises was, in this world of instant news, feedback and gratification, how long every aspect of the publishing process takes, from getting a response from an agent or a publisher to actually seeing your book on the shelf to getting that first royalty check (I’m still waiting on that one). I didn’t expect to have my patience tested in the process. I have to say though it’s been well worth the anxious wait!

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?

I worked hard making my manuscript as well-crafted and polished as possible. I took to heart the common advice to cut, rewrite and cut and rewrite again. When I thought I was done, I crossed my fingers, hoped the stars were aligned and then rewrote again!

On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?

I would’ve taken myself more seriously as a writer from the beginning. It is difficult thinking of yourself as a writer when you have yet to be published, especially if this is a new path for you, but I’d argue it’s an essential mindset if you’re to keep going.

Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?

I had nothing in place when I broke in. I’ve always been a private person but to gain readership, I’ve needed to get myself out there. So now I have created a website (I still chuckle thinking of myself as a “.com”), set myself up on Facebook, designed and passed out business cards, attended book fairs and book signings, joined Goodreads and even started a blog.

Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?

Persistence, persistence, persistence. I had a well-known author kindly give me the following advice, “Trying to get a first novel published is not for the faint-of-heart. But perseverance often pays off in the end.” How true!

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Something even people who know me would be surprised to learn is that my first job after college was training monkeys. They were named Hank, Billy, Bob and Jethro.

Favorite movie?

Amadeus. Mozart is my favorite composer and everything about this movie was done right. Unfortunately, I drive my husband crazy when we watch it and I say the lines out loud. I’ve seen the movie too many times to count and know the script almost verbatim.


What’s next?

The second in the Hattie Davish Mystery Series, Anything But Civil, set in Galena, IL, will be released Sept. 2013. I’m currently working on #3, A Sense of Entitlement, set in Newport, RI.

Image placeholder title

The 90 Days to Your Novel 2-Pack is an inspiring
kit that will be your push, your deadline, and your
spark to finally, in three short months, nail that
first draft of your novel. The two items are
bundled together in our shop for a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!


20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.


Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.


Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.


Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


On Writing to Give Grief Meaning and Write Out of Challenging Situations

Author Lily Dulan explains why writers have to be willing to go to difficult places inside themselves for their writing to make a positive impact on ourselves, others, and the world.