On the first day of December at a Battle Ground Starbucks, a Clark County author was busy at work putting together an expansion of a short story to become her fourth novel.
The location was unusual for author Heidi Renee Mason. Typically, she would be working at her Ridgefield home when she was not homeschooling her three children. Her kids, however, were on a field trip in the city with their father, Mason’s husband Cameron, while she, too, was in Battle Ground fleshing out “Love at First Crepe” as it is tentatively called, based in part off of a piece in the Passion in Portland anthology series.
That fourth work marks a fairly short turnaround from Mason’s third book “Always Hope,” which was released Nov. 26. So far she said the response has been good, making it to a bestseller’s list on one of the sites her book is advertised on pre-sale orders alone.
For “Always Hope,” Mason explained that she thought of the idea of a character that had left home on the cusp of adulthood, but through unfortunate events out of her control had to return to the place she tried to escape.
A nonexistent relationship between the main character, Hope and her mother, along with a broken relationship with a young love made Hope leave, though 10 years down the line a phone call brings her back, where she discovers information about her father she never knew, Mason explained.
Mason didn’t reveal too much of what exactly brings Hope back to her hometown, but did say Hope does end up attempting to make amends with her mother and forming an unlikely friendship with a young neighbor whose connection with the protagonist develops in the story.
“Always Hope” marks the third labor in her return to writing, something she said had always been a passion for her after discovering her ability in high school in Coschocton, a small town in the middle of Ohio. She explained she was able to land a job at a newspaper after graduating and had lived most of her life in Ohio before moving to Washington about 15 years ago, she explained.
After having children, Mason said her focus was on raising a family than writing. In February of 2015, however, she decided it was time to get back into the swing of things while taking on a new challenge of putting together a fully-fledged novel.
In about three months she had what became her first book, “Investigating the Heart.” Although initially skeptical due to the long hiatus from writing, her husband was one of the first to offer praise to Heidi’s work, she explained. With more positive feedback the idea of actually getting the book published seemed possible.
Mason explained that she jumped into the world of fiction publishing blind, coming to realize that for most companies an agent helps make the connection. She said she decided to take a different route, looking for publishing houses that would accept manuscript submissions outright.
For “Investigating the Heart” Mason recounted that after a first publisher rejection she sent her work to Solstice Publishing. Expecting not to hear back from the company for weeks, she sent her work to a third publisher, though it was only a few days after sending off to Solstice that she had a book contract in front of her from that publishing house.
“As soon as I signed the contract, I actually got an acceptance from the third publisher,” Mason remarked, which she said was reassurance that being chosen by Solstice wasn’t just a fluke.
Solstice published Mason’s first two works, “Investigating the Heart” and “Goodnight, Sweetheart” which was a sequel of the first book. Both works were romantic suspense novels, she explained, adding that her third book released last month, “Always Hope” was a change in direction from her previous writing.
That change from romantic to more general women’s fiction also came with a change in publishers, Mason explained, this time going with Hot Tree Publishing, based out of Australia. Even with a switch she commented positively on her experience with both outlets.
Regarding her process of putting together stories, Mason said it typically happens “in fits and spurts,” never regimented but usually spontaneous which works around her family duties as educator to her three children.
“Because I homeschool, my time is very limited. A lot of my writing is done in my head before I put anything on the screen,” Mason said. She explained that she does draft out an outline of how she wants the novel to go, a few sentences for each chapter.
“It always changes, you know the end product is very rarely what I outlined,” Mason added, “but it gives me a good sort of springboard to get started.”
When it comes to developing that plot to outline, Mason said it all begins with a key player with everything surrounding them filling the pages.
“A character will pop into my head, and when this character comes they have some sort of story that they’re bringing with them,” Mason explained. “The book, to me, is just a process of figuring out their story, and everything in the book is just a matter of pulling that story out of them.”