I first met Teresa Funke through Northern Colorado Writers. An accomplished author, she’s also a teacher, entrepreneur, editor, speaker, business owner and movie buff.
After completing this interview and post, I’ve added one more thing to my writing to do list: Attend her “That Book Inside You” class.
1) As a society I believe we often forget, or maybe don’t even know the many roles women fulfilled during World War II. Explain how you became interested enough to write about the women of WW II.
I got the idea to write about women in WWII while researching my first novel, Remember Wake. In developing the character of Maggie, I had a hard time finding everyday information about life for women during the war. Not statistical information, but what it felt like to be a woman at that time. So I decided to write that book. Dancing in Combat Boots started out as an oral history collection. If found ten women from around the country who had experiences that were both typical and extraordinary and I wrote their stories in their own words. But then I was told by my agent that oral history collections don’t sell and I’d have to rewrite the book. He didn’t tell me how to rewrite it, just to do it. I very nearly gave up on the book at that time, but I couldn’t let go of those voices. So I spent two years turning each interview into a short story, and I’m so glad I did. I love the way the book turned out and I’m so proud of it. It’s an entertaining read, but it also preserves one of this country’s most interesting times for women.
2) You started Teresa Funke & Co. almost 10 years ago. With the changes in publishing world, have the core fundamentals of your teaching/coaching changed much?
I have been running my own writing business for 21 years, including a short period of time when I partnered with another author. Then in 2009, I decided to start my company. Things were changing dramatically in the publishing world, and I’d been staying on top of that for my coaching business (which I started in 2005), but I wanted to see if I could get ahead of the trends and blaze some new trails for writers. I’ve always been vocal about my belief that professional writers and artists of all kinds have the right to earn a decent living from our work. Not a day goes by in the life of a single person in this country when art does not touch them in some way. Artists are essential, and there is nothing romantic about being a “starving artist.” So I wanted to use the company to launch new projects to show that writers could find innovative ways to make money by creating needed products, by developing inventive programs, by partnering with businesses and schools, etc. Part of my company’s mission is to grow in conjunction with community service, so I also wanted to show that we can contribute to our communities in new ways with our art. Have the core fundamentals of my teaching/coaching changed much? Not really. It still comes down to writing the best possible book you can, getting it edited, having it professionally designed, and creating a marketing plan that fits you, but we have so many more choices now for how we perform those tasks! It’s an exciting time for writers. Not an easy one, but one that is ripe with opportunity!
3) I’ve attended a few NCW meetings with you and I’m always impressed at how pragmatic your suggestions and ideas are. Who gets the credit for teaching you this trait: Mom, Dad or someone else?
First, thank you for the compliment! This is such an interesting question. I’m not sure that either of my parents taught me this trait outright, but I’ve always been an ideas person. I was that kid who was always saying, “Why can’t we do this to fix that?” or “What if everyone in the world did this, wouldn’t that solve the problem?” And my mom never told me I was wrong or silly to think those things. She’d tell me they were good ideas or she’d engage me in conversation about them. I think that taught me that it was okay to voice an idea or opinion, and that’s one of the messages I’m trying to get across in my new keynote talk “That Idea Inside You.” We ALL have great ideas that cross our minds; it’s about giving ourselves the permission to speak them out loud or write them down without censoring ourselves, without worrying about whether they are silly or stupid. I would say that as often as I’m right, I’m wrong, but I’m willing to state an idea and I’m willing to think outside the box to get ideas flowing in the right direction, and I’m not afraid to put those ideas into action right away. What have you got to lose? A little time? A little money? A little sleep? So what? Isn’t it better to lose those things than to lose the potential of a good idea? Also, I’m infinitely curious. I’m always listening and absorbing and learning, so I can often come at a solution for problems based on something I’ve heard that relates to it. That curiosity also serves me well in my writing. I wouldn’t call myself a problem solver, so much as an ideator. Nothing excites me more than a good idea!
4) You’ve released six titles so far. Of these, which would you single out as your favorite and why?
This answer will not surprise you . . . I have no favorite. I love each of my books, just as I love each of my children. My firstborn, Remember Wake, will always be special because that was the first book I completed, the first time I got to type “the end,” and the book on which my career was launched, and it’s a great story, a true story. I love Dancing in Combat Boots because that was my book that was designed to “change the world,” or at least preserve a piece of history I thought was overlooked and under acknowledged, and that book challenged me in so many ways as a writer. Each of my children’s books is based on a real person that I interviewed, and I can hear each of their voices in my head still. It was an honor to record their stories, and each of those books presented me with new challenges and opportunities. Though they are all part of a series, they are pretty different. In each of those books, I tried something I’d always wanted to try. Much of the time, I had to convince myself (and my writers group) that I could pull that off. I think that’s the reason why when I ask my fans which of my children’s books they like best, they each name a different book. Even among my fans, there is no clear favorite, because I think they each relate to those differences in the books and pick the one that resonates with them. So fun!
5) Scenario: Your business becomes so wildly successful that you can only focus on one aspect of the services you provide (Coaching, Writing, Speaking, Consulting, “That Book Inside You”, etc.) for the remainder of your career. (Don’t worry, you hire other great people to fill in behind you) Which would you choose to continue and why?
Oh my gosh, this is such a great question, partly because you are describing a scenario that is not far removed from where I am right now. It’s unusual for a writer to offer so many types of services and to be pulled in so many directions. At one point, a couple of years ago, I was juggling 18 projects. People suggest all the time that I “focus” on one aspect of my work, but I can’t, or I should say, I won’t. When I’m writing, I’m happy. I love the creative process, I love the hard work of writing and the challenge of revision. But I’ve also developed a writer’s coaching approach that is like no other and through coaching and teaching, I’m challenging the status quo, and I love helping writers achieve their goals. I’ve always liked speaking, and I’m told I do it well, so why would I want to give up something that people tell me they enjoy? My “That Book Inside You” workshop gets the highest marks and has helped launch so many writers on the path that works for them, so I get great satisfaction out of teaching it. Maybe I’m weird, but I like having many irons in the fire. Why? Because I never get bored. And to me, that’s worth more than whatever fame and fortune may come. It’s freedom!
6) Complete this sentence: When I decide to take a break and just get away from it all, I usually….
The simple answer is watch a movie. My mind is always racing, and I’ve found the only way to shut it off is to watch a movie, usually late at night. I’ve always been a huge movie buff, so it’s my escape. The bigger answer is travel. I’ve got so many trips planned and I’m just knocking them off each year as I can manage it. I’m never happier than when I’m traveling, especially with my husband and three kids. New sights, new sounds, new foods, new friends. I’m the consummate tourist. No long hikes in the woods or lazy afternoons on the beach for me. I’m that person who tries to hit every museum, historic castle, landmark, famous pub, tourist trap along the way. And I’m right up front when the tour guide is talking, taking it all in. My kids know that when the guide asks, “Are there any questions?” that I’m going to be the one to speak up. Hey, it’s all material for my stories, right?
Thanks Teresa for taking the time to answer my questions, sharing your thoughts and giving away a copy of your book Dancing in Combat Boots to one lucky visitor who leaves a comment (US and Canada Residents only.)
As a bonus, here is a video link to Teresa’s You Tube Channel: