I am interviewed for #SunStoppedShining Blog Tour

I am featured on Johanna K Pitcairn’s “The Manicheans” Blog

Click the above  to find out what we talk about.



Full Time Writing, Charity & Dystopia | Where I am interviewed

Today I took the interview chair with Dicey’s Blog…

We talked about full time writing, how being a writer can mean giving back or reaching out and the what’s and why’s of loving dystopian fiction.

You can read the full interview here.


Thanks Dicey! It was fun visiting with you on your blog.

Dicey is one of the authors/bloggers that I am co-hopping with in the exciting



My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium | Part 2

Part 2 – My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium

Last week I spoke about my visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium.

This week Part 2 of the interview has been posted.

In this interview I talk about the critiquing process and my a bit more about my own writing process.

If you missed Part 1, it is under related articles at the bottom of this post.

Thank you to Rachna for the great questions and the warm welcome on her lovely Scriptorium.


My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium


A couple of weeks ago my good friend and one of my writing partners, Rachna Chhabria, asked if she could interview me on her lovely blog: Rachna’s Scriptorium. Rachna and I became friends through an online writers group called Scribblerati that we both belong to. Very soon we were Facebook friends and this year we became writing partners.

For those who follow my creativity blog, Dragonfly Scrolls, you will be aware that I am usually the one asking questions in the interviews. Asking the questions is the easy part. Rachna turned the tables on me this week and put me in the “answer” chair.

The interview will be posted in 2 parts. In this first part, posted today, Rachna asks me about my writing process and the NZ publishing scene. My thanks to Rachna for a lovely interview. If you have not visited her Scriptorium before, bookmark her blog because one visit will soon turn you into a fan.

Part 1 – My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium.


Introducing Joe Pranaitis

Introducing Joe Pranaitis.

Join me as I sit down with Joe tonight. We discuss how healing can be found through the creative medium. Joe shares with us his passion for Sci-fi, in particular; the influence of Star Trek on his writing. So take a seat, make yourself comfortable, help me in welcoming Joe to the Dragonfly Scrolls studio.

Welcome Joe.


girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Joe Pranaitis?
Joe: To begin I’m a writer, an artist, and a theatre manager. I’m also the youngest of two boys. I’ve always felt like an outcast. Then again, growing up in East Chicago Indiana wasn’t the best of times. It got to a point where I wouldn’t go outside at all and so I started drawing. The drawings became my little world, including the ones about war. When my parents divorced; I was thrown into a tail spin and tried to off myself, at age 13, when I started High School. A couple of years later, when I was a Junior; my art teacher gave me a sense of direction by giving me the assignment of creating my own comic book. Needless to say, I’m a fractured human like everyone else but I’ve learned to channel my feelings into my writing and art.

girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?
Joe: I guess I would say that I wanted to be a writer after I heard Star Trek: Final Frontier and could see the pictures that the words described. Then it just took the free time between high school and college to get me going in adapting the comics that I created.

girl with a quill:How long have you been writing for?
Joe: I’ve been writing for about fifteen years now.

girl with a quill: In your bio, you say that you first wrote a comic book. Are you still interested in writing graphic novels?
Joe: Yes I am.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?
Joe: Yes. I talk to my boss and one of my ushers whom has begun writing his own book.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?
Joe: My greatest influence would be Diane Carey. When I would go on a car trip to Ohio, to visit my brother and his family, we would bring audio novels; one of those would be Star Trek: Final Frontier. I’ve been a big fan of her trek writings since then.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?
Joe:  If my life story were a novel I would say that we’re at the mid-point before any big changes really happen. As to what genre, I would say that’s a good question and I really don’t know.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?
Joe: Where I write is at my computer next to my bed. I put toys, pictures of family and models of starships around as well as having my book cases full of books and dvds.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?
Joe: When I sit down for a writing session; I put on some music and read a little of what I wrote before and then let the story flow through my fingers to the key board.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter,or a pantster, or a little of both?
Joe: I would say a little of both because sometimes I do stumble onto a plot point where I know I need to think things out before putting them on the page.

girl with a quill: You write mainly science fiction. What drew you to this genre?
Joe: What drew me to sci-fi was that my parents were into it while I was growing up. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched the original Star Wars and Star Trek: The motion Picture.

girl with a quill: Which Sci-fi authors have influenced you?
Joe: Besides Diane Carey, I would say that the other authors that have influenced me are Keven Anderson, Vonda N. McIntire, Karen Traviss.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?
Joe: Adventure.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us a bit about the books you have published?
Joe: Sure, the first two volumes in the series Infinite Possibilities: Chronicles take place in the 29th century. They follow the voyages of the starship Lionheart from the moment that she leaves dry dock and is struck by a space probe from another Earth on the other side of the Galaxy to a number of parallel universes. This leads to it becoming the fleet flagship and dealing with civil wars among the Pirate republic and their own colonies. Now here is a little hint: the second story within Volume one is the leap off point that I used to continue the story of Horizon station and her crew in through three of seven planned books.

girl with a quill: Your first book is part of a trilogy? In writing the trilogy, did you write them as separate stories individually or did you get the idea for the complete trilogy and then divide the story ideas into 3 books?
Joe: No, the first book is not part of a trilogy but the first story within the first volume was before I expanded the story to a now 3000 year story arc that stretches from 65 million years ago to the middle years of the 50
th century. But the original trilogy arced from the Lionheart’s launch to events that, if I were to explain now, would be massive spoilers for the rest of the series since I’ve planned the Chronicles series to go beyond 12 volumes.

girl with a quill: What are your thoughts, if any, on Indie/Small Press publishing vs Traditional Publishing?
Joe: So far I’ve only dealt with Indie/small press publishing so I have no idea how traditional publishes would be since I’ve been turned down by more than 100 agents who don’t have a clue that star trek just landed on their lap.

girl with a quill: What tips would you give aspiring pre-published authors out there to get a foot in the industry door?
Joe: I would say to write and let the story take you to where it ends up. As for getting your foot in the industry door; write a good query letter or letters and send them to both agents and publishers but watch out for publishers that ask for money up front because they will keep asking.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Joe: Yes I’m working on my 10
th book right now and it is an expanded story that I wrote in 2006 when my original story turned 10. It takes place in a parallel universe to the original series; where we see the coming together of the crew of the Lionheart, from the loss of her first captain, to an all-out war and then to it’s end. It’s the beginning of a new adventure for the ship’s second captain post war to passing the ship down to her first officer leading to the birth of the first officer of the Lionheart-A. It is also the first of a duelogy.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Joe: I write because I have a hunger for it. The ideas that I have, I feel I need to write down.

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Joe: Yes. It is basically good vs. evil.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?
Joe: If I found a golden lamp with a genie and he told me I could enter another author’s book I would ask to visit Star Trek: Final Frontier. The character that I would choose would be George Kirk, starting from the time that he saw the original Enterprise in dry dock for the first time. Now why I chose that book and character is because at times I feel like I’m there watching the last part of the ship, that I’ve been asked to be a first officer on, being constructed.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?
Joe: I would say both since you can’t have a story without a character and vise versa. But I mainly focus on the story line.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?
Joe: My favourite character that I’ve created is Captain Bontrk because through him we see everything that happens to the Lionheart. We also see what will happen because he knows that eventually his ship will be retired to allow the Lionheart-A to go on her adventures. As to why; I would have to say that it’s because his face is hidden, we never see it but we know that it’s there and it’s reacting like everyone else’s.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?
Joe: You know I never really thought that I had a favourite character in the literary world; just stories. Right now, my favorite story is the Vatta war series. Even though I’ve only read the first two books, I really enjoyed them.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
Joe: Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Ronald Moore, J. Michal Straczynski, and Frank Herbert. As to why; well I’ve always wanted to meet all five of them. I wish that I had met Gene Roddenberry before he passed in ’91.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?
Joe: They would be Captain Kirk, Ky Vatta, William Adama, Optimus Prime, and Batman. I know quite a cast. When I was growing up; Kirk was always my favourite Captain. As for Ky, because I understand her and know that sometimes doing what we think is right could get us into unknown trouble. Now why William Adama; well, it’s because I felt for him during the four years of BSG and he is a favorite character too. As for Optimus Prime; well, when I was a kid he was my first transformer and in that respect became my childhood hero. Now Batman; well, after losing my parents, both to heart attacks, I now see why he has such a bleak outlook on life even though he is on the side of good.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Joe: Considering that was only two years ago; I would tell myself, that even though I may have to pay for the book to be both published and edited, that it is worth it; and to do a giveaway as soon as I can, as well as look for goodreads.com

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?
Joe: That’s hard because the future is always changing. I would say that I took the right path by getting the first two published and that my first two publishers are always a backup if I really want to get a story out.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?
Joe: As for my legacy; I just want people to enjoy my books and to continue to enjoy them and discover them as time goes on.

girl with a quill: Where can we find your books for sale?
Joe: My books can be found on Amazon.com, Barns & Noble.com (BN.com) and the publisher’s websites

girl with a quill: Finally, where can we find on the web?
Joe: I can be found on Facebook, MySpace, trekspace, goodreads.com, twitter under joepranaitis.

Upcoming…Watch this space

The first issue of Mad. Art by Harvey Kurtzman.
Image via Wikipedia

I have decided to find the genie in the lamp. He has spent enough time parading around 1001 Arabian Nights with Aladdin and company. I need him stat, as they say in the medical dramas. I find that I need the magical ability to fit 48 hours into 24 hours and that I need this for every day for the next month. 24 Hours is just not enough anymore to get all the things done that I must get done, both writing related and day job related not to mention still fitting in normal life activities like eating and sleeping…

But I digress….enough with the wishes….

There are some exciting events happening in my writing life and my blogging life. April looks like it is going to be as Mad if not Madder than March. I have quite a few submissions due this coming month as well as quite a bit of editing to do.

As for blogging…Warrior Wednesdays is going to be interviewing some amazing authors and writers and I now have all interviews confirmed and locked in until the end of August. So I know where you will all be every Wednesday: sitting down with a cuppa and joining this girl with a quill as I interview some very talented people out there. As Warrior Wednesdays has gained a regular following I am going to start upping the ante as they say a bit…I am going to start digging even deeper into these Warrior Writers and Creative’s  Psyche to get to the real secret veins of gold at the heart of their creativity. For this, I am going to ask for audience participation. That would be you dear readers and fellow creatives / bloggers. I need you to tell me what questions you really want answered from these writers. So in order to do this, I have set up two methods of dialogue and discussion.

Warrior Wednesdays Page

This is the area I have created for Audience Participation. This is your area. You get to post a question here that you would like answered by each Warrior. Each week, starting on the first Wednesday of April I will pick a question from this page (it could be your question) to ask the Warrior.

Warrior Wednesdays Tweets

This is a twitter chat room where you can tweet your questions. You can also discuss the previous interviews. I will be asking all the Warriors that I have interviewed already whether they can do a guest host on this tweet chat and you can delve further into anything you would like to know from them. I will let you know via here when we will be doing some guest hosting with the Warriors themselves.

This will allow you to not only read the interview but get you involved in the interview process. So starting this week, you have 1 week to post your questions.

Wednesday 30/03 Warrior

For this week’s Warrior Interview I have the very gutsy and sassy Leigh K Hunt in studio. I have already received her interview answers and let me tell you that this is going to be a Wowser of an interview. So watch this space tomorrow. You definitely want to be here for this interview.

Other Exciting Developments

This coming month of April is: Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. So in honour of this worthy cause I am going to have the honour of interviewing an Australian Author who is donating the April income from her new biography to this cause. This interview will be hosted on Friday, April the 1st this week. So watch this space for that interview.


In April I am going to be reviewing a pre-print new fantasy book. I just received the book today so will be letting you know a review date once I have read it. Let me just tell you the book looks like a very intriguing read.

So yes, April is going to be a Mad month again but there are some exciting developments coming up. I hope to see you all here.

Look forward to seeing you all participate…lets have some great blog discussions.

– Kim

Warrior,Writer,Historian – Amanda Paige

Today I sit and chat with Warrior of words and keen historian: Amanda Paige. Amanda hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. Amanda is part of the Face Book Warriors that was formed for NaNoWriMo 2010. I have had a fascinating interview with Amanda where we discussed the importance of history, writing, the differences between non-fiction and fiction and compelling stories. As an avid fan of all things historical, I found this interview to be revealing and very interesting. Amanda is a true history buff who believes we can learn so much from history that she translates that into all her writing. She tells me about her new WIP; a compelling biography of a chickasaw woman. The little she tells me about it makes me eager to buy the book when it is published. If you love history and love reading about history, this is one interview you do not want to miss out on. Now without further ado, I will introduce you to the very knowledgeable

Amanda Paige…

girl with a quill: Firstly, Welcome to Warrior Wednesdays.

Amanda: Thank You for inviting me.

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about the woman Amanda Paige and the writer Amanda Paige.

Amanda: Well the woman Amanda Paige is a historian and archivist living in Little Rock, Arkansas. I am currently unemployed but volunteer at the Sequoyah National Research Center so I can stay current in my field. I process archival collections and do research related to Indian Removal (Trail of Tears) in Arkansas for the Center. I am single and a “Mom” to my four-legged children: Merlin (Terrier mix), Momma Cat, Bigguns and Baby Girl, all rescued pets by the way.

As I writer, I am just beginning with my career. So far my published writing has been nonfiction. I began writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for an internship. I edited selected writings of two American Indian women, Susette LaFlesche Tibbles and Carrie LeFlore Perry. Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield, the professor I interned for, asked me to join him on a project documenting Indian Removal through Arkansas. Under that project I contributed to and wrote numerous site reports documenting Indian Removal as well as articles and conference presentations.  Last October my book Chickasaw Removal was published by the Chickasaw Press. Chickasaw Removal came from our North Little Rock site report and we just continued researching the process of removal. For the three of us, we felt Chickasaw Removal was one of if not the most compelling story to tell about removal in Arkansas. I recently contributed articles to the Encyclopedia of American Indian Removal as well. Right now my current work in progress is a biography on Susette LaFlesche Tibbles, based on my internship and what also became my master’s thesis for Public History.

On the fiction side: Last year I made a decision to begin working on my fiction writing. For years I had written down some ideas for stories and I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo using an incident from my childhood as the basis for the story. Right now I am reworking this story and beginning to plot out a series that just sort of came to me one day as I rode the bus home from the SNRC.

girl with a quill: You are a historian and archivist. Do you find that history tends to play a part in your stories?

Amanda: Oh yes. I am reworking my NaNo story to incorporate some historical incidents that will play into the plot. The other series I am working on is very much influenced by the early republic era of American history so yes I can say that history will play a role in my stories. History has been a large part of my life.

girl with a quill: Who is your biggest influence in writing and why?

Amanda: I would have to say Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield. I went back to finish my degree in January 2000 and his course on World Literature was the first course I took to ease myself back into the grind of the university as it had been awhile since I attended. Because of this course and my hard work, he offered me an internship. Any writing I hand him he will be brutally honest with me. I still remember getting back the first draft of my report on Cherokee removal; it was so marked up with red.  I think he left an “and” and a “the” untouched. At the bottom of the paper he had written good job for a first draft. He has really made me a better writer. (Brutal Honesty from someone you respect and trust is invaluable. You are lucky to have him in your corner, egging you on and pushing you to be your best.)

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Amanda: I am wrestling with this right now actually. The two stories I am working on are completely different genres; contemporary romance for the NaNoWriMo and the other is fantasy. I tend to read a lot of Sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, nonfiction, mysteries (especially cozy). I have an idea for a cozy mystery and other ideas (don’t we all!) but I don’t want to overdo it right now and burn out. I have enough on my plate and need to finish the Susette LaFlesche Tibbles biography and then I plan to focus more on the fiction. I won’t completely give up on nonfiction as I have already planned to write a book on Arkansas and Indian Removal which will better explain some arguments my coauthors and I made in our site reports and Chickasaw Removal on the importance of Indian Removal in the early development of Arkansas.

girl with a quill: You are a co-author of the book “Chickasaw Removal”. Can you tell us a little about this book and what led you to co-write it?

Amanda: Well, like I said earlier it grew out of our site report on North Little Rock Arkansas for the National Parks Service to certify North Little Rock’s riverfront as a spot on the national trail. When we three looked at the tribes Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, and Choctaw, we felt the Chickasaw Removal had the most potential for a compelling story of Indian Removal through Arkansas. And I have to say we were right. The book tells the story of the Chickasaw Nation before, during, and right after the removal process especially a lot of the financial fraud that occurred with removal at the expense of the Chickasaw Nation and their resilience as a nation through hardship and adversity.

girl with a quill: After your experience of being a co-author, what tips would you give an author who was thinking of co-authoring?

Amanda: First of all make sure you can get along with the people you are writing with. I had worked with Fuller and Dr. Littlefield closely for a few years and so that helped immensely! Also you will have to decide how you will make the different authors’ voices mesh and flow. You can’t let ego stand in the way and like I said you need to be able to get along with the people you will collaborate with.

girl with a quill: Now I understand that Chickasaw Removal is a non-fiction. Would you say it is more difficult to write a non-fiction or to write a fiction and why?

Amanda: I think they are both equally difficult. In nonfiction you still have to tell a story and it can be just as difficult as fiction. Of course in a few years my opinion might change on that as I write more fiction!!

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Amanda: Nonfiction:  first I decide what am I going to write about and then I just do a basic outline. Then I gather as much info on the topic that I can. From there I begin to digest the info I gathered and does it change my basic outline. Then I begin to write.

On my fiction, well that is a work in progress as you can see below!

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Amanda: Both in a way. More of a plotter in nonfiction and working more on being a plotter for fiction. My NaNoWriMo story I did not have a plan and was definitely a pantsed story. I do try to have a plan when I write but you know as they say “Man plans, God laughs.” (Love that quote…so true..a bit like Murphy’s Law.)

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new writing project?

Can you tell us a bit about it?

Amanda: Well right now I am finishing up a biography of Susette LaFlesche Tibbles, an Omaha Indian woman who lived in the 19th century. She achieved notoriety in the late 1870s and early 1880s speaking out for the American Indian Reform movement. In 1890 she was the only American Indian writing for a newspaper on the events at Wounded Knee. Then in 1893 she served as the Senate correspondent for a populist newspaper. (Susette does indeed sound like a “woman of gumption and guts”…a woman that someone could look up to. This story will be a must-read!)

girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?

Amanda: No I am not superstitious, sorry!

girl with a quill: Do you belong to any writing groups and do you have a critique partner? Do you think writing groups or critique partners are important for writers? Why?

Yes. Mine are online. Of course I belong to the Warriors and I joined a yahoo group called Roses Colored Glasses that focuses on romance writing but I lurk there. I am more active with the Warriors. I do think writing groups are important for writers. We all need support no matter what we do. The Warriors group has helped me immensely and has been a kick in the pants to get back and write when I get off track. I have met many amazing men and women who I would not have otherwise worldwide because of this group who inspire and help me everyday. It is wonderful to know you are not alone and that others have similar problems and frustrations as yourself. (I so agree…A writing group makes you feel included in a group of people just like you. People with a passion for words and a drive to write them down.)

girl with a quill: What is more important to you? Story or Character? Why?

Character. You need a compelling character I think to drive your story. Of course ask me this again in a few years as I write more fiction! LOL.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Amanda: Well right now I don’t have one since I am just starting out. I could say all of them but…there was one character in my NaNo that I ended up killing off. He was intended as the heroine’s love interest but he did nothing for her or me and well off he went.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Amanda: Gee pick one? Well I do love Scarlett O’Hara. She had the nerve and gumption to let nothing get her down and as the Old South died she was willing to break social norms and do what was needed to survive while the Old Guard sat around whining. She is a flawed character though, as she doesn’t realize til too late she had the perfect man for her.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Amanda: Lets see Bobby Flay could cook dinner, I would love to have Vanessa Mae because she could also play some music after dinner, then I would probably just invite three of my friends because actually the friends I have tend to be very creative in their thinking and things they do! LOL.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Amanda: Right now I can’t think of any because I have been reading a lot of paranormal and if I invited some of them they might eat me. Of course now I am thinking of writing a story where Vlad the Impaler, Dracula, and Edward Cullen meet for dinner. Hmmmm……..(Now that would be one dinner I would be terrified to join but a story that I would be “compelled” to read….Could be your next fiction Amanda?)

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Amanda: Write every day.  No matter if it is just one word, sentence, paragraph, chapter etc, any writing counts as progress towards your ultimate goal.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Amanda: See above! Lol. No really it is so important to write every day. I find when I let a day go by where I don’t write something I find it hard to get back into my groove. So I would have to say just make sure you sit your backside in that chair and write something no matter the amount because progress is progress even if it is just a sentence. (So true Amanda.Backside in chair and one sentence is still progress.)

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Amanda: Ack! This is almost like what do you want on your tombstone, ha! Lets see I guess I want people to know me as a writer who wrote well researched and compelling stories and that I stayed true to who I was.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?

Amanda: My About.me site has direct links to all my social media sites
including facebook and twitter

Here are some links:
[Internship projects]
[Page with Site Reports]

girl with a quill: Thank you so much for such an interesting interview and a revealing look into history’s lens. It is so true that we can learn so much about history. I for one cannot wait for your biography to be published. Susette’s story sounds fascinating. Thank you for being part of the Wednesday Warriors series. You are indeed a worthy warrior of words.

– girl with a quill

Across ‘The Ditch’ – My interview with Sheryl Gwyther – author

A microphone
Image via Wikipedia

Across ‘The Ditch’ – an interview with Kim Koning, NZ author « Sheryl Gwyther – author.

My trip to Australia where I visited with the lovely Sheryl Gwyther. It was quite interesting being on the other side of the interview process. Sheryl had some great questions that really had me scratching my head for just the right answer.

Join me in Australia as Sheryl and I sit down for a chat on writing.

– Kim

A natter with Nicky Schmidt

Warrior Wednesday Interview Nicky Schmidt

I have been very excited to have this particular writer in my studio for a good ol’ natter. One of the reasons is that I have been following her interviews on her blog where she interviews writers on writing exceptionally well. So it was a real treat to put the interviewer in the hot seat so to speak. Another reason I have been excited about this interview is that Nicky has become a good online friend with the craziest and quirkiest sense of humour I know. With her photographer’s eye and a childlike imagination, she has a unique perspective on writing. She brought along her two writing friends, her beaded sheep and flying space duck, for the interview and as always packed her quirky sense of humour that never fails to have one smiling. Join us as we discuss squirrels, guinea fowl, photography and writing. Be warned your sense of humour will be tickled.

girl with a quill: Hi Nicky…Tell us a little about Nicky Schmidt and what made you into a writer. Well you answer, I will pour us a glass of lovely Merlot. I also have a slab of dark chocolate. I have heard you have a taste for these. Great minds think alike…

Nicky: Hi Kim, thanks for inviting me to be interviewed as a Wednesday Warrior on DragonFly Scrolls!

About me?  Well, I’m a mongrel of decidedly mixed European heritage and live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, near the southern tip of the African continent, in a garden full of trees, squirrels and an abundance of guinea fowl!

I think we can safely say that an over-active imagination is what drove me to being a writer – that, and a history of creativity in multiple forms in my genetic make-up!

girl with a quill: Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Do you remember your first story?

Nicky: I’ve written for as long as I can remember.  I wrote my first play when I was about nine (called Little Girl Lost), set it on roller skates (thus predating Starlight Express by a more than a decade…!) and charged the neighbourhood kids five cents to watch it!  I’m an only child and I spent my childhood living in my imagination with an assortment of imaginary friends. I think writing was an obvious outlet for too much imagination – though I do recall my mother complaining that I always killed my characters at the end of all the stories I wrote!  I wrote (and illustrated) my first children’s story when I was an art student, as part of a calligraphy project. I was in my mid twenties when I first realised that one day, if I ever grew up, I wanted to write for children. That’s what I do now, though I’m not sure about having grown up…

girl with a quill: Your blog is called Absolute Vanilla. What inspired that name? Is it a creative philosophy or a favourite treat?

Nicky:  Absolute Vanilla is the second blog I created and having learned some lessons from the first blog (a fictional blog written by an acerbic 5’4” alien chicken…), I wanted a name that was high up the alphabetic order so when it is listed it’s near the top of people’s blog rolls. (You can put this down to over 15 spent in marketing and communications!)  That aside, I love vanilla.  So a bit of juggling and Absolute Vanilla was born.

girl with a quill: You mention photography as another creative passion. Do you find your photography to be an inspiration for your writing and vice versa?

Nicky:  For me photography provides a different way of seeing the world.  When you look at life through the lens of a camera you see things in a purer and freer form, you see the beauty or the wonder of the thing you’re looking at in a highly focused way.  I find photography to be an incredibly healing art form.  Does it influence my writing?  Only insofar as I guess one could say I look at the blank page with the same kind of focus with which I see through the camera lens, and that photography has taught me to look at the world in a different way.

girl with a quill: On your blog, you have done quite a bit of interviewing yourself. What 3 lessons have you learnt from Writers on writing?

Nicky:  Read a lot!

Accept the voices living in your head and give them voice.

Be true to yourself and write the story you’re meant to write.

And a fourth one – accept that it’s very tough out there and you must have persistence and determination to succeed.

girl with a quill: Speaking of your blog, do you believe that blogging and having a social presence on the web is important to building a platform for your writing?

Nicky: Unquestionably!  Social media is fundamental to the times in which we live.  I would not be where I am if it weren’t for social media.  I started with yahoo groups, then blogging, and then moved onto Facebook, Ning groups and Twitter.  All these platforms have given me access to people and ideas without which I would not be where I am today – for example, being interviewed on your blog, or interviewing other authors with whom I’ve connected via Facebook and Twitter on my blog.  So, social media has helped me get where I am, it’s helped me create a global network of contacts and it’s got me “out there” – where I’m told I have a persona which is somewhat larger than life….  “But you’re so small!” a group of online friends exclaimed when they met me at a conference last year. “We thought you’d be so much taller!”  There you go, that’s part of the power of social networking!

girl with a quill: When you are not writing, which writers do you love to read? Why?

Nicky:  I read mostly Young Adult fiction because that’s what I write.  My favourite authors include Meg Rosoff, Kevin Brooks, Marcus Sedgwick and Gillian Philip – to name just a few.  They stand out for me because a) they write superbly well b) they’re unafraid to tackle tough issues c) they write with strong and honest voices.  For me a good story, well told, is deepened by a very real emotional voice with rich characterisation.  It’s authors like these – and others like Candy Gourlay and Keren David – who inspire my writing and my writing journey.

girl with a quill: Who is your biggest influence in writing and why?

Nicky:  Aside from what I’ve said above, I think I was inspired to write in the first instance my grandmother who was a wonderful storyteller.  Sitting with her in her Austrian-themed dining room, with a pot of Ceylon tea and a pile of anchovy toast, she would weave the most wonderful tales of her life.  In many ways, one might say she opened up the world of storytelling to me.

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Nicky:  I’ve always leant towards the fantasy genres, though I find that more recently I’ve moved from pure fantasy to something which is based in urban reality but has fantasy, magical realism or supernatural/paranormal elements.  I guess it’s about weaving together the real with the mysterious – which is, I think, a reflection of life per se.

girl with a quill: Many writers use writing workshops and writing competitions to hone their craft. Have you attended any writing workshops / entered any writing competitions?

Nicky:  In a nutshell, no – but only because they’re not accessible to me.  I would need to travel to the US or the UK to attend the kind of courses I want to do – though, to that end, I do try to get the SCBWI-BI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – British Isles) annual conference whenever I can and, if I lived in the UK or US, I would unquestionably attend writing workshops and seminars. The one thing I have done (because I could do it via email) is to have a manuscript assessed by a literary consultancy.  That was an incredible (and steep) learning curve and I would heartily advocate it.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the publishing process in South Africa. Do you need an agent or can you approach the publisher directly?

Nicky: I can’t tell you a huge amount about the publishing process in South Africa as I’m not looking to be published here.  This is primarily because the South African publishing industry is small – representative of the reading population – and this is especially for children’s literature (remember the vast majority of South African children are impoverished, and books, sadly, are a luxury).  Moreover, I’ve been told by the local publishers with whom I’ve been in contact that I write for an age group and in a genre and about subjects which are of no interest to South African publishers – they prefer novels that are South African based and which contain an African theme.  I suppose this is driven by the fact that local booksellers would sooner import foreign books that already have a proven sales record and are guaranteed to sell, so publishers won’t take the risk of putting money into unknown local talent.  That said, there is a reasonable market in children’s picture books and educational literature (provided it has an African theme).
As for agents, there aren’t any here that I know of – mostly because local publishers prefer not to work with an agent – they would rather deal directly with an author.

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Nicky: With a blank page – or a blank computer screen!  Usually I have a vague idea of what I want to write about, an idea will have come to me in some way and I will spend time letting it “compost” in my head.  When I feel I and the story and the main character are ready (which is usually when the character starts prodding my brain a little over-eagerly) – then I just sit down and write.  I often think of it as a “channelling” experience!

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Nicky: I’m unquestionably a pantser!  I love the adventure of seeing where a story will take me.  I find plotting removes some of the “magic” of the creative process.  I will acknowledge, however, that this approach does mean that I have to do lots of rewrites and edits and I do keep telling myself that I really should have a go at plotting, sort of, anyway!

girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?

Nicky:  Nope, not at all superstitious!  But then I also don’t believe in things like writer’s block – which I know several of my author friends will argue with me about!

girl with a quill: Many published authors say that writing needs to be treated like any other job where you work for a set time every day. Do you have a set routine for your writing? Do you have a favourite time of day for your writing?

Nicky: I would like to see it that way, but it doesn’t always work like that – sometimes life just gets in the way.  I find I write best in the morning and early evening. Unless I’m really on a roll with a story, I’m useless after lunch – so I use that time for doing other stuff – you know, all the admin related nonsense that so clutters our lives.  I don’t really have a set routine, I just try to go with the flow.  I believe that writing, like everything else, has rhythms and I try to respect those.  If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t.  If I need a break I take it.  If I want to write for seven hours flat out, I do that (though this may mean that my lovely husband doesn’t get fed!).  I’m not inclined to be rule bound but I do discipline myself.  I set myself deadlines and I meet them. I try to go to the gym two to three times a week, I try to meditate daily. I make a point of getting away from my writing when it becomes too intense.  It’s all about balance, being kind to and respecting yourself and the story and your characters.  If I go too long without moving on with a story, my characters can become downright invasive and bullying!

girl with a quill: Describe your writing space for us.

Nicky: I have a study which I designed myself with a built in desk and bookshelves. It’s painted orange (it’s supposed to be a colour that inspires and motivates!) though the walls not covered in books are covered in pinboards and paintings and photographs.  I’d describe it as a very vivid and friendly space.  That said, I’m about to build a new house on the side of the mountain and in that the study will be a bit of an eyrie with big windows looking out over valley, mountains and sea.

girl with a quill: Do you belong to any writing groups and do you have a critique partner? Do you think writing groups or critique partners are important for writers? Why?

Nicky:  I lead an online critique group which forms part of an initiative started by the SCBWI–BI chapter.  There are eight of us and we support, encourage and nurture each other on our writing journeys.  Take a look at my latest blog post by way of example!  HYPERLINK “http://absolutevanilla.blogspot.com/2011/02/thank-you-ya-critique.html” http://absolutevanilla.blogspot.com/2011/02/thank-you-ya-critique.html

Although I’ve been involved with critique groups for several years, I initially fought joining one for a long time, but I have to say it was one of the best things I ever did.  What I will say is that it is critical to find yourself the right group critique group – writers who are at the same level and better than you, people you can trust and for whom you have respect.  And if a critique group isn’t right for you, leave it and find another, there is no point in being in a group in which you are not comfortable or in which you are not learning. A good critique group will do two things – one, you will learn why your own story is or isn’t working and how to address problems, and two,  in critiquing the work of your peers you will develop your critical faculties, which you can then apply to your own work.  It’s very much a two-way street and what people put into a critique group is what they will get out of it.  But, and I can’t overstate this point; critique groups must be dominated by mutual trust and respect, and a good critique is kindly done and constructively critical – a critique should never demoralise or embarrass or hurt someone.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Nicky: Hmm, good question… I’m not really sure you can separate the two, I think both elements are critical in writing a good novel.  I like to start with a strong character, as I believe my character often drives and informs the story.  But the two work in tandem – and together with that other critical element, voice.

girl with a quill: I know that it is a bit like asking a mother who her favourite child is but, Do you have a favourite story from those you have written and can you tell us a little bit about it?

Nicky:  Every story I work on is my favourite story, I genuinely can’t say I have one that stands out from the others, though, inevitably, whatever I’m working on at the moment is the “current” favourite.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Nicky:  I’m afraid the same sort of answer applies as above, though I did write a novel for younger children (9 – 12 years) several years ago that I’d really like to go back to because I so enjoyed the characters.  It’s a fantasy, set largely in a fantasy world which gave scope for all sorts of weird and wonderful characters including a dragon, an owl and a Great Dane – who both spoke and had more views and attitude than your average opinion poll – and a pair of incorrigible gnomes.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any story now? Can you give us a peek into it?

Nicky:  I’ve just finished a complete rewrite of an urban supernatural/magical realism novel for Young Adults.  It’s currently out on submission so forgive me if I’m a bit cagey about it.  Meanwhile, I have a new story composting in my head – so far I know the main character and the nub of the plot – for the rest there is a lot of staring out the window going on, often accompanied by frantic note taking.  I am also doing some research – quantum physics is proving interesting…

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Nicky: There are two: Hercule Poirot is one –  simply because Agatha Christie gave him so many characteristics and so much life that he’s vivid – although, admittedly, something of a caricature.

The other is Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax – simply put, she’s a witch after my own heart – I mean, who doesn’t want to be adept at headology and be able to borrow another creature’s mind on occasion?!

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Nicky: I’m not sure I’d want a dinner party with 5 famous creative people; I suspect there would be way too much ego around the table!  Instead, I’d rather invite a huge group of my children’s writer pals to a soiree!

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Nicky: I think the guest list would very much depend on my mood at the time and the kind of party I wanted.  But to be completely frivolous, let me say, Hercule Poirot, Granny Weatherwax, Bertie Wooster (he would of course bring Jeeves), Gandalf and Vlad Dracul.  I suspect I’d then sit back and watch the mayhem unfold.  I can tell you that already multiple creative outcomes are flitting up from my imagination!

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Nicky: Try astrophysics instead – it’s probably easier.

Accept that you’re not as good as you think you are and set to work improving.  Everyone thinks they can write (I was a copywriter and a scriptwriter in a previous life) but actually, most people can’t write and fewer people can write a really good story, especially a children’s story.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Nicky:  Learn, always learn – observe and grow all the time – be savvy, stay in touch with the world and stay creative.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Nicky: I don’t really care about creating a lasting legacy – I just want to tell a good story and tell it well.  If it touches someone’s life, that’s wonderful.  If a legacy is created from that, great – but since I probably won’t be around to know about it, it doesn’t really matter.  To my mind, the desire to create a lasting legacy is fundamentally an ego-based illusion.  The important thing in the here and now is to honour the story – and yourself – in the process of creation.

You can find me at my blog  – Absolute Vanilla  HYPERLINK “http://www.absolutevanilla.blogspot.com” http://www.absolutevanilla.blogspot.com

Or on Twitter @NickySchmidt1  HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/#!/NickySchmidt1” http://twitter.com/#!/NickySchmidt1

I am on Facebook but I manage my connections there quite tightly.

And you’ll find some of my photos on Flickr at  HYPERLINK “http://www.flickr.com/photos/absolutevanilla” http://www.flickr.com/photos/absolutevanilla

And a note to your readers – please don’t confuse me with the chicklit author who uses my name as her nom de plume!  Or the Danish musician, who is male.

Thank you for a truly entertaining interview Nicky. Thank you also for coming such a long way from your lovely writing place to visit with me in mine. You are welcome to visit anytime. Now it looks like we need a top up of wine and I think I have some dessert somewhere. Vanilla Ice-Cream? In honour of your visit. Excuse us readers well we adjourn to enjoy our dessert…Mmmhh Absolute Vanilla…Absolute Nicky Schmidt…

Tea, Writing & Jill Dempsey

Well it is Wednesday which means it is time for me to have a sit down chat with another warrior. The element of these interviews that I love the most is that I get to sit down and chat with a fascinating artist of words. I learn tips about the craft of writing that have been tried, tested and aced in the school of hard knocks. The other element I love is the myriad of differences and similarities between each writer I interview and myself. Some of us write full-time, some of us wish we could write full-time. Some are mothers, some are single. Today’s writer hails from the fair city of arts and culture in the land down-under: the city that is Melbourne. Join me in my living room as I sit down and chat with the energetic writer, mom, wife, and tea lover as we chat about how she blends a life of writing and creativity (helped along by a freshly brewed cup of tea) with the madness and chaos of a hospital emergency room. While we chat, I will brew us a fresh pot of tea, Jill’s muse….

Welcome Jill Dempsey

Jill: Hi Kim,
thanks for inviting me to be interviewed, I hope you enjoy the chat.

girl with a quill: Tell me a little about yourself and who you are?


Jill: I’m a people person who lives happily out of the box and tends to step further out and away  if I feel crowded. I live at the base of a mountain that is famous for bushfires but also for beautiful birds and marsupials, brave people who have lost again and again but keep re-building.
I work Saturday nights resuscitating people who live literally unbelievable lives of violence, panic, and drunkenness. Why? I still believe that under any mess there is a gem worth looking for. I enjoy the sounds of native birds, the kindness of unexpected people, trust and clarity. I’m a web-browser; I love spiders and usually know who is hiding in my garden.

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Jill: About fifty years; I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read and write. I do remember it being disruptive to living and learning, but comfort was more important than conformity.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in? What made you decide to become a writer in this genre?

Jill: I’ve written Children’s musicals with my husband, articles on health and parenting for years. I prefer Young Adult fiction, mostly metaphorical and speculative. I love walking out of this world to find hooks and handles in another, hoping to offer relief to people who struggle with uniqueness.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your books? Are you in Pre-publication?

Jill: Yes. I have my first fiction book on its way out. Just a few more pushes and it should breathing and smiling. This one is for the 10 – 15-year-old age group; especially those girls who feel cheated by the lack of choice, the sudden changes of periods, a morphing body and capricious emotions. Most of the books I’ve written have been about pushing through essential walls of change.

girl with a quill: Which of these books is your favourite and why?

Jill:   One that I never seem to finish. I love the journey through literacy, and the isolation that comes with choosing a path that wanders. But as often as I go back to this one, I can’t finish it 😦

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now? Can you tell us anything about it?

Jill: it defines a child I knew too well, explores the panic of crowding, the tenderness of raising an eaglet, and the sanctity of voice.

girl with a quill: Being based in Australia, do you base your stories there?

Jill: Not necessarily, I try to choose universal themes. Everybody knows the same struggles, not everyone has the same choices. I don’t think geography affects the most interesting part of us. I don’t like being a tourist, because no matter how great the scenery, it’s the inner person that is more interesting, beautiful, courageous or tested.

girl with a quill: Would your stories be different if you were not in Australia and why?

Jill: No. Australia is a relatively young country, but her terrain and landscape can  be seen in other places. Maybe our culture is more eclectic than other parts of the planet, but if you scratch the surface there are still the same familiar issues of poverty, homelessness, kindness, gang wars, political uncertainty

girl with a quill: Who is your biggest influence in writing and why?

Jill: My husband. He believes in me and I trust him. I can’t say that about anybody else.

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Jill: I knew that I wanted to write fiction, probably for children or emerging adults. I mostly wrote on health and parenting because I’m a critical care nurse and knew the territory well. I don’t particularly enjoy non-fiction, but I felt wanted there and it kept me working in writing for a few years. I would love to become established as  YA fiction writer, but I’m still finding my way.

girl with a quill: You are a mother with a part-time job and writer? Do you tend to have your children be your beta readers?

Jill: I work night duty in a public Hospital Emergency department, and have three High School children. My children do read my work and often pick up inconsistencies in colloquial language, or depth of conversation. However I also like to have the opinion of experienced editors/authors for technical problems with balance/style etc.

girl with a quill: In your day job you are a shift worker, do you find that it is harder to find time to write? Do you have set writing times?

Jill: I do set myself times to write/edit during the day but also love flashes of inspiration that come during sleep, at odd moments during my usual chaotic life. I don’t find that writing creatively can be worked into planned spaces, it tends to land unexpectedly. I leave notes everywhere; sentences, runaway tangents that appear away from my chosen work space.

girl with a quill: You participated in NaNoWriMo 2010 and you were a winner? What did you take away from that experience that is valuable to your writing?

Jill: I loved the excuse to have to write. I had previously considered writing an option, a loved option but not one that had enough definition. Nano pushed me to create hours in a day when I’d put on my nano shirt, buy a new teapot, sort out a ritual that became and has remained a beautiful place. I loved listening to other writer’s discuss their struggles, and vulnerabilities. Previously I hadn’t had feedback that was friendly. It was constructive but less intimate, and I believe more grows within the place of vulnerability and intimacy. Not just in writing.

girl with a quill: For NaNoWriMo the challenge is to write down the story without editing. Is this how you usually write?

Jill: Yes, I love runaway writing, or stream of consciousness. Maybe it seems less didactic and rehearsed, less forced.

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Jill: I have so many possible plots waiting in a queue in that writing room in my head. I haven’t experienced writer’s block, I could write for days if real life didn’t interrupt me. I recently destroyed a manuscript I had worked on for 5 years because I’d had so much pain in the rewrites.

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Jill: Definitely a panster. I don’t like confinement and my characters’ journey is happier when birthed and grown organically than under the restrictions of timelines, plots and maps. I have software for mind mapping but it seems so restrictive, it hurts. In my personal life, I don’t like clocks, maps, diaries because they preach at me. In y writing life I need the freedom to dangle a possibility ad allow it to brew. That was why I bought a new teapot for Nano; it was symbolic of brewing and tasting something in a beautiful vessel, , choosing the depth and savouring the outcome.

girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?

Jill: I don’t think I am superstitious. I wouldn’t want my thought life to be defined by events. Life takes unexpected turns and not all of it needs understanding or reason.

girl with a quill: Do you belong to any writing groups and do you have a critique partner? Do you think writing groups or critique partners are important for writers? Why?

Jill: Only this on-line group. Nano helped me listen to other writers, but I’m not very good with too many people. I tried a couple of writer’s groups, but felt crowded. I love having one to appraise my words, but not several.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Jill: The character. I love people. I work in an Emergency Department because I love the variety and unexpected changes. All of  life is woven with stories but can be boring if the character is not someone you care about. People matter more to me than events. I love metaphors and allegories because they have the chance to unearth the complexity of the heart of people.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Jill: A boy who couldn’t read, had cheated and manipulated people to find a way through the system. He reminds me of so many teenage boys I know, covering frailties by unconsciously trapping people to help them find a path.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Jill: The Cat in the Hat; he loved mess and always pulled solutions and possibilities out of nowhere.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Jill: 1;Dr Seuss because he told children that life would have its pains, pleasures and paradoxes, and that the journey is beautiful.
2; AA Milne; I loved his stories, but after reading his son’s biographies, I was very distressed about Christopher Robin’s parenting. I have so many questions to ask Mr Milne Sr.
3; Simon French; I have re-read all his books so many times, he has a beautiful insight, into injustice in common society.
4;Marilynne Robinson, because she writes those moments of wit, warmth and pain that make you shiver.
5; Robert Frost. He was rejected within his own country because his metaphorical writing wasn’t understood, but he still believed in himself enough to pursue his own style. He seemed to be so sensitive, secure and persistent.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Jill: None of them. I have a house full of teenagers, and all their friends. My bravest moment was having 13 13-year-old boys for a 24 hour sleep-over. It was the noisiest, smelliest time I’ve ever had. My characters can stay on the pages.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Jill: Accept technical advice, but allow room for your teachers to have opinions that are not necessarily insightful.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Jill: No matter how many times you decide you’ve failed, the fire of a dream will not be extinguished.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Jill: To find a few sentences that melt the reader’s sobriety and sadness.

girl with a quill: Where can we find you?

I am on Facebook, twitter; @jilldempsey and have a blog that is still waking slowly.



What a fascinating chat and what a fascinating lady. Thank you for coming in today Jill. Now if I am not mistaken, you must be parched and the tea must be brewed. Shall I pour us each a cup while I excuse the readers?

Remember writers wield your quills with care for…

The Quill is swifter than the Rapier

and Ink imbrues deeper than Blood….

~ girl with a quill

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning


Musing on writing ~ Mina Witteman

Today’s writer is an eloquent lady with a lovely turn of phrase hailing from the Netherlands. I met her through the Warriors Facebook group that I belong to and have enjoyed all her wise posts. She may not post as often on the group as I know she is busy on her latest story, but when she does post or post a link through to her blog, I always take note of what she says. She is a writer that not only knows about her craft and has succeeded at having a career in writing but also has a vast resume of writing related paths from being an intern at a top publishing house to editing to ghost-writing. If you think that you find it impossible to just find enough time to write for a hour every day, Mina adds one more item to her resume by being a teacher of creative writing at schools. She started off wanting to be an architect but in the end decided to follow the path of destiny and followed the way of the words to become a writer. They say everything happens for a reason and I am glad that destiny changed her pathway from architecture to writing. Otherwise we would have missed out on enjoying her talent and her wisdom.

Now without further ado, I will let Mina tell you and I a little more about herself as she lets us into the world of:

Mina Witteman – Writer

Welcome Mina…I know it is a long way from home but I hope you enjoy your short visit with me on Dragonfly Scrolls…Take a seat in the comfy couch. The kettle is on and the readers are waiting…

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about you.

Mina: I was born and grew up in a small village in the south of the Netherlands. My dad was an architect and for a long time I thought I was destined to be one as well, as I inherited his math genes. But I hadn’t counted on my mom’s genes. She had a great imagination and she was a storyteller pur sang. She planted the storytelling seed in me. It took its time to grow, even after I found out that my favorite subject in school was… detention. Detention meant writing essays and I loved writing essays even more than I loved math, physics and chemistry.

I did study architecture, but never finished it. After dropping out of polytechnic, I wandered around for quite some years until I couldn’t ignore the need to get all the stories out anymore. I followed some courses creative writing and the four-year course Writing Prose For Children. I also did the editor’s minor at the University of Amsterdam and an internship at one of the major publishing houses in the Netherlands. By now I’m not only a writer, but also a seasoned freelance copy-editor. In addition to writing and editing, I write reviews for Booktunes, the site that brings your favorite books and music together and I occasionally teach creative writing to high school students.

girl with a quill: Do you remember the moment you wanted to become a writer?

Mina: After my son was born and I, again, got hold of all those exciting books I used to read when I was young, books taking you with them on adventures you couldn’t even dream of. I realized I had to do more than read. I signed up for some creative writing classes (I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and at one of the classes, Writing for Children, everything suddenly fitted, like finding your true vocation.

girl with a quill: What inspires you to write and why?

Mina: Every day inspires me to write. Even the tiniest event can light the fire, because behind every event, every single step you take in life there is a whole world of stories. What if you didn’t take that step? What if you went into the other direction? What you see is what you get, people often say, but what if it’s not?

girl with a quill: Where do you do write?

Mina: Home is where I write. I have an office on the second floor where I’m surrounded by paintings and books. From my window I look at one of Amsterdam’s main canals, lined with trees and beautiful 18th century houses. A great view if you have to sit and think, which is what writers do a lot.

girl with a quill: How do your stories find you? Are they character-driven or story-driven?

Mina: I think most of the stories are already in me. They just need to find their way out. Others come to me when I travel, like THE SUN SPIRIT. That one hit me when I was traveling through Arizona and the Navajo Nation: the thunderstorms, the flash floods, the intriguingly mysterious red monoliths. You could feel the adventure in every breath of air, in every grain of sand, in every sudden shadow that darkened the world for a moment.

Most of my stories are a mix of character- and story-driven. The story, the adventure is the main pillar on which a telling is built, but every story needs strong characters, too.

girl with a quill: Once you have your story, take us through your preparation stage. Tell us a little about your writing process.

Mina: The preparation stage is usually a long one, as the story first needs to form in my head. As soon as the basic shape is there, as soon as I’m well acquainted with my protagonist, I can start writing. First a draw a blueprint on the whiteboard next to my desk, next I start writing the manuscript. I am a linear writer, and I usually write a book from the beginning to the end in one go (don’t worry, I do go to sleep at night J). Only my debut, DEEDEE’S REVENGE, was written differently. Circumstances forced me to write some of the individual scenes first and “weld” them together in a later stage. I can still see those seams. They might be invisible for the reader, but they are there. When writing THE SUN SPIRIT I found my preferred modus operandi, so… linear it is.

When I’m done writing I put the manuscript away for a week or so to let it all sink in. Then I read it and start revising the first time. After the first revision I give it to my proofreader. She is a friend of my son’s (16 by now). She wants to be a writer herself and she is a very strict and uncompromising editor, and she’s able to single out most of the flaws. I find it invaluable to have a target reader as my proofreader. With her reader’s report at hand I revise the manuscript for the second time. After that, and only when I am truly satisfied with the end result, I hand the manuscript in.

girl with a quill: You write YA. What led you into this form of writing?

Mina: I know YA is the name, but I see my stories more as coming-of-age stories. Sometimes my protagonist is 10 or 12, sometimes he is a little older, like the one in the new book I’m working on. He’s 16. What they all have in common is that they go through an adventure that will change their lives forever.

YA is the major part of what I write, but I also write thrillers for adults and short read-aloud stories for the very young. The thrillers are a logic continuation of writing YA – or at least it feels that way. The short stories work as etudes. Writing them hones my craft and keeps me on my toes if it comes to keeping the “fanning out” in check. Short stories force you to be brief and to the point, but at the same time every sentence, every word needs to be in flow with the next sentence and the next word.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite out of your stories or your books? Can you tell us why?

Mina: That is a hard question. I love DEEDEE’S REVENGE (DE WRAAK VAN DEEDEE), not only because it was my debut, but it also because it is a bit about me. DEEDEE’S REVENGE is about Deedee and her pesky brother Matthias. One day Matthias crosses the line with one of his pranks and Deedee swears she will get back at him. It’s a bit about me getting back at my brother, at last, for one of the pranks he pulled on me when I was young. It’s also the only book I’ve written that has a female protagonist.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite character from your books?

Can you tell us who/what and why?

Mina: I think Tom, my protagonist in the Warriors Of The Sun series, is my favorite character. He’s been with me for three books now (of which two have been published so far). I love him and the way he carefully treads through life, getting bolder and more confident with every book.

girl with a quill: Do you find that all of your stories are smoothly written once started or have some of them been challenging?

Mina: So far it has been easy “writes”, if there is anything like an easy “write”. In a way every manuscript is a challenge, as you never know beforehand if it will work out, but most of the time the writing is smooth. It’s the editing and revising part that bothers me more. That part compels a lot of self-discipline as you have to be able to be ruthless in killing your darlings.

girl with a quill: Have you ever written in any other genre? If you haven’t, would you want to and what genre would you choose?

Mina: Up till now I have written short read-aloud stories for the very young, adventure (low) fantasy for MG/YA and I just finished the revision of my first thriller for adults. You might think that is different genres, but it’s not. All my stories are spine-chilling adventures, even the short stories (although those aren’t as scary as the stories for my older audience). I don’t think I will ever divert from this adventure genre. It fits me like glove.

girl with a quill: You have published your books in Dutch. Have you had your books translated into English?

Mina: Three of my books and about 30 short stories have been published in Dutch, none of them have been translated. Yet!

girl with a quill: What is your opinion on books being translated?

Do you find that it is a positive or a negative to the story?

Does anything get “lost in translation?

Mina: In the Netherlands we grow up with translated literature. Our publishers have a long tradition of bringing translated books to the public. Partly because there are a lot of good books out there that should be read, but also because of our traders’ mentality: why shouldn’t you publish a book that is successful abroad here as well and make some money in the process?

For the story it’s not always a blessing. As an editor I have copy-edited quite some translations, and yes, things can definitely get lost in translation. It takes an outstanding translator to capture not only the story, but also the voice of the author and even then it’s inevitable that some things get lost in translation because of the mere fact that one language isn’t the other.

Dutch books are less often translated into other languages. I suspect that it being such a small language area and the corresponding lack of translators from Dutch might be responsible for that, as it makes the translation process a rather costly matter.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the process of publication in the Netherlands? Do you have to have an agent or do you work directly with a publisher?

Mina: The agent system is slowly gaining ground here, but only for adult literature. Writers usually deal directly with the publishers. That might also be due to the smaller market. The sales figures for midlist writers a not spectacular and if you have to split the already proceeds with an agent… But I’m very much for an agent system. Most writers are not sales people, agents are. It pays to have someone dedicated to your books deal for you. I have an agent (Paul Sebes of Sebes & Van Gelderen Literary Agency) for my thriller.

girl with a quill: Have you / Would you submit to any US publishers or UK publishers?

Mina: I have not submitted to US publishers or UK publishers. Again: yet! I have signed a contract with literary agent Erzsi Deàk of the Hen & Ink. She will handle all rights for my children’s books, not only the ones that have been published in the Netherlands, but the future ones, too. I am very, very happy with Erzsi. She gives me the opportunity to spread my wings and to become true member of our ever-globalizing world.

girl with a quill: Considering the boom of the e-book industry,

Would you consider publishing in E-book format?

Mina: I am totally addicted to my e-reader. I love the concept and the possibilities it offers to both reader and writer. Thankfully, the Netherlands is slowly but surely picking up the advantages of the e-reader.

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now?

Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Mina: Yes, I am working on a new story. This time it’s a YA-thriller that keeps me glued to my desk. It’s about 16-year old Dorian who desperately wants to be independent. He has two important features that keep him from being independent: he’s 16 and he has a growing disorder, burdening him with the body of a 10-year old. While skipping school Dorian meets a group of hackers who live in a former squat house. As hacking doesn’t make you a living, they rent out a floor to a group of criminals who turned the floor into a pot growing plant. It sparks off some ideas in Dorian. Lucrative but dangerous ideas, as it turns out…

girl with a quill: You have a website, a blog and a twitter id.

Do you find social network platforms important to a writer’s platform? If so, why and how?

Mina: I have mixed feelings about social network platforms. Yes, they are important as they give you a more direct way of interacting with your audience and with your peer group. It keeps you informed. One of the earlier Warriors you interviewed aptly named Facebook ‘her water cooler’. That is exactly how I feel about it. Writing can be a very lonely business. It’s good to meet your peers and your audience at the ‘water cooler’ every now and again.

The downside, of course, is that it takes away time from your core business: writing. You have to exercise quite some discipline to keep the every now and again really every now and again and not all the time.

girl with a quill: If you could choose 5 famous creative people to have dinner with, who would you choose and why?

Mina: I would love to have dinner with Jennifer Donnelly, Frank Lloyd Wright, Panamarenko, Yukio Mishima and Harper Lee. Jennifer wrote this intense YA-novel REVOLUTION and I would love to talk about to her our craft and the agony it causes us sometimes and how to overcome that. Frank Lloyd Wright is on the list, because designed the most beautiful houses in the world, houses that – to me – are like stories. I wish he could tell me about the lines he sees and how he was able to put those lines down on paper and shape them into houses. Panamarenko is a Belgian artist. Every single piece of art he makes is a novel in itself. During dinner I would have him tell me everything about how math can marry art. John Irving is one of my favorite writers. I wish he would tell me all about the construction of a story. Finally Harper Lee, the writer of my all-time favorite novel. She only wrote one and I wish she could tell me why.

girl with a quill: If you could have a dinner party with 5 of your favourite fictional characters? Who would they be and why would you invite them?

Mina: Mizoguchi, the deeply troubled acolyte from Yukio Mishima’s THE TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION, Scout (Jean Louise Finch) from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Bod Pa, the old shaman in the Dutch coming-of-age novel HET BOEK VAN BOD PA (Bod Pa’s Book) by Anton Quintana, Pepto Bismo, Panamarenko’s statue of a modern day Icarus, and Begochiddy, messengers of the Navajo spirits. I would love to meet them, because they all are out of the ordinary, the stand out in loneliness, in strength, in being different. Somehow they all feel as kindred spirits (I’m not going to burn a temple, though J).

girl with a quill: Who has had the greatest influence on you as a writer?

Mina: That would be Anton Quintana, a Dutch writer of children’s books and thrillers. His children’s books are the ones I admire most. They all have that extra in them, that thing that tells you that there is more to this world than meets the eye.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite classic book? And why?

Mina: My favorite classic is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I know I’m not alone here, but the book is so intense. It reached right into my soul, it questioned my values and it left me with the rather desolate feeling that in the end we’re all alone.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite contemporary book? And why?

Mina: That is another hard question. There are so many good books coming out. For now, I’ll go with Jennifer Donnelly’s REVOLUTION. It is just as intense as Harper Lee’s book, but on a different level. Donnelly has accomplished, that if you read it, you almost literally can feel the pain of the protagonist, Andi Alpers, whose life was shattered after the death of her younger brother.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself as a young writer?

Mina: Have faith!

girl with a quill: What in the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself 10 years from now?

Mina: Keep honing your craft.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy as a writer to be?

Mina: I hope people will read my books.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us where we can find on the Web?


my reviews: booktunes.net

Thank you Mina for that look into your life as a writer. Now it looks like you are just about ready for another cuppa. Tell me more about the adventures that Dorian gets up to in your latest thriller…Readers if you want to know more you will just have to wait for the book.
Remember wield your quill with wit and wisdom for



The Quill is swifter than the Rapier,
Ink imbrues deeper than Blood…

~ girl with a quill
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