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.

 

 

My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium

Interview

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.

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Down the Rabbit Hole of Writing & Dreaming | Alice Lynn

 Today I welcome the charming Alice Lynn to the interview seat…Join us as we discuss dreams, imagination, strong female characters like Scarlet O”Hara and inspiration through the written and the read word.

Welcome Alice Lynn…

 

 girl with a quill: Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a six-word story. Tell us a bit about yourself in 6 words. Who is Alice Lynn?

Alice:  Telling who I am in six words is like asking for a mini synopsis of a 600 page novel. But here goes.  “ A writer who’s worn many hats.” Six words.  I guess you’ll tease out more details as the interview goes on.

girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Alice: Somewhere in middle school, I read a book about a girl who kept a journal that was eventually published.  That may have been the genesis of my ambition. In 8th grade, I adapted an excerpt of The Christmas Carol into a play.  I starred as Scrooge (!) and we gave several performances. Maybe the applause went to my head, because I wrote a lot of humorous skits that a friend and I performed for fellow students.  My teachers encouraged me and I won honorable mentions for a poem and short story in the National Scholastic Magazine. All of these factors contributed to my desire to be a “real writer.”

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

Alice: I began writing stories in 5th grade.  I’d discovered Tom Sawyer and was fired with the idea of writing a similar story. Imitating Twain’s writing style, I began, but never finished, my own version of a girl living somewhere in the rural United States of the late 18th Century.  My later efforts were shared with girlfriends who loyally listened as I read aloud. Most of these were western romances, as I had my own horse and ran with a “horsy” crowd.  I wrote my first novel when I was in my mid-twenties. Then came the first draft of Volunteer for Glory, published this year.  I’ve written newspaper feature articles, covered local sports, and reviewed high school theatricals. After my children were grown, I returned to school, earning a degree in psychology. The next five years revolved around my job as a case manager at a women’s shelter. In 2005, I began writing Wrenn, Egypt House, which was published in 2008.

girl with a quill: Besides writing, what are your other passions / hobbies?

Alice: Many of the hobbies I formerly pursued have also been retired. I have been an ardent gardener, a horseback rider, hiker, astrologer, poet, painter, and sculptor. I’ve played the part of a dance hall girl at a Timber Festival, where I sang, and danced the can-can.  I am fascinated by the natural world, art, music, the theater, and science.  I love horses, cats, dogs and the deer that nibble on our flowers. Not so much the neighborhood peacocks that scream “Help” at odd times during the night. I still play around with astrology, write poems (some published), attend water aerobics at the local gym, and maintain a lively correspondence with friends and colleagues.

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?

Alice:  My “water-cooler” space is a conference room at Clackamas Community College where Chrysalis, a women’s writing group, meets. We discuss  our current work, as well as the changing landscape of publishing.  These women are so versatile in their knowledge and talent, that information, support, and suggestions flow freely among us.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Alice: I don’t think I can reduce that to one person or thing. Books have always been a big part of my life. So, I may be begging the question when I say that they are my biggest inspiration. As a child I read practically everything in the local library. When I could afford it, I bought books. I read omnivorously, everything from The Dancing Wu Li Masters to thrillers. Books take me on a magic carpet to different places and times. I have traveled from Middle Earth to Prince Edward Island with Jane of Lantern Hill. I’ve lived on Mars with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series, galloped over the plains with Zane Grey’s heroes, and walked beside Joan Didion as I read  “The Year of Magical Thinking.”  Emily Dickinson may have said it best when she wrote:  “There is no frigate like a book.”

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?

Alice: My novel, I fear, would be one of those huge family sagas that seem to never end. The story arc would involve the search for maturity and self-expression. Seen as a graph, that line would resemble a mountain range, going up and down.  At this moment, I think the arc is slanting upward as I fulfill my life long ambition to be a writer.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Alice:  I write in a many-windowed room that looks out on the “wild side” of our yard.  A large maple dominates the area, but native shrubs and ground cover contribute to its feeling of seclusion. Our cats walk down the path, and sometimes Hochito sits on the rock wall and sings. This is true.  It’s not meowing.  It’s like an oratorio.  Maybe he thinks if he sings, the birds will fly down for a visit?  Deer wander through come spring, and occasionally one naps in the shade.  Squirrels jump from the deck onto the maple tree and provide a good deal of entertainment.  Inside my office are telephones, computers, printers, file cabinets, and bookshelves.  Bits of artwork and sculpture claim niches here and there, but mostly there are reference books, tomes of writing advice, and a lot of poetry.

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?

Alice: Since I’m a “dreamer” my ideas come from dreams.  The dream incident is unusually vivid and I know instantly there’s a book in it.  I play around with the idea until it’s time for the first sentence, paragraph, or page. This is crucial, because that’s when the dream image assumes a concrete shape. Hearing my main character speak for the first time is like meeting someone I’ve been told about. Then as the book progresses, the hope is that something of the initial magical will remain

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Alice:  Definitely a pantser, although I usually have a loose mental outline.  It’s like going from the east coast to the west coast; you know the destination but not everything you’ll meet on the road.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in and why?

Alice:  I guess my genre is historical, though my next book, (Scattered Pieces) now ready for publication, covers the time period from 1948 to 1961.  I think of that more as women’s fiction, but will leave it to you and my readers to decide. Since I tend to write of the past, I hope readers will learn some history along with the story.  I’ve always loved old photographs, and this has influenced my desire to bring those long-ago people back to life. 

girl with a quill: We all have little habits and quirks that make us individual.
(a) What are your bad habits in writing?
(b) What are your strengths in writing?

Alice: A) Among my bad habits is procrastination. I also let interruptions, well interrupt me. B) My strength includes sticking with a project, doing my research, and trying to write realistic dialogue.

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

Alice: I might choose mystery since I unraveling clues to discover who done it!  Creating well-rounded characters, a good background, and a fiendishly clever plot. I’d like that.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us a bit about the book/s you have written?

Alice: Wrenn, Egypt House tells the story of a girl growing up at turn-of-century Portland, Oregon.  Wrenn becomes fascinated with an exotic mansion in Portland Heights, which she names Egypt House because of the twin sphinxes flanking the entrance. And there are the gorgeous men who live there; Simon Hunter, father of Stephen and uncle to Edward.  Romance, a mysterious past, and growing up come to a conclusion at the Lewis & Clark Exposition of 1905.  Volunteer for Glory is a civil war novel.  Rachel Norcross, a minister’s daughter from Boston, is challenged to run the farm when her husband, Stuart, joins the volunteer cavalry and goes to war.  Jared Westbrook, a sensitive young man from a neighboring farm falls in love with Rachel and though the attraction is mutual, they struggle to remain true to their individual codes of honor. The personal lives of the characters are intricately entwined not just with each other but with the war itself.  Scattered Pieces, soon to be published, begins with the kidnapping of the heroine’s little brother.  Katie, now a practicing psychologist, takes us back through time as she tells her story and how that shattering event shaped her path in life.  It has love, glamour, suspense, and…well, you’ll have to read it.

girl with a quill: What is your best sentence you have written?

Alice:  You must be kidding! You’re not? I especially like this sentence from Volunteer:  “The sodden men, hunched over their straining mounts, became a procession of the damned, each face revealed or guessed at, a lost soul continuing into Hades.”

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Alice:  I’m working another book inspired by a dream. Emaline, an exceptionally bright child, lives in New York City (I think) in the 1900’s; It’s about 1910 at the moment.  She’s a contrary little soul who learned to read at age 3. She’s also musically gifted with perfect pitch.  She lives with her father, a renowned violinist, her mother, a younger sister, and a nanny she doesn’t like.  Emaline is precocious and rebellious. In fact, she’s been sent to see a psychiatrist after she destroyed her violin.

girl with a quill: First drafts are for the writers themselves. Who reads your work after you?

Alice: Lisa Nowak, friend and fellow writer, and my daughter, Paige, Harlow, always get the first look. Then comes Chrysalis, my writing critique group.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?

Alice:  Because once a story or character invades my imagination I have to see what happens.

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?

Alice: I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s the idea that no matter how difficult life is, you can survive and find happiness.

girl with a quill: Do you believe in Muses? If you do, who/what is your Muse?

Alice: My Muse must be my “dream master.”

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?

Alice: I think I’d make Wrenn come true.  Wrenn was a lovely character with much to offer as she matured.  I think she’s have been a very positive influence in society.

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

Alice: For me, story grows out of character.  Plots have floated around in my mind and stayed there. A character makes her own story.

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

Alice: I like all my female heroines.  Rachel, Wrenn, and Katie. I like them because whatever their challenges, they faced them with fortitude and still maintained their femininity.

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

Alice:  Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.  She was a flawed character but a survivor.  There were times I could have shaken her but all in all, she remains a force to be reckoned with and admired, however reluctantly.

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

Alice: JRR Tolkien, August Rodin, Elizabeth Goudge, C.S. Lewis, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.  Tolkien, because I simply love his Trilogy; Rodin because he created such awesome sculptures; Goudge, I love her books and she personally answered my first and only fan letter; Lewis for his philosophical insights; and Edna St. Vincent Millay because her poetry touches my heart.

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

Alice: First, I’d invite Frodo and Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings.  I’m sure they’d have wonderful anecdotes and asides that didn’t get into print.  Next, would be Cody Everett from Running Wide Open by Lisa Nowak.  Cody is a kid with a great sense of humor but the soul of a writer.  The next invitation would go to Lacy Thurman, Secretary of the Interior, from Pat Lichen’s Kidnapping the Lorax.  She’d have a good deal to say about politics and how her experience as a hostage in a northwest forest changed her.  My last guest would be Sanna from the book Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice by Roxanna Matthews.  Pairing her with Gandalf could produce some great feats of magic, to say nothing of good conversation.

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

Alice: Don’t give up.

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

Alice: The same.  Don’t give up.

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

Alice: I hesitate to even guess.  To leave a legacy, especially a lasting one, seems beyond my capability.  My hope is that my books will provide a pleasant reading experience and impart the feeling that life is worthwhile. 

girl with a quill: Where can we find your book/s for sale?

Alice: You can find Wrenn at First Books as well as on Kindle.  Volunteer for Glory can be ordered in as an e-pub or Kindle at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s or at Smashwords.  Printed versions of both books are also available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s.


girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Alice:  You can reach me through my blog at http://alicelynn.wordpress.com/ or visit me on Facebook, Alice Lynn Author. 

Thanks for having me as your guest.  You’ve made me feel very welcome.

These are the links to the books I took favorite characters from: Running Wide Open:  http://amzn.to/RWOAmazon ; Kidnapping the Lorax, http://amzn.to/mUiD23; and Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice: http://amzn.to/pCR4qf

 

 

Talking E-Books,Indie Publishing and Writing

There is a lot of talk in the world of writing and publishing about the shape of Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing and Print Publishing vs E-Book Publishing. Many writers are adamant on which side of these particular fences they sit. But there are still some who are caught between a rock and a hard place. This could be because they do not know enough about the newer industries of Indie Publishing (Independant or Small Press Publishers) or E-books. Perhaps you have already made up your mind about which side of the fence you are on but if you do have questions and want to know more then this is the interview you want to sit in on.

Today I am talking E-books, Indie Publishing, Editing and Writing with Susan Landis-Steward: Writer, Editor, Publisher.

So take a seat and get comfortable. Time to be informed by a lady who knows the different sides of the publishing debate. She also has the unique position of being both a writer and publisher.

Welcome Susan. Thank you for joining us here today.

 

girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Susan Landis-Steward?

Susan:  I’m an almost 60-year-old woman with way too much education and way too many ideas. I fully expect to die at my desk with my slippers half on (just as they are right now) doing something involved with editing, publishing, or writing. But not for another 20 years or so. I am a lesbian mom in a very long-term relationship. We have three stupendous daughters and are relieved that the youngest just got her own apartment. We do not suffer from empty nest syndrome, but maybe that’s because we both have such interesting lives of our own. We also have four amazing grandkids, ranging in age from 13 years to three weeks. I’ve spent my working years doing things like computer systems analyst, journalist, editor, child welfare worker, teacher, professor, and even did a brief stint as a call center minion. Probably the most interesting thing to other people is that I am brain injured. I died during minor surgery, caught a jump-start from a passing surgeon, and was shouted back to life by a small elderly nurse who spent the better part of a day yelling at me to breathe. I ended up with some minor brain damage and fibromyalgia. Blessing and curse. The blessing being that I can no longer work for someone else as I need frequent naps. The curse is obvious, I think.


girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Susan: I started writing at the age of four and never looked back. I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realized I’d like to actually write something for people to read. I didn’t get the courage until I was in my 30s and went to work as a reporter.  Having thousands of people reading my work was terrifying. I tried to resist my first byline, preferring anonymity. But I got over it. After a couple of decades of journalism, I wanted to try my hand at fiction. Here’s another blessing of the brain injury. There is a women’s writers group that meets at the local community college on Wednesday afternoons. With no job, I was free to join. I started my first novel, Blind Leading the Blind, and it was just published in March 2011. I’m currently working on the sequel, Blind Spot. They are lesbian mysteries featuring a former detective and a blind therapist. Love, sex, action, horses, motorcycles, belly dancers, crime: what more could a girl want?

 

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

Susan:  Well, that involves math, but I’m 59 now and I was four then so 55 years? Is that right? But professionally, I’ve been writing for 27 years as a journalist, freelance writer, academic, professional writer for the State of Oregon, and many other tasks. I’ve made my living as a freelancer exclusively by the pen for the past five or six years.

girl with a quill: You founded Puddletown Publishing. How did you get into this?


Susan: Wow. I bought a Nook Color last fall because my eyes can no longer be sufficiently corrected to allow me to read most trade paperbacks without removing my glasses, covering one eye to keep the astigmatism at bay, holding the book two inches from my face, and squinting. With my Nook, I can bump up the size, change the font, and make the background a comfortable color.  Great adaptive technology for the baby boom. So, on January 2nd, we went to a party. It was the fifth party that week and I actually tried to get out of it. But my partner insisted, so I took my Nook. That’s what introverts do; we make sure we always have a book along in case we need a breather from the clamoring crowd. So, when I got tired of socializing, I went and sat in a quiet room with a friend,  CONTACT _Con-3B5146219 Renee LaChance, and we started talking about e-books.  Renee was the founder and publisher of Just Out newsmagazine, Oregon’s gay rag, and was itching to get back into publishing. I was a bit at loose ends myself, one regular editing gig having ended, and pretty soon the conversation went from “Why isn’t anyone doing this?” to “Why aren’t we doing this?” Within a week we were on our way. We published our first flush of books in March and our second group of nine books is coming out soon. We are having the time of our lives.


girl with a quill: Do you take control of the editing process like traditional publishers or do writers self-publish through your company?

Susan: We are not a vanity press. We call ourselves an indie press because we’re small, but we function like a traditional publisher in terms of acquisitions, editing, art, and all that rigmarole. Even my own book was submitted to the entire process. Our readers read it without knowing it was mine.  One of my books got a no, so it’s due for some serious rewriting if I ever have the time. 

girl with a quill: For those of us in the dark about e-book publishing, explain to us the process of submitting and publishing a book through your company?

Susan:  When we are accepting submissions, ask that books be sent as Word documents with a short bio and a synopsis. Right now we’re looking for books by lesbians and women of color—it’s a small group, but we don’t want to be swamped with submissions. Others will get their chance. We publish all genres. We do expect submissions to be well-written, tell a good story, and be carefully edited. I’m a bit of a grammar and spelling Nazi and won’t waste my time on something with lots of errors. I’ve quit reading many traditionally published bestsellers because they are so poorly written and edited. The books are then sent to readers who tell us if they think we should proceed with the project. Usually we go with their recommendations, although we do take another look if they say no and we think the project still has merit. Once contracts are signed, we (meaning I) do the first editing pass, looking for obvious structural problems and glaring writing problems. I take notes, send the book back to the writer, and work with the author to make it the best it can be.  Meanwhile, Renee starts working with illustrators and other sub-contractors. Once the book is up to my standards, Renee, who is a masterful copy-editor, goes through it with a fine-tooth comb and catches all the picky stuff I might have missed. Renee and I are a good match. I’m a good editor, while she’s got a business brain like no other. So she handles the contracts, the sub-contractors, the money, the traditional marketing, and all the parts I hate to do. I do work with the authors around social marketing because I enjoy that part. Renee also does the formatting for POD. Finally, we format the book, load it at all the usual suspects, and celebrate. The e-book goes up as soon as the book is ready. POD follows a few weeks later. Oh, and we pay better than average royalties and have the luxury of working with great new writers. It’s so fun!

girl with a quill: This is an e-book Publisher. What do you believe is the future for e-books and more publishers like yourself taking advantage of the wave?

Susan: I hear people all the time who say, “I’ll never get an e-reader. I love ‘real’ books too much.” Most of them are younger folks.  I said the same thing until I realized I hadn’t read anything for fun for a few years. I used to read between 200 and 300 books a year. Suddenly, I was barely getting through three.  My eyes just couldn’t handle it. I did a few rounds with my eye doctor and finally gave up. Then, bang! e-readers.  I’m reading like a maniac again. So older folks are snatching them up because you can read anything on an e-reader. Kids love them. My grandkids grew up on computers so the e-book is an easy transition for them.  And studies show that kids are reading more with e-books. Even my 30-year-old daughter bought one because she wants to be able to carry several books in one compact space, and the new apps for the Nook Color make the thing a small computer that fits in a purse. Lots of servicemen and women are buying e-readers because they fit in a uniform pocket and can hold hundreds of books. The traditional publishers have been slow to change and are going the way of the dinosaur. With books by indies costing only a few dollars, more and more people can afford to buy a book. And I love being able to check books out of the library without leaving my house. I don’t think books are going away any time soon, but the Big 6 and the brick and mortar stores need to enter the 21st century if they want to compete.  I also see a lot of writers who still want a “traditional” deal, even though it’s not in their best interest. Why spend years scrabbling for an agent, waiting for the agent to shop the book, then wait another year for the book to come out? All for 7.5 percent royalties. And, if your book doesn’t sell well, it’s on the shelves for 3 months before being remaindered, and you still haven’t earned your advance back. No wonder writers don’t make any money. An e-book is for sale forever. Writers are finding that they can either self-publish or go with the smaller e-presses like Puddletown and have their books on sale in weeks instead of years. The royalties are better, the quality is often better, and you can still have print copies for POD. There are still some problems to be worked out, like the inconsistent quality of self-published books, but I think the market will take care of that over the next few years.  Overall, I see e-books continuing to take a larger and larger share of the market. They’re cheap in a poor economy, they’re green in a society that should be worried about that, and they’re technology that Americans have shown they adore. Barring major solar flares knocking out the grid or the end of the world, I think even dyed-in-the-wool book lovers will be reading e-books with some regularity.  

girl with a quill: Why have you chosen to do predominantly only e-book publishing? Is it a personal preference? Why?

Susan:  It’s a fairly wide open market, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s better for the writer in the long run.  We also are committed to a “green” workplace and you don’t get much greener than this.

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?

Susan:   I’m an introvert so I like being alone. With Dropbox, I can see my business partner and our subcontractors working away at their homes. (Dropbox alerts you when other folks access the files.) I have my dog and some cats, so I’m happy. I also belong to several Facebook groups that I visit throughout the day. Renee and I also talk on the phone almost daily, and we meet once a week to go over the endless list.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Susan:  Without a doubt, Madeleine L’Engle. She’s been my favorite since I was a child and got A Wrinkle in Time for Christmas the year it came out. Her writing and her liberal perspective on faith have both influenced me greatly over the years.  I was fortunate to study with her for a short time.

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?

Susan:  Is there a genre called crazy-as-hell? My life has been a roller coaster with all the usual events: marriage, family, work, taxes. But there’s been a huge element of surprise as well: house burned down, floods, and we’ve got two more horsemen yet to come. I’ve died and lived to tell about it, started several new businesses and driven them to success. If I told you everything, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes, I think I’m trying to work out several lifetimes of karma in one.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Susan:  I have a room of my own in our home, lined floor to ceiling with books, and a desk that is cluttered beyond belief. I need a big monitor so I have a 32” flat screen TV I can blow everything up to 200 percent on. I have several computers, usually a couple of cats lounging around, and a lot of outsider art and photos of family and friends. There are also a lot of art supplies as I like to dink around with other creative forms. I’m primarily a fiber artist in my spare time.  Like Gandhi, I believe we could have world peace if everyone would just spin their own yarn.

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?

Susan:  I mull. I gestate. I listen to voices in my head. Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I sit down and start writing.  It’s almost like mental illness.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Susan:  A pantster, for sure.  I tried plotting but could never get the whole thing done. Finally, I sat down and started writing.  Sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next, so I get surprised.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Susan: I love mysteries so I write mysteries. I’m also working on a couple of theology projects (I trained as a theologian), and one book that combines theology with mystery.

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

Susan: Probably fantasy or science fiction. With lesbian protagonists. I like women’s voices and there’s not enough good lesbian literature out there.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Susan: I’m writing two sequels to my first book.  The first is Blind Spot and the second is Blind Faith. The first three are all in the POV of the detective who is neurotic as hell but can see. The fourth book will be Blind Leading the Blind and will be in the POV of the blind therapist. That will be a challenge.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?

Susan:  Because it’s what I do. If I’m not writing books, I’m writing articles, or sermons, or blog posts, or…

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?

Susan:  Hmm.  I guess the combination of lesbian and liberal theologian makes me most interested in the ideas of inclusion and diversity over all other themes. I want to write things that normalize all the differences for my readers. Like the idea that lesbians can just be normal folks or that a blind person can lead a rich, rewarding, and creative life. Or that one can be spiritual, even religious, without leaving your brain behind.

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?

Susan:  Oh! I’d be Meg Murray in Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Or I’d be Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr’s books. I like Meg because she’s an awkward kid and so was I. I like Anna because she gets to work in the National Parks. 

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

Susan:  I like character driven books best. If you have a good character, one that I can get to know and care about, I’ll probably forgive minor issues with the story. I’m not as forgiving about great stories with flat or stereotypical characters.

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

Susan:  I’d have to say Erik Walton (short for Erika) in my Blind series. She’s smart, tough, smart-assed, and neurotic as hell. Her weaknesses and tenderness shine through all her bluster. Her inner dialogue is pretty true to my own life.

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

Susan:   Marvin in Dr. Seuss’s Marvin K. Mooney. He cracks me up.

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

Susan:  Madeleine L’Engle. Well, duh. Nevada Barr, because she writes gripping books with great female characters.  Rita Nakashima Brock, one of my favorite feminist theologians. Mozart, because I’d want him to play for us after dinner, and he was a crazy child prodigy.  Willa Cather, because she’s one of the few writers who can take my breath away, and I can’t figure out if it’s the story or the writing that did it. An amazing thing when that happens.


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?

Susan:  Anna Pigeon, because I love her adventures in the wilderness.  God as portrayed in Gospel by Wilhelm Barnhardt, because he’s laugh-out-loud funny as hell, doesn’t take him/herself seriously, and is much like God as I imagine him/her.  Alex Delaware, from the mysteries by Jonathon Kellerman, because I could use a good guitar-playing shrink.  Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter, because she makes me laugh and she’s the kind of person I like to hang out with. Rina Lazarus from the books by Faye Kellerman, because I want to know everything about her faith.

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

Susan:  Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write.

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

Susan: Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write. And publish it.

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

Susan: Mostly I think about my kids and grandkids. I want them to be proud of my body of work. Even though I don’t want the grandkids reading some of it until they’re older. I think explicit sex, even if fairly tame, has no place in the hands of kids under 15 or 16 or so.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Answer: HYPERLINK “mailto:susanls@puddletowngroup.com”susanls@puddletowngroup.com

HYPERLINK “http://www.puddletowngroup.com/”http://www.puddletowngroup.com/

Facebook: HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup”http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053″http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts”http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts

Blogs: HYPERLINK “http://puddletown.wordpress.com/”http://puddletown.wordpress.com

HYPERLINK “http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/”http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: HYPERLINK “http://www.twitter.com/susanls”http://www.twitter.com/susanls

HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup”http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup

 

 

____________________________________________________________

 

The Gift of Truth Telling

Truth
Image by TW Collins via Flickr

How important is telling the truth to you?

For many writers, they tell the truth about emotional subjects and difficult tales through their stories. They may change a few names around or they may base a character loosely on themselves. I believe all fiction does carry something of the writer‘s experience and emotional map about it. But there are those writers who are called to write a story that will make people question their world views. Their stories make the reader confront the truth. As we all know sometimes the truths in this world can be ugly and destroying. But sometimes there are those rare individuals who can use trials and torments to rise above their circumstances and use that very pain to bring comfort and nurturing warmth into all whose lives they touch. Then you go a step further and meet those same individuals who use their stories of pain as a looking-glass mirror where, through the naked reflection of their pain, they offer others in the same circumstances a way out, a way paved with hope and resilience. Tonight I have the honour of having such an individual and such a writer in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio with me. I am not going to digress anymore because tonight she is going to share her amazing story with you. So I am going to take a step back and let you be inspired by a woman who, like myself, believes in not only seeking the truth but in telling the truth in all its naked complexity. This is a story of a true survivor. Listen to her and have hope no matter how hopeless your world may seem right now.

Firstly thank you for joining me in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio…

Let us start by you introducing yourself to us…Who is Suzannah Burke?


Of all the questions I am ever asked this is perhaps the most difficult to answer. Who am I?  I am an Australian woman in my fifties.  I wake before sunrise and go back to bed after midnight.  I love to walk in the rain, and read in the sun.  I watched Toy Story 3 and cried; I sat with my 30-year-old daughter and watched the entire first series of Glee in one sitting, snuggled on the sofa with enormous amounts of munchies.  On her next visit, we watched the entire first season of Trueblood together.  I live alone on the northeastern coast of Australia in a small fishing village.  I am a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, an ex-wife, but my favorite title is mother. I am a writer fortunate enough to have had a book published.  I love my animals, my solitude and my life is as perfect as it’s going to get right now.

Tell us about your background in writing.

I didn’t really begin writing as more than a hobby until 5 years ago.  Like many people my friends said, “Hey, this is good stuff.”  I joined an online writing site and to my delight, they agreed with my friends. I wrote my first complete fiction novel for Nanowrimo in 2009.  I completed another fiction novel for Nanowrimo in 2010…and in between, I wrote “Empty Chairs”

I know that you have a book called Empty Chairs out.  Can you tell us a bit about it?


Empty Chairs is my biography from age three to age 11.  It covers the early years when I was subjected to horrendous abuse instigated by my mother and the pedophile ring she was a pivotal member of.  It covers the abuse and moves quickly on to my life living on the streets at age 11. I hope that people will see within the pages that the results of abuse can be life threatening and certainly life altering.  However, it also made me understand that I had a core of strength inside that simply refused to be broken.  I had a dream of something better and nothing would stop me striving towards that dream.

Now it must take great courage to write about painful events in your life but yet you have.

What was your inspiration for writing this story?

When I first hit the streets, I met and ultimately shared my life with a group of street kids.  We were together for 5 years, and some of us remained friends for over 4 decades. One of the gang was only 8 years old.  Her name was “Jenny.”  I was not the youngest at 11, which in itself will shock many people.  Jenny and I grew close and over the years maintained our bond.  Jenny had asked me to write about our lives on the street.  I used to write {for want of a better term} I wrote stories for Jenny when we were together, normally in the columns of newspapers that we used to sleep on.  I made Jenny the hero in all the stories; she was the Princess who always managed to save herself from whatever monsters I conjured up.  Jenny loved those stories.

I had made her a promise, that “One day” I would write it all down. I promised her I would tell everyone what is was like to live on the streets as we did. Jenny committed suicide on September 1st 2009.  I hadn’t kept my promise.  When I began to recover from my anger and sadness at her death, I made the decision to honor the promise that I had made to her. Empty Chairs is the result.

I have heard that for the month of April all the profits received for your book will be donated to ISPCAN the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

That is quite a contribution. Can you tell us a little about ISPCAN?

The International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, founded in 1977, is the only multidisciplinary international organization that brings together a worldwide cross-section of committed professionals to work towards the prevention and treatment of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation globally.

ISPCAN’s mission is to prevent cruelty to children in every nation, in every form: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, street children, child fatalities, child prostitution, children of war, emotional abuse, and child labor.  ISPCAN is committed to increasing public awareness of all forms of violence against children, developing activities to prevent such violence, and promoting the rights of children in all regions of the world. ISPCAN invites you to join forces with its members around the world to protect children in need: their bodies, minds, hearts, and rights.

I think this is a very worthy cause. Can you tell readers where to get a copy of your book in April?

The kindle version on Amazon is here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004K6MJJK/ref=sc_vs__empty_2520chairs_2520by_

The paperback version on Amazon is here:http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Chairs-story-about-child/dp/1453858520/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2

The Smashwords edition in kindle or eBook is here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/38452

Question: What is your hope for this book and for this cause Susannah?

I hope that people will read this and begin to understand and acknowledge that Child abuse is not only perpetrated in poor neighborhoods, it is not restricted to the uneducated masses…people appear to have a misconception of Abuse, perhaps to safely distance their thoughts from anything so sordid and difficult to comprehend they lump child abuse in a category. That is a misconception that must change. News flash folks, I came from an upper middle class background. My abusers were pillars of the community.  These pedophiles didn’t drive rusted out cars and wear tacky clothes.  They drove Mercedes- Benz and Porsche. They wore Armani and Dior. There are NO social boundaries when it comes to pedophilia.

Abuse is a terrible crime that humans seem to excel at. I am sure there are many people out there who have no support and no place to run to. For readers who may know of or have experienced abuse, what would you say to them now?

When I was a child, there was no place to turn.  This horror was never spoken of.  Today thanks to the hard work of many wonderful people worldwide and the internet, every hospital has counseling and referral facilities.  Doctors are mandated to report suspected abuse to the relevant authorities if the child is under age.  Police departments have their own departments set up specifically to deal with complaints of this nature.  Salvation Army, Red cross, and most churches have their own teams where a person can phone anonymously to access assistance. I have a very long list of help sites on my blog, covering the USA the UK and Australia. The list is growing daily.  I check all the sites before I add them to be certain they are legitimate and approved.  If you are reading this interview and you have been abused or suspect someone you know may be experiencing it now please speak up.  The avenues will respect your privacy, they WILL believe you.  At times especially with younger folks, it is the fear that they will not be believed that prevents them seeking help.  The people and the facilities out there are now immense, they will help you to take all the steps necessary to either stop the abuse or recover from abuse inflicted long ago.

Looking back at your life through the mirror of Empty Chairs, would you say there was a defining moment that led you to write down your story in this book?

Jenny’s death by her own hand was the catalyst.  She was a precious, marvelous human being, yet her soul was murdered long before she took her last breath.  I was so devastated and angry when I got the call. It took me months before I could calm down enough to write the book clearly without emotional overload.

After reading the sample chapter of this book, I see that you chose to write this story in present tense. This creates a really powerful reality where the reader sees everything through your deep POV (point of view).

This must have been very difficult for you as you would have re-experienced much of the heartache and pain again?

Did you have a support system to help you through the writing of this story?

I told no one that I was writing the book, I didn’t want to inflict what I was dealing with on anyone else. I needed to do it in my own time and without questions when I had almost completed it I posted the first chapter on The Night Publishing site. Tim Roux who is Night Publishing contacted me, and on the basis of chapter, one he signed me to a publishing contract for Empty Chairs.  To say I was stunned would be a major understatement.

What would you say was the biggest challenge in writing a non-fiction story based on your life story?

I had flashbacks and panic attacks during the writing of the book. I often had to stop and take myself outside into the clean air to gain a perspective and continue writing. The biggest challenge in so far as the writing itself was to remain true to who I am now and yet recall how I felt then without hyperbole or drama. I needed to allow the things to unfold as I remembered them. I am aware that it is a difficult thing to read.  My honesty can be daunting.  Yet it is not a subject that can be prettied up for public consumption.  I wrote it exactly as I remembered it.

What advice would you give to a writer contemplating on writing a similar memoir style biography?

Be aware that many people simply don’t want to hear about painful topics.  They label this kind of work as “Misery Memoir” You must be prepared for folks to not want to know any more about a very painful topic.  I am one of the very fortunate few who has a Publisher that has supported me.  If you decide to write a biography remember to be true to yourself every step of the way.  I had one publishing house that wanted to sign the book, but only if I prettied it up for general consumption, I refused.

If you decide to self publish be prepared to do the heavy-duty promotional work required to have people read your work.  My publisher is very supportive but I still have a need to put in the hours to help people learn about my work.  Set yourself a target every day, try, and keep to it.  If you find yourself getting caught up in the emotion of the book it will reflect in your writing: that is not necessarily a bad thing, no one wants to read a book devoid of any emotion, but by the same token people need to be able to read the book without the feeling that they are being preached at or ranted to.  Sometimes you need to put it aside and distance yourself a little before you continue.  Most of all believe in yourself.

Since “Empty Chairs” is non-fiction, will you be writing some fiction/have you written any fiction?

I had already completed a Comedy/Romance novel “Dudes Down Under” before commencing “Empty Chairs” and during Empty Chairs, I added more to the fiction book, and I needed to have the Comedy as a release from the remembering.  I also have a fiction Psychological Thriller “Twisted “completed which I’m currently editing.

Would you say there is quite a large difference between writing fiction and non-fiction?

Oh hell, yes!  There is no comparison.  My non-fiction book does not allow me the luxury of inventing characters, places, and happenings.  Truth is often more difficult to write.  With my Fiction work, I have a wonderful time, developing the plot and inventing and rounding out the characterizations.

What other genres do you write in and why?


I write in so many different genres, ‘Dudes Down Under” is a Comedy/Romance I had a ball writing it, and inventing my pivotal chapter linking “character” of Cyril…Cyril is a 28ft long crocodile who wears Armani, drinks copious amounts of JD loves Al Pacino and Brando, dances to “Some enchanted evening” and whose thoughts on every imaginable topic are only known to the reader. The misunderstandings are rife as the story is set on a brand new tropical island resort catering only to the Hollywood ‘A’ listers. What Cyril does to the croc skin luggage of the stars is not to be missed. I adore the escapism of Comedy, and the fun of the romantic scenes. As for my other novel “Twisted” Phew!  What can I say…I have a ball again in a different way, by killing off folks and weaving in a serial murderer and a conspiracy as well, again escapism. I also submit regular short stories online in contests ranging from westerns to paranormal. The only topics I have yet to tackle is Science Fiction and Fantasy…I don’t feel I have enough knowledge for one and am not comfortable with the other.

Are you working on any new projects now?  Can you share anything about them?

I am currently writing the follow-up to Empty Chairs as so many kind people have asked me what happened then?  Where did you go?  What did your life turn out like?

So, yes…I am picking the book up the day after book one ends.  I am also working on another novel entitled “The inheritance” about a young Australian women who is made Guardian of her wealthy US friend’s 4-year-old child.  It’s developing nicely and will I think be labeled as a romance when I am done exploring all the possible journeys that the characters are taking me on.

What would you like you lasting legacy to be as a writer?

This is a difficult question: I guess with my Non-fiction work I would like people who have bought it to say, “Hey, if she can get through it and have a richly rewarding life, then hell, so can I.”  With my fiction work, I love to inform and entertain; if that is how my readers feel then I would be one very delighted woman.

Can you tell us where to find you on the web Susannah?

Okay…  I have my book review/interview/talk writing site on http://sooozsaysstuff.blogspot.com

My book related site for Empty Chairs is on http://staceydansonemptychairs.blogspot.com

I have a competition that I run every month that is very popular at http://paragraphsofpower.blogspot.com

And….my comedy romance and interviews with a crocodile site is http://dudesdownunder.blogspot.com

Phew, I do have a few.

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview with me.

I commend your courage in bringing a very real and painful subject to life.

Your story is one that is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit even in the face of great pain.

It has been an honour and pleasure to feature an author with such a worthy message.

I hope that you will come back and visit with me in my studio in the near future and tell us more of your future endeavors.

I trust that Empty Chairs becomes a fast best seller so that you may raise many well needed earnings for ISPCAN.

I look forward to watching your future success and especially to your sequel to “Empty Chairs”. Your’s is a story that had to be written. Thank you for showing the great courage you have by writing it.

I am so appreciative of the time and the kindness you have shown, thank you for the opportunity.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

For those readers interested in finding out more about the prevention of child abuse, I have added a link to the ISPCAN.

ISPCAN

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

Writers on Writing ~ Bird by Bird

8.22.09
Image by aprilzosia via Flickr

Bird by Bird ~ Anne La Mott

This week I started reading this amazing book on the craft of writing. I am already half way through and still going back and rereading many parts. This is a book that is a must for writers. It is a book that will resonate with both novice writers and professional writers. She writes from her own experiences and this comes through in the ease of reading. The pages seem to turn themselves. We writers are generous types: we always want to share what is on our minds and what inspires us. So today I am going to share a couple of tips that I am learning so far from Bird by Bird with you:

  1. “Good  writing is about telling the truth.”
  2. “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow
  3. “…the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.”
  4. “Very few writers know what they are doing until they’ve done it.”
  5. “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later….Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go – but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”
  6. “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper…the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”
  7. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”
  8. “Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still find new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me thing of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.”
  9. “Writing a first draft is very much like watching a polaroid develop. You can’t – and, in fact, you are not supposed to – know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.”
  10. “The evidence is in and you are the verdict. This will be true for each of your characters.”
  11. ” Nothing is as important as a likable narrator. Nothing holds a story together better.” –Ethan Canin
  12. “Another thing: we want a sense than an important character , like a narrator, is reliable. We want to believe that a character is not playing games or being coy or manipulative, but is telling the truth to the best of his or her ability. (Unless a major characteristic of his or hers is coyness or manipulation or lying.).”
  13. “Just don;t pretend you know more about your characters than they do, because you don’t. Stay open to them. It’s teatime and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It’s that simple.”
  14. “Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better and better day by day, something is bound to happen.”
  15. “Worry about the characters. Let what they say or do reveal who they are, and be involved in their lives, and keep asking yourself, Now what happens? The development of relationship creates plot.”
  16. “Life is not a submarine. There are no plans. Find out what each character cares most about in the world because then you will have discovered what’s at stake.”
  17. “There must be movement.”
  18. “Let your human beings follow the music they hear, and let it take them where it will.
  19. “So aim but not too hard, and when you finally see the climax forming in front of you, then you can race toward it.”
  20. “She said that sometimes she uses a formula when writing a short story, which goes ABDCE, for Action, Background, Development, Climax and Ending You begin with action that is compelling enough to draw us in, make us want to know more. Background is where you let us see and know who these people are, how they’ve come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story. Then you develop these people, so that we learn what they care most about. The plot – the dram, the actions, the tension -will grow out of that. You move them along until everything comes together in the climax, after which things are different for the main characters, different in some real way. And then there is the ending: what is our sense of who these people are now, what are they left with, what happened, and what did it mean.” – Alice Adams

All of these lessons and tips are like gold veins through the murky clay of a writer’s craft. There are so many more tips and tools that I have read but I will leave that for my next post next week.

Until then remember to just ” take it bird by bird…”.

– Kim


 

100th POST….Drum Roll….Warrior Wednesdays with Roz Morris (dirtywhitecandy)

Warrior with the Sword of Imagination, the Shield of Truth and the Helmet of Muses
Drum Rolls…Cymbals…Trombone…..Seductive Saxophone…..
Welcome to your first episode of Warrior Wednesdays. Today is an exceptionally SPECIAL day for this girl with a quill. (Thanks Aditi Sarin for the Nickname)
Today is the 100th post in this blogosphere for this girl with a quill and a dragonflyscroll.
 

100 Posts.....with a dish of dirty white candy, cupcakes and drink of celebration - Champagne of the lightest airy bubbles...

To mark the day I have released the debut episode of Warrior Wednesdays with the erudite and dazzling Roz Morris also known as the enigmatic dirtywhitecandy. This is a lady that is the owner of the website – Nailyournovel and author extraordinaire of the book called: Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. She is a successful Editor who also moonlights as a successful Ghostwriter with 11 books under her Ghosting – 8 of these bestsellers. How did I get to know this Red Dynamo of a lady?? I came across a tweet by a tweeter called dirtywhitecandy. Of course, the name had me intrigued – who was this enigmatically named creature and why did she seem to tweet so many words or wisdom. I started following her and this led me to her website. The first thing I searched for was what was behind that enigmatically unique twitter moniker.
When she mentioned on her website that she chose an 18th century candy made by Fortnums and Mason in London because she loved the idea of such a surprising and unpredictable name – she knew she had to make this funky name her new online moniker. Does she fit the bill? Definitely….but without giving too much more away…let me bring the lady herself in. Let me tell you she does not have a shy bone in her body and she loves to chat…..So help me give a warm welcome to the lady herself  – in she sashays, bright dazzling locks of the sun just tucked under a cornflower blue winter beanie and a smile effervescent in energetic warmth….

Roz Morris aka dirtywhitecandy

girl with a quill: Welcome Roz…..

dirtywhitecandy: Phew, brilliant questions, Kim! Thanks so much for hosting me and I’m really flattered to be your hundredth post! You’re such a creative dynamo you definitely deserve a telegram from the Queen.
A pic or two is enclosed, with a different interview hat…

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

dirtywhitecandy:
I’ve ghostwritten eight bestselling novels which I can’t name because
they’re a trade secret. I freelance edit, mentoring other writers to help
them shape up their novels to a state where they can be presented to the
market, and I’m coming out from under the ghostly sheet with novels of my
own. I’m represented by Jane Conway-Gordon in London. The rest of the time I
work as a freelance magazine editor – and occasionally as a movie extra!

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

dirtywhitecandy:

Not really. I’ve always been very creative and when I was a child I liked making up music and drawing comics. But the thing I enjoyed most was writing. It didn’t really matter what it was – stories, school essays… I had a number of pen friends and they got very long letters! I’ve always had a feeling that when I put words on a page it is more important than writing, it is a performance. I can never dash off even a short email, it has to be ‘right’.

So, to answer your question, I have always been a writer really.

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

dirtywhitecandy:
Good writing. Any beautifully executed novel makes me want to get at my desk and make something!

girl with a quill: Where do you do write?

dirtywhitecandy:

A lot of my writing goes on in my head – pacing about, or out running, or driving with the radio on. I also scribble a lot of notes to work out story problems. Thinking time is crucial for me. But when I’m getting the words down I have two official places. There’s my study, which has the whizzy internet computer and all my pictures, music, and all you intensely interesting people out on Twitter and blogs. Sometimes, though, I need to get away from all that. For those occasions I have a tiny laptop that folds into a handbag. I take it to a room in the house where none of those things will tempt me, and snuggle down with my manuscript.

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

dirtywhitecandy:

I would say they’re story driven at the moment. I’m most inspired by people doing odd things. I then ask myself who would do it, and why, and where it might go, and who they might draw in. So the story comes first – and then I seek the people who need it.

girl with a quill: An interesting fact about you is that you have successfully ghostwritten 11 books for other people…What led you into this form of writing?

dirtywhitecandy:

I got into it by a lucky break. I was doing a full-time job on a medical magazine and in my spare time was writing short stories and attempting a novel. My husband is a full-time writer and he had a commission that had gone wrong – the publisher changed their mind about the brief and wanted him to rewrite. He had other commitments so he gave the job to me and I wrote an entirely new novel for them. It was accepted and once I’d done that I was on their list of useful writers. The ghostwriting followed on from there.

Most ghosting jobs are circulated around people who publishers know and my name must have landed on the right desk at the right time!

girl with a quill: I know you cannot divulge who you ghosted for but can you tell us a little about the process? How does ghost-writing differ from your own writing?

dirtywhitecandy:

Ghosting is writing a book pretending to be somebody else – mostly celebrities. Perhaps they’ve already published their memoirs (possibly also ghosted) and have branched out into novels – but need help with the craft of fiction writing. And they’re not always non-writers. Sometimes the megabrand established novelists use ghosts, outsourcing some of their early draft work to keep up with demand. And if a mega-selling author dies, a publisher might hire a ghostwriter to keep their brand alive beyond the grave.
Ghostwriting is a colloboration. The actual details vary from project to project, but when I ghost I’m writing a book that is someone else’s idea, to please their readers – who wouldn’t necessarily be the same readers who would like my own work. I can’t use my own voice I have to develop a voice and style that is appropriate for the author I am ghosting. Also I can’t always take a story in the direction I want it to go, and if I have a blinding blast of inspiration I may not be able to use it. Also, if the ‘author’ (the person whose name is on the cover) doesn’t like what I’ve done, it’s their book and I have to rewrite it. That’s not to say that I can’t put something of myself into the book, but I must always remember the book is not mine.

girl with a quill: I have read that you started out as a journalist. I studied journalism as well. I often battle against which hat I am putting on: the hard-nosed journalist’s hat or the free-form writer’s hat. Did you find the switch from journalism to fiction a difficult one?

dirtywhitecandy:
I had to learn different ways to write. A journalism story is detached, as though it’s written by a machine. It condenses when a fiction writer should expand and draw you into a scene. I’ve always been quite sensitive to styles and narrative voices so I didn’t find it difficult, but you raise a good question because many journalists find it hard to slip off their analytical, detached voice. They find it particularly hard to inhabit a flawed character or be an unreliable narrator. I still do some journalism and switching back is amusing sometimes. If I’m editing a news story I often get the urge to spice up the interviewees’ quotes (and call them ‘dialogue’…)
And by contrast, when fiction writers have to include a news story in their narrative, they can’t get the tone right. I’m sure you must have noticed that, Kim!
But journalism has helped too. Journalism lives by deadlines – you find something to write and you get the words down. That’s great discipline for any writer. I don’t have to worry about grammar and punctuation because they’re ingrained. Also I’ve been a sub-editor, editing and proofing for press, so I can proof and copy-edit my own material to a professional standard (and often do this for others).

girl with a quill: Journalism and Fiction Writing are two different sides of a coin. One could almost say they directly oppose one another. Did being a journalist first help or hinder your fiction writing? How?

dirtywhitecandy:

(See above, sorry, answered 2 questions in one go!)

girl with a quill: You have a fantastic website called Nailyournovel
This is where most people get to know you.
Can you tell us what the phrase “Nail your novel” means to you?

dirtywhitecandy:

Great question! Novel-writing is complex. To do it well is a life-long process of learning. I believe in learning as much as I can about how stories work and how they are derailed, so that I can throw together a narrative that will do exactly what I want it to do.
That may sound like it’s churning out predictable stories according to formulae, but in fact it is not. Story rules are like laws of physics; they are a natural order derived from the way we all make sense of the world. Humans see patterns, and that is where stories come from. The more deeply we understand this process, the more inventive, creative and daring we can be with the stories we create. Novel-writing as an intensely practical craft learned from the nuts and bolts of the world around us. I regard everything I see as potential storytelling tools, hence the rather practical name of the blog!
The short answer is this: I’m trying to nail my novels – so I reckoned other people might be too!

girl with a quill: This brings me to the publication of your book by the same name. This book is available at Amazon. Can you tell us why you wrote this book?

dirtywhitecandy: So many people start a novel and drizzle to a stop. it’s a job that can get the better of you. Most of the beginner writers I talk to need to know how to organise all that business of characters, plot, using research and so on.
Also a lot of the writers who come to me for editing help struggle with revising a novel. Because of this, they also can’t assess their novel’s structure – which is essential to whether it works or not – and they don’t dare to make major changes because it all looks too complicated.  I disembowel my drafts quite blithely because I’ve developed ways to take control of my manuscripts. So I thought the most helpful thing I could do for people was to write a book about how I do that. Its full title is Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. Rather a mouthful, but that’s what it does!
girl with a quill: Can you tell my followers where to get a copy of your book?

dirtywhitecandy:

You can read an excerpt from Nail Your Novel here – http://bit.ly/9uS40x

I do have it on Amazon but my printer, Lulu, has mistakenly deleted my Amazon page. While I wrangle with them to get it back I have salvaged my reviews and you can read them here – http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/nail-your-novel-%E2%80%93-why-writers-abandon-books-and-how-you-can-draft-fix-and-finish-with-confidence/amazon-reviews-of-nail-your-novel/

Nail Your Novel cover 2010 - front

girl with a quill: Along with your website, you also have a twitter account. Many people in the know in the publishing industry push how important it is to build a public platform through social media tools. As a published writer, would you agree that a public platform is necessary for pre-published and published writers alike?

dirtywhitecandy:

It is absolutely, one-hundred per cent essential. Books only sell if they are publicised. But that doesn’t mean ramming your book down everyone’s throat. When you buy a book it’s usually because you want to spend time with the author. When you build a platform you are reaching out to find people who might want to spend time with what you write. It’s a slow process, as it is if you get to know anyone in the real world. When you build your platform that’s what you’re doing – being yourself and finding the people who enjoy your company.

Also, social media is a two-way street. You find the people whose company you enjoy too. Before I started blogging and chatting on Twitter and Facebook, I was holed up in my study, bashing away in isolation. Now I have the camaraderie of thousands of other writers out there. They’re writing posts and sharing links. If I need advice, I can send out a tweet and someone will tell me what I need to know. It’s like having a brilliant set of colleagues – we’re all writing, and we’re all in touch. More than that, I have made many genuine friends through Twitter, Facebook and my blog. In short, it’s great fun.

girl with a quill: What would be 3 pieces of advice that you would share with pre-published writers? Maybe even things you wished you had known as a young writer?

dirtywhitecandy:

1 You will believe your first novel idea is brilliant and unique. It will probably not be. But when you learn what is wrong with it you will write a much better one.
2 Find critique partners you trust and who understand the kind of novels you want to write

3 Even if you write a brilliant novel, that doesn’t mean you will find a conventional publisher. Mainstream publishing is governed by marketing departments and what is in fashion.

girl with a quill: Share a little of your writing process with us. Are you a plotter or a pantster? and Why?

dirtywhitecandy:

Plotter, definitely. I have to know where I’m going, and also I find it very creative to make a detailed plan. The structure of the story is just as important as the moment-by-moment words.

girl with a quill: They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. A little bird told me that you are an exhibited artist as well as a published author. What type of artist are you and where have you exhibited?

dirtywhitecandy:

(Laughs, very loudly…) Hardly. I took part in a self-portrait experiment at the rather smart Twentytwenty Gallery in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. Purely as a laugh, because I can never make pens do what I want them to do. I had a few goes in rough first. The first one came out far too small and squished in the corner, but at least there was room for more.

After some time I had managed several versions of myself if played by Ruby Wax, Matt Damon or someone with the wrong nose and a beard. Finally I ran out of space and stamina, so handed in the rough with a title: A Writer’s Quest for Control Over Hand and Pen. Not sure what the gallery made of it…

If you want to see it, it’s here… http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/seven-things/

girl with a quill: As both a writer and an artist, which statement is more true for you.
A picture is worth a thousand words. (Napoleon Bonaparte) (or)
It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it. (Anais Nin)

dirtywhitecandy:

Both! But I can’t do pictures, so I tend to use the 1,000 words.

girl with a quill: If you could choose 1 artist and 1 author to have dinner with? Who would you choose and why?

dirtywhitecandy:

I’d have Tracey Emin, because she’s so self-absorbed. Who would think anyone would want to see her old bed? But she does, which means she’s very different from me, and I’d like to chat to her to see what makes her tick. Incidentally a friend of mine went to a ball with her boyfriend, and it turns out Ms Emin likes some of my ghosted books. So maybe we would have something in common…
As for authors, I’d have Ian Fleming. He has such a sense of the extraordinary and the flamboyant. Plus I think he’d know what wine to order.
I’d have to have him separately from Tracey Emin as I want to see each of them one on one, not watch how they mixed, rivaled or networked. That’s a thing about writers; in their books you have them to yourself, so that’s how I would most enjoy them.

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

dirtywhitecandy:
Everyone I read influences me. I have to be terribly careful who I read when I’m writing particular books as piece of their style or their way of seeing the world can easily derail me!

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

dirtywhitecandy:

You will never feel you write well enough!

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

dirtywhitecandy:

Look back and see how far you’ve come!

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

dirtywhitecandy

I want to make books that people love. I’ve had that with some of my ghosted books. I’ve seen forums where people have discussed my books and there are readers who write, in great bold letters, ‘I LOVE these books and these characters’. When I see that, it hardly matters that someone else’s name was on the cover.
_________________________________________________________
For interest’s sake, Roz has kindly posted the recipe for her own delicious and delectable “dirty white candy” here. She has also included small side servings of some writerly advice washed down with a wine whose vintage is rich in brevity and aged with a dry humor.
Now that the she is out of the hot seat…I am going to help myself to some of her delicious dirty white candy and offer compliments to the chef of this speciality.
Thank you for being my 1st Warrior for Warrior Wednesday.
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 `…
© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Writers on Writing Exercises

Monday has rolled around again and another week has begun. How are your Mental Muscles coping this year so far? Is 2011 being a kind year to you creatively? Are you feeling inspired? Is your Muse in daily attendance?

Today I have decided to post and share writing exercises that our favourite authors use. Often times the best way to learn a craft is to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us. So I share their words of wisdom here with you today…

  • Ernest Hemingway’s Exercise / Challenge

Tell an entire story in only 6 words.

His story was:

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph.

Choose 5 of your favourite books and study the first paragraphs. What has the writer done that hooked you? What can you learn from these paragraphs?

  • Stephen King

In his book “On Writing” he says that he writes 10 pages every day without fail.

Challenge: This week set down a task to write 10 pages every day without fail.

  • Joyce Carol Oats

She writes in the morning before breakfast. She writes in longhand. She writes for a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour.

Challenge: Set aside 45 minutes in the morning to write. Put away the laptop, get out your pen or pencil and write.

  • JK Rowling

Unclutter your story. JK Rowling is famous for creating Harry Potter. But she is also famous for being a plotter. She used a 1 page gridded outline.The grid outlines the chapter, month, chapter title, explanation of how that chapter relates to the over-arching plot of the book, and then columns for each of the book’s six subplots (prophecies, Harry’s romantic interests, Dumbledore’s Army, Order of the Phoenix, Snape and crew, and Hagrid and Grawp).

Challenge: If you have not outlined your story. Outline your story using JK Rowling’s method. Stick to only 1 page for the outline.

Well I trust these tips and exercises from great authors will keep your mental muscles supple and flexed this week.

Happy Writing.