Hunting for the Truth | Interview with Reid | Patti Larsen

We Are Hunted

Kids are going missing. We see the posters everywhere. The kids from happy families are the ones with posters up and rewards are offered. But what about all those faceless kids lost in the system. The street kids, foster kids and orphans. Who misses them? Who notices that they have gone missing too? Where are these missing kids? Why aren’t we asking more questions? Enough is Enough. One brave woman asked too many questions and she went searching for answers. Her name is Patti Larsen. She was one of the people who started asking questions about the faceless kids, the ones nobody had wanted in the first place. She got in contact with one of these missing kids. Through covert meetings and phone calls he told her his incredible story. When I first read the four accounts of the horrors that are happening to kids, my heart jerked in terror. I also wanted to meet this faceless kid, an orphan, who had such a harrowing story to tell. Patti thought it would be a good idea for the kids to tell their side of the story. It is time for us to put faces and names to these lost children. It might be late for some but it might just be in the nick of time for other lost children.
Patti:
Yeah, he’d rather stay in the dark anyway…
Wants to know if you’re a reporter…
Trying to tell him this is about his story but he’s a little freaked.
Kim:
No….I am sort of a investigator…a seeker of truth.
Too many kids have been going missing and I am asking questions.
Reid:
Yeah, I know all about that.
Kim:
I am on the kids’ side.
Reid:
What do you want to know?
Kim:
Hi Reid…can I call you Reid?
My name is Kim.
Reid:
That’s my name.
Hi.
Kim:
So Reid….I have been really concerned…and I am not the only adult who is….some kids are going missing…it seems without a trace.
Patti told me I should get in touch with you.
Reid:
I’m trusting you. But only so far. Okay? You have to understand what we’ve been through.
Kim:
Can you tell me…firstly…are you with some of these kids? How long have you been missing for?
I cannot even imagine what you have been through.
Reid:
We’re in a safe place now. I can’t tell you where. And don’t bother tracking the IP address.
Yes, I’m with some survivors.
Kim:
Ok…good…so there are survivors….but then…that means there are some who didn’t survive? Is that correct?
Reid:
Yes.
A lot…
Who didn’t make it…
Kim:
Oh No! That was my worst fear!
Reid…do you know who is behind this?
Reid:
I’m not supposed to talk about it. But… damn it, people need to know. And understand.
It was a government program…
Kim:
Well let me help you get your story out there…
Reid:
Through the military…
Kim:
I am all ears…
Reid:
This crazy scientist. Dr. Kirstin Lund. She was doing experiments on animals, creating super creatures or something, decided to start testing on humans.
I guess she figured orphans–foster kids–were the most disposable.
Kim:
Like you?
Reid:
Hired this guy, Syracuse, to round up kids.
Yeah. Like me.
The cops, they figure we just ran away, you know?
Kim:
Reid….do you mind if I take notes? Should have asked you before?
Reid:
Yeah, go ahead
Drew told me you’re not tracking this.
Sorry to check up on you but we can’t be too careful.
Kim:
No I am not.
Please go ahead…I have nothing to hide…you can trust me….and I know that is difficult for you right now.
Reid:
It’s not so bad anymore. We’re okay. Trying to forget. But, it’s hard.
Kim:
Well…I have been investigating this for a couple of weeks now….the officials have been telling us that all you kids were runaways and since you were troubled kids…you probably ran away to join a gang or something.
Reid:
That is crap.
They really don’t give a shit about us, Kim.
They never did.
Kim:
I am beginning to see this Reid.
Reid:
And it’s not like this program wasn’t sanctioned.
They had a military base.
Kim:
Reid…can you tell me how many survivors there are now?
Reid:
One of the guys–Marcus–his Dad was the commander.
Kim:
Oh that is terrible!
Reid:
Eight and Minnie – she’s my lab
Kim:
Eight including you?
Reid:
Yes.
Kim:
Are you all roughly the same age?
Reid:
Well, the youngest is thirteen–hang on, let me ask.
Kim:
Ok.
Reid:
Yeah, Cole is thirteen and Marcus is eighteen so that’s the range.
They’re all here you know.
They want to know what this is about.
Kim:
Can you give me the names of the survivors? It is better for me to be able to make people realise you are just kids and knowing your names will help…you are not faceless then.
Reid:
Let me ask…
Kim:
Ok
Reid:
Milo’s pissed because I counted wrong and he thinks I missed him on purpose. LOL
Kim:
You can tell them all I am here to get the truth out…your truth? Enough is enough!
Reid:
So nine: Me, Leila, Drew, Kieran, Nishka, Sarah, Milo, Cole, Marcus and Minnie.
Kim:
Ok and where are you all from?
Reid:
I’m from Arizona.
Drew’s from NY state.
Leila’s from Cali.
Marcus says he’s from nowhere–army brat.
Kieran is from Ohio.
Nishka from Maine.
Milo’s from South Philly he says.
Cole is from Seattle.
Kim:
Ok…so all from the US?
Reid:
Yeah…
Sarah’s from New York too.
Kim:
Reid…I think this is bigger than just the US though….
Reid:
Why?
Kim:
Kids have been going missing from Mexico and lower Canada.
Reid:
There wasn’t really a whole lot of time to ask where people were from, you know?
Kim:
Which is why I am here asking questions….it has been making international news.
Yeah I get that.
Reid:
Barely had time to ask names…
Kim:
How long have you been hiding? on the run?
Reid:
Since June.
Kim:
What is the last thing you remember that was normal?
Reid:
My mom and dad alive. Nothing was normal after that
Foster homes for a year.
Kim:
But you have a sister…I have spoken to her…
Reid:
We made a new normal.
WHEN???????????????????
Kim:
About a month ago.
Reid:
Oh.
Kim:
I interviewed her, as one of the family members…
Reid:
Well… What did she say?
Kim:
She said that you were troubled since your parents died…..
She thinks you ran away.
Reid:
Maybe if she wasn’t sleeping with the guy who got me into this–
Whatever…She had no idea if I was troubled or not.
Kim:
Reid…something did not gel with me when she told me her story…
Reid:
She never even tried to contact me the whole year after Mom and Dad died until the day she got me out of foster care.
Kim:
She just did not seem that worried….I mean I have a younger brother and if he went missing I would go after him.
Reid:
It was her fault…She told her boss/boyfriend about me…I didnt’ know at the time.
Kim:
This guy…she is together with…is this Syracuse?
Reid:
WAS Syracuse…Guess she didn’t tell you she killed him.
Kim:
Was? No!
Reid:
Almost got away with it…
Kim:
Reid … what is Marcus’ dad’s name?
Reid:
Colonel Brackett.
Kim:
Right…so the suspects are: Dr Kirsten Lund, Colonel Brackett and this Syracuse fellow – who is now dead…as well as your sister Lucy?
Reid:
Yes. She was part of it for sure.
Brackett worked for Lund. So did Syracuse. One was her collector the other her bully but she was the core of the whole thing: She made the stuff that turned kids into monsters.
Kim:
What sort of monsters?
Reid:
The hunters.
Kim:
Hunters? Men with guns?
Reid:
Not exactly….
Okay, so we’re getting to the stuff that you’re going to judge us for.
Kim:
Only tell me what you think is necessary Reid.
Reid:
Dr. Lund was running this secret program to create super soldiers…
She developed this stuff that turned normal kids into these hybrid creatures
silver eyes, shark teeth, claws — you get the picture?
Thing is… The stuff made us into monsters…bloodthirsty. So when under the influence so to speak, the kids became bloodthirsty…hunted other kids…
Kim:
So that would make it appear that you are the guilty ones….cunning evil plan by this Dr Lund.
Reid:
Yeah.
Yeah totally…like we were the bad guys.
Kim:
Are you still under the influence of this experiment?
Reid:
um… I don’t know how to answer that
I mean, we’re all changed.
But we don’t take dust anymore. Unless there’s a mission…
Kim:
Ok…so the changes are permanent? They don’t wear off?
Reid:
Our senses are different, like hyper…
Eventually they don’t…if you take enough and Dr. Lund changed the formula
she said we were immortal but we’ll see… I don’t really believe her…
But we’re not bloodthirsty or anything, not dangerous.
Kim:
This Dr Lund? Is she still alive? Where is she?
Reid:
Unless you’re our enemy…
She’s dead.
Kim:
And Colonel Brackett?
Reid:
Dead.
Kim:
But there will still be people who know about this…their soldiers and helpers?
Reid:
No, not really–well sorta.
There was a general who came to clean up the mess but everyone who was responsible is no longer able to stand trial, you know?
(Trying to be subtle.)
Kim:
Yes I understand…but Reid if you kids are all changed, it also means it is not safe for you to come forward.
Reid:
No.
Kim:
Is that the sum of it?
Reid:
That’s why I was (we were Drew made me type) worried about this.
But people need to know!
‘Cause if it gets out, they’ll think we’re monsters…and we’re not…not anymore.
Kim:
OK…Could you tell me this? Do you think this is still going on? Maybe that we don’t know about?
Reid:
I… we never thought about that…
Lund is dead so we figured…
Drew wants me to ask you why you’re asking?
Kim:
Reid….kids are still going missing…
Reid:
I…from here?
Kim:
Yes
Reid:
The US?
Kim:
Yes and other places.
Reid:
I’ll ask–I have someone I can check with…but I don’t know how it could be… not with Lund dead.
We’d have to do something about that!
Kim:
That’s why I am talking to you.
I am going to do something about it…and I have people I trust who are going to help me.
Reid:
If there is more going on, this is your only warning:
Stay out of our way!
Kim:
Reid…you need to promise me that you kids will stay in hiding? Don’t tell me or anyone where you are…
Reid:
We’ll do what we have to if this is still going on!
Kim:
But I will give you an email address that you can contact me on.
Reid:
We ALL agree!
Okay.
Kim:
Reid…is there anything you kids need … anything at all?
Reid:
No. We have everything we need.
Thanks for asking and for telling me about the other kids.
Kim:
OK…..then the last question is: is there anything any of you want to say to the world? Tell me now and I will be your mouthpiece.
Reid:
I’m not so great with words… hang on, Leila wants to answer this…
Leila:
Hi, Kim. We just want everyone to know that we’re real. We exist. We’re not evil or monsters, that we may be foster kids but we’re not disposable. And we’re not dangerous. We just want to live our lives and not hurt anyone ever again. That’s all. Thank you for your kindness. Leila..
Reid:
Okay, she’s done.
Kim:
Ok…Leila, Reid and everyone else I will get the truth out there….
Trust me.
Reid:
Just be careful…if you’re poking around there’re going to be consequences.
Kim:
I will…I don’t trust just anyone….I have been trained to take care of myself…
Reid:
Listen, if a guy named Aberdeen knocks on your door? Go with him – don’t hesitate, it means you’re in danger…
Okay?
Kim:
Ok…Aberdeen…I will remember that.
Reid…I have got to go now..in case anyone else is trying to track this…I have it pretty heavily encrypted but you never know…
Reid:
Okay. Um…Thanks.
Kim:
Contact me if you need to…anytime…any day ok.
Reid:
I will.
We will.
Kim:
And thank you for trusting me…and telling me the true story behind all your kids’ stories….
Please take care of one another. Be safe.
Reid:
Just get it right!
Bye.
Kim:
I will.
Bye.
Ok…..Patti…done
Patti:
WHEW!
That was intense!
Kim:
Not so bad…
That was intense.
Patti:
The kids were right here with me.
Kim:
Its’s going to be a good story…
Well the kids were brilliant…I thought it would be a good idea to get their story…in their words…
It is time for the truth to be told.
All four books are now available on Amazon. If you want to read more of Reid, Drew and the others’ story get your copies now. It is a story that needs to be read and shared. The order of this harrowing series are:
Patti Larsen | In the Spotlight | Run or Hide (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
Run | Patti Larsen | This year’s Next YA Amazon Hit (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
Night Terrors in Patti Larsen’s Mind (kimkoning.wordpress.com)

 

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.
________

thejillquill.blogspot.com

 

Preview
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