Ask the Authors: A Look at the Writing Process

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When you think of a writer, what do you picture in your mind? Writers are portrayed as lazy sots who lounge around in their pajamas, clacking away on their laptops while sipping martinis by the pool, or as traveling all over creation, jotting down every impression. Emily Dickenson was a recluse, Virginia Wolfe was a depressed neurotic, and Stephen King, well, anyone would have to be at least a little nuts to come up with some of the ideas that guy does.

The truth is, very few writers live “the writer’s life”, whatever that is in your mind. Most of us are a little bit weird, maybe even eccentric, because we’re human beings, not because we’re writers, and every writer’s process is different from the next guy’s or gal’s. Some writers wouldn’t dream of beginning to write without a solid outline, while others just fly by the seat of their pants, (hence pansters), listening to their characters in their heads , and see what happens. Some binge write, while others follow a set writing schedule, getting a little done each day, or adhere to a specific word count. Some listen to music, others need quiet to write, some can write in a busy coffee shop with activity all around.

Let’s ask the authors on our panel what their writing processes look like. We may find some answers that we look at and go, “Wow! Wierd.” But you may also find some answers in which you can see traces of our own writing processes in, answers that make us say, “Wow! Somebody else does that, too!” Feel free to weigh in in the comments and share with us what your writing process is like, as well. Now, let’s take a close look at what works for our panel members and what doesn’t work, and why. Some of their answers may surprise you.

What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Carol Riggs: I would say getting used to sharing one’s work and allowing yourself to be put in a vulnerable position. It is risky to pour yourself onto a page and let others read what you’ve written. Growing a tough enough skin to accept feedback or criticism (constructive or otherwise) is a hard thing to do, but necessary.

Chris Barili: Actually writing. Writing is hard work, and most of us work day jobs to boot. So we get home and don’t want to sit down and do more hard work. It’s easy to be distracted by TV, video games, Facebook, and so on. Hell, I should be editing a novel right now, but I let myself do this because it’s easier and I’m tired.

DeAnna Knippling: The biggest challenge and the biggest reward of being a writer is that there’s always more to learn.  In other words, just when you think you know what you’re doing, something comes up to bite you on the ass, but at least you’re never bored.

Jordan Elizabeth: Marketing.  You love your book, but now you have to get it out there, and there are millions of books you have to compete against.  Some of the best ways to market are to purchase ads, but they cost money.  Most authors don’t see a return on their investment unless they are self-published.

Chris DiBella: For me, the biggest challenge is trying to write while everything else is going on. I’m currently pursuing another Bachelors degree (graduating this May!), and then there’s work, family life, and other activities that take up a lot of time. So, until I can get paid to write “full time”, I’ll just have to keep being a multitasking badass so that I can keep pumping out books!

Art Rosch:  My biggest challenge is finding readers.  No matter how much I market, schmooze online, etc etc, it’s terribly difficult to find readers.  When I do, they stay readers, but getting them started?  Oy, Vey!  You can use that if you want to change anything.  I think it’s much more important as a response to the question.

 

Janet Garber: Self Confidence. Feeling that you are not good enough, that you’ll be wasting your time, that you don’t have what it takes. So you avoid committing yourself to paper.  It’s a scary proposition. Most writers are masters of procrastination. I know I’d rather wash a kitchen floor or shred old bank statements than sit down and do the hard work.

Cynthia Vespia: Marketing. How to get your books to stand out in a sea of other writers all vying for the same thing. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this business is very hard. And even with the digital age making some things easier, it has made others that much harder. For instance, the market is SWAMPED with “writers” now. So as an author you have to do everything you can think of to stand out from the crowd. This goes for traditional as well as indie authors.

While attending the 2016 Write the Rockies Conference, I had the pleasure of catching the Genre Fiction Keynote, given by Robin Wayne Bailey. Mr. Bailey said something very interesting which has always stuck out in my mind. One of the most often heard pieces of advice that writers hear is “Write everyday.” In fact, one of my professors, Russell Davis’ favorite sayings is, “Ass in chair, write the damn book.” But what Mr. Bailey said was that this was bad advice, because we all have limited experiences, and we need to get out there and live life, so that we have something to write about.

I found this interesting because my writing proccess takes bits and pieces from my own life and incorporates them into my work, and all of this is part of what I call my prewriting stage. If I’m really honest, at least half of my writing process takes place in my head. I work out plot problems while I’m driving, or in the shower, or waiting to fall asleep at night. Characters have emerged from the woods during a hike, and whole chapters have been outlined while I cleaned house. So not only do we need to do things in order to create, at least for me, it’s required for the work, before my fingers ever hit the keys.

Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Carol Riggs: Not ultra unique or unusual. I never eat while at the computer, just a glass of water or tea. No music or other distractions after I check my morning email and social media. I open the document in Word and read over the last scene I wrote (the day prior), tidying it up a bit and getting myself into the flow of the story. Then I compose on the computer, aiming for 1-5 pages a day. If I need to stop and plot something out or research online, I do that. If I’m unsure of a word or phrase used, I highlight it in red to fix later so I’m not stalled too long in one place.

DeAnna Knippling: I don’t feel that it really involves a lot of brain cells most of the time.  Sometimes I have to stop and think about what the non-obvious-but-not-completely-wackdoodle next plot point should be, but mostly I just wind up the characters and let ’em go.  I don’t know that that’s unique, though.

Jordan Elizabeth: I have to be alone.  I can’t have any interruptions.  I don’t even listen to music.  Being alone is challenging when you have a broken bedroom door.

Chris DiBella: I don’t know if it could be categorized as unique, but I base all my books off real-life events. They are by no means historical fiction, but I usually stumble across a really cool history article and then I weave it into my own fictitious tale using my what-if radar. For example, I came up with the idea for my first novel, Lost voyage, after finding a book on tape in the Honolulu library. It was about a steamship that sank off the Carolina coast in 1857 with millions of dollars in gold. My what-if Spidey senses began tingling and I asked about a million what-ifs….What if there was another ship that took on the overabundance of gold from the first ship? What if the transfer of the gold was kept quiet and known only by the two captains to eliminate the threat of thievery from passengers on the second ship? What if, since the second boat was scheduled to arrive in port only a few days after the first boat, that it wouldn’t be an issue? But then, what if that second boat sank as well, but since no one knew about the transfer of the gold, no one would ever know about the cargo since there was no record of it? What if the second boat is found in the unlikeliest of places? What if there are two sides trying to get to it first? And so on… the book just keeps blossoming from there.

Art Rosch: I doubt it.  If you talk to writers you will encounter every possible variation on the process of writing.  There are improvisers and story-boarders, note hoarders and bizarre savants with eidetic memories among writers.  Why should I be unusual?  We’re all unusual.  If we’re not weird then we’re boring.

Janet Garber: Well, I tend to write in vignettes and then struggle to piece them all together and create good transitions between them.

Cynthia Vespia: I write my first draft by hand on a legal pad with a pen. It flows better for me that way. If I start on a computer it feels very final. So I save that for when I’m inputting the story from the pad. That becomes my second draft.

Is your writing process plot driven or character driven?

Carol Riggs: If I had to choose one, I’d say character, because who the character is determines how the plot will play out. But plot is very important. A story can have an awesome character, but if the plot wanders or is boring, things can fall flat.

Chris Barili: Characters drive the plot, which powers the story. So the answer is “yes.”

DeAnna Knippling: Character driven.  I struggle with plots and trying to make them more efficient.

Jordan Elizabeth:  It tends to be character driven.  I come up with a basic idea for my plot and then I start writing.  I see where the characters lead me.

Chris DiBella: I always want to have a fun plot with enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested in the outcome, but I also want to make my characters likeable. I inject a lot of humor into my books in the dialogue, and since my main character’s partner, Pat Vigil, is based off my best friend who passed away a few years back, I really get into writing his character and trying to keep his memory alive for others to enjoy. His character in the book is exactly how he was in real life – a goofy, quick-witted smart mouth who could be counted on at all costs – so it’s a lot of fun to get to remember my friend in that way.

Janet Garber: Definitely character driven. It’s what I’m drawn to when I read women’s fiction, too. I try to create interesting albeit neurotic, quirky, and funny characters.

Art Rosch: Many of us are familiar with the expression “Character is Destiny”.  In my writing, the whole point of having characters is to allow them to transform themselves. They change, evolve, grow, pit themselves against problems and survive.  So…in answer to the question, I suppose that my characters drive the plot.  It’s impossible to generalize in this way, because each of my books is completely different.  In my work-in-progress, The Shadow Storm Trilogy, I have built a world and that world is, in a sense, also a character.  The Shadow Storm’s world drives the plot: its politics, its geography, its people.

Stories often have the simplest architecture.  My hero gets trapped.  Then he escapes.  He gets trapped again, and the trap is more elaborate.  His escape requires greater concentration, more profound inner resources.  Thus the story builds itself the way an architect creates an edifice, or a composer writes a symphony. In much writing I can discern a concept of what I call “fulcrum moments”.  These are critical scenes in which heroes and villains collide and whatever happens, be it triumph or despair, is one of the defining moments of the story.  I don’t think one can separate character and plot. Our very lives are the stuff of fiction.  Do you believe the plot arc of your own life?  My experiences have been so strange, sometimes so grotesque that I can’t help but regard them as fiction.  That way, at least, I can preserve my sanity.

I am living fiction.  Sometimes this fiction really hurts. The ultimate survival tool is a sense of humor guided by a sense of serene detachment.  Easier said than done.

Cynthia Vespia: Both, but I do lean heavily on characters because I LOVE creating characters. I think every author has those characters they’ve written that stick with them long after the story is over. I have several of those and they are eager for me to revisit them.

What is the single most important element in a story?

Chris Barili: CONFLIT! Be mean to your characters. Make their lives difficult, dangerous, and yet rewarding. There’s no story without conflict.

DeAnna Knippling: The author’s perspective on life, the universe, and everything.  In the end, that perspective is why we read.

Jordan Elizabeth:  Love.  The character has to be in love.  It can be with a family member, a love interest, a hobby…the love has to be there to make the character real.

Chris DiBella: This varies from author to author and book to book. I write in the action/adventure genre, so it’s important for me that I have an element of suspense while keeping an action novel somewhat believable. Sure, my good guy can take on fifty bad guys by himself (that’s believable, right?), but I try to write those scenes in a way that doesn’t make the reader smack their head in disbelief. Everyone writes differently and everyone is hoping to achieve something different with their books. For me, the defining element is how I’m able to convey my thoughts and ideas into words that turn into a fun story to read and keep my readers coming back for the next thirty books.

Janet Garber: Whatever makes the reader care about the characters.

Cynthia Vespia: I don’t know if there is a single element, but one of the most important is pacing. Every genre has its own tempo that readers expect when they pick up a book. For me, if the book doesn’t have a genuine flow to it that moves the story along easily I get bored and put it down.

Art Rosch: Emotion.  If your readers don’t become emotionally involved they’ll stop reading. That’s why your own emotional life, especially the pain, is so important.  The great psychologist James Hillman writes repeatedly that your pathologies are your greatest teachers.  If you’re not crazy there must be something wrong with you.  Additionally, if you have no self esteem you probably don’t deserve any.

The single most important element in a story is Transformation.  That’s my opinion.  That means you have a responsibility to nurture your characters so that they learn lessons and are able to endure and survive through their tribulations.

Conflict, of course, is the entire basis of story.  Characters collide, struggle, compete and overcome obstacles.  Readers love to be born up into the battle between good and evil.  Readers love flawed characters because they are comforted with regard to their own flaws.  What’s more boring than a perfect hero?  From Ulysses onward we see flawed heroes struggling within themselves to become better human beings.

(Kaye: Hey Art, that’s three elements, but I’ll take them. They are all good answers.)

Atmosphere has a lot to do with creativity and writers are eccentric folk who can be quite ritualistic. Some more than others of course, but I guarentee that each one of us is different in the things we require in order to gear up and get creative, putting pen to page or fingers to keyboard. Let’s see what our author panel has to say about atmosphere and the writing process.

What is your favorite setting to write in?

Jordan Elizabeth: I write in my bedroom at my desk in front of the window.  The window makes me nervous, so I always have the curtain drawn.  I need my privacy.

Tim Baker: My favorite setting is in my office (at home) preferably with minimal distractions. that’s the ideal setting…however, if I don’t have that option I’ll write wherever I can. On a related note …one thing I will probably never do – unless there are no other options – is sit in a coffee shop to write. That’s one cliché I just can’t stand.

Stewart's OfficeMargareth Stewart: It’s in my office living room (lol). I have adapted a big table as a desk because I’m all surrounded by papers and books, and it’s easier to find myself in piles (piles of books to read, books to quote, students’ assignments and so on. I usually have tea by the left side – sometimes water, too. I also added some vases and plants to bring nature in, and as I don’t have any curtains, it’s usually very light. The black armchair was also a great acquisition, and it’s soft enough to hold me in for long hours! My kids are always around, and though it may sound weird, nothing disturbs me when I start typing.

Cynthia Vespia: I like to write in bookstores or libraries. I get a really juiced up, inspired feeling when I’m among the books. Also, if they have coffee it is a huge plus!

Do you write with music or do you prefer quiet?

Carol Riggs: I may listen to music to get in an initial mood or emotional state, but when I write, I prefer quiet. I shut out every noise and concentrate on the rhythm of the words, syllables, consonants, and sentences.

DeAnna Knippling: Music!  Usually this: https://tabletopaudio.com/

Jordan Elizabeth: It has to be quiet.  I get too distracted by music.  I start singing along or dancing.

Cynthia Vespia: I often write with music but it can’t have lyrics. So I only use TV/movie soundtracks. For instance, Game of Thrones has some lovely soundtracks that energize me when I’m writing. I’ve also put together some playlists for myself that have some of my favorite pieces on them.

Art Rosch: It’s funny.  I’ve been a musician for fifty plus years.  I hardly listen to music at all anymore.  I listen to my tinnitus.  It sounds like a river, sometimes like a train, or wind in the trees.  I wish I could record my tinnitus.  I wish I could record my deafness. When I need musical relief from being put on hold during a phone call and having to listen to Muzak crap, I’ll put on Coltrane’s song, “Lonnie’s Lament” or Leonard Cohen, “Darker.”

What is your favorite time of day to write? Why?

Chris Barili: I do my best writing of the day in the morning, but since I have to be at work by 6 a.m., I don’t get to do it much.

DeAnna Knippling: Before noon.  Your brain isn’t worn out by the 1001 things that are pinging for your attention.

Jordan Elizabeth:  I love writing in the morning.  I’m most awake then.  Unfortunately, I usually don’t get to write until nighttime after my son goes to bed.  That’s also when my husband wants to go to bed and my office is in a corner of the bedroom.  I like to write while I’m alone, and when he goes to bed, he likes to watch television.

Cynthia Vespia: First thing in the morning when it is still quiet outside.

Art Rosch: Favorite time of day?  It doesn’t matter. I don’t have kids around.  I have few responsibilities.  I suppose I write a burst in the morning after coffee.  Then I’ll write a burst in the early evening.  There are no hard and fast patterns to my writing.  I might write this year.  I didn’t write last year.  I expect to write a lot in 2018.  Probably in June I’ll hit my stride.

Titles are something that I often overlook until last, although some authors claim to have their title before they even start writing. Although with Delilah, I knew the title before I started writing. I’m currently working on the sequel, but I have no title as yet for it. I am  simply calling it Delilah Book 2 until I find a good one. But the right title can go a long way to creating a successful book, just as the right cover can affect sales. So how much thought should go into each title? I’m afraid there really is no right answer. The answers from our author panel are varied.

How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?  

Jordan Elizabeth: Sometimes the title comes at the beginning, but usually I figure it out toward the middle of the manuscript.  As I’m writing away, the title will suddenly pop out at me.

Chris DiBella: I have the title of the book figured out before I even write the first word of it. That may sound odd, and there’s really no great way to explain it, but I have the next 25 books already titled. They’re all just based off ideas that I have for books, and I’ll navigate the plot around the title in one way or another.

Art Rosch: The titles of my books just come.  There’s usually no fuss about it. I will have the title before I begin writing the book.  I know the right title when I first think of it.  There’s one major exception.  For nearly fifteen years my autobiographical novel was titled The Vice Of Courage.  It seemed right for all that time. Something, however, niggled at my unconscious mental process, and that was the perception that readers may not understand my real meaning.  The word VICE can swing a couple of ways.  It’s really an unpleasant word.  It’s either a tool for squeezing things or it’s a bad habit.  Just before I was preparing to e-publish this most crucial part of my oeuvre, I had a change of heart.  I can’t explain how The Vice Of Courage became Confessions of An Honest Man.  It just did.

Janet Gaber: Usually titles just pop into my head without much effort on my part. I am though having problems deciding on a title for my next novel. It’s set in Paris and concerns a young couple, she’s American; he’s French as they adjust to 1970’s France.  I’d like Paris in the title if possible. So send me your ideas. Please!

Cynthia Vespia: More often than not they just come to me randomly. I’ll either have the title spring to mind before I even know what the book is about, or I’ll get the idea for the plot, start writing, and the title comes organically.

Another aspect  authors  differ greatly on is the amount of planning necessary to bring a book into existence. Some authors get an idea and just take off with it, waiting to see where the words lead, while others do in-depth planning, outlining and plotting to make their story come together before trying to make their story come together on the page. Some authors may even take a screenwriting approach using a whiteboard, and I know at least one author that lays out enough note cards to go at least once around the room.

Personally, I have tried both methods. With Delilah, I let my character tell me what would come next and then, of course a lot was changed during the editing process. However, with my Playground for the Gods series, which I made Book 1 my thesis project, I was required to have an outline and I was very glad I did, because my initial outline had so much backstory that my single book idea became a four book series that is still in progress.  But I think with world building for a series, you really must have some form of outline, as well as a Story Bible to keep track of all the little details.

A part of writing that most people don’t think about doesn’t take place on the page.  It takes place in our heads, before your fingers ever touch the keys to type out that first word. I call it prewriting, as I mentioned above, and it’s where most of my planning takes place. Others call it research, or plotting. Let’s see how our author panel weighs in on this aspect of the writing process.

Are you a plotter or a pantser (outline or frestyle)?

Carol Riggs: I’m basically a plotter with an outline, but a loose one. I like to map out the direction of my story, but leave plenty of room for those “happy accidents” that I never would’ve thought of at the beginning when initially plotting. Those serendipitous little happenings come about naturally, in an organic way, from the characters as they develop throughout the novel.

Chris Barili: Plotter. I use the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, made up of colored sticky notes on a white board to plot things out. This allows me to change things as I go along, move notes around or drop them entirely. And sometimes I’ll only outline a portion of the story, allowing the rest to respond to changes that occur organically as the story moves on.

DeAnna Knippling: Pantser.  I’ve talked to plotters who have accused me of lying, especially with regards to mystery-type plots.

Jordan Elizabeth: I go freestyle.  If I plot too much, it kills the joy and I find myself struggling to come up with sentences.

Chris DiBella: I’m definitely a pantser, however, I do outline a lot so that I have some point of reference for where I want to go with the book. The problem with me outlining so far ahead, is that by the time I get to certain chapters, I’ve “pantsered” my way into a completely different direction, so the outline usually doesn’t matter anymore. I use a lot of “what if” scenarios as I’m writing, so I’m always veering off from my original storyline.

Art Rosch: I’m a little of both.  I have a grand scheme, a goal.  I know what I want my long fiction to achieve.  My thinking is fairly structured, though I have never used outlines.  I write scene by scene.  As long as I know what the next scene will be, I can write it.  Generally, I am several scenes ahead of my writing.  I’m in trouble if I run out of scenes.  I continually surprise myself, devising scenes that I had not anticipated.  Oh, I think…where did that come from? The mind is like one of those miniature circus cars.  When the doors fly open, twenty squabbling midget clowns fly out, tumbling and fighting.  My scene selection is like deciding which of my midgets (uh, excuse me…Little People) I will put in charge of the steering wheel.

Janet Garber: Definitely a pantser when it comes to short stories and poetry and essays and such. Novels require a little sense of where you’re going so I usually put together some sort of general outline.

Cynthia Vespia: A bit of both. There are elements that I always like to outline in depth such as the character traits, background, etc. I’ll also write a very rough outline of the main spots in the novel just to have a guide. That doesn’t mean I always stay strict to it, but it is there to refer to.

In a story we are often asked to create images for the reader that we may not have experienced ourselves. When have you had to do that?

Carol Riggs: I do this all the time! The genres I like to write in are speculative, whether fantasy or science fiction or something else just as imaginative. So while the feelings behind these experiences are universal, the specific image or situation is not. I’ve never discovered hidden aliens like in The Lying Planet or become turned into a genie with magical powers like in Bottled. I’ve never had my mind downloaded into someone else’s body to help them lose weight as in The Body Institute. I’ve never been sucked into a portal that takes me to a dimension built by my personal dreams and nightmares (Junction 2020). I’m using my imagination—which is totally fun—but the basic emotions are something we all can relate to.

DeAnna Knippling: Every time I look up a setting on Google maps and squint at the polygon trees, then drop the little man on the blue stripe in order to zoom in.  Reality is way more random than we give it credit for.

Jordan Elizabeth: Most of my books require that because I write fantasy.  I like to imagine there is magic all around us, so that helps me in describing what the magic is like. 

Art Rosch: It’s called RESEARCH.  I do it all the time.  One of my most important literary passages involves war in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in 1982.  I’ve never been to Afghanistan.  I’ve never been in combat.  This piece is the climactic moment of character development for my protagonist, Aaron Kantro.  It is the plot fulcrum in “Confessions Of An Honest Man.”  This is supposed to be an autobiographical novel.  I decided that the REAL story of Aaron’s recovery ( that is, MY recovery) from drug addiction would not make gripping fiction.  Are you kidding?  Ten years of agonizing therapy?  It might contain a ton of drama but as fiction it would be tedious.  This passage provided Aaron with a profound motivation.  Quoting from the manuscript, “The irrelevance of his personal pain was a profound blessing.”  He sees the scale of suffering all around him and realizes that being a self-indulgent dope fiend is not enough, is unworthy of his capabilities.

My editor (at the time), a ruthless tyrant from Scott Meredith Agency, called it “authentic”.  This is not an editor who praises.  I was stunned when he consecrated this excerpt with such approval.

I read everything I could get my hands on about Afghanistan: its history, people, the Soviet invasion, the rise of the Taliban. I used the internet, I referred to Wikipedia.  There’s never been a greater tool for research than the internet.  Blessings be upon the INTERNET, the writer’s best friend (and sometimes worst enemy, given the distraction quotient with which we are always faced).

Cynthia Vespia: That’s what most of my writing is. I write alot of fantasy so the basis of my stories, though sometimes grounded in reality, will have a fantastical element to it that I couldn’t possibly have experienced. But that is the fun of writing. You get to create worlds and characters that bring you and your reader out of reality if only for a little while.

One thing I’ve learned on my writing journey is that authors are a tight knit bunch. They are quick to come together in crisis, and quite supportive of one another in most cases. That’s the reasoning behind the creation of my author’s blog. While I needed a place to promote my writing, I also wanted to be of assistance to my fellow authors with profiles and book reviews, hence Writing to be Read was born. It’s thinking along those lines which also prompted this next question.

What advice do you have for upcoming authors?

Carol Riggs: Never give up! If writing is something you truly enjoy, persevere. Rejection is part of the game—accept it despite the sting. Not everyone will like your work, so write for the readers who do “get” you and your stories. I spent 11 years writing twelve novels, and the thirteenth went on to become my debut novel, The Body Institute. A writer taking a longer time to break into publishing is the rule rather than the exception. Meanwhile, keep writing, and write for the sheer joy of putting your story down on the page.

DeAnna Knippling: Try your hardest.  Eventually you’ll hit a wall.  At that point, give up on “trying,” but keep writing.  “I don’t give a damn what my readers think!  This is for me!”

Jordan Elizabeth: Don’t give up.  It can be discouraging when you keep getting rejection letters. Sometimes other authors can get feisty or petty.  Write because you love writing.  Don’t write just to sell a story.

Chris DiBella: Use a damn editor. Everyone’s an author nowadays, but not everyone has the ability to tell a story. I’m not trying to sound like a jerk, but there’s a lot of garbage out there getting published every day. Some of it is contributed to bad grammar and sentence structure, but some people just don’t know how to plot out a book. A good editor can help with both of these issues. But, then again, there may be people who think my books are garbage, so who am I to say?….but my mom thinks I should already be bigger than James Patterson, so at least I have that going for me!

Also, my best advice is to fake it until you make it…plain and simple. When someone asks you what you do, tell them you’re a writer. I’m a project manager by day, but when I get asked what I do, my first response is always, “I’m an author.” I always put that out there first because it’s a great conversation starter that 99.9% of people will ask you follow-up questions to. And that is how you eventually get to the point of selling a million copies and telling people that all you do is write books.

Cynthia Vespia: Make sure you enjoy it. Writing is a difficult journey, and it is often very solitary by nature. But you have that story inside you for a reason and only YOU can tell it. Don’t put so much pressure on publishing straight away, enjoy the process first.

Art Rosch: Keep a day job.  You’ll hear this advice a lot.  Normally I don’t give advice.  If you expect to make a living as a writer you should prepare yourself by studying journalism or creative writing in college.  That way you can become a teacher and bore all your arrogant and rebellious students who think they know so much more than you do.

As anticipated, the writing process is different for each of us. And, as predicted, our author panel presents an interesting variety of individuality. It may turn out to be an interesting ride. I hope you will all join us next Monday when we will Ask the Authors about character development. Don’t miss it.

If you have a question you’ve always wanted answered, but it’s not covered in the post on that topic, or if our panel’s answers have stirred new questions within you, pose your query in the comments. Make note if it is directed toward a specific author. Questions will be directed to the general panel unless otherwise specified. Then, in the final post for the series, I will present your questions and the responses I received from panel members.

 

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Leaving Eva/Losing Eva: A story of loss and seperation

Sivec Books

Leaving Eva and its sequel Losing Eva, by Jennifer Sivec, are a sad and tragic tale that evokes strong emotional response in the telling. This touching story may be true to life, covering the lives of not one, but several dysfunctional generations of women and the men in their lives, over the course of time. It is a tale where one tragic action by one self-centered girl dominoes into many heart-wrenching losses in a saga where nobody wins. While each book easily stands alone, together they tell a story of loss and tragedy that will bring all but those with hearts of stone to their knees. There is so much heartbreak within these two stories that they left me longing for a sequel, one titled Loving Eva, where at least one woman of the Harper family might finally find happiness.

One spoiled rich girl, Ellie, and a series of poor choices, leads to a life of abuse and neglect for her daughter, Eva, whom she abandons at a very young age. Losing Eva is the story of that young girl’s life, spent searching for love that seems to be just beyond her grasp. Losing Eva is the story of how once found, she constantly struggles to keep that love, and how it always seems to slip through her fingers. In addition, these books tell the story of all the others who are effected, both directly and indirectly, by Ellie’s initial decisions and the lessons, both learned and missed, from them.

This is a story you won’t want to put down. Sivec’s characters are well developed and she  makes you care about them. You will  hope for positive life experiences for them and root for them when they succeed, especially for the main character, Brynn. The plot is full of surprises and rivets you to your seat to find out what will happen next.

My only problem is the head hopping. In places it gets to be so bad that I had to stop and go back to figure out who’s POV I was in. At times the viewpoint changed mid-paragraph, which really made me have to stop and reread. Regardless of the recurring confusions that this caused, and the fact that it is one of my biggest pet peeves, this story was so powerfully told that it brought me to tears on more than one occasion. The Harper generational saga is woven like an intricate narative tapestry through the lifetime of one hauntingly tragic Harper woman.

Grab a box of tissue when you settle in to read Leaving Eva and Losing Eva. I give this story set four quills.

Four Quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Ask the Authors” is Coming to “Writing to be Read”

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I’m excited to tell you about a new series of posts coming to Writing to be Read. Starting next Monday, “Ask the Authors” will pose the questions you want to ask to our panel of authors, and I’ll bring you their answers. The series will cover all aspects of writing, with topics including the writing process and elements of craft, and issues surrounding publishing, and building a platform, marketing and promotion, with members from our panel weighing in on each subject. If you have follow-up questions for the panel or for the individual authors, you can leave them in the comments. I will get them answered and post them in the concluding post, so be sure to catch the whole series.

Our panel consists of eleven members, which I’d like to introduce to you today. All of them, I have worked with here on Writing to be Read, either reviewing their books or interviewing them, or both. Many have participated in either my 2016 Publishing series: “Pros and Cons of Traditionional vs. Independent  vs. Self-Publishing” or my 2017 Book Marketing series: “Book Marketing: What Works?”. They are all outstanding authors and together, they cover a wide variety of genres and publishing routes. Feel free to pose any questions for them of for the panel in general in the comments of any of the posts and I will try to get them answered for you. I hope all my readers will give each of them a warm welcome.

Tim flagler filmTim Baker is a Florida author of ten novels, most of which I’ve read more than once. His work is well crafted and entertaining, with memorable characters you can’t help but care about. (See my reviews of Tim’s books: Living the Dream, No Good Deed, Water Works, Backseat to JusticeUnfinished Business, Pump It Up, Eyewitness BluesFull Circle, 24 Minutes) He started out his writing career with a publisher, but has now moved into the independent publishing arena.

Tim has played almost every sport imaginable throughout his life and currently enjoys S.C.U.B.A. diving, riding his motorcycle, reading and watching movies, (not necessarily in that order). In fact when writing a novel, he approaches it like he’s creating and watching a movie in his head. When asked who he’d like to play the lead character if one of his books were turned into a movie:

“That’s an easy one…in almost all of my books the hero is a guy named Ike. He is a 6’6” ex-Navy SEAL with a tendency to bend (and sometimes break) the rules. He was modelled after the character of Wade Garret, played by Sam Elliot, in Road House – but Sam is getting a bit old to play Ike so the next best thing is an actor named Anson Mount (from the series Hell on Wheels).”

Something his readers might not gues about him: “After reading my books I think most people would be surprised to learn that I am very non-violent. I don’t believe that violence ever solves anything. I also don’t own a gun (but I don’t care if you do), nor do I know much about them. Most of the technical jargon I use about guns in my books I learn from people who know. And I would go out of my way to avoid hostility.”

When asked to describe himself in three words: “Impossible to describe (that’s 3 words!!)”.

Living the Dream was one of the first reviews I did on Writing to be Read back in 2010. I’ve interviewed him for both my 2016 Publishing series and my 2017 Book Marketing series, as well as an author profile back in 2012, and I am pleased to welcome Tim to our Ask the Authors” panel.

You can learn more about Tim and his books at his website: www.blindoggbooks.com.

Author Jordan Elizabeth Hollack

Jordan Elizabeth is a New York small press author of Young Adult fiction. (See my reviews of Jordan’s books: Escape From Witchwood Hollow, Cogling, Victorian, The Goat Children, Path to Old Talbot, Kistishi Island, Treasure Darkly, Wicked Treasure, Runners & Riders)

One of her secrets for juggling her writing career and family is to set aside one hour a night just for writing. If she’s fortunate enough to set aside two hours, she uses the second hour for marketing. When asked: “What is one thing readers would never guess about you?” She replied: “I am terrified of costumed characters.  Think head-to-toe Mickey Mouse.  If I see one, I freak out.” 

I have reviewed Jordan’s work, both novels and short fiction since 2016, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her for both my 2016 Publishing series and for my 2017 Book Marketing series, and we started off the new year with another interview to talk about her latest book, Secrets of Bennett Hall. In fact, when asked to relate about the most fun interview she’d ever done, she replied, “Anything by you.  You always ask unusual questions that really get me thinking.” So thank you for that, Jordan. It pleases me to no end to have you join our “Ask the Authors” panel.

You can learn more about Jordan and her books at JordanElizabethBooks.com.

Margareth StewartMargareth Stewart is the pen name for Mônica Mastrantonio, debut author of Open/ Pierre’s Journey After War published by web-e-books.com. She has also compiled and published three international Anthologies featuring global authors: Whitmanthology, Womenthology, The Pain that Unites us All.

She holds a PhD in Social Psychology, and she has been teaching and tutoring students over 22 years. This zen-mother of 3, loves life and her tattoos. She spends her time between Sao Paolo, Miami and writing residencies.

When asked about her favorite form of exercise: “Jogging – that´s kind of an obligation for me. As writers, we tend to sit for long hours, so every single day, I do try to keep that up and go out for a short run of 4 to 5 kilometers. If I have more time, I go round a park nearby and that makes 6 kilometers. I do recommend it – it keeps our mind sharp and our ideas bright.

I only recently met Margareth through my interview with her, but I am happy to have Margareth as a panel member.

You can learn more about Margareth and her book on her Facebook page.

Chris DiBellaChris DiBella is currently an independent California author. (See my reviews of Chris’ books: The 5820 Diaries, Whispering Death, Blood Dawn) I say this because Chris has been all over. Originally from New England, he began writing his first novel while living in Hawaii. I reviewed his debut novel, Lost Voyage, back when he was a Colorado author and I was the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner, as well.

I met Chris through another author on this panel, Tim Baker, and it is apparently Tim who gave Chris the best piece of advice he’s ever received:

“I wrote a blog piece about how it’s okay to sometimes alienate your readers…to a point. One of the comments on it was from my friend Tim, who said this:

“If Stephen King or JK Rowling want to piss people off, they can afford it. You and me? We should be a little more careful. Just sayin’.”

And that was the roundabout way of giving me the best piece of advice I could’ve ever received. I immediately got on my laptop, opened up a blank Word document, and typed in big bold letters “BE BIGGER THAN STEPHEN KING & J.K. ROWLING”.

Chris’ words to you readers: “I am however, an open book…..every pun intended….so if there’s anything you would like to know about me or about what makes me tick, please feel free to reach out and ask away. I love interacting with fans and I welcome any questions you may have.”

Soon you can learn more about Chris and his books at his website, which is under construction ans linked to his blog site: www.chrisdibella.com. For now, it might be easier to contact him through his Facebook page.

Janet GarberJanet Garber is the author of both fiction and non-fiction who lives in the U.K. and bases her writing on her experiences as an H.R. manager in New York.

Janet says that if Dream Job, Wacky Adventures of an HR Manager were made into a film, anyone playing her protagonist, Melie Kohl, would have to be believable as a New Yorker, funny and self deprecating, wildly imaginative, more than a little neurotic.  She suggest Mary Elizabeth Winstead, star of that great political satire, BrainDead.

When asked what she would do in a life without writing, she says: “I would do what I always do when I’m avoiding my work: knitting, hiking, going to movies, cooking, getting together with friends, travelling, teaching. But . . .I prefer a future  with maximum creativity and that means writing.”

I reviewed Janet’s debut novel,  Dream Job, Wacky Adventures of an HR Manager,  and thought it was one of the quirkiest books I’ve ever read, but it was very entertaining. I hope you will all give her a warm welcome.

If you’d like to learn more about Janet or her books, visit her at:

Her website: http://www.janetgarber.com

On Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Melie5

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/melie5

Art RoschArt Rosch is an independent novelist and memoirist from sunny California. (See my reviews of The Road Has Eyes and Confessions of an Honest Man. Also see my interview with Art for my 2016 Publishing series here.)

Art says the best piece of advice he was ever given was to ask for help when you need it.  If you find yourself bottoming out, don’t hesitate to ask for help.  You can’t get out of trouble by yourself. When asked to describe himself in three words: Becoming more alive.

I’ve known Art since 2008, when I administered my own writing site, Writer’s World, and Art was a member. Later, he had his life partner, Fox, who is a pet pyschic, do a reading for me after my son died and we inherited his dog. I am so pleased to welcome him to the “Ask the Authors” panel.

You can learn more about Art and his books at Arthur Rosch Books or on his blog Write Out Of My Head.

Carol Riggs author_smallerCarol Riggs is a Young Adult fantasy and science fiction author, and dragon collector from Oregon.  You will usually find her in her writing cave, surrounded by her dragon collection and the characters in her head.

The most fun part of writing for Carol is “the freedom of drafting a first draft, and being imaginative with my storyline.” The least fun part: “The least fun is marketing, all that necessary left-brained business side of things.”

Carol’s favorite genres to read (and write!) are speculative, which includes fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, magical realism, contemporary fantasy, or anything else with a twist of weird or the imaginative.

When asked what she would do in a future where the was no writing: I would cry. Seriously (after I finished crying), I would return to my artwork, because I have a degree in Studio Arts and that is something I love to do, but haven’t had as much time to do it because I’m so busy writing. In general, I enjoy drawing people more than landscapes. I also like to create miniature fabric art.

I have reviewed Carol’s books on two occasions, and I welcome her as a valuable addition to our “Ask the Authors” panel. (See my reviews of Carol’s books: Bottled and The Lying Planet.)

You can learn more about Carol or her books at her website: http://www.carolriggs.com/

deannakDeAnna Knippling is another independent Colorado author and one of the a great example of what being a writer is all about. She writes full time as a writer for hire in addition to writing fiction in both short and long forms under her own name. (See my reviews of DeAnna’s books: Clockwork Alice; Something Borrowed, Something Blue; How Smoke Got Out of the Chimneys; ) Her stories are always fun and entertaining.

The most unusual or unique thing she’s done in her writing career to date: “I’ve written murder mystery party games for Freeform Games in the UK.  SO VERY COOL.  So very intense getting them edited…”

When asked about what she would do in a future without writing, she replied: “Be in a coma.” and in one where writing made her rich and famous: “I would buy a house in the mountains and support my husband in the sloth and luxury that he deserves.  I have other plans, too, but that’s at the top of the list.”

When asked to describe herself in three words: “I’m right heeeeeeere!”

I had the pleasure of interviewing her twice in 2017. The first time, a profiling interview and then for my 2017 Book Marketing series, and I am thrilled to welcome her to our “Ask the Authors” panel.

You can learn more about Deanna and her books by visiting the following sites:

Goodreads
www.WonderlandPress.com
www.facebook.com/deanna.knippling

colorheadshot - CopyCynthia Vespia an award nominated speculative fiction author, cover designer and promotional content developer. She also teaches internet advertising classes and marshal arts workshops. Her speculative fiction encompasses fantasy, the paranormal, and magic realism.

When asked if one of her books was made into a film, who she would you like to play the lead: One of my books is currently in the beginning stages of becoming a film. It is based on my novel The Crescent and it is a female gladiator tale called Gladiatrix. If I could have anyone in the lead role I would choose Gal Gadot. She is not only hot in features, but she is a hot name right now coming off of Wonder Woman and Justice League. The way she presents herself in the beginning of Wonder Woman on the island of Themyscera is perfect for my gladiator tale, and she can fight too!

Cynthia was another of Writing to be Read‘s first reveiws and, always willing to jump in where needed, she participated in a profiling interview, my 2017 Book Marketing series. (See my reviews of Cynthia’s books: the Demon Hunter Saga, including The Hero’s CallLife, Death and Back; Lucky Sevens)

You can learn more about Cynthia and her books at her website: www.cynthiavespia.com/ 

Chris Barili-1521Chris Barili is a speculative fiction and romance author who was also my cohort in the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western. (See my reviews of Chris’ books: the Hell’s Butcher series and his romance, Smothered (as B.T. Clearwater).)

Besides writing, Chris lifts weights, mountain bikes, practices martial arts and battles Parkinson’s disease. Writing just may be his salvation. When asked about a future where writing left him rich and famous, Chris said he would write more. Regarding a future without writing: “Shrivel up and die. Writing is part of me. Without it, a part of me dies. A crucial part of me. I cannot  live without it. I can live without an arm or a leg. I can get by with this Parkinson’s thing. But without writing, I am sunk.”

The best piece of advice he was ever given: “Try genres outside of fantasy.” In addition to my reviews of Chris’s books and short fiction, he was also interviewed for my 2017 Book Marketing series, and I’m happy to have him as a member of our “Ask the Authors” panel.

You can learn more about Chris and his books at his Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Barili/e/B00NA04S8W/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_4

As you can see, we’ve got a terrific panel of multi-talented authors, both experienced and rising, representing a diversity of genres, covering a wide range of knowledge. The way this series works is I will present a series of posts that will offer answers the panel gives  in reponse to my questions.

If you have a question you’ve always wanted answered, but it’s not covered in the post on that topic, pose your query in the comments. Make note if it is directed toward a specific author. Questions will be directed to the general panel unless otherwise specified. Then, in the final post for the series, I will present your questions and the responses I recieved from panel members. I hope you’ll all participate and leave your questions in the comments. I think if we can get enough particiaption it might be really fun.

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“Pangaea”- A Science Fiction Odyssey

Pangaea

Pangaea: Eden’s Planet, by Tom Johnson is a science fiction story that engaged me through to the last page, offering me food for thought in some of my own writings. It is well crafted with an entertaining plot and characters that I grew to like in the brief time it took me to read it.

On a routine mission to ready Mars for colonization,  a space anomoly sends their spaceship back to prehistoric Earth instead. Stuck in a hostile land before the existence of man or dinosaurs, the crew does their best to make the best of things. But faced with poisonous plants and animals, along with huge and vicious carnivores, the crew is dwindling. How can they survive?

The third person omnicient P.O.V. is always a little off-putting for me, but Tom Johnson crafts the story well and really does a nice job of pulling this viewpoint off. While there were a few logic problems, they weren’t so severe that I couldn’t buy in to this excellent plot and story line. The only thing I couldn’t overlook was the use of varied dialog tags, some which were distracting, actually pulling me out of the story.

Pangaea: Eden’s Planet is an engaging tale crafted with thought and skill. I  give it four quills.

Four Quills3


Join Me In My Protest Against Facebook

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There are changes for Facebook on the horizon, and they aren’t beneficial to struggling authors or small business owners. Many are already going into effect. I’ve already seen an impact on my Facebook activities and I’m not liking it at all.

Some of the expected changes are explained in the K-lytics article, How the New Facebook Algorithms Affect Authors, by Alex Newton,

“In other words, if you write a post promoting your most recent book, only a fraction of your page fans or friends will see it. If your fans do not follow your page, your post is going to end up in the alternative news feed, not the main feed, if it shows up at all….”

 

Social Media Examiner founder Michael Stelzner claims these changes are already occuring, including  video getting less watch time and links to external pages getting less visibility, and he claims these changes will impact all people and pages. And I think he’s right. Just because someone follows you, doesn’t mean that they are seeing your posts in their news feed.

In the K-lytics article, Alex Newton claims Facebook is really after your money, trying to push you to pay for your promotions because starving artists and start-up businesses are taking advantage of their free promotion features and they aren’t making any money off of you,

“Remember, organic reach is the total number of unique people who were shown your post through unpaid distribution. If you had 3,000 fans on your page and you reached 300 (10%) with a post, you could consider yourself lucky. And these days, the percentage is so much lower.

The fact is, Facebook wants you to pay for your reach. Facebook wants you to run ads and “boost” your posts.”

This algorithm and Facebook’s effort to bully people into paying for what we used to get on their site for free has already had an impact. I have made a practice of being a member of many writing, author, and book groups, where I post each time I publish a new blog post and promote my books, short stories and poetry. I try to keep track of which groups allow promotional posts and the ones that allow them only on certain days, and I try to follow all of the rules. But because I share my posts in so many different groups, the Facebook algorithm has been known to tag my posts as spam, especially if I’m short on time and rushing through my promotional tasks. Facebook has cut me off for going too fast or for making too many shares. It’s not people reporting me, it’s their algorithms deciding that I’ve been a bad girl.

Most recently, Facebook has banned me for twenty-four hours and then as soon as I did three shares the next day, all to the “Writing Contacts” group that I started, they banned me again. And they don’t just ban me from sharing posts, they ban me from all group activities. I couldn’t even comment on someone else’s posts or contribute to the group in any way, so it looks like all I do there is promote. I try to be a contributing member to most of the groups I belong to and not just promote my work, but my time is often limited and I have to combine the two activities in order to get them both done. I have been doing things this way for at least eight years, but now they are slapping my hands for it.

Michael Stelzner suggests measures to increase the chances of getting your posts seen, such as posting less often, create content that promotes people to talk to each other instead of just you, increase your live video use, avoid posts that encourage people to comment (engagement bait), and pay for your ads and use Messenger chatbots.  (If you are interested in learning more about this, you won’t want to miss the Social Media Marketing 2018 Conference).

To my thinking, if I play Facebook’s game and change my marketing strategy on their site, or pay for their advertising to make sure my posts are seen, especially when the majority of my posts are for Writing to be Read which I’m not making any money off of, then they win. Why should Facebook decide who gets to see my posts. If I’ve followed someone, I want to see their posts. That’s why I followed them in the first place. Those who have followed me should by rights, be able to see my posts. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, but that’s not the way it does work with these new algorithms.

So, I have a different solution. I created a “Westerns” page here on the Writing to be Read site, to replace my Delilah Facebook page and I hope to drive traffic to it, instead of promoting the Facebook page. I plan to do the same with my Playground for the Gods page. I have a cool idea for marketing of the second book, but you’ll have to check in to my Westerns page to learn what it is. If I’m ever fluid enough to pay for Facebook ads, I’ll use them to drive to my website pages, here, rather than their Facebook counterparts.

So, I am asking for your help. You, dear reader, can help support my Facebook protest by liking my “Westerns” page, subscribing to email, (up below the Red Quill logo and the search box in the top right side of the page), or follow Writing to be Read on WordPress. Remember, authors count on you, not just to buy their books, but to like their posts and write reviews. These days, these are things that matter in the rankings. Also, watch for a new way to sign up for my email list to recieve news and updates on my work, and when you see it, please sign up. I need your support. And if you are an author, I call upon you to move your pages to a different platform and stand in unification against the big conglomerates who believe they have us by the short hairs.

Picket Line

 

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“Undercurrents”: More Than Just a Collection of Tales From the Deep

Undercurrents-Generic

The twenty-three stories in Undercurrents are all about the mysteries of the deep, but beyond that they are as varied as it gets. Master story telling weves tales about monsters who dwell in the ocean depths and send chills down your spine. The monsters featured range from those of legendary status to those of the fantasy realm: krackens; sea dragons in Guardian of the Sea, by Kristin Luna; sirens in The Old Man and the Sea Siren, by Steve Pantazis; fairy horses in In the Water, by Jessica Guernsey; mermonsters in All Yours, by Melissa Koons; and the underwater cat in Underwater Cats, by Mary  Pletsch – to those that are unidentified, as in Cold, Silent, and Dark, by Kary English; or spring from the recesses of the human mind, to inanimate objects as innocent as a pair of bookends in Bookend, by Chris Mandeville.

The points of view presented are varied, as well. As a reader, I was allowed to glimpse through the eyes of both hunted and hunter, getting the unusual P.O.V.s of things like a kracken in The Kraken’s Story, by Robert J. McCarter, a siren in The Siren’s Song, by Aubrey Pratt, a dragon in The Sea Dragon’s Tale, by Nancy D. DiMauro and a puffer fish in Mandala, by Jody Lynn Nye.

The stories in this collection explore more than just the waters of the deep. Sea Wind, by Kevin J. Anderson explores the idea of losing a brother to the sea. Four Billion Years of Solitude, by Alex P. Berg explores the oceans of distant planets. Eat Me, by Lauren Lang explores a revelutionary weight loss system involving antipods harvested from the sea. Songs to Sing and Stories to Tell, by L.D. Colter explores saying good-bye, and Lure, by Joy Dawn Johnson explores the connection between twins, and Sea Dreams, by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson explores the ties between friends. To Become, by C.J. Erick explores facing the unknown, while In the Garden of the Coral King, by C.H. Hung explores facing one’s own fears, and A Marsh Called Solitude, by Gregory D. Little explores self-sacrifice and altruism.

My personal favorites include Teens Teach Tech, by Terry Madden, where a teen tries to help an old woman face her fears of the past; Heroes of the Russian Federation, by Chris Barili, where an experimental bio-weapon escapes and goes out of control; and High Seas Burning, by Lee French, where the real monsters are of the human variety.

Best of all, all proceeds from this anthology go to the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship to help students without the financial means  to attend the Superstar Writing Seminar,  a seminaar that addresses the business end of writing. The Superstars have been putting together anthologies, along with seminar attendees since 2015. Undercurrents is the fourth anthology to result from the Superstar Writing Seminar. In more ways than one, the Superstar Writing Seminar is quite special and the recipient of a scholarship is fortunate indeed.

News of this seminar was exciting to me because so many writing courses or workshops focus on the craft of writing and ignore the fact that there are some business skills required in order to be a successful writer. I’ve heard many authors gripe about not realizing they had to have marketing skills as well as writing skills, or complaining about the time they must put into marketing that could be used to write instead. The line-up of Superstars who offer their expertise include Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, Eric Flint, Rebecca Moesta, James A. Owen and Brandon Sanderson. Each year they have additional guest instructors, chosen from the creme de la creme of the publishing industry. They all share their knowledge and expertise during the annual seminar, which is held in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Well-crafted stories fill this anthology exploring the ocean depths and the depths of the human mind in Undercurrents, an anthology created by master story tellers. I give it four quills.

Four Quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Interview with author Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart

Today I have the good fortune to interview the debute author of a new release, Open/Pierre´s journey after warwhich is now available at web-e-books.com. Margareth Stewart joins us today on Writing to be Read to share a little about herself and her book. This interview is my introduction to Margareth, as well, so I’m excited to get to know her, too.

Kaye: Welcome Margareth. We’d love it if you’d introduce yourself to my readers. Tell us a little about yourself.

Margareth: My real name is Mônica Mastrantonio and Margareth Stewart is my pen name, but I like it so much that you can call me Margareth. 

I´m a PhD professor in Social Psychology, and had been following an academic career if I had not fell totally in love with the writing life.

Kaye: Why did you choose to use a pen name and how did you chose yours?

Margareth: I have a life of academicals papers, thesis and articles under my real name Monica Mastrantonio, so I thought the same name would just confuse the audience. I had no other choice, but to pick up an English pen name for my fiction work which is all in English. I brainstormed quite a few, used app devices to find a suitable one, but only got more confused (lol). The name Margareth came to me as it also starts with the letter M – and the surname seems to match it. That’s how Margareth Stewart was born.

Kaye: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

Margareth: Yes, for sure. I´m a divorced mom of three kids, so my writing depends on having a break, getting to Writers Residencies somewhere far and isolated. I´ve written Open at Maelor Studio in Corris – Wales; Mademoiselle-sur-Seine at Camac – France and now comes the time to go to Greywood Arts in Cork, Ireland – so glad about it.

Kaye: What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Margareth: Hard. I have three kids. The oldest one is Valentina, she is 16, then comes Chloe who is 10, and Vittorio who is 7. So, I never ever rest – that never happens. I’m also divorced, so it’s – “paying the bills, cleaning the house, getting piles of work done, teaching and tutoring my students from university, working for a social project book donation, and so on” – every single day. I think the secret is living, not only being alive: working hard and having fun – both are essential.

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to teach your children?

Margareth: To follow their dreams and be passionate about whatever they choose to do. I know this may sound a bit too romantic in a very competitive world, but that seems to be the only solution for so many problems we face nowadays. On top of that, I always say that being a happy Mom is the best legacy I can ever leave them. At least, I feel like half of the work has already been done if we are happy people. 

Kaye: What’s one thing most readers would never guess about you?

Margareth: Oh, basically two, where I come from and my age. I was born in Brazil, in a Southern city called Londrina – that stands for Little London – colonized by the British in the 20’s. But I also have Italian citizenship because my grandparents immigrated from Italy, so I say I’m like pizza: half Brazilian-half Italian. Now I live in Sao Paolo, few months in Miami and at writer´s residencies, too. 

Second, my age. I’m 49, and as I dress casual and informal, people tend to think I’m younger.  

Kaye: When and why did you begin writing?

Margareth: I´ve always written, as Academics – mostly scientific papers and articles, though lately felt an urge to start writing fiction. It´s not something I´ve planned, much to the opposite, I even tried avoiding it.

Kaye: When did you first consider yourself to be a writer?

Margareth: When I published my first novel Open/Pierre´s journey after war – at the end of 2017, so I´ve just began (lol). I had also compiled, edited and published anthologies, short stories, articles before, but I did not regard myself so. Then, when Open was accepted and published by web-e-books.com, it felt like the real thing was coming to life. 

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Margareth: Midnight is the perfect hour for me, that’s when all the lights go down, kids are in bed, and silence reigns. My neighbors may think I’m very weird, staying up for long hours at night, but those are my precious working hours, when words flow – I won’t be giving up on them.

Kaye: What inspired you to write your first book?

Margareth: Can you believe it was a Facebook group? Awesome, I know. It was November – Nano writing month and this group ran a contest for the person who would reach 100.000 word count first. Obviously, I´ve missed both the month and the word count. But it somehow gave me courage to book a writer´s residency in January in Wales and accomplish my target there. That was how my novel came to life. Then, it took me two years to have it published. So, my advice is never ever give it up. Champagne takes two full years to have the bubbles in it, so good things do take time. Pierre

Kaye: How did you come up with the title – Open/Pierre´s journey after war

Margareth: The title is a reference to a scene from the book, the only romantic scene in it – when the main character falls in love. They were in a village stepping on the grapes to make wine, the weather changes and rain is about to fall heavily, the owner of the land was holding a bottle ready to be opened in his hand as a tradition to the new harvest, everyone surrounding him started shouting “Open open, open”. It was the first time Pierre held Claire’s hand.

Kaye: Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

Margareth: Because of my background in Social Psychology, I mainly focus in the human beings, their relationships and their inner selves more than anything else.

 Kaye: Open/Pierre´s journey after war is the story of one man’s reaction after losing his family to the atrocities of war. How much of the story is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Margareth: It’s a mix of everything. There is no such a thing as a blank page, everything we ever lived influences us, what we read, hear, see, the people we´ve met, etc. Writing is putting all that in order.

Kaye: Who designed your cover?

Margareth: The Publisher, but I did some changes and suggested the main colour which is orange.

Kaye: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Margareth: Yes, indeed. A message about last wishes. Pierre the main character lives for his last wish which is revenge. People do not pay attention to things they need to accomplish in life, so when old age comes, they become very bitter and frustrated.

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Kaye: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favourite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

Margareth: Oh, so many influencers. I´m an avid reader since a small kid. I read everything I can ever get my eyes upon, and I love libraries and Book Shops – to a point that I could spend days inside one. So from Tchekov, to Dante, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sidney Sheldon, Yeats, Kafka, Steinbeck, Wilde to Agatha Christie, Cervantes and Mills and Boon to name a few. I´ve learned so much from them all.

Kaye: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.

Margareth: Facebook groups can play a great motivational role to new writers, feed-back from beta-readers, and artist residencies.

Stewart Writing SpaceKaye: Do you see writing as a career?

Margareth: Yes, it’s a career like any other. I wake up, get some tea, sit down and type until bleeding – as Nietzsche would say.

Kaye: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?

Margareth: No, nothing, really, I´m very happy with the book, its edition, and so thankful to everyone that helped me along this way.

Kaye: Did you learn anything during the writing of Open/Pierre´s journey after war?

Margareth: Yes, so much with Pierre, and also about the way I can produce more and write better for next time.

Kaye: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Margareth: Oh, love this question, wish they read this interview, buy the book and decide to film it: Clint Eastwood or Jeremy Irons.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Margareth: Keep writing – keep walking, and “Cheering” accordingly. 

Kaye: What book are you reading now?

Margareth: Cyrano de Bergerac – I want to learn more about dialogues, spoken language, you know.

Kaye: Do you remember the first book you ever read?

Margareth: A series of adventure books for a contest at school, I just remembered I won, and read loads for weeks.

Kaye: What makes you laugh or cry?

Margareth: Good talk & nice people, I get emotional when I meet people who are passionate about what they do. 

Kaye: Which author, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Margareth: Professor, Historian and Writer from Oxford University: Sir Theodore Zeldin. He has an extraordinary capacity to link major historical events to people’s daily lives – to understand people from a larger point of view. A truly Historical Social Psychologist. I would love to spend some weeks as apprentice in his Department, who knows?

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?Stewart Cat

Margareth: Jogging, cooking, dancing, and reading (lol).

Kaye: What TV shows or films do you enjoy watching?

Margareth: Can you believe I watch no TV? Zero. That´s me, I´m keen on films, but “zero” TV, not missing much is the feed-back I have from people watching it.

Kaye: What are your favourite foods, colours, music?

Margareth: Homemade Pasta made by me (my Italian side) and all sorts of music from Jazz, to folk, rock, samba, bossa, and classical.

Kaye: How would you describe yourself in three words?

Margareth: Passionate. Determined. Brave.

Kaye: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Margareth: I can´t imagine it any longer…there are some paths that there is no turning around – writing is one of them.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Margareth: Doing some of the things my characters do. For instance, Pierre the main character of Open, he drinks hot burning coffee and I tried that once, just got my lips and tongue all burnt for a week. Another unusual thing is taking notes all the time. I carry a small notebook with me – there are times that I have to pull the car off the road not to miss an idea.

Kaye: Is there anything specific you’d like to tell your readers?

Margareth: Just read it.  

Kaye: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?

Margareth: Yes, please follow my Facebook Page where I post offers and new book releases. For 2018, we have Mademoiselle-sur-Seine (erotica) much hotter than 50 Shades of Grey.

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Kaye: Thank you Margareth, for joining us today. It’s been great to get to know a little about you and to learn a little about Open/Pierre´s journey after war. 

Margareth: Thank you so much for putting these together for all of us; it´s an immense pleasure being here, and looking forward to next book interview.

 

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