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.

Stewart Excerpt  

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.

Stewart Poster

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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The Pep Talk – I Think We Need a Break

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Every month in this space, author Jeff Bowles offers advice for young and struggling writers. No one ever said becoming a first-rate storyteller is easy. This is the Pep Talk.

So let’s assume you’re a dedicated writer. Or at least you want to be, which is why you’ve decided to come back to your craft after months or even years of not writing a single word. Perhaps life got in the way. Maybe you got married, had kids, made the choice to focus on your family and career first. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? We all have the ability to pursue our dreams whole-heartedly or to lay them aside when more important things come along.

The truth is you’re not alone. Almost by definition, writing is a solitary and thankless job. Becoming motivated and staying that way can be tough, and if you’ve got other responsibilities and obligations in your life—and all of us have—setting aside time for yourself and your work can be a huge chore.

Several years ago, I was feeling the crunch in just this way. I’d gotten married, had bought a new home, and I was working a job that was financially stable but not personally gratifying in any way, shape or form. Many days I’d pick at one of my short stories over my cafeteria lunch, praying for the day I could dedicate myself to my writing and leave the confines of corporate America for good.

It’s often been noted that many great authors throughout history have had to suffer dead-end jobs on their way to literary nirvana. Writing is a for-passion proposition for the vast majority of us. We do it because we are compelled.

But what happens when you aren’t feeling compelled? What happens when all your desire dries up and the thought of putting words on the page fills you with dread? Further, what happens after you’ve already taken a long break? Is it possible to pick up where you left off?

Of course it is. Momentum is momentum, and when people pursue their dreams with everything they’ve got, the universe conspires to bring their stars into alignment. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re tired. Most writers I know have come to that place at least once or twice in their careers. When I was just starting to learn the craft, it seemed to happen to me at least once a week.

“I’m never writing another word! These people don’t appreciate my talent, and anyway, I’d much rather pursue things that aren’t so damn frustrating!”

So maybe you grumble and walk away from your computer and promise yourself you’ll never tell another story as long as you live. Your intentions here don’t actually matter that much, because like smoking or eating premium New York-style pizza, writing has a way of getting under your skin.

In truth, when we come to the point of extreme frustration, of no forward momentum, often the best thing we can do for ourselves is offer a little humility and compassion and allow the work to falter. This might not be a popular perspective, but from a holistic standpoint, it’s the correct one. Frustration in a creative field signals burnout, which is most often caused by internal factors like unrealistic expectations and uncontrolled anxiety. When you add publishing contracts and money into the mix—as all of us one day desire to do—it can make matters worse.

The good news is that the human animal is ever changing. No really, that’s the good news. We are not static beings. You never know who you’re going to be from one day to the next, let alone one month, year, or decade to the next. Imagine your surprise when after a long hiatus you discover you still like writing. What’s more, you’re not the same person now, and your work seems to reflect this new maturity. Hell, sometimes we just run out of ideas and need some distance in order recharge the batteries, right?

Some will tell you stopping is the worst thing you can do. A rolling stone gathers no moss. I might have done so myself a few years ago when I was stuck at that crappy job. I’d have been wrong, though. The intellect and creative mind are not eternal well-springs. They do not flow on command at all times, and they can run dry when pushed too hard.

Here’s a little test for you. Tell me the last piece of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry you wrote to completion. Was it difficult to finish? I mean, more so than usual (let’s be honest, writing is seldom easy—if it were, everyone would do it). Did you find thoughts and ideas hard to come by? Did the notion of hauling yourself to the computer one more damn time make a compelling case for alcoholism?

See, we come to these brick walls precisely because the act of creating meaning and order from abstract symbols (or writing, in the common tongue) is not a natural fit for our freeform, emotional minds. Given the choice, we’d spend our lives daydreaming—many of us do anyway. We come to this craft with the highest of hopes, our expectations completely untempered, like a piece of nascent steel. Time separates the tourists from the devout. Disappointment is the rule rather than the exception. Is it any wonder we need to hit the brakes sometimes?

Here’s what I’d like you to do the rest of the day. Don’t write, even if you were expecting to. Rather, choose an activity that’s bound to depress you. Count up all your rejection letters, read something you wrote five years ago, look up your publishing stats, and yes my friends, read them and weep. Stop telling yourself you’ve almost made it, just one more story, just one lucky break. This is a trust experiment, gut-check time. Have you chosen this craft because it will make you famous? Are you more interested in seeing your name in print than in revising a single piece of fiction until your fingers bleed?

You are more interested in that? Well you’re the strange one, aren’t you? Everybody knows writing is never thankless, is always a laugh riot, and makes you feel good every single day of your otherwise bleak life.

Writing sucks sometimes, people! It just does. We all know it, and if we’re ever going to get anywhere, we need to make peace with it sooner or later. You need to realize this is a long game. I mean a looooooong game. You will get burned out, probably more than once. You will feel the need to quit, and you might even hate yourself because you gave up better opportunities along the way.

Be kind to yourself, please. You aren’t alone. You’re a writer because you can’t quit. It isn’t in your DNA. You should be more trusting; have some damn faith. And I think it’s a beautiful thing, admitting you’re helpless in the face of your need to tell stories. Taking a break is not giving up, it’s just taking a break. You may notice when at last you return that your skills have atrophied somewhat, that you’re a bit rustier than you’d like. That’s okay. You had to start somewhere way back when, and really, nobody forgets how to write.

Jump start that mind, warm up with some finger exercises, write a piece of flash fiction to get the ball rolling, but know that your choice to rest up was made in service to yourself. Let’s just call it an act of love. After all, you know yourself best. You’re not a machine, as much as you’d like to be.

It’s a mind game sometimes. It’s a battle of will. But one does not cease to be a writer just because one ceases writing. We are who we are, enjoy what we enjoy, are passionate about that which nourishes our souls and allows us to feel free.

Far from feeling free, do you feel like your writing has become a prison? Then take some time off, dudes and dudettes! That’s an order! Sheesh!

Until next time, folks.


Interested in my writing? Check out my latest short story collection, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruceshttps://www.amazon.com/Fear-Loathing-Las-Cruces-Stories-ebook/dp/B06XH2774F

Twitter: @JeffBowlesLives

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeffryanbowles

YouTube’s Jeff Bowles Central: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6uMxedp3VxxUCS4zn3ulgQ

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Bowles/e/B01L7GXCU0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=14794534940


The Pep Talk

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Every month in this space, author Jeff Bowles offers advice for young and struggling writers. No one ever said becoming a world-famous storyteller is easy. This is the Pep Talk.

Everyone needs a pep talk now and then. I could use one at least once a week. I know a lot of damn fine writers who’re having challenging times right now. Maybe it’s just the year 2017, a surge of new energy which has left us feeling stifled and worn down. I think drive comes in waves. Easy to manifest when you’re young and hungry, also easy when you’re working for paychecks. An unexamined life is not worth living. What makes you tick, my friends? Why do you feel the need to work hard for your dream?

For me, a famous song lyric says it all: “Time inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.”

There’s a certain creative disposition that fuels productivity by way of dread for the brevity of life. I am of that disposition. When I get into a writing slump, I wake up in the middle of the night feeling unfulfilled and guilty. I’ve got so much to say, so many stories to tell. Maybe it’s more important to create as if nothing can harm us, as if the whole universe is waiting for our next works of art. It can feel like that sometimes, can’t it? Thank God.

Do you have big dreams for your writing career? I certainly do. There’s kind of a junction between what we want and what reality is willing to give us. What keeps us writing even when no publishers are interested in our work and readers are few and far between?

I think the answer is more universal than people realize. If you’ve been doing this long enough, no doubt you know a few people who’ve climbed further faster than you. Now this can be a really painful experience, and I think it’s okay to admit it. Is it petty to resent those who’ve accumulated more success than us? It is, but to a large extent it’s also unavoidable.

It’d take a very balanced personality indeed to shrug off adversity 100% of the time. There’s something within us, perhaps culled from our hunter-gatherer days, that endows us with an astonishing capacity for jealousy.

“How’d he publish that book? Mine is so much better!”

“And she won an award for it? Meanwhile I’m sitting here in obscurity, twiddling my thumbs.”

Comments like these are a sure sign of a bad attitude, but tell me you’ve never thought something similar. It’s normal, right? Even if we don’t want it to be. But I’d also like to remind you it’s corrosive to the mind and spirit.

Publishing is a tricky business because we’re all vying for limited resources. Only so many pub spots, book deals, and readers worldwide. Add to it the fact readership across the globe is on the decline, and holy cow! The competition is on. Some people are fueled by competition. In a perfect world we’d all hold hands and celebrate each other’s work and tell ourselves we can be happy, healthy and sane no matter how many copies of our latest masterworks we sell (or fail to sell).

In the end, jealousy tends to destroy people who cling to it. I do believe jealousy also serves a higher function. You can watch everyone around you meet with success and learn a great deal from it. Watch the successful ones, pay attention to their habits and practices. Are they better writers than you? Doubtful. Perhaps they’re just more keyed in to what sells. I have to admit I’m not very good at this. I have to do everything the hard way. Don’t be like me. Many people will tell you success is a game of luck. I’m not so sure I believe in luck anymore.…

That which we define as luck, I think, can be greatly enhanced by focus and productivity. You can beat the odds by maintaining a steady workflow and making sure you’re constantly revising, submitting, rewriting, doing the dance. Belief is more important than luck. I think you’ve got to take charge of who you perceive yourself to be.

Quit telling yourself you’re a failure nobody wants to read. Stop it! Do your best to boost your ego. Nothing flawed or vain about it. Isn’t there enough in this world that tears us down? So build yourself up. Focus on the end goal, the dream day, a fresh contract, your pen set to the signature line. A few months later, another dream day, signing fresh copies of your latest best seller, a huge line piled up at your table, running out the bookstore (I always imagine a nice cozy Barns & Noble).

Everyone needs friends and allies, too. People who appreciate what you do. Now I’ve got to admit that if you’re just starting out or are not yet as successful as you’d like to be, finding individuals to believe in you might be a challenge. Who knows why people behave this way, but there’s something about a nascent writing dream that drives the skeptics crazy. I’ve met a million of them, and I know you have, too. Just keep working, focus on where you want to be rather than where you are in this present moment.

I’ll just go ahead and say it. I think it pays to be delusional. You’ve got to be the emperor with no clothes on. When people tell you, “Yeah but you aren’t this. I’ve known you for years. What you really are is this.” You’ve got to show them your fine purple robes, assure them they’re more than thin air, and then parade around like you aren’t naked.

Someone someday will clothe you in something more real. Better yet, you’ll manage to get hold of some nice clothes yourself. But you can’t be a victim of other people’s circumstances. You’ll feel what you’ll feel, but don’t let envy control your world. Because it will try, again and again. We’re not monks on high mountains practicing infinite patience and unbridled universal centeredness. We are at best creative people willing to bleed for our work. And what are you going to do as a result? Quit? Ha! You’re no quitter. You are everything literature and great minds have praised for eons. To write and succeed is a blessing. To endure even as we struggle, that is divine. See you next time, everyone!


Interested in Jeff’s writing? Check out his latest short story collection, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruceshttps://www.amazon.com/Fear-Loathing-Las-Cruces-Stories-ebook/dp/B06XH2774F

Twitter: @JeffBowlesLives

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeffryanbowles

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/JeffBowles/e/B01L7GXCU0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1479453494

YouTube’s Jeff Bowles Central: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6uMxedp3VxxUCS4zn3ulgQ


“Once” May Not Be Enough for This Love Story

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Once – Ask Me Anything, Not Love by Mian Mohsin Zia, is a inspirational tale of the struggle for love by one man, Morkel, whose brand is “M–, No Time for Love”. But love strikes when it is least expected and who you would least expect to fall under it’s spell. Although it is a love story, it’s no romance and there are no HEAs in this tale.

I can’t deny that this is a cute story, but I had a hard time suspending disbelief, due partially to the fact that the characters weren’t deep enough for me to be able to care, and also because the dialog did not feel real to me. People just don’t talk that way in my experience. The characters are idealistic and I felt they acted in ways that were very unrealistic, as well. Morkel, the protagonist, comes off as being full of himself and he claims that as a novelist, he can read people, yet when love walks up and stares him in the eye, he doesn’t see it.

That being said, it is a well structured story with a clear character arc. Morkel changes as he realizes his own need for and ability to love. I found it very entertaining, but the ending was disappointing for me. I guess I’ve come to expect a HEA when I think of a love story, and I felt the promise of the premise was not fulfilled.

I will admit that Mian Mohsin Zia puts out a quality eBook, with very few typos. Obviously, he spends the money to have it edited and promote it right, as well. I suspect this may account for his amazing popularity as an author. In self-publishing, it seems, you really do get what you pay for.

OnceAsk Me Anything, Not Love is a love story from the male perspective, a unique and entertaining tale, but not a romance. I give it three quills.

 Three Quills3