Chatting with the Pros: Interview with Women’s Fiction Author Barbara Chepaitis

chatting with the pros

In January, Writing to be Read is celebrating women’s fiction and female authors. You may have caught my Interview with Loretta Miles Tollefson two weeks ago, or my post about the history of female authorship last week. In continuation of this monthly theme,  I’m pleased to welcome a woman who authors science fiction and women’s fiction as my first guest for this new monthly series, Chatting with the Pros. Barabara Chepaitis is a traditionally published author of both science fiction and women’s fiction, and she’s very familiar with the issues that surround being a woman author in today’s publishing industry. Let’s see what she has to say.

barbara chepaitis

Kaye: What defines women’s fiction? Is it the subject matter, female protagonists, or the manner in which women are portrayed?

Barbara: In my experience, women’s fiction is defined by the publisher, who wants to have a specific place to put a book in a bookstore. For me, the difference between my science fiction and my ‘women’s fiction’ was what name they used.  When I write science fiction, they want me to use my initials to hide that I’m a girl.  When I write women’s fiction, they want to use my name, to prove I’m a girl.

Since I’ve never written a novel that doesn’t have a female protagonist, it’s clear to me that this isn’t the defining aspect. Other than that, I think the definition is kind of the way Dr. Who describes time – wibbly wobbly.

Kaye: What draws you to women’s fiction?

Barbara: I don’t know that I am drawn to women’s fiction.  I’m a feminist, for sure, but I never set out to write any particular genre.  I just get an idea for a character and story, then tell it.  If they happen to be female, that’s because I’ve known some fascinating women, with very complex lives.

Kaye: Do you think it is tougher  female authors today, or has digital and self-publishing evened the playing field for women in the publishing industry?

Barbara: It’s always been more difficult for women, in every field of endeavor we have in our culture.  There’s so many many ways to block women. First, you can just not hire (or publish, or pay) them.  Second, you can let them do the work, but not acknowledge the work they’ve done, attributing it to others. Only time will tell if digital and independent publishing will change that kind of move.  Being cynical, I guess that women will have to continue to fight for their place.  But that’s just me, being cynical.

Kaye: Romance usually has female protags. Why is it not considered as women’s fiction?

the amberBarbara: The quick answer – because the narrative arc primarily follows a trajectory of romance. I know that when I’ve written material that has a strong romance (as in The Amber) but has something else as it’s narrative arc (coming of age, self-discovery, overcoming demons, etc.) then it isn’t seen as romance. For instance, there’s some pretty strong romantic properties to the whole Jaguar series, but she’s primarily dealing with criminals and crime.

 

Kaye: What makes a good story?

Barbara: The answer to that varies pretty wildly, depending on who you ask. For my husband, a good story is often one of a hero who makes the ultimate sacrifice for a cause. He loves Spartacus, Saving Private Ryan, and so on.  For me, a story of a hero who overcomes incredible obstacles to reach a goal that serves others, or creates a new understanding of life, is always entrancing.  I’m guessing that for romance readers, the tale of finding true love is what winds their clocks. So the question to ask, really, is what makes a good story for you?

Kaye: Your Fear series has a futuristic setting, an action adventure storyline and a strong female protagonist, Jaguar Addams. It’s really women’s genre fiction. What genre or genres do you put it in?

a strangled cry of fearBarbara: I wrote the Fear series as a detective/mystery series. It just happened to be set in the future. When I was seeking a publisher, there was no such thing as ‘cross-genre’, and the mystery/detective market wanted nothing to do with it. Thus it landed in science fiction, which was more open, and they called it cyberpunk suspense – which made me wonder if I had to do something different with my hair,  you know?

You can say Jaguar is ‘women’s fiction’ in that it has a powerful female protagonist and is written by a woman, but there’s plenty of men hanging around as well, and they all have their own obstacles to overcome, sacrifices to make, stuff to learn. Most of my work crosses literary lines in some way.  I’m bitextual, and trangenre, I guess. And proud of it.

Kaye: Would you like to tell us a little about the series?

Barbara: Jaguar Addams and Alex Dzarny work on Prison Planetoid 3, which was established after a time of massive domestic violence known as The Killing Times. Now the worst criminals are sent to the Planetoid Prisons, where they’re run through programs that make them face the fears which drove their horrid crimes, based on the theory that all crime grows out of fear.  Jaguar and Alex are both practitioners of the Empathic arts, and have some maxxed out psi capacities, which they use in their work.

Jaguar and Alex are alike in their dedication to the job, but they approach it differently.  Jaguar runs with scissors, and colors way outside the lines. If Alex runs with scissors, he points them down. Both characters have close and complicated friendships with others who work on the Planetoids, and Jaguar has a ‘family’  in a Native American community in the Southwest. She’s an offshoot of a Mayan nation by heritage.

Each book is its own case, as in a detective series, but there is a larger arc along the way, which deals with Jaguar’s need to develop trust in intimacy, and Alex’s need to get a little more wild.

Kaye: Would you talk a little about the books that are published under Barbara Chepaitis, the ones that annnounce that you’re a girl and would probably most be classified as ‘women’s fiction’?

Barbara: I’ve got 3 under the ‘Barbara’ name:

Feeding Christine: “It was the season of Miracles in Teresa’s kitchen, and while none of the women particularly believed in miracles, neither did they think they’d be needing one. They were wrong.”

feeding christineTERESA DI ROSA, owner of the thriving catering business Bread and Roses, makes the feeding of bodies and souls her life work.  Now, with her niece CHRISTINE and her friends DELIA and AMBERLIN, she’s gearing up for the big event of the year – the annual Christmas open house.  But as the party gets organized, her life is spinning out of control.
Her divorce is barely final, her son is spending Christmas with his father, and Christine seems to be losing her grip on sanity as she grieves the death of her mother, Teresa’s sister.  The radical steps Teresa takes to rescue Christine shock everyone, but with her friends, Teresa feeds Christine a healthy dose of courage, wisdom and love.

these dreams

These Dreams: Cricket Thompson’s routine life of husband, home, and family becomes a land of nightmare when an act of random violence leaves her daughter critically wounded.  The crisis destroys her family, exposes her illusions and defies her belief in dreams.  She seeks solace at the bird sanctuary where she volunteers, and learns that healing is a miracle of choice rather than chance.

 

 

 

Something Unpredictable: Just FYI – SOMETHING UNPREDICTABLE is based on a house that me and my husband actually tried to buy.  There really is a circus house.

something unpredictableDelilah is 31, has no career to speak of, and is living at home with her hippie parents, and hanging on to a boyfriend who likes to photograph her naked in tubs of blue jello. Clearly, Delilah needs a plan.
Her sister is living the perfect life with the perfect husband, her father continues to make money off the stock market, and her mother continues to spend it on the latest social cause.  Delilah would love to save the world as well if only it weren’t such an overwhelming task.    She longs for inspiration.  But she’s about to encounter some things she never predicted – a long-lost grandmother, Carla, who used to tame tigers with the circus; a 260 year old house with septic problems; an ex-fiancee; and a man named Jack – all of which will change her life forever.

Kaye: Food plays a central role in much of your women’s fiction. In fact, you might consider it a core theme for your books. Can you explain why this is, and why it’s important?

Barbara: Mmm.  Foood.  I’m a real foodie, and love to cook and play with my food. Perhaps because my mother’s family is Italian, I also understood from an early age that food is a language all its own, something we consume to learn about the land and its people and our relationship to all that. To me, cooking is similar to writing, and eating and reading are the way we enrich ourselves, body and soul.

Kaye: Why does symbolism play such a big role in your work?

Barbara: Symbolism?  Actually, none of it is symbolism. It’s all experience and reflection on experience. If I write about a family violin that’s been lost and must be found, it’s because I know that music connects us across time with our ancestry. If I write about food, it’s because food speaks to us all the time.

Kaye: Children of the Land (Songs of the Mothers Book 1): This title screams women’s fantasy. I imagine a fantasy world laden with legends of yore. Would you like to tell me a little about this book?

children of the landBarbara: Children of the Land is actually the last novel in a series that I wrote which attempted to move across genres through each novel.   It started with Children of the Gods, historical fiction with a contemporary twist, retelling the ancient history of the Haudonosaunee.  Next was a near future novel titled Children of the World, which featured the descendants of the first novel as they approached the historical moment when biological immortality became possible.  After that was  Children of the Land, where the next round of descendants dealt with the political and world ramifications of that possibility in a fantasy novel.

When I talked to publishers about the series, they looked at me with something akin to terror.  I swear their hair stood on end.  It’s really the ultimate in transgenre, and couldn’t be handled by this market.  Ultimately, I decided to go ahead with Children of the Land, which is indeed a fantasy novel, and worry about the others later.   I have to say it was one of my favorite writing experiences ever.  It really appealed to my love of language, and my love of the Heroine’s journey.  It also allowed me to play with a lot of gods and goddesses from a variety of cultures, because part of the idea is that it’s time for them to return, and establish a closer relationship with humans, who are indeed the children of the land.

Here’s the synopsis:

Lord Aroc rules all, giving the gift of immortality only to his citizens.   The balance between City and village has been preserved for a long age, but a change is at hand, signaled by the dancing of the Northern Lights.  Now, a young woman’s choice to plant a small seed will determine world dominion, and the return of the gods.

That woman is Vareka, a Citizen working for Lord Aroc as Watcher for the villagers of Eryahsa.  Such villagers live apart from the City, and are ultimately absorbed to feed the City’s energy.  As heavy solar flares disrupt the City’s technology, the northern lights cause villagers to recall ancient stories of the Dreamers – spirit beings who would someday return. Then, an old man in Eryahsa tells Vareka she is inheritor of a task only she, daughter of a Dreamer and a Human, can complete.

She bears a locket handed down from mother to daughter for ages uncounted, and the seed it holds must be planted if the Dream is to continue.

She must choose her path, with no guarantee of success.  Either she will take her friends on a perilous journey to find the place and time of planting, or she will accept Aroc’s rule, allowing him to remake the world, in his own image.

Kaye: Your fiction features strong female characters, and their strengths give them power. Where do you draw your characters from?

Barbara: For me, characters make themselves known in a very visceral way, speaking up inside me to tell me it’s time to tell their stories.  Jaguar popped up when I was on the highway, and I had to pull over and make notes.  I can still see her, sitting on the arm of her couch, in her apartment with its skulls and hanging herbs.  She was smoking a cigarette, swinging her leg back and forth, and she said, “What you’ll do next is write me.”

Characters and their world, how they arise, where they come from, is a bit of a mystery to me, but I have noted that the best thing I can do is maintain an attitude of openness to their arrival. In fact, an attitude of openness in general.  A kind of “Okay.  I’m ready.  Whaddya got?”

I’m sure that this attitude is assisted by the fact that I grew up with a horde of powerful and complicated women, but I can’t say that any one of them has become a particular character.  Perhaps it’s just the flavor of their lives that gets put in the mix.

Kaye: So, would you say your stories are character driven?

Barbara: Yes, my stories are character driven. Characters, with all their complexities and eccentricities, create plot.  They have something to say, and are blocked from saying it.  Or they have something to hide and it’s revealed. Or they have something to BE, and are meeting obstacles in being that.  Characters – human and animal – are at the heart of all plots, the heart of all interest, the heart of our hearts.

Kaye: They say the pen is mightier than the sword. What causes have you used your status as a writer to champion?

Barbara: I once helped a Navy SEAL and Army Ranger rescue a war-wounded eagle from Afghanistan, and that came about only because I’m a writer.  I’ve also used my writing in any way I can to promote environmental causes.  In fact, I’d love to do more of that.

You can get the full story on the war-wounded eagle in her book, Saving Eagle Mitch: One Good Deed in a Wicked World. Thank you for sharing with us today Barbara. You can learn more about Barbara Chepaitis and her works at the following links:

Goodreads Author Page (Barbara Chepaitis): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/202062.Barbara_Chepaitis

Goodreads Author Page (B.A. Chepaitis): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/841157.B_A_Chepaitis?from_search=true

Feeding Christine  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Feeding+Christine+chepaitis

THESE DREAMS  https://www.amazon.com/These-Dreams-Barbara-Chepaitis-ebook/dp/B000FC0VI4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547053073&sr=8-1&keywords=These+Dreams+chepaitis

SOMETHING UNPREDICTABLE  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Something+Unpredictable+chepaitis

 

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“Writing to be Read”: 2018 full of surprises – 2019 promises more

From Old to New

This is the time of year when I like to take a look back over the year to see what worked and what didn’t for Writing to be Read, but there are exciting changes coming as well. So let’s move forward in the logical order and talk about the old first. Let’s take a look at the past year on Writing to be Read. For me, there were several surprises and if you are following, they may surprise you, too.

I feel like we had a really great year in 2018, featuring two rounds of Ask the Authors, with two wonderful and diverse author panels sharing writing tips and advice in many aspects of writing with almost seven thousand views. Now that may not seem like a lot to some, but when you consider that it’s over three thousand more views than in 2017, that’s not too bad.

Ask the Authors

For those who don’t know Ask the Authors is a twelve week blog series, where an author panel responds to questions on the many aspects of writing. Panel members in the original series of Ask the Authors, which ran from February through April, included author and ghostwriter DeAnna Knippling, dark fantasy author Cynthia Vespia, Y.A. author Jordan Elizabeth, literary author Margareth Stewart, action novelist Tim Baker, action and speculative fiction author Chris DiBella, women’s fiction author Janet Garbor, multi-genre author Chris Barili, and Y.A. author Carol Riggs. Round 2 ran from October through mid- December with the first four authors from the previous list as returning panel members and seven new panel members, including multi-genre author Dan Alatorre, nonfiction author Mark Shaw, pulp fiction author Tom Johnson, thiller author Ashley Fontainne, romance author Amy Cecil, multi-genre author Art Rosch, and speculative fiction author R.A. Winter. I’d like to thank them all once again for taking time out to share with us here.

Wednesday Line-up 2018We also were blessed with three new Wednesday blog series with three new team members. The team member from the 2018 Wednesday line-up with the most views was Jeff Bowles with Jeff’s Pep Talk, but Jordan Elizabeth and Art Rosch brought in their fair share with Writing for a Y.A. Audience and the Many Faces of Poetry, respectively.

To my surprise, the team member with the mosts post views over 2018 was Robin Conley, who is currently not an active team member, but readers continue to seek out her writing advice in her writing Weekly and Monthly Writing Memos from 2017; the most popular was her Weekly Writing Memo: Word Choice is verything, which had the second most views of all blog posts this past year. Right up there with that is her review of Pride and Predjudice and Zombies, with over one hundred post views.

I was also surprised to learn the most viewed interview was tied between children’s author Nancy Oswald from the 2016 series Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing and action novelist Tim Baker from the 2017 series Book Marketing; What Works. But those interviews were focused more towards information on publishing and marketing, respectively, so I don’t really count them in the same category as author interviews, because readers may view the series posts for different reasons than they would author interviews.

My author interviews provide a focus on the author, so in this category the most post views came from my interview in 2018 with screenwriter J.S. Mayank. My interview with author Alexandra Forry was next in line, and my interview with performance poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer recieved the third most post views.

In 2018, the top book review was Dan Alatorre’s dark fiction anthology, Dark Visions. Another surprise – the second and third most post views in the review category are both from 2016, with my review of Simplified Writing 101 by Erin Brown Conroy coming in second, and Wild West Ghosts by Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd coming in third.

2018 Top Reviews

The other review that I feel is worthy of mention is my review of Mark Shaw’s new release, Denial of Justice. I did the review in December, so it hasn’t been available long enough to acrue a great number of views to rank in the yearly statistics, but it is a tale that deserves telling and Mark did a smash-up job of telling it. I’ve no doubt this book will be as popular or more so than the original tale, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, because we all love mystery and intrigue, and the story of Dorothy Kilgallen is a true life tale filled with both. I am privilaged to have been allowed to review both of these books.

Along the lines of other content, again my 2016 post Why is Fact Better than Fiction recieved the most viewed, and surprisingly, a post from 2011, The Process Takes Time close on it’s heels, with my 2016 post, A Writer’s Life in No Bowl of Cherries following not far behind them. Not one of my top three posts was from this past year. My post from 2018 which recieved the most views was Join Me in My Protest Against Facebook, a rant I did about Facebook and their changing policies after I got blocked from posting in groups, including my own group, for a twenty-four hour period. I think this post was my cry in the dark from the frustration I felt as a busy author who promotes her own work and limited time. It makes me laugh to think it was my most popular post published last year. 

Views outnumber visitors, so I’m thinking that the increased views of all the older posts comes from new viewers who popped in to read a newer post and decided to browse the site, which is great. If I gained some new followers due to this, I certainly won’t complain.

Overall, it was a great year and my following has steadily grown, as well as post likes and comments. I have to extend thanks to my readers, my followers, my team members and my guests on Writing to be Read for helping me make it happen. I couldn’t have made such strides without all of you.

Writing My Way Into the New Year

Logo Switch2019 promises to be an even better year for both Writing to be Read and for me, and I’m excited to share my plans with you here. To start, this site will be getting a facelift: a new theme which will coincide with my new WordCrafter website and a new logo. The WordCrafter site will be the new home of Write it Right Editing Services and WordCrafter Copywriting, now housed here, as well as WordCrafter Press and WordCrafter Online Courses in the near future. Writing to be Read, although remaining here, will operate under the WordCrafter trademark. I was hoping to launch it tonight to start the New Year off right, but time constraints have not favored me. The launch of my WordCrafter and new image and logo for Writing to be Read will happen sometime in January. That’s the revised goal.

On Writing to be Read, look forward to some great new content beginning in January.  To start the year off right I already have scheduled reviews for Freedom’s Mercy, by A.K. Lawrence and Fanya in the Underworld, by Jordan Elizabeth, and an interview with western author Loretta Miles Tollefson.

Growing bookworks 2Let’s not forget the new addition to the Wednesday line-up. Starting in January, children’s author Robbie Cheadle will be joining us with her blog series, Growing Bookworms. You can learn more about Robbie and her exciting and creative new series in my introduction and welcome post last Monday.

I also have an exciting new monthly blog series planned for the third Monday of each month, called Chatting with the Pros. Starting in January, I will interview a successful professional author in a different genre, who will graciously allow me to pick their brains for tips and tidbits of writing wisdom from authors who are making it work. I can’t reveal the guest line-up yet, but it shows promise of holding some well known names. And I’m thinking about doing a writing contest, with entrants recieving an invitation for inclusion in an anthology and other cool prizes.

A third round of Ask the Authors is also in the making for this coming summer and I’m planning an Ask the Authors book to follow, which will include material from all three segments. I already have a cover for the book, created by D.L. Mullen of Sonoran Dawn Studios. I hope to have it out by the end of the year.

WIPs

And of course, you’ll be able to get updates on my other works in progress: The Great Primordial Battle, book one of my science fantasy series, Playground for the Gods; The Homecoming, book two of my western series, Delilah; and my memoir about losing my son to teen suicide, His Name Was Michael. I hope you will all join me in the coming year. 

With that, I’ll just say see you next year.

Until then, happy writing!

Happy New Year

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