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Please welcome Jennifer Irwin author of A Dress the Color of the Sky. The film rights have been sold and the book isn’t even published yet! Wowsers! That’s pretty impressive if I say so myself.
Have you written anything before this book?
No. This is my first novel.
How did you come to teach Pilates?
I retired from working in advertising after my third son was born but still wanted to work part time. I enjoy helping women feel better about themselves and teaching Pilates was a great avenue to fulfill that desire. I have really enjoyed getting to know all sorts of women through being a Pilates teacher.
There is something very fulfilling being able to help others. I’m glad found something that works for you!
How has writing this book help you heal?
Writing is a great creative outlet. I found that the more I put my characters into difficult situations the better I felt. I also enjoyed creating wonderful female friendships for my protagonist, Prudence Aldrich. Women bond through sharing life experiences and it was healing for me to develop female characters who were super supportive of each other.
I find that very interesting. That does sound very healing, in a creative kind of way. Love it.
How can this book help others heal?
A Dress the Color of the Sky is the story of a woman healing from a traumatic childhood. After seeing the astounding response to Kelly Oxford’s tweet about her sexual assault experience I am confident that this story will speak to many women. We are all stronger than we believe and we can’t let difficult experiences ruin our lives. It’s important to heal from the past in order to move forward and lead a healthy, happy life. Healing takes work but with the help of a professional it is possible. Prudence had not dealt with her traumatic childhood and as a result she could not seek out healthy relationships nor could she respect herself.
Several of these statements really resonate on many levels. I believe healing is critical to our going forward in life. There are a few things I’m still healing from myself. Thank you!
What was your response when you realized the story resonated with women?
Over the past few years I have sought input from test readers. I searched for women whom I believed might not choose a novel like mine. One woman in particular was a senior in college and a pre-professional zoology major. I can honestly say that her review is one of my favorites because I was so surprised by how much my book affected her. She not only couldn’t put it down but the story really spoke to her. Honestly, I can’t wait to share it with the world!
That’s awesome! It has to be the most rewarding experience knowing that your words have affected someone the way it did. I’m jealous 🙂
Is it true the rights have been sold for movie production?
Yes! I have sold the feature film rights and A Dress the color of the sky will be made into a major motion picture.
SWEEEEEEETTTT!!!!! I’m so happy for you. You must’ve been thrilled to hear that. I’m thrilled myself and it isn’t even my book!
Tell us about your motivation to get your book published.
When I first started querying agents I literally had no idea what I was doing. I do believe that there are a lot of people out there who will take advantage of an author who is chasing their dream. I encourage all authors to be very careful. My first conundrum was writing the perfect query letter. I was fortunate enough to have my query letter chosen to be critiqued on the blog Query Shark. Although I took a bit of a beating I am grateful for the shark’s input and advise. Once I felt I had the perfect query letter I realized that my book needed work so I halted sending out query’s until I felt more confident in my book. Writer’s Digest has a ice little program where you can pay to have your first few pages critiqued by an agent. I got some great input through this program. All the while, I continued to seek input from test readers to improve my novel. I received some lovely responses from literary agents. Although agents are very intimidating and the publishing business is closed, some are very helpful and nice. I ended up entering a publishing contest in which your book idea is voted on.When you meet certain voting platforms you have to complete homework and get a certain grade to move to the next level. my book ended up being the most voted on book idea in the history of the contest and I was offered a publishing contract. It was right then that I received the film rights offer. i will say that through the publishing contest I learned that most of books marketing falls on the author’s shoulders and how important it is to market your book before it gets published. Entering the publishing contest was one of my best moves towards getting published because I learned a tremendous amount from the publisher about social media and how to market on various platforms. It was really valuable to me. Once I sold the film rights I invested in a writing coach and tore my book apart and rebuilt it. Since then, I have signed with a literary agent and have also received a contract offer from a small indie publisher. I guess this is my long answer to your question and the short answer is never give up!
I love your determination and what you’ve learned of the marketing and publishing experience. This is food for encouragement for us all. Hip-hip hooray!! Keep learning.
How did the sample readers relate to the main character?
Since seeking out test readers, I have only received one negative critique and i was from a woman my writing coach chose who never reads fiction. Other than that, every single test reader has related to my book and to the protagonist. I would say the man connection is that pretty much every single human on earth has endured some form of child abuse whether it be something small or big. There’s a scene in my book where Prudence is told to eat everything on her plate. I think most people can relate to having to eat something displeasing when they were a child. I think the other way people relate to Prudence is by reading what she’s thinking in her head which I do a lot in the book. That voice we all have in our head that can be a little mean at times. Everyone seems to relate to that.
I can understand and relate to the statements here. Everyone has some form of abuse, wound, or pain of some sort. Sometimes it’s very obvious, sometimes it’s well hidden. In my childhood we were “spanked” pretty heavily; which would be easily considered child abuse by today’s standards. You also mentioned the point of view that we would relate to. I always find this aspect of a character the most rewarding experience. To feel, experience, see as they do. I recently heard an interesting statement from a sign at my son’s school. It read: “be careful how you speak to your child, because it will become their inner voice.”. What a statement! So true. That becomes the voice that we tend to hear in our heads.
How has conducting research affected your understanding of the main character?
Although I can’t really understand exactly how it feels to be an addict I have learned a lot about how addicts recover and heal. There is a saying,”once an addict always an addict” so the work is there every single day which is why AA follows the motto, “one day at a time.” I read every book on sex addiction by Patrick Carnes who is an expert in the field. His assistant recently asked me for an advanced copy of my book which is very exciting. I attended a variety of meetings through the AA program and spoke to many people in recovery. I’d say the best research I did was by accident because my father was a drug addict and alcoholic. I learned through experience how his addiction affected myself, my family and my father.
I appreciate the research you’ve put into this project. It’ll definitely show when people begin to read your work.
When you saw people being rehabilitated what was your experience?
Recovering from an addiction takes a tremendous amount of work. it appears to me that success happens when there is a large community of sober people helping. The relapse rate for recovered addicts who stay longer in after care is less than those who try to white knuckle it alone after a ninety day inpatient treatment program. I tried to be careful with all of this and to respect the recovery process in my book. The best results happen with complete immersion in the program. There needs to be a total lifestyle shift and that takes time and commitment. I also learned that addiction does not discriminate and affects a wide cross section of genders, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. I doubt that you will meet anyone who has not either directly or indirectly been affected by addiction.
May many people read and find the stubborn wings of hope through the message you send through this book.
Speak about the power of addiction and the concepts about rehabilitation.
Since I do not have a degree in addiction recovery, nor am I a therapist, I am not comfortable speaking in depth about the concept of rehabilitating an addict. I am simply an author who has been affected by addiction and wrote a novel about an addict. I really can’t give sage professional advice to anyone because I am not trained to do so. From a laymen point of view, addiction is a very powerful thing that I cannot personally understand because I am not an addict. It does seem to be very, very powerful to those who are in recovery.
Well said. I think of all the people who are under the relentless power of addiction. May they really find the help that they need.
What message is sent through the main character?
The message sent through the main character is that traumatic childhood experiences can change how you feel about yourself. Because Prudence was abused she viewed herself as a victim. As a result, she was not equipped to choose a healthy partner to share her life with and she didn’t have the strength to endure difficult situations that can arise in relationships. Prudence needed to let go of the shame put on her during her childhood in order to heal and find self love. If a person does not heal from their past they cannot seek out healthy relationships because they are not healthy themselves.
I love this! Very therapeutic.
When will your book be published?
I should be making a decision on who will be publishing my book within the next few months. Once I sign the publishing contract I will have a release date which I can’t wait to announce!
We’ll be desperately waiting.
What’s your next writing project?
I am pitching to write the screenplay with the help of a very accomplished television writer who believes that I have the talent to be a strong contender. Writing the screenplay would be a dream come true! I am also putting together an outline for my next novel which will be a stand alone sequel to A Dress the Color of the Sky.
That sounds really fun. Keep us posted on your progress, we’d love to hear about it.
*What genre do you write?
I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that one is…
*What’s your current work in progress about?
My WIP is about a family trying to repair their relationships after 3 decades of trauma tore them apart. And I’m a single mother and a grandmother currently living back in the South after spending 25+ years in the Midwest. I’ve been blogging off and on since 2003 and I’m in the process of setting up my blog again at aprilpalooza.com
It’s not too late to move back to the Midwest! Hah! Just kiddin. A family trying to repair itself after three decades of trauma would take a lot of work. But it’s definitely worth the save.
*What inspired you to be a writer?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember–stories, angsty teenage poetry, articles. Being an avid reader as a kid probably inspired me the most.
Alright, April. Can you show us some of your poetry? Pluu-leeeze?? Writing is such a release isn’t it?
*What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
At this point, I’d like to just get one draft completed and hopefully published.
That’s a good first goal. You can do it, April. I’ll be one of your personal cheerleaders!!!
*What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Feeling like my writing and my ideas just aren’t good enough to be published, being mentally blocked to where I can’t translate ideas from my brain to my computer, fear of failure.
This sounds all too familiar. I can relate to every one of these. I’m realizing we need to believe in ourselves to release our true potential and be what we desire to be.
*What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
Seeing other success stories, daydreams about success including financial rewards (example: visions of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf), wanting my family to be proud of me
This is going to sound cheesy, but….I’M PROUD OF YOU! Seriously, you’re a single mom chasing her dream. What is else is better than that? (I’m the product of a single mom.) Being a parent in today’s world is not a small matter; and anyone who wants to be a writer is a special person in my mind. So hats off and high fives to you sis’.
*What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
I feel like there’s some sort of natural talent that other writers have and I just don’t, which gets me to thinking that maybe I was silly to think I could do this.
It’s hard not to compare ourselves with others in different areas. But one thing we need to remember-no one is you. You’re special, and there’s no one else like you. A diamond can be breathtakingly brilliant in all its beauty; captivating, even. But if you look closely, it’s composed of many, many, many small facets. Each facet shares and participates in the beauty displayed by the diamond. We’re all part of it. We just don’t see it. You may not see your own preciousness, but others do.
*If you have given up your dream, tell us why?
I’ll answer this because I have given up before, but not completely. Sometimes I just think that I’m kidding myself by believing that I could actually do this. I’ve watched others accomplish so much with their own writing and here I am still working on the first draft of a book I started almost 2 years ago! There’s that little voice in the back of my head that says “Bahahahaha! You’re not a WRITER!”
Writers are resilient creatures aren’t they? Believe it sister! We can do this. I had the same thoughts as you last year. Then another author told me “make a plan and do the work”. Then I realized the *only* difference between me and successful authors was exactly that. A plan and elbow grease. Don’t listen to that pesky voice in your head. I hate it when he shows up. Tell em’ to put a sock in it and watch me go to work. Keep your game face on sister, your not alone.
*Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
I think we’re just convinced that people are going to hate it so why bother? We have all this self-doubt that we’re not a GOOD writer (and why would we want to be any other kind?) and that putting our work out there puts us at risk of having others find out that we’re not good writers which then confirms our fears. Nobody likes being vulnerable and being rejected.
We spend so much time fearing not being *good* instead of just telling our story. Writing is so subjective and so is this matter of being good, or better. No one wants to be a bad writer of course. It’s a process. But I read somewhere that we should focus more on telling our story. What a relief!
Where are you from?
I don’t know that I am ‘from’ anywhere. I was born on an army base, Fort Belvoir, in Northern Virginia, then grew up as a young child in my mother’s hometown of Hickory, North Carolina. Then it was back to Northern Virginia, living near the Bull Run battlefield in Manassas. 150 years ago, men from all over the country came here – twice – to duke it out. Now,.people come there from all over the country so they can commute to their government or technology centered jobs, which my dad had.
Since then, the army took me across the country and to South Korea, and as a civilian I have lived in Kansas, North Carolina (again), El Paso, TX and now Tucson, Arizona. What does it mean to be from a place? I am amalgamated from all of those places and many more besides: the Corleone compounds in New York and Lake Tahoe; Discovery One, on it’s ill fated journey to Jupiter; even Desi and Lucy’s Manhattan apartment.
I come from a tribe of wanderers.
Wow! You are literally a man of many places.
Do you write screenplays and novels?
I am a screenwriter, but I did begin work on a novel in 2014 that I completely pantsed. It is a zombie dystopia (of course) told in the first person from several perspectives; my favorite was the young woman in her late teens from Pacific Palisades, California, a wealthy beachside community of Los Angeles. The good and evil groups meet up in Las Vegas, in an homage to Stephen King’s The Stand.
That’s really cool that you’re a screenwriter.
Which do you like more?
Screenplays. They are a novel distilled to it’s essence. Put a novel in the dryer on too high heat: a screenplay results.
I love the visual!
How is writing screenplays different from fiction?
The biggest differences are texture and subplots. A novel, which could be a thousand pages, could have endless subplots. A screenplay can have two or three if it is long enough, but all the narrative drive has to be supplied by the main plot; there is barely space for anything else.
Texture is the novel’s greatest strength over the screenplay. Take It, for example. King spends an enormous amount of time detailing several horrifying events in the past of the town. Gradually it becomes clear to the reader that the town has been inculcated in the evil of It. If you watch the mini series, however, that is nowhere to be found, as there is not enough time.
Texture in a film is all a result of the scene and the decorative elements thereof. Take the opening of The Godfather. It is not by accident that it begins at Connie’s wedding, nor that it is seen through the eyes of Kay, the outsider. It allows Coppola to import texture so that we get a feel for what it means to be Italian American in the 40s, before we commence with the story proper, as it were. The fact that Don Vito is feared by so many, but gently cradles his cat: that is the distillation process in full effect.
Wow. This is amazing to see the difference between the two. I’m beginning to notice the nuances between the two mediums. Funny you mentioned the Godfather because I just got the audiobook.
What’s the hardest thing about being a filmmaker?
The hardest thing about filmmaking is not filmmaking at all: it is financing. When people give you money, they tend to want it back, plus a profit. There are now just two entry points into ‘the system’. The first is make a cheap horror film. Horror does not require ‘names’, nor does it require lots of money. It does not even require a great script. All it needs is a great hook. Don’t Breathe, which came out recently, has a fantastic hook: a group of punks rob a soldier who is blind but has the keenest hearing and really objects to people breaking in. Or It Follows, from last year, which takes the horror formulation of sex = death to its logical conclusion.
The other way is to write a great screenplay for a name, which can then secure the financing. An example would be Brick, Rian Johnson’s amazing debut, which sets a film noir in a high school. This came to the attention of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was looking for a project to allow him to be taken seriously. It worked out great for both (you may have heard of Johnson’s latest project: Star Wars VIII?).
Wonderful! I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor and chock full of talent. Then for Rian Johnson to have a ‘project’ such as Star Wars VIII is nothing short of amazing.
What are your Top 5 favorite movies and what makes them great?
Very tough. I will go with The Godfather, Part II,directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The rare, perhaps only sequel to better it’s predecessor, G2 is the tale of father and son and the huge differences between them. The two key scenes are the old woman being kicked out of her apartment because the rent will be $30 and the landlord hates her dog. Vito first asks the landlord for a favor: tell the woman the rent is 25 and come see him for the rest. Plus, please let her keep the dog. The landlord refuses. Vito kindly asks him to change his mind. The man refuses. Vito Corleone, the most powerful man in Little Italy, debases himself to come to a mutual solution. Only once the man realizes what he has done – and to whom – does Vito apply the screws, but even then, he praises the man for being so generous. Why make an enemy needlessly?
Compare to the son, who upon hearing the demands of the Nevada senator for a gaming license, arrogantly tells the senator will give him the license and get nothing in return, because Michael knows he can set the senator up and make him grateful for Michael’s help. Why spend money needlessly?
If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, G2 makes clear that Michael’s apple landed on the slope of a hill and managed to roll far away.
Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick succinctly and hilariously shows how war begins. It is banal, tragic, petty and most of all absurd. What I love most is the cognitive dissonance Kubrick initiates: we root for the War Room to shoot down the last B-52, but we also root for the intrepid, brave flight crew, which is determined to carry out their duty, culminating in the famous ride of Slim Pickens, riding the bomb like a bucking bronco to the extinction of the human race.
Wild Strawberries, directed by Ingmar Bergman. Ostensibly a road movie of a man getting a ride from his daughter-in-law to get a lifetime achievement award, it is actually about the man’s life, it’s mistakes and tragedies and his feeble attempts to keep his son from making the same mistakes. The way Bergman literally intertwines the past and the present is shot through with emotionality.
Stray Dog, directed by Akira Kurosawa. A cop in Tokyo loses his gun; the man responsible for taking it goes on a rampage. Though made in 1949, it has modern narrative sensibilities. Seven, for example, feels very much like it in atmosphere and in the hot headedness of its protagonist (Toshiro Mifune). It is set in August in Tokyo and everything is sweating, seemingly. The heat is very much on Mifune to get his gun back and stop a murderer.
Monsoon Wedding, directed by Mira Nair. This film does what only the magic of story can. It takes a very specific situation (an extended Punjabi family preparing for a wedding) and lets us see the universality of it. Once we recognize what we have in common with them,which is much, we can appreciate the ways we are different – and accept them. Starting with this point of empathy, we can celebrate the ways this Indian family are different from us. The story is very common (there are only a handful of story forms), but it is the specifics – the jumble of Mumbai, the idiosyncratic romance of the wedding planner and the family servant, how cell reception is awful in India – it is a joyous riot.
Nice starting five. I’ve only seen the Godfather, but that was many years ago.
Your favorite sports?
My favorite sports are NHL hockey (go Washington Caps!), major league baseball (go Washington Nats!) and NFL football (go Washington Skins!).
Who’s going to win the Superbowl?
The Patriots are undefeated despite starting nobodies at quarterback. When Brady comes back, how are they going to be stopped? They have to be the favorite right now.
Your least favorite team?
My least favorite team across all sports is the Dallas Cowboys, followed by the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. May they all have a bad end.
Name a few movies you’re dying to see.
Birth of a Nation; Manchester by the Sea; Doctor Strange (Marvel plus Benedict Cumberbatch should equal can’t miss); Passengers; La La Land wasn’t one I was anticipating, but it won the top prize at the Toronto Film Festival – as have the last four Best Picture winners, so I want to see what the fuss is about; and finally, always: the next under the radar horror movie.
Definitely looking forward to seeing Marvel’s Dr. Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch. Passengers looks like a winner, and of course, Star Wars VIII!!
You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or
what inspired you?
I got started writing at 7 when I wrote a story about a leprechaun. I think (either a leprechaun or an elf). My teacher said it was a good story. Then, as now, I take some things completely literally. If my teacher thought I had a good story, then I needed to sell that story. My friend suggested we get copies made, which involved some parental logistics but soon I had my copies and went door to door, selling my story for a quarter. Not a single person bought, which is mystifying and heartless (when an eight year old comes to your door selling an elf story for a quarter, you give the kid a quarter). I did not take any rejection from this – my teacher said it was a good story.
I started writing my first screenplay at 15, but didn’t finish. 12 years later, I started another script and finished – 4 years later. The third time I stole the structure from Richard III, so it only took about a year and the time has dropped since for a first draft.
I always find it rather amazing how some people begin writing so young.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
My goal is first, to just make something a quality. After that, it is to be produced. Further, to produce my own scripts. Finally, to dethrone Gone With The Wind as the all time domestic box office champ. All I need is a movie capable of making $1.7 billion…
That’s a pretty lofty goal, yikes!
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
I have been stymied by: low budgets. The Richard III script was produced for nothing and it became a boring movie. I began shooting for better funded producers, but I needed much higher quality scripts. So I have worked over the past several years to become a higher quality writer. Finding these producers amenable to my script genre also has been stymying.
Sounds like a tough business, even harder than publishing novels.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
I have no choice but to tell stories, even if only to read to Jehovah’s Witnesses who have stopped by for coffee.
Sounds like you’re very determined!
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
Some of my antagonists: Laziness. I can slide form my writing for the day for various reasons. Work is a big one as well: I generally work 28 or 29 days a month, for around 10-14 hours. It doesn’t leave much time to write, particularly if the lazy grabs me.
I know this all too well. Once the tank is tapped, that’s it. A couple of days ago I saw a bumper sticker that read: MAKE USE OF YOUR ENERGY
I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
Discouragement. Rejection. Discovering they aren’t very good. My dad did a lot of writing, for maybe 10 years, then he just stopped and did other things. I never asked him why; I think I was afraid of the answer. I didn’t think he was very good, and I worry I led him to stop.
These are all too familiar.
What would you say to a struggling writer?
(I think) What, exactly, does it mean to struggle? There is no end to ‘the struggle’. The Buddha tells us that life is struggle and pain. I would direct this writer to Stephen King, who was nearly killed; is that not struggle? Brad Pitt had everything until September, 2016, when his wife abruptly left; is that not pain? After Michael Jackson made the biggest album of all time, the only question was: how are you going to top it?
This writer, they think they struggle now. Their struggles will be unceasing. Their nature may change. Stephen King’s struggle is gathering the cash to buy the Boston Red Sox or whatever. Oh my God, the Rolls Royce needs a new engine!
There will always be struggle. Many, perhaps most, writers, successful or not, stare at the blank page or a story problem, and wonder the same thing: is this it? Will I ever write again? This is the one where they discover I’m a fraud.
The only cure for your struggles is to keep writing. At which point your struggle will change: how do I market this book? How do I find an honest financial advisor? Should I buy or rent a private jet? How do I increase tourism to my private island? #TheStruggleContinues
Were you born and raised in Canada?
Yup. I’ve lived in and around Ottawa, Ontario, most of my life. I did a brief stint in Toronto after high school, but, for the most part, Ottawa has been my home.
I’ve yet to go to Canada. Can’t wait to tour the country!
What sparked your love of literature?
Comic books and Stephen King. I wasn’t a big reader before the age of ten or eleven, but around then I started reading super hero comics and Stephen King books and it just took off from there.
I started with a comic bent too, but I didn’t start with novels until much later. I should’ve asked you about your favorites.
After studying literature in college what 3 things have you come away with? (Besides debt)
1. An understanding that we all bring different lenses to our reading experiences, i.e. a book can be read with a feminist lens, a structural lens, a post-colonial lens. No one point of view is the “right” one. Each lens will provide different take-aways from a work of literature, all of which will be valid.
2. Literature (and art in general) plays a massive role in defining the culture we live in. We generally think of storytelling as escapism or just entertainment, when, in fact, it’s often key to formulating the world around us and how we understand it.
3. The analytical skill-sets used by literary scholars are applicable across a wide range of disciplines and situations, and are, therefore, well worth developing.
I love it. These 3 are great nuggets to chew on and appreciate.
What drives you to help other writers?
I believe books and stories are profoundly important to our world and to people’s happiness in general. But books, and novels in particular, are exceptionally difficult to create. If I can help make the writing process a little bit easier for someone, I feel like I have a duty to do so. Shawn Coyne said something when I interviewed him for The Writing Coach podcast that I totally agree with: “When you learn a particular craft, it’s kind of your responsibility to share it so that we can take storytelling to a new level.” Sharing what you know, helping others as a teacher and a mentor, is how we all get better. So there’s a certain moral responsibility to sharing what I know about writing. I also just love working with writers. For whatever reason, it’s the thing that lights me up and makes me happy.
That’s awesome! I’m all about taking storytelling to the next level. It’s fun to work with writers!
Can you name up to 5 common problems you see most in writers?
1. Not writing (procrastinating, overthinking, delaying, giving-in to resistance, avoiding doing the work, etc.)
2. Not having a regular writing schedule
I’m definitely guilty of some of these. But if you don’t know the problem then you can’t fix it.
What are some of the ways that you help them?
The great thing about being a writing coach is that I can tailor my help to the individual writer’s situation. While there are certain common challenges every writer struggles with, the way each writers overcomes those challenges is totally unique to them. I don’t have a one-size- fits-all approach to helping authors. There is no secret answer or push-button solution. My job is to work with writers to explore options and find solutions that allow them to excel in their own special way.
I like the tailoring approach to helping writers. That’d be the most beneficial because everyone is so different.
Tell us about some of your own writings.
My novels The Page Turners and The Page Turners: Economy of Fear are young adult horror/sci-fi/fantasy mash-ups about a group of teenager who accidently unleash their favourite fictional villains into the real world.
Rocket Princess vs. Snaggletooth the Dragon is a children’s picture book for rebellious young ladies who want to be more than just another princess. It’s beautifully illustrated by Rich Lauzon.
Smash Fear and Write like a Pro is a short self-help manual for writers grappling with self-doubt.
The Novel Writer’s Blueprint: Five Steps to Creating and Completing Your First Book is a writing instructional book that helps aspiring authors craft their first novel.
I also blog regularly about writer’s craft.
AWESOME. I’d definitely like to check out some of your writings!
Who are some popular Canadian authors?
I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Canadian literature. My reading tastes are more focused on the cannon of “great literature” without much concern for the nationality of the author. There are, of course, certain Canadian authors everyone knows and reads like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, but that’s not really my thing. I guess some of my favourite Canadian writers would be indie comic book guys from Toronto like Chester Brown, Joe Matt, and Seth.
Just wondered. I’ve been meeting so many writers from Canada I couldn’t help but ask.
How can we sign up for your podcast?
On my podcast, The Writing Coach, I speak with all sorts of people who, like me, work with authors, be it editors, coaches, or book marketing experts. You can check out the full archive of past episodes and subscribe via iTunes right here.
Sweet. I listened to one these a while back and really enjoyed the production and audio quality.
Tell us about some of the services you provide.
My one-on- one coaching offers support, accountability, and expert advice to authors via weekly video-conference coaching sessions. Each week, I hop on a call with the writer and we dive deep into their writing, goals, and challenges.
My group program is similar to the one-on- one coaching, but takes place in a group context. I have an amazing collection of authors in the program right now who have created a wonderful community of support for one another.
I also have an online course, The Novel Writer’s Blueprint Master Class, which consists of video tutorials that walk aspiring authors through the entire process of writing a book, from idea creation all the way through to completed manuscript. I’ve set up a coupon code for your readers, so if they use the code WRITINGTRAIN at the checkout, they’ll get $200 off the course.
I also work as a ghostwriter. Successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and business people hire me to help write their self-help, business, or other non-fiction books and articles.
Sounds like a great deal that offers a lot of good services. You sound really busy!
Are you currently working on a project or novel?
This fall I’m releasing my latest novel, M School. It’s an action thriller with an all-girl cast. It deals with issues of violence and mental health, and I’m super excited to share it with the world. Folks can get some free goodies if they join the book’s early notification list here.
I just signed up. Curious about your new novel!
*Where are you from?
I’m not going to lie. I had to look this one up on the map. I’ve definitely heard of it, but couldn’t place it in my head. Think I need a memory upgrade.
*What exactly is the 60 minute read series?
When I was considering starting my quest to write a book, I first thought about the books that I like reading: sharp, punchy, to the point. No fluff. No fuss. No long, dreary, padded paragraphs. Since my kids arrived, time is also a premium, so short bursts of reading is usually the norm. And thus, amongst all my pooled ideas, the Sixty Minute Reads series was born. Roughly 300 words per chapter, each with its own cliffhanger drawing the reader on, all anchoring in real time around an event or location, with flashbacks and revelations converging to that final, sixtieth minute.
I love the concept of this. Very fascinating and innovative. You certainly deserve a high five.
*Do you write full time?
I don’t write full time. I’m not even sure I write part time! I just write as and when the mood takes me. I’m very much a flitter in life.
Hah! I can totally relate to this one.
*Tell us about the protagonist in your new book.
Holly Holloway is hard to understand. She’s strong, she’s sassy, yet in certain situations she acts weak, vulnerable, and well, human. Perhaps she is difficult to like, seems a bit of a bitch, but maybe all things become clear in the end.
Vulnerability is always a keeper in crafting a protagonist. Readers tend to relate to that more than anything.
*Is this a stand alone book or beginning of a new series?
It is very much a series. I love my concept, there’s so much scope.
That’s awesome. Sounds like it definitely has potential.
*What genre do you mainly write in?
Young Adult: this is to be a series of Thrillers, but I have also written a YA Adventure novel (yet to be published)
YA definitely has a lot of market appeal. I love to read in this genre too!
What inspired you to become a writer?
I used to read books a lot as a child. I was really encouraged by my family, and would consume book after book, even walking to the bus stop banging into lampposts. Writing seemed to come naturally later in life.
That’s awesome. I cracked up at this. Picturing you banging into a lamppost while reading was hilarious.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
I think I have already reached my goal: to become a published author. Perhaps my new goal is to become a multiple published author.
Goal achieved. Multiple publications sounds very desirable.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Time, desire, imagination.
Time: I work full time, have a young family that I love spending all my free time with, and climb as a hobby when I can.
Desire: I find it hard to WANT to edit my books. The thought of endlessly correcting my work seems to eternally stretch before me, so I put it off and off.
Imagination: My own imagination runs away with itself, such that when Draft 1 is complete, I am already off and thinking about the next book or books or series of books.
Ah, yes. These are the three heavyweights. Time, desire and imagination.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
To get that first book in paperback. To see it on our bookshelf at home. To think that one day my children will pick it up and read it and know that their Daddy created it. That it might inspire and spark their own imagination and dreams and loves. Motivation, got it in spades mate.
I guess that would be pretty surreal seeing your own book on the shelf.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
Only my self. The wandering, writers mind. If only I could type as fast as my brain can think.
This wandering mind can be quite a problem sometimes.
Have you ever wanted to give up your dream? If so, why?
I’ve given up plenty of times. When the rejection letters came through from an industry that is only interested in the “painting by numbers” writing approach. When I had 10 chapters left to write and I couldn’t be bothered. When my laptop ran out of battery. Any excuse really.
Well, I glad to see your book online!
Why do writers give up, quit, or never complete their projects?
From a personal point, I would say that human modesty plays a large part. Imagine writing down all your thoughts and ideas, and then letting somebody else read them. Or worse, your friends, family, the guy next to you at work. It’s weird, right? But you get over it. You get supported. You realise you’re being silly and life is like that sometimes.
I suppose we have to develop very thick skin to survive.
What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Why give up? With self publishing such an easy, free, accessible ride these days, you can publish to the world, and then learn from your mistakes. No need to tell anybody you know, maybe even write under a pen name, but put it out there. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Lots of people won’t like it, but if you’re proud of it, then there will be people out there who will be too. Don’t write for everybody, write for yourself.
Who influenced you in your early reading habits as a child?
I learnt to read early. At the age of 4, I startled my parents by reading a political newspaper headline out loud. They were aghast, because they had not taught me to read. I had somehow worked out the meaning of letters myself, though I can’t remember how I did it.
From then on, I devoured books, starting with small-sized illustrated children’s books from the ‘Pixi’ series which was popular in Germany at the time. Soon I grew bored and read bigger books, borrowed from my elder sister who encouraged me. There were a lot of religious books in our home, mostly gifts from a great-uncle who was a catholic priest, and they included some really exciting children’s stories. I also remember a book filled with stories about the lives and deaths of martyrs. That was scary stuff – it seemed that the reward for a pious life was to get crucified, burnt alive or eaten by lions!
When I finally went to school to be taught to read, I was of course bored. After reading about kings, robbers, goblins and pirates, the school book with pages of nothing but ‘i I i’ and ‘l l l’ held no interest. Even in year two, when we finally got a textbook with stories, I was frustrated, because I’d read the whole book on the first day which left nothing new for the rest of the year.
This is rather AMAZING. You seemed to devour books even before you were officially taught to read! You’re probably the most voracious reader yet. You’re voracity is off the charts!
*Who were your childhood favorite authors?
You may not have heard of them, because they’re German authors: Hans Baumann, Karl May, Anna Müller-Tannewitz. Erich Kästner. I was also a fan of Enid Blyton and devoured every book available in German translation. Once a week I took the bus into town and borrowed as many library books as the library card allowed, which was never enough. Eventually, I’d read every book in the library’s children’s section.
Now that’s an amazing feat. Reading EVERY book in the library’s children’s section. That’s completely mind-boggling. You just elicited the WOW factor.
*Tell us how you came to read around 500 books a year
I read very, very fast.
It’s not just your appetite for books, but also the pace of reading that’s stunning.
*That comes down to about 10 books per week and 41 per month. That’s a lot of books. Are a lot of them forgettable? Which one’s touch you the most and why?
I easily read a book a day, often more. Sometimes I don’t read for a day or two, but that’s rare.
I remember most of them, although not consciously. I often buy or borrow a book which feels familiar after a few pages and after a couple of chapters it’s clear that I’ve already read it many years ago.
If a book is forgettable, I won’t waste time reading anything by that author again. I wish Amazon had a feature for marking authors I don’t want to read again. On the other hand, if I loved a book, I immediately look for more works by that author.
You must have an awesome memory! Can I borrow some? There must be a longstanding history in the memory banks. I can only imagine.
*In your motivation to read so many books, are you searching for something particular?
I seek the pleasure of reading, of experiencing different worlds, meeting new people, learning new things, going on adventures without putting myself in danger. Sometimes I look for excitement, sometimes for something to smile about, sometimes for information, inspiration or advice.
These are all so lovely. It’s amazing how we can experience it all through the written word. Exciting!
*What’s your method? Do you aim for a certain amount books per week or month?
Not at all. That would make reading a duty.
*Do you have an outlet after accumulating so many experiences reading?
I’m not sure I understand your question. I always mean to review all the books I read, but I rarely get round to this, because I’m always busy reading the next book.
There’s a wealth of experience just waiting to be mined. I would love to pick your brain sometime.
*You’re a very experienced reader who must have a keen eye. What are your 5 biggest pet peeves?
Let me think.
1. Characters who sigh and grunt all the time, and heave deep breaths to steady themselves on every page.
2. Over-use of ‘began to’ and ‘started to’.
3. Gratuitous sex scenes.
4. Head-hopping/point- of-view violations, i.e. when I’m reading the story and experiencing the events from inside the head of one of the characters, and then suddenly I’m in another character’s head. That jolts me out of the story.
5. Writers obviously natural talent but haven’t honed their skill to the full level and instead used self-publishing as a short-cut before they were great. Had they continued learning their craft and revising their works, their books could have been great.
These are all very good. Everyone’s pet peeves are different but some are more common than others. Head hopping or POV hopping is definitely one of the more frequent ones.
*How has reading affected your career in writing, editing and publishing?
I’ve become very aware of how important the free sample pages are. As a reader, I always download several samples, glance at the beginning, and decide which one I want to buy. Some books are appallingly written, and I won’t buy them. But I’ve also come across many books where the free sample had no real content. The sample was taken up by legal disclaimers, forewords, quotes, lists of the author’s other works, review excerpts – but no taste of the actual book. So I didn’t buy them. This has taught me to arrange the front matter in away that leads the reader straight into the main content.
I spot common mistakes, and see what kind of mistakes writers make most. These range from lay/lie confusions to early flashbacks. Knowing what mistakes writers make is useful when I guide writers in my classes, books and consultations.
I know which beginnings are overused, for example, the main character travelling to a destination, the main character waking up and readying himself for the day, the main character selecting a dress to wear for the special event. This knowledge helps me avoid those beginnings in my fiction, and it enables me to advise other writers.
It’s also the other way round: my writing and editing work influences how I read. I see flaws in books more than a ‘normal’ reader does. If I wasn’t a writer and editor myself, I would probably still perceive those flaws, but I couldn’t put a finger on what exactly is wrong, I would just sense vaguely that ‘I don’t like this’.
You must have a very keen eyes.
*As a person who has read probably thousands of books, what has changed over the years?
Are you asking about books, or about me? I’ll answer both. What’s changed about me is that I’ve become less patient. I used to read at least two chapters before giving up on a book I didn’t like. Now I don’t even read two pages. Two paragraphs is enough to tell me whether a book is worth reading or not. The free sample downloads are great for this. I guess I’ve become blasé in my assessment what books are worth reading.
What’s changed about books over the years? A lot! Thanks to ebooks and the indie publishing revolution, far more books are getting published, and a much wider choice is available for any taste. Books have become available catering to very specific niches. There’s more freedom for readers to choose, and more freedom for writers to write what they want. All this is wonderful.
The downside of this is that a lot of sub-standard stuff gets published. New authors don’t realise that their book isn’t good enough yet, and some people hire ghostwriters for ridiculously low rates to churn out book after book. But I don’t think this is a big problem, because readers can choose what they want to read, thanks to the ‘look inside’ and ‘download sample’ functions.
There’s a lot more interactions between readers and authors. In part that’s because in many cases, middlemen have been removed from the publishing process, and in part its thanks to easy online communications. In the past, if I wanted to write to an author, I had to write a snail mail letter c/o the publisher, who would forward it to the agent, who would forward it to the author, and if I was lucky, the author would reply. Most of the time, I didn’t get a reply, because the author was long dead (and I didn’t realise that), because the publisher hadn’t bothered to forward my letter (withholding fan mail was common practice) or because the author couldn’t be bothered – and I didn’t know which was the case. Nowadays, I simply search the author online, send them a message via their website, leave a comment on their blog or write a quick tweet. And most of the time, I get a reply. That’s wonderful. Often there’s a dialogue between authors and readers that wasn’t possible in the past.
Book buying has become easier. I remember how long I had to wait to get a book I wanted. I had to go to a book shop, order the book, wait for days or weeks for it to arrive… and then it was often a disappointment.
Now I click ‘download sample’, dip into those pages, and if I like it, I click ‘buy now’ and have the book within seconds.
Regarding book content, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot more sex in fiction. Erotic fiction has become easily available in a wide range of subcategories catering to every taste. It think the emergence of ebooks enabled that, because readers can buy the book they want without exposing their interest, and they can read it on their Kindles without anyone seeing. I remember as a twenty-year- old I wanted to read some erotic fiction. I waited until I went on a journey by railway, then at the destination station, where nobody knew me, I scanned the shelf for such titles and had to make a rapid choice without test-reading. Hot and blushing with embarrassment, I took my selection to the cashier. Back at home, I wrapped the books to hide the covers, less any visitors would see the titles. When I finally got to reading them, they were often disgusting stuff I didn’t like, because of the narrow available range and the hurried decisions. These days, I could browse at leisure, pick a book I really wanted to read, and read it discreetly on my Kindle. I’m no longer interested in reading erotica – I choose not to – but I think it’s good that other adults have the freedom to read erotica if they choose. And they don’t even have go through the mortifying process of taking the books to a cashier.
Sex has also become more common in other genres – so common that sometimes it’s difficult to find a book without sex in it. Personally, I prefer erotic tension to erotic actions, and when characters have sex, I prefer it if they keep their bedroom doors closed. I get annoyed when sex scenes are forced on me. I remember wanting to read some good urban fantasy novel and every one of them had gratuitous sex. Of course, the latest development is the rise of the ‘chaste’ book. In almost any genre, it’s possible to search for ‘chaste’ or ‘clean read’ books. That’s part of the diversity and increased choice, and is good.
In crime fiction – cosy mysteries and thrillers – specific real locations have come to play a much bigger role than they used to. Whole series are set in Edinburgh or in Colorado or wherever, often the place where the author lives. This local flavour has become part of the pleasure of reading crime fiction.
In non-fiction, I’ve observed that advice books are increasingly based on the author’s experiences, and include first-person sections. This makes the books more authentic and personal.
This is great info indeed, thanks!
*As an experienced reader, in your opinion, what makes a good book?
My answer would be different depending on what kind of book. A good book is a book that gives me what I want – and what I want differs from day to day and genre to genre.
I love this answer. It’s so succinct and to the point.
THANK YOU RAYNE
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Oxford Ohio, a red-bricked college town tucked in the southwest corner of Ohio.
YAY Ohio! Woohoo! I’m from Ohio and currently in the Dayton area. I’ll be going to visit a family in Oxford this weekend!
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I have certainly not always wanted to be a writer, but writing was the one subject in school I deemed tolerable. I wasn’t a great student and wasn’t a great reader. Writing novels came to me as an adult because of the ideas I want to consider and convey. With how I work, writing makes sense, because it helps me understand, and ultimately manage the world I’m in.
I can certainly relate to this. Writing didn’t really take off until late adulthood. Everyone’s path is a little different, but that’s the beauty of it.
Which authors have influenced you the most in your career?
Writers, and writing which has influenced me is a tough question to answer, because I don’t necessarily want my work lined up beside those people (half lighthearted and joking). But there are certainly writers who have influenced me, and writers whose work I greatly admire. I hope I can someday stack up. The people I admire (I feel) have written their own way, in their own style. I think Chuck Palahniuk, author of Lullaby and Fight Club (among others) is a perfect example of someone, who isn’t writing in the same genre as I am, but is a perfect example of someone who creates amazing narratives in their own way, almost as his own genre. When you pick up a Palahniuk book, you know who wrote it. I feel the same about a man named William Sloane, who published a couple of Cosmic Horror novels in the 1930’s, light years ahead of his time in my opinion. These two have surely influenced my writing, but a shortlist of others would include… Mark Danielewski, Steven Hall, and Alex Garland.
I haven’t heard of any of these but I always enjoy learning of new authors.
What attracted you to crime writing?
I love crime writing because it generally centers around the darkness that lives inside people. I think this darkness is something interesting, and the idea that people do horrible things for a slew of reasons can be an exciting combination. What happens if we agree with motive but disagree with action? It can create unique moral dilemmas, and it can push big-picture questions out into the world.
YES. I love it. It’s quite fascinating isn’t it? The darkness of the human condition, legal grey areas and the impossibility of moral dilemmas are all too intriguing.
Can you give us an introduction to Elijah Warren and the Warren Files Trilogy?
Elijah Warren is a man who lives for his job. He breaths and sleeps the FBI, and it might seem due to his lack of personal life. In fact, he lives the FBI to avoid a personal life. He’s cast off relationships and (since a tragic accident as a child) unofficially vowed to focus on the Bureau’s issues. When he is forced to work alongside Aurelia Blanc, an erudite detective whose vast intelligence isn’t superseded by her beauty, a twinge of something finds him affected, and when they’re pushed to find the esoteric, “Poetic Murderer,” the quandary becomes all the more real.
In the first book our protagonists chase the Poetic Murderer across the United States. They’re twisted and turned around, and rarely are gaining evidence it doesn’t appear they were set up to find. The first book focuses greatly on why things happen, and sets up the key pieces for the remaining two books.
The second book, Crooked Principles, takes the (now former) detectives to remote Grizzly, Alaska, where they’re snowed in and forced to track a killer who has killed a person per year for twelve years, leaving the town’s population at less than a hundred. It’s a very personal story, and as the detectives feel more and more stranded, more and more paranoid, their relationships are put to the test. New relationships pop up and affect theirs. Elijah Warren starts to feel like maybe he’s out of his depth, and comes ever closer to losing Aurelia as they search for Grizzly’s Secret.
The final book brings characters from both novels together, and the narrative becomes bigger than all they’ve done. Unbeknownst to them, their prior actions have begun a series of events that will come to affect every human in the world. There is still a serial killer, one indicative of the Poetic Murderer’s work, but that’s not the greatest challenge this time. The protagonists are separated and pulled all across the globe, chasing a new enemy that threatens civilization at its core, and has for nearly a century. Elijah and Aurelia and their collective crew are the ones that must intervene.
AWESOME! I can’t wait to see how the story develops.
When can we expect the next installment of the series?
The second book in the Warren Files Trilogy, Crooked Principles, is in the final stage of revision, and it’ll be available next summer!
AWESOME. It already sounds intriguing.
Who are your favorite characters or protagonists, or sleuths?
One of my favorite characters ever written is Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium Series, by Stieg Larson. I was immediately captivated by her terse impassiveness, in combination with her unique technological skills. It made her immediately intriguing, and I wanted to know all I could about her. I finished all his books because I needed to understand Lisbeth and her story.
Another character I loved reading about was Hannibal Lector. His intelligence, way of thinking, and ultimately his relatability made him an unforgettable antagonist.
Wow. These are all noteworthy. I love how you felt compelled to understand Lisbeth Salander and her story. I don’t think an author could ask for more from a reader. Crafting an unforgettable antagonist is one of my hidden ambitions. BROUHAHAHAHA.
What’s it like being a teacher?
Being a teacher, and the experience of it, is something I could have never foreseen. As mentioned, I didn’t like school, and didn’t do that well. I try to teach in an engaging way, one that pushes all students to critically think. I try to teach the power of thinking, and this year I’m getting to do so through a series of novels I’ve chosen. It is a senior level English class, and it is a unique year because I’ve taught these kids 6 years in a row.
I came to Atlas Preparatory when it was just beginning as a school, and each year we have added a grade (we started in 5 th ) . I’ve taught my students various courses, but I’ve moved up with them each year, and this year I’ll finally shake their hands at graduation.
It must be rewarding to see them grow and develop before they’re sent off into the world.
You think you’ll ever write a YA series?
I’m certainly not opposed to a YA series, but I don’t know if it’d be anytime soon. I love some of the newer YA series because they’re able to engage thinking toward high-level societal issues, and so, if I was to write a YA novel or series, it would have to be deliberately tackling some sort of worldly dilemma. I would want people to be engaged by and love the story, but I’d want a greater purpose for it.
Well put. I can tell you put a lot of thought behind your writing. Excellent.
Lorna is a fiction & Non-fiction author, storyteller, blogger, podcaster, story coach and lover of books!
Bio: I love to write unusual historical romances that have been known to include scarred heroines, brave heroes, far too much scheming, evil terrorists and always a way for the two lovebirds to find their sweet happily-ever-after.
When not writing fiction, I love to help first-time and struggling writers get rid of their fear of the blank page and self-publish their stories. In the in-between time I can usually be found either drinking green smoothies, or cleverly think up another way I can convince my hubby and four college-age children to watch yet another old movie;)
Are you originally from Canada?
Yes, I am originally from Canada… and still live there. I was born – the youngest child of 11 -in the far north woods 50 miles north of Fort St. John, British Columbia. We were a family that lived off the land. My Dad had a little more than a section of land, where we grew crops like wheat, barley, canola, oats, hay and more. We also had milk cows, chickens, pigs, a couple of horses, a goat, a lamb, 2 cats and 3 dogs.
We butchered cows and pigs in the fall for our meat for the winter (we did this with our neighbours) and milked the cows every morning and evening for our own milk and cream.
So each of us kids knew how to work – but what I loved most, was that we learned how to play as hard as we worked. We made our own go-carts, wooden stilts, tree forts as well as rode trail motorbikes, rode horses, and played baseball as a family on Sundays.
The summer I finished elementary school, we moved to Hythe, Alberta. Dad and Mom had bought a hobby farm and that’s where I lived until I got married at 19 years of age 🙂
That sounds like a lot of fun! A nice big family on the farm. You definitely don’t see large families like that anymore. I think the hardest part for me would be waking up at 4 am to milk the cows.
Which stories did you grow up reading?
My mom was always reading bedtime stories to us after the days work was done. She would sit on a creaky wooden chair in the hallway that separated our 2 bedrooms (where we slept 2 to a bed – some of the oldest children had moved out of the house by then) and would read Hardy Boy mysteries, Nancy Drew stories as well other children’s books like Hans Christian Anderson or Uncle Arthur’s bedtime stories.
So I grew up with a big interest in stories. There were always stories told around the supper table of some sort of mishap that happened on the farm that day, or my dad or mom would tell stories of their life growing up after their parents immigrated to Canada.
Listening to and reading stories through my growing up years, definitely made a big impact and fed my love of storytelling.
I always enjoy hearing this part of someone’s life. How they were impacted by particular stories and their early reading habits.
Can you name 5 or more books that had the most impact on you? (As a child or adult).
I’m not sure that I can keep the list to 5… but I’ll try. My first real love of stories was when I read the Hardy Boy mysteries for the first time. I loved how they would always get the bad guy in the end…. but I especially loved the suspense leading up to where they discovered who the bad guy was.
Then in my teens I read Anne of Green Gables, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Little Women, Gone with the Wind and Pride and Prejudice. I remember feeling like a whole new world of stories had opened up. I thought to myself, if only I could write stories that were so captivating and descriptive someday, I’d be thrilled.
In my 20s and 30s – while I was studying for my Bachelor of Music degree and later raising 4 children – I would binge read all the time. A few of my favourites were contemporary romances by Debbie MacComber and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.
Some nonfiction books that have really inspired me to push past resistance and have helped me to believe in myself are The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your life by Thomas M. Sterner.
“I thought to myself, if only I could write stories that were so captivating and descriptive someday, I’d be thrilled.” I drawing on this statement. I’m always fascinated how stories affect our imagination from a young age. From a child, through the teenage years and adulthood, they continue to have a major impact on us. I’ve noticed that children attempt to imitate, reproduce or recreate what they see. I can see that you your statement above. I believe every writer has had that thought running through their mind at some one point while reading.
Have you ever cried while reading? What were you experiencing at that moment?
Yeah, I’ve cried many times while reading a great story.
But, I can’t help it, I love a good cry-fest. I’ve cried while reading Anne of Green Gables. It’s this orphan girls struggle to be accepted and loved by family and the town that pulls at my heartstrings.
Another book that made my cry through the whole reading of it, was A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer. To me this is easily one of the saddest true stories of abuse I’ve ever read. This little boy suffered horrific abuse from his abusive mother and others. I cried because of his desperation for love and acceptance and that he still continued to fight for survival in a home where he was thought of as worthless.
Also another real tear jerker is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I cried at the boy and his father traveling by foot in a post-apocalyptic world, trying to eek out an existence when all seems lost. I cried because of their losses, their struggle to survive and was inspired by this profound and moving story – of their journey. The father and his son are inspiring as they still imagine a future even though no hope seems to remain. They are each other’s whole world – and they are sustained by the love they have for each other, in the face of total devastation. Amazing story.
These are all admirable and very touching. I hate crying, honestly. But if an author can evoke tears through their story It’s a 5/5 star read in my book. Only a few books have managed to accomplish that feat so far. One book I recently added to my TBR list had me crying just by reading the premise! It’s called M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door, by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
What are your favourite genres?
My favourite genres are Historical Romance and Contemporary Romance. I especially love how characters are in a big mess at the beginning of the story and how they are transformed through acceptance and love 🙂 I love it when each of those genres also includes a little bit of suspense and mystery. Also, I do love reading Dystopian novels too – like Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Testing, and others.
Who are your top 3 – 5 characters and what do you love about them? (If you had to marry one of them who would it be?)
There are a few characters who have stuck with me.
One of those characters is Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. I love that Lizzy grows into a strong, confident woman who isn’t afraid to say “no” to marry the man that her mother wants her to marry. She is respectful to her parents and people around her, but she is strong and many times it’s Lizzy who in her maturity, points out the folly of some of the actions of her sisters or parents.
Anne Shirley, from the story Anne of Green Gables sticks out in my mind from when I was a teenager, as a girl I could relate to. She had to survive through abuse, fear and rejection and continued to grow and transform herself into a better person as she grew up. She didn’t let all of life’s struggles ruin her… instead it made her stronger.
Lastly, I like the character of Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind. Rhett is a man of strength who falls deeply in love with Scarlett. Even through all her temper tantrums, he still loves Scarlett, that is until the very end when Rhett discovers even he has a boundary line that Scarlett crosses. I like how he is practical, that he still does what he needs to do, to help his friends, that he respects his mother and that he is generous throughout the story to Scarlett, despite her childish ways.
Of course, if I wasn’t married already… I would definitely marry Rhett Butler! He’s a man of strength, exciting, adventurous, respectful, generous and loves deeply 😉
Awesomesauce! Gotta love your favorite characters. You do crazy things when you’re in love.
Do you have a favourite antagonist or anti-hero?
Well, as a big fan of Star Wars, I’d have to say Darth Vader is a pretty convincing antagonist. For me, I loved learning of Darth Vader’s background. That he as Anakin Skywalker – a goodhearted jedi and hero of the Clone Wars and a powerful Jedi – that made me see him as more than just an anti-hero. So with the fall of the republic, when Anakin Skywalker became a disciple of the dark side, and eventually became known as Darth Vader, I felt I understood him a little better… he seemed more human somehow… even though he was the bad guy.
Darth is my absolute favorite antagonist. He’s such a, well, force to be reckoned with. No pun intended.
As a reader what are your top 5 pet peeves?
What a great question… and one I took some time to answer.
For a bookworm like me, who finds reading not only relaxing, but often therapeutic, there are many things that have become pet peeves. Maybe there are other readers who can relate.
Spoilers. I really don’t like it when I find a book I’m excited to read, only to have someone else tell me how it ends… before I get a chance to read it. Ugh.
Waiting for Library Books. With 4 kids, we’ve often gone to the Library to read or have ordered books from the Library online. It’s super disappointing borrowing a book, only to realize that you are number 20 on the list… which means you have to wait a couple of months before you can read it.
A book with a promising start that begins to go downhill. I feel a little miffed as a reader, when I love the first few pages or chapter of a book and then the story suddenly takes a turn for the worse. It feels like all my hopes for a good read have just been dashed with cold water ;(
Being interrupted while reading a good book. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a little annoyed at constant interruptions when you’re in the middle – or near the end – of a good book. Although, I must say as far as my family goes, they don’t interrupt me so much anymore when they see I’m reading a book.
Poorly Edited Books. For me, this means not only poor grammar or typos, but also repeated metaphors and descriptions or when the storyline is way too predictable. I guess I just really like some surprises in a story.
So those are some of my pet peeves. But I’m also a reader who loves to give first-time authors a good chance. I’ll read the entire first chapter before I’ll decide if I want to keep reading or pass on a book. I think it’s because I totally get where new authors are coming from… and if they choose to keep writing books, I’ll give another one of their books a chance, because I know as writers we keep getting better in our craft, the more we keep writing.
I love your list, but I love your understanding even better. Very touching.
In your opinion and experience, what makes a great story?
There are a few details, in my opinion, that make a great story.
First a really great story is easy to read. I love it when the story is so easy to read, that I just get “caught up” in the moment.
Secondly, great stories have captivating characters. I love characters that are flawed and yet they are transformed somehow throughout the story. I love coming to ‘the end’ feeling inspired 🙂
Third, a story is compelling when it has a sense of wonder. For example, in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales, the creatures and land of Narnia are so unusual and exotic, that as a reader I feel a sense of excitement and my curiosity is piqued because of the newness of it all.
Fourth, I love a story theme that is easily recognizable and that is meaningful. Common themes are: good vs. evil; love conquers all; or sacrifice, redemption, acceptance, etc. When your flawed characters face soul-searching themes, it’s a pretty compelling reason to keep reading.
Fifth, I do love a story where there’s a lot at stake for the characters. Where they give up everything for love or they have to face an evil villain that challenges all they believe in – and the characters are forced to overcome the odds. The best stories I’ve read, are those where characters were changed and they also changed their world around them for the better.
I LOVE IT! This pretty much says it all! Wonderful.
How do you help writers tell their stories?
I do love to help first-time and/or struggling storytellers, to write, self-publish and market their stories to their unique audience of readers. I’m passionate about helping new writers, because I spent so many years trying to get over fear and insecurity that I could actually write. Then it took me a few more years of searching on Google for answers on how to self-publish my novel. After all those years of trying to figure this out, I became passionate about helping to save writers time and money – to avoid the mistakes I did. So, for new writers who are struggling to write and self-publish and market their books, and are tired of struggling and failing over and over again, they can get Write and Publish your first Book as a Free eBook download – along with The Storyteller’s Roadmap mini-course when you click here: The Storyteller’s Roadmap
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New York Times-bestselling author
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A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.
Author of The Professor and Between Black and White