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From Author To Screenwriter: Tips For Taking your Books To Hollywood With Huss McClain
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K.M. Weiland is an international bestselling author who writes speculative fiction from the confines of her Nebraska home. She’s my favorite author, not only because of her books, but also for giving back to the writing community tenfold. A kind, generous spirit, endlessly fascinating person and Jedi Master.
So I’ve taken it upon myself to present to you, the AWESOME award. Let it be known to all; that on this blessed day October 4, 2017, I bestow upon you the seal of awesomeness. May it be inscribed therein, and may you bear its signature all the days of your life in peace.
1. Name up to three things in homeschooling that helped shape you as a writer.
1. The extra time and flexibility to pursue extra-curricular activities—in my case, writing and producing a newsletter called Horse Tails, which gave me the opportunity to write hundreds of stories and articles and the discipline to create a consistent writing schedule from a young age.
2. Love of reading and learning. I worked well on my own, which made me very well-suited to homeschooling. It let me pursue my interests—particularly, history—at my own pace and, to some extent, tailor my education to my life goals.
3. Family support. My parents and siblings have been there for me every step of my writing journey, starting in my school years. They were always supportive and did everything they could to encourage and help me.
2. Describe your experience that lead up to writing a newsletter.
I’ve always made up stories, but I didn’t start writing them down until my siblings and I decided to form a family newspaper. They lost interest pretty quickly, but I was hooked! Eventually, I moved on to edit and publish Horse Tails, a small newsletter for youth, which I continued throughout high school.
3. What did writing mean to you at this point in your life?
On through high school, I viewed it merely as a hobby—a way to write down the stories I imagined, simply so I wouldn’t forget them. Up until graduation, I seriously thought I would be pursuing a career with horses. But then I began realizing I enjoyed staying inside to write more than I did going outside to ride.
4. What kind of feedback did you receive from family and friends?
Positive and constructive. I’ve been blessed to have few naysayers in my life. The people who are closest to me have always been my biggest fans and have encouraged me to explore my talents and interests.
5. Who were your role models? (Real or fictional)
It’s clichéd, but: Jo March and Anne Shirley. I read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables over and over as a child, and I have always resonated with the awe and wonder of these heroines’ imaginative coming-of- age stories.
6. If you could go back in time and give yourself advice what would you say?
Probably the biggest bit of advice I would offer would be to seriously consider where your writing will be in five years if it succeeds. By that point, for me, many of the decisions I made in the beginning were too difficult to change. I wish I’d spent more time considering my blog title, url, publishing platform (Blogger, WordPress, etc.), subscription options, all that stuff. You don’t want to have to make major changes down the road that might undo some of your hard work in building a following.
PLEASE WELCOME LAUREN SAPALA
Lauren Sapala is a writing coach who specializes in coaching introverted, intuitive writers. She founded the WriteCity writing groups in Seattle and San Francisco and currently blogs about writing and creativity at www.laurensapala.com.
My fellow creative friend on the east coast just released another book August 29, 2017. Check it out!
“A voice that was strong and cruel came from somewhere deep within me. When the voice split away and talked to me all by itself I started calling her Lo…She’d watched me at my lowest points and saved up a thousand slights, a million minor offenses. She forgave nothing, and now she wanted revenge.”
Leah is an alcoholic. She’s antisocial, self-destructive, and deeply damaged. She’s also battling a voice in her head she calls Lo, who wants to take over her body. Lo is everything Leah isn’t—beautiful, charming, confident, and ruthless in her desires. She commandeers Leah’s will whenever Leah gets too drunk, and acts as her escort through the rainy Seattle underworld.
As a misfit bibliophile, Leah’s conception of reality has never been rock solid, but as she spirals deeper into addiction the “real world” of bars, bikers, dealers, and addicts slowly dissolves into Lo’s dark vision. As Lo steadily tightens her hold, Leah prepares to make one last bid for survival, knowing her only chance is to transcend Lo’s terrifying drive toward death.
In the beginning you addressed this book to your Uncle John. Who was he to you, and what impact did he have on your life?
My Uncle John is my dad’s identical twin brother. One of the issues I explore in the book is the death of my younger brother, which occurred when he was six years old and I was eight. My younger brother battled leukemia for three years before his death and my Uncle John was the one who drove us to his chemotherapy appointments two hours away, each month. My uncle had a bad hip, so being in the car for long periods of time like this wasn’t ideal. But he did it anyway. I have always carried that memory of my uncle soldiering on through the physical and emotional difficulty of ferrying us back and forth to those appointments. I watched his example and learned from it. That’s why I say in the dedication that he taught me that “the only way out is through.” It’s a well known saying that means, “the only way to get through it is to get through it.” My Uncle John always got through things, he didn’t run away from them. This is a lesson that the narrator of the book, Leah, needs to learn.
*What does the “shadow” represent from the title of your book?
The “shadow” refers to the shadow self, that psychological dark side that exists in each of us, but normally remains buried in the subconscious. The narrator, Leah, is a normally introverted, bookish type of person who doesn’t know how to express her true self, or how to express her real needs. When she gets drunk, her shadow self comes roaring to the surface, the wildly extroverted, aggressive, domineering personality who has absolutely no awareness of anyone else’s needs other than her own.
For those who are interested in MBTI, I’m an INFJ personality type, so my shadow side is an ESTP. However, because our shadow side usually stays hidden in our subconscious, it also stays relatively undeveloped. A personality expert I love said that using your conscious side is like signing your name with your dominant hand—it’s smooth and fluid from using it so much. But using your shadow side is like trying to sign your name with your left foot—everything comes out distorted and barely recognizable because that part of you hardly ever sees the light of day.
When Leah gets drunk she goes into her shadow side and becomes Lo and, consequently, everything in her comes out as distorted and barely recognizable. It’s definitely a Jekyll-and-Hyde type of situation.
*What does the “Lo” represent?
Lo is the personality that Leah, the narrator of the book, becomes when she gets drunk. I was an alcoholic for many years and this book is based on my experiences during that time. To this day, I’m fascinated by the personality changes that people undergo due to addiction. It’s quite common to hear people say that a family member is the most loving, compassionate person when sober, but when they’re drunk or high it’s the complete opposite. And of course, people do things when intoxicated that they would never do sober, like lie, cheat, and steal. I find this so intriguing and so I wanted to explore how that process worked for me when I was an active alcoholic.
I also believe that, as a society, we use a lot of different addictions to lower consciousness on a regular basis— that is, to make ourselves less alert, less empathetic, less compassionate, less emotionally sensitive. Alcohol and drugs are obvious choices, but we also use things like shopping, sex, the internet, gossip, an oversaturation of news and media, exercise, and food. In my book, Leah is just one extreme example of someone who systematically and purposefully tries to lower her consciousness whenever she can (through alcohol) because she doesn’t want to deal with her emotionally painful past, or her energetically sensitive present.
*There are two very interesting quotes at the front of the book. Can you describe what they mean to you?
The first quote actually comes from one of my clients, a writer named Ritu Kaushal. She has a blog called Walking through Transitions (http://www.walkingthroughtransitions.com) which is just fantastic. I was reading some of her work and stumbled across that quote from her and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Especially the last few lines:
Maybe, that’s what hurt does. It cuts us into different people. There are some parts with their gaping holes that break off from the core, and then they roam inside us, reminding us of our own poverty.
I thought, “Yes! Ah-ha! That’s EXACTLY the way I felt during all those dark years when I was drinking!” Ritu very graciously let me use the quote from her and I am so grateful because it’s just perfect.
The second quote is from Jean Genet:
Worse than not realizing the dreams of your youth, would be to have been young and never dreamed at all.
He’s one of my very favorite writers, and that quote from him sums up how I felt about those years. They were dark and difficult, but I’m so glad they happened and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. As painful as that time was, I still saw it all through my writer’s imagination (my “dreaming eyes”) and I treasure those experiences.
*After suffering some hardship you turned to books. What led you in that direction?
Oh, I’ve always been a book nut. In fact, that was something I really wanted to emphasize in this memoir/novel. Because of some painful experiences in her childhood, Leah has a lot of trouble connecting with people. She feels separate from everyone all the time. One of the main ways she relates to the world and figures out how to navigate life is through books. For example, there’s one instance in the book where Leah meets this couple who run a nightclub together. She immediately compares them to characters out of a Fitzgerald novel and wonders to herself if she should “plan” to feel about them the same way she felt about those characters. This is extremely dysfunctional—but that’s actually how I was at that time. I had no idea how to even have spontaneous emotions toward people because I was so guarded and shut down. So, I often categorized people as characters from books I had read, and then treated them accordingly.
Leah (who is obviously me as a character) does this all through the novel too. She becomes involved with a guy who reminds her of Prince Myshkin from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and so she instantly puts herself in the role of the tragic female character of that novel to support that fantasy. At the end of the book Leah flees her disastrous life in Seattle to start over in San Francisco, and the only way she can process that decision is by comparing herself to Anna Karenina jumping in front of the train. You’ll see this over and over again throughout the book. Leah is so frightened by “real life” that the only way she can interpret her experience of it is through story.
*What were some challenges writing this book.
Um, wow. I could write ten pages on this. Well, the first draft took me over two years to write. It came out to about 800 pages, and it then took me another nine years to cut and rewrite and revise. I probably rewrote the whole book at least five times. Putting it all together structurally was kind of a nightmare.
Beyond the actual process of writing it, the book contains really, really personal stuff. And a lot of it is super embarrassing. I detail incidents in that book that I hadn’t told my closest friends about. There are sections that are sexually explicit, and other sections that are incredibly emotionally intimate. I was terrified of what people would think of me.
I resolved to bury the manuscript in the backyard and never think about it again at least 20 times. And then I finally published it.
*Name the rewards of writing it.
Ha, I could write ten pages about this too! Well, first of all I felt a huge sense of relief once it was out of my desk drawer and into the world. I do believe that releasing your work into the world is the essential last step in the creative cycle for any writer. If you have a ton of work stuffed away that no one has ever seen, it’s just as mentally unhealthy as it would be if you were a hoarder and living in a house stuffed with piles of newspapers.
Second of all, I made the most unlikely and unexpected connections through the book. Readers messaged me on Facebook and emailed me directly to tell me how strongly the book resonated with them. All the stuff that I was so embarrassed about and was cringing over…well, they loved it. They told me they thought it was hilarious or beautiful or just awesome. That was a really, really cool thing for me to see, that I’m not the only one that’s gone through dark times.
*What is the message you want others to walk away with?
I want others to read this book and know that they don’t have to hide themselves. It’s okay if you have or are currently struggling with addiction, or low self-worth, or messed up stuff from your past. Other people are going through it too. We’re all human and none of us are alone in this. I also hope that people are just plain entertained by the book. Readers have told me that they read it all in one night because they just couldn’t keep from going on to the next chapter, and then the next. I think that’s something every writer wants to hear, that the book you wrote was just actually a lot of fun for people to read.
*Hindsight is 20/20. Put on your hindsight glasses and write a letter to your younger self. What would the letter say? What would you say to Lo?
Well, after living with her myself, I can honestly say there is no telling Lo anything. She is completely ego-based and runs entirely on fear. That’s her role in this life and that’s cool. But I would tell Leah that everything is going to work out, and that everything she’s living through is going to be in a book someday. I think that would have made her very happy.
Don’t miss out on Lauren’s other book, The INFJ Writer
Lorelei Logsdon worked as a communication specialist and technical writer for 20 years before turning her hand to fiction. She has published ten books in various genres under several pseudonyms, and is working on her next psychological thriller called THE OCEAN BETWEEN.
Name some inspirations that led you to become a writer.
I’ve been writing stories since I was very little, and my grandmother was always encouraging me. I’d like to think she would be very proud to know I’ve published a few books.
That’s great your grandmother encouraged you to keep going. Inspiration goes a long way.
Describe your experience from technical writing to fiction writing.
I’ve been a communications specialist for over 20 years, and I’ve been a freelance editor for the past four years. I’ve worked with hundreds of authors and have edited over 400 books in that time. The trick to all types of writing is to know your audience and write to their needs.
Cool! That’s a lot of writing experience. Would love to pick your brain sometime. Not literally, of course.
What do you enjoy about writing psychological thrillers?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed an unhealthy interest in horror and dark fiction. I love the mystery, adding a twist here and there, and trying to fool the reader. I like taking readers for a ride.
I like psychological thrillers too. I would imagine these are a bit harder to write though.
What’s your goal now as a writer?
For now, my goal is simply to enjoy the process. The act of writing is enjoyable, and I want to keep it that way. Writing is a pastime, a hobby, a way to unwind. I never want it to become a chore.
YES. I love this.
In Comorbid, who is Jame’s Davis?
James Davis is a child trapped in a grownup’s body, his development truncated at a moment in his childhood when overwhelming trauma took complete control over him. He has found a way to function, or at least he thinks he has, but in reality he’s at the mercy of his troubled, damaged mind.
Wow. This definitely sounds intriguing.
What can you tell us about those whom he cares about?
Consciously, James cares about his mother and her memory. She was the most important person in his life. Subconsciously, James cares about children who are suffering, having a deep desire to help them like he wishes someone would have helped him. By helping others, he’s helping his own inner child. At its heart, though, COMORBID is about James’s mother, even though her POV is given only sparingly in the book.
I love seeing the inner motivation of characters and what drives them to do things. It makes the story stick in my mind for some reason.
What was your response to all the positive reviews on COMORBID?
I love reviews, regardless if they’re positive or negative. Of course it’s great to see a positive review, but just knowing someone read the book and was affected strongly enough to review it makes me happy.
Great attitude. I hope it rubs off on me.
Name three things that have hindered you in completing your work.
There’s never enough time in the day. Most of COMORBID was written over the course of six months between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. It was an extremely tiring process, though worth it! The only other challenge in writing it was letting other opinions affect your work. If you ask opinions of 100 people, you’ll likely get 100 different opinions. While it’s nice to get feedback, don’t let other people’s ideas interfere too much with your vision.
Ouch. That sounds like a grueling schedule to write anything. It’s incredible you were even able to pull it off!
What keeps you motivated?
At the time, the story wouldn’t leave me alone. It wasn’t a choice to write it. I had to write it in order to get it out of my head and finally be able to find some peace again. Story ideas would wake me up at night and if I didn’t get up and go write them down, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Once a story gets stuck in your head, it’s impossible to focus on much else.
Many of us can relate to this. Mine has been bouncing around the head for a while now.
What’s your antagonist? Or what prevents you to achieving your dream?
Time is the #1 enemy.
Very true. Isn’t there a pause button somewhere?
Why do writers quit?
I think writers quit for lots of varied reasons. Some may have an unrealistic definition of success, and when they inevitably don’t reach it, they throw in the towel. Some writers are perfectionists, always needing the perfect office setup, the perfect title, the perfect cover, and the perfect sentence. That’s a lot of pressure! If you put too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly, you can lose the joy in the process. For the most part, I think we often make things much more difficult than they really are. First and foremost, write for yourself.
This is a good viewpoint to have. Much appreciated.
What would you say to a writer who has given up?
There’s nothing wrong with giving up. No one should feel pressured into something they no longer love or no longer are interested in. If you’ve given it everything you have and you’re ready to move on, then do that. Just know that you can always come back. It may be 10 years, 25 years, or 50 years, but you can always come back.
There’s a sense of hope here in your statement. Love it.
Can you give us a sneak peek of The Ocean Between?
The Ocean Between is currently just an idea floating in my brain. It’s a story I published several years ago in another genre, forced to fit a mold it is uncomfortable in. The true story will be The Ocean Between, and it will be unrecognizable to the first published for those characters. You’ve heard it said that sometimes characters refuse to do the things writers want them to do, but in this case they did them but weren’t happy about it. I owe it to them to tell their true story.
Well, I hope the idea goes from floating to bouncing and a full blown story!
Do you have a tentative release date?
As I write for the joy of it rather than to someone’s arbitrary deadlines, I have no date in mind for release. When the story is ready to come out, I will let it. Until then, I won’t bother to try to force it.
We’ll be waiting…
Federal prosecutor Jeff Trask is summoned to a murder scene. A Park Police officer has been brutally murdered at the Lincoln Memorial. As Trask and a team of local and federal investigators try to find the killer, more police officers are murdered. While attending the funeral for one of these victims, Trask and his team find themselves in a firefight with a cell of radical Islamic terrorists. Disqualified because of his involvement at the scene at Arlington National Cemetery, Trask is reassigned to Washington D.C.’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, where he discovers that the firefight at Arlington was only part of a bigger and much more sinister plot to bomb that threatens the entire eastern seaboard.
I was immediately drawn into this story from the beginning with a heinous crime committed against the ambassador of San Salvador. From there, every line, jot and tittle unravels layer upon layer until you reach the end. the level of detail is not only remarkable, but entertaining and relevant to the storyline.
The distinct effect of this book, as well as the others in the Jeff Trask Crime drama, bear a particular flavor. Marc Rainer a former Federal prosecutor has a working knowledge of law enforcement personnel at every level. Including intelligence, FBI, CIA, investigators, counterterrorism, Washington D.C, U.S. Attorney relations, and Police forces. It’s like the old Prego commercial theme “It’s all in there”.
Having said all of that, the book carried a unique ‘flavor’ to it unlike others I’ve read. It has more realism within it’s pages but not a boring kind of realism. It was still fascinating and kept me turning the pages!
The author really does an excellent job portraying a sense of family among the main characters. They really appreciate one another, play offer each others strength, and truly work as a team. The heroism of Jeff Trask was more balanced within the team approach, which I believe, had a nice impact.
Winter of Wolves had all the necessary ingredients for an entertaining read, including humor. You won’t be disappointed!
*Are you originally from Northern Virginia?
Yes, born in raised in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, outside of DC.
I‘ve never been to northern Virginia before.
*What do you do currently in your occupation?
I’m a Communications Associate for The Kennedy Forum, a mental health advocacy non-profit founded by Patrick Kennedy – his book, A Common Struggle, is a great read if you haven’t checked it out yet!
Nice. Thanks for the book recommendation!
*Did you have a childhood fascination with fairy tales? Tell us about it and your all time favorites.
I don’t think it’s so much fairy tales, but just darker stories in general. I loved Alice In Wonderland, of course, and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. Not your average childhood reads, but I think I had such an idyllic childhood that the dark and edgy stories captured my interest.
That makes sense. I’ve read some of Poe’s work, but now enough.
*What genre do you write?
Fiction. Leaning toward the magical surrealist side. I think the creative possibilities there are endless, and that intrigues me.
Can’t wait to see what you come up with!
*Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I read a quote recently that said something like look to your childhood passions to see where your life calling lies. I’ve always written, and I think when I reached an age where you start to question what you want to do, becoming an author seemed like a natural goal for me.
I love that quote!
*Where did you go to school? Major?
I went to Boston College and majored in Communications. I wrote Meditations In Wonderland there my last semester.
Wow. That sounds like a major feat. Penning a novel in your last semester of college is remarkable.
*What led you to write Meditations in Wonderland? Your premise looks pretty intriguing.
Thank you! I grew up loving Alice In Wonderland, and I was inspired by the dark tones it took on over the years as my generation grew with the story. From that landscape my story manifested itself in my mind over a few years, primarily starting when I studied abroad in London, saw Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript and visited Oxford, through to my senior year of college when I finally wrote it. It’s been called “Pretty Little Liars meets Alice In Wonderland.”
Never been to Oxford, but Cambridge is beautiful.
*Would it be classified as a psychological thriller?
I can definitely see an argument for that. As a dark Alice In Wonderland retelling I think no one would dispute that. It definitely has a lot of thriller-esque scenes and notes of magical surrealism. And, of course, a little nonsense.
It’s amazing to see what different authors are able to craft with their imagination.
*Tell us a little about the main character.
Elizabeth is 24, and she lives in Brooklyn and works as an interior designer in the city. I think many people can relate to the themes she’s struggling with – confronting and acknowledging the darker sides of herself, struggling with mental static and getting lost in the noise. In a sense she has to reclaim herself after giving in to a pattern of self-destructive behavior. She meditates, falls down the rabbit hole, and the rest is history.
Wow. Makes me want to know more about her.
You’re a writer; so whats your story, or what inspired you?
I don’t think I can pinpoint a single moment when I decided that I would be a writer – I’ve always just written, and then I couldn’t separate myself from the act of writing, it always felt a part of me. I used to carry around a composition notebook in elementary school that housed my first “novel,” scribbled in mechanical pencil between classes and after school, and eventually I graduated to my MacBook in college on which I wrote the manuscript for Meditations In Wonderland my last semester at Boston College. In terms of inspiration, I just follow that internal whisper that compels me to return to the blank page time and time again.
Keep following that internal whisper. And when you don’t hear it, write anyway.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
Having my writing published has always been the “ultimate” goal for me, and I think many writers can relate to that, however I think a more realistic goal is just to keep writing, to keep the process alive. The hardest part about writing, in truth, is the act of sitting down to write in the first place. If I can cultivate and keep my writing practice going, that’s a goal in itself that I think leads to the more penultimate dream of having your work published.
YES. I love this. The more realistic goal is to keep writing. I struggle with having consistent writing time so I completely understand this. The ‘butt in chair’ is the only way.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Timing, spaces, and disconnect. As for the first, why is it when you’re about to shut your eyes and fall asleep, warm under the covers, does your muse begin to speak? I think mine might be a sadist in that way. So the first conflict for me is the timing of writing, capturing what I need to capture often against difficult circumstances for doing so, like commuting, unplugging for a night’s sleep, or while on a run. As for the second, my writing practice benefits from having a clean, creative space to work in with minimal distractions from my “to do” list, which is probably why I wrote my first novel out of my home in a local Barnes & Noble. Last, disconnect is often a gatekeeper I grapple with. Either feeling disconnected from the story, from myself, from my creative process, or just from the voice that compels me to pick up where I left off. Some days you’re just not “feeling it,” so to speak, and I think writers can all commiserate there. The goal is to at least try to make sure two out of the three are at bay on any given day to try to make writing happen, and keep it cohesive!
The writing process is so mysterious to me. Not sure if you’ve read Anne Janzer’s book , The Writing Process, but I was greatly helped by it.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
If the story needs to be told, I’ll continue to tell it. When I don’t feel that ache in my bones to keep writing, I’ll stop, but I still have that voice that refuses to stop whispering.
Stories are great and equally mysterious.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
Aren’t all of the best antagonists just reflections of ourselves, or our greatest fears? The fear that any next novel wouldn’t live up to the first, or that those new daring stylistic choices won’t engage the reader the way we hoped they would – we all have our dragon at that gate. For me, it’s scales are green, shiny, and coated with that existential “if I finish this, I have to turn it over to the business side of things” doubts. Writing is the fun part, but I think it’s important to embrace every part of the process, even the parts that we might rather procrastinate in facing.
Well spoken. It’s always a constant battle. Let’s keep at it, shall we?
Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
I think leaving a project is a very personal choice, so the reasons could be many. The best reason is probably because the project no longer feels authentic, which I think is a noble reason to step away, and faced with the same reality I hope I have the courage to do the same if it frees me up for the better project waiting in the shadows!
Seeing the next project is always tempting!
What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Take your time away, if you need it, and return to it when you feel compelled, nagged, and eaten away to resume. Because then you’ll really enjoy it, and your reader will feel that, too.
For me, it’s a gut feeling. If I stop, then it returns begging to be written.
BONUS: What else do you have coming down the pike?
I’ve been playing around with a sequel to my next novel, loosely based off of Through The Looking Glass, as Meditations In Wonderland was loosely based of Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.
Keep us posted on the release date!
And the brains behind Promo Day a FREE annual online event for people in the publishing industry. Mark you calendar! The next event is Saturday May 6th 2017. #PromoDay2017. Please see Promoday.net for more info.
*What part of England are you from?
This is actually a tough question for me. I was born in Gillingham but never actually lived there. I moved around a lot as a kid so the most truthful answer here would have to be ‘the South’. When I think of my ‘home’ in the UK, I tend to think of Kent, and Berkshire.
I would love to take a grand tour the UK one day.
*What’s it like living in Rome, Italy?
I love it here. I came for 3 days back in 2001 and ended up staying (it was actually a lot easier to do than a lot of people think). Anyway, to cut a long story short, I’m now married to an Italian and together we have two sons.
I love how much history and art is just scattered around here. Not just the big tourist stuff you find in the centre either. In fact, in the centre, there is so much there that you can walk by ancient monuments and not really notice them.
This is a photo I took when I took my kids for a walk in a local park.
I bet it’s very scenic!
That’s part of an ancient roman aqueduct just sat there in the field. There were also parts of the old cobble roads in places. Made for a great history lesson for my boys, and was really beautiful.
*Have you been to the Vatican?
One of my first jobs here was at a hostel very close to the Vatican so I know the area well. I’ve been to St. Peters several times. It’s just as impressive on the third or fourth visit as it was on the first. There is so much to see in there. I notice things I didn’t previously every time I go.
I’d better put this one on the bucket list!
*You wear many different hats, which one do you enjoy most?
I love all of my jobs. My favourite varies depending on my mood. I’ve got a creative soul and so I’m always working on something; whether it’s writing a book, illustrating, or doing graphic design.
You are truly a multi-talented person.
*Can you tell us about some of the books you have written?
I started out with non fiction books about Italy; Italian for Tourists, which is an Italian-English phrasebook, and A Guide To Weddings In Italy.
I’ve also published children’s picture story books; Out and About at the Zoo, Fairy May, and The Box.
Then there are my other non fiction books; my award winning Virtual Book Tours: Effective Book Promotion From the Comfort of Your Own Home, and How to be Twittertastic.
I’m currently working on more non fiction and some more children’s books, plus some novels (romance, and thrillers).
When you have a book release let me know, I’d love to help!
*How did you get into illustrating book covers?
I started designing book covers just for fun in the beginning. I love playing around with photoshop and illustrator. A few friends said they really liked my designs and suggested that I add cover design to my list of services.
As I’m used to making my own covers for both digital and print I know exactly what an author needs. The right book cover can make all the difference when it comes to sales.
That’s so true!
*Tell us about the benefits of your website writersandauthors.info.
I started Writers and Authors back in 2006. I was just starting out in my writing career and thought it would be a good way to share my experiences, and learn from other authors at the same time.
The website has evolved a lot over the years and picked up numerous awards along the way. It’s turned into a real community for people in the writing/publishing industry, and often gets mentioned on other websites in their ‘Top sites lists”.
I offer writers the opportunity to be featured on the website and promote their books. Interviews, guest posts, book showcases, and excerpts. I’m an avid reviewer and so feature those on site too. There are also advertising options available.
Authors can have their books listed in the online bookstore too. It gives them more free publicity for their books (something us authors love ;)), and as I’m an Amazon affiliate, gain a little pocket money for me.
I work directly with authors, but also with PR companies, agents, and publishers. I love how the website allows me to connect with people from all parts of the publishing industry.
Put this one on your blogroll folks! Lots of great material and resources.
*How did Promo day get started?
There were lots of online writers conferences but none that dealt with the marketing side of things so I created one.
Promo Day started out as a small event in a chatroom that I used to host on my author website. It turned out to be a huge success and so grew into an annual event with it’s own branding at http://www.promoday.net/
Can’t wait to tell people about this. Sounds great!
*What are the benefits of participating in Promo day?
Promo Day is a whole day dedicated to promoting, networking, and learning. It’s completely free to attend and everyone is welcome. All you need to do is register on the website.
There are; webinars with industry experts, forums where you can connect with other attendees and discover promotional opportunities, and pitch sessions with publishers. Publishers take pitches during the event and get back to you the same day to let you know if they are interested or not. No waiting for weeks, or even months for a reply.
There are a lot of social activities throughout the day too. Activities are announced in the event forums, so you can put what you learn in the webinars into action straight away. You can join in a LIVE Twitterchat, or Facebook chat. You can even get interviewed about your book, or join in a LIVE video discussion streamed to YouTube. Promo Day teaches you how to build your author brand and market your books, helps you make connection in the publishing industry, and gives you opportunities to put your new skills in action so you can start seeing instant results.
Wow. Sounds really fun.
*How do you personally benefit from Promo day?
Organising an event like Promo Day is a huge amount of work but I love it. It’s enabled me to make lots of new connections within the industry, and helped establish my own author brand.
There are sponsorship opportunities available that help cover the costs of putting the event together. Every year I come away with invitations to be hosted on websites, and always note an increase in sales of my own books following the event. The event has also lead to numerous collaborations and other business projects.
Lovely. This is very beneficial is many ways. I’m so glad you started it!
*I’m assuming you drink Starbucks?
Haha! This strikes me as an interesting way to phrase this question. Is this assumption just because so many people do drink Starbucks, or because I said something that made it sound like I drink Starbucks? O.o Haha! 🙂 Actually, I’m not a big coffee drinker, so I only go there occasionally. Most of the time, I’m much happier with a proper cup of black tea with cream and sugar. 🙂
Hah! Just wondered. Most people from the Pacific Northwest are hardcore Starbucks fans. I like black tea as well minus the cream and sugar. Earl grey to specific.
*Your profile says you’re a story-inspired artist, can you elaborate?
The short answer or the long one? 😉 If I were to sum it up, I would tell you that I greatly prefer to create art that is based on stories, or has a sense of story to it than working in real-life subjects for their own sake. I can enjoy still life, portraiture, landscape, and figure art to a point, and there are many wonderful artists who work in these genres that I positively love, but ultimately, I’m more interested in how those things can be used to tell stories than I am in those subjects for themselves.
Ok, here’s a more elaborate answer if you want one:
Stories have always had a special place in my life. I jumped from learning to read “Bob Books” at the age of five to devouring the entire Narnia series at the age of six. I can still remember a surprising amount of detail about how it felt to visit some of the different places and events in Lewis’ fantasy world for that first time, despite the fact I was that young.
My love for art started early as well. My mom has frequently recalled that I was about two when I started carefully drawing circles with features that were recognizable as faces, and I could easily spend hours playing with crayons or play dough, even at such a young age. I suppose I heard that story often enough to not feel much wonder in it. I talked, read, and drew “early”. That was just me. Now, watching my nephew and two nieces beginning to grow, I’ve realized that for a two year old to draw anything recognizable or to have the patience and interest to invest that much time in one project really is somewhat of an unusual thing.
I continued to devour books as I got older. “Little Women”, “The Princess and the Goblin”, the “American Girl” series, “Treasure Island”, “The Wind in the Willows”, “The Lord of the Rings”, – I was constantly surrounded by beautiful story worlds. We won’t talk much here about what a struggle math was for me all through school, but my reading comprehension was quite high from the get go, and it stayed that way. I was that weird kid who read a short, illustrated adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and liked it so much I decided to read the original play – at the age of 12. I was also the kid that would critique “terrible” jobs at casting in book-to-film adaptations when it was obvious to me that no attempt had been made to match the descriptions of the characters in the books. (“How could they cast a BLOND in that role when the book CLEARLY said they had DARK hair?!” Oh the horror.)
I think it was this knack for reading comprehension that made the idea of combining my love for stories and my love for art such a natural concept for me. Even as a child, I drew pictures based on stories I read and loved. I particularly remember a long season filled with drawings of Tolkien’s characters. I also wanted to write my own books and illustrate them. For years, I said I wanted to be a “writer and illustrator”. I remember an attempt to create an illustrated story as early as kindergarten, and although that attempt didn’t really get too far, it is interesting to look back that far and realize how much of an inkling I had even then of what I wanted to do.
At some point in early adulthood, I dropped the “writer” from my quick comeback when people asked “What do you want to be?”. Insecurity may have been the wretched imp that launched the decision to “shelve” the writing-related part of my dream (“There’s so many people out there who write better than I do”), and practicality was likely the culprit that sealed that decision (“How many art forms do you think you have time to master anyway?”). Together, they whispered something along the lines of, “Better just focus on your drawing and painting, and then you can illustrate other people’s books”. I bought it, and so fiction-writing and I largely parted ways for a while.
After high school, I attended a classical fine arts atelier. I am beyond grateful for the foundational things I learned there, but at the end of four years of painting still life, landscape, figure studies, and plaster casts of famous statues, one thing could not have been clearer to me – I had very little love and passion for those things in and of themselves; I was interested in them mainly for how they could help me to tell stories visually. Around the time I graduated art school, I was also forced to take a fresh look at my attempt to “stuff” the idea of being a writer. What called it into question for me was the jealousy I felt spring up when someone I knew made the simple statement that they were writing something. I was not jealous of their story or ideas – those were their own to explore, and I was happy they had that – no, I was only jealous of the fact that they were writing at all. That feeling was an indicator for me, and I began to realize that I really couldn’t walk away from that old desire. I landed on an idea I decided to pursue as a story, and it was a joy to “un-shelve” that part of myself again. At first, I thought I would do an illustrated novel, but that left me with the problem of having to muscle through an entire book before I could also draw the characters I was longing to portray visually as well as through words. I began to see graphic novels and comics being done in styles that varied widely off the “Marvel” model I had always associated with comics, and I realized that telling my story in a sequential art format like that would allow me to fully indulge both my writing and illustrating.
Wow! You’re quite a unique individual. I’ve never heard anyone say this before. Story based art is something new and fascinating to me. I’m starting to see a connection with stories we read and appreciate with a pattern of imitation. Many times children do this by imitating or pretending to be characters in their books. Their imagination attempts to recreate what they’ve apprehended in a story. With you, it’s a ruthless desire to create story based art. That’s so cool!
*What were your influences early in life towards art?
I would sum this up quickly by saying the stories that sparked my imagination, and my mom, who taught me the first things I learned in art, and who has supported me in my artistic pursuits for my entire life.
That’s so sweet! In no particular order; you gotta love stories, the imagination and moms.
*What are your favorite mediums to use? Painting, drawing, writing, photography?At the rest of sounding slightly crazy…ALL OF THEM!!! 😀 SOOOOO many kinds of media! 😀
I’ve actually been trying to come up with a short, descriptive phrase to sum up how I work, because I tend to interconnect and flow between different media. I sometimes start a drawing in digital media and transition to finishing it in a traditional media, or vice versa, or I may mix a couple traditional media, such as watercolor with color pencil. I don’t want to just draw or write, I want to interweave the two. I’ve even wondered recently if I could take my hobby pianist skills and create a soundtrack for the webcomic I’m writing. (That would be an adventure!) More recently, I’ve been looking at using photos as a base for digitally painted backgrounds in my story too. There’s so many amazing possibilities out there!
That’s great, have at it! Sounds like you’re having a lot of fun.
*Your Facebook profile says after highschool you attended Atelier Maui art school where I received a….?
I am a story-inspired artist from the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. After graduating high school, I attended Atelier Maui (formerly Ashland Academy of Art), where I received a Certificate of Completion of Four Years. I have also received training as an artist through the Masterpiece Christian Fine Arts Foundation, and I continue to study to improve my craft through self-teaching and other opportunities. I am currently writing/illustrating a graphic novel and teaching art classes though Grumbacher at Michaels Arts and Crafts. I am available for online and/or in-person art tutoring, and I also do commission/freelance work. If you have any questions about working with me, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Don’t miss Jennifer’s epic website at J.N. Garrett Art.
*What made you chose art school?
Well, I knew I wanted to be an artist, and the idea of spending four years in a traditional college where I would be forced to re-hash general education subjects felt like a stifling waste of time to me. I also knew a lot of former students of the teacher I studied with, and I loved the quality of the work they did, so that really influenced my choice to go to that specific school. It also happened to be right in my backyard, so to speak, so that was a huge plus too. I love the perspective of an artist who chose to mentor me for a number of years, that an artist should be a perpetual student. I may have finished school, but there is always more to learn, and the bar is always being raised for the standard of what I want to achieve. I think that’s such a huge part of what I love about art – there is no “peak”, no ultimate mountain top or end of the road. There are always new ways to try things, new levels of ability to push toward.
That’s what I love about art. It’s a continual journey of discovery. What an adventure!
*You’re an Art instructor where do you teach?
I am currently certified with Grumbacher to teach drawing and painting courses at our local Michaels store. I love the opportunity to connect with people in meaningful ways through teaching, whether it’s pouring into a particularly passionate student, or just begin to able to encourage someone who needs it.
I like it. Connecting with others in meaningful ways through teaching. An you do sound very passionate about it. I think passion begets passion in my book.
*Some people say art can’t be taught, is that true?
Muahahahaha! Are you sure you want to get me started on this topic? It might cause a very long rant that wanders into other areas that I see as being connected to this issue. 😉
Honestly, that is one of the most frustrating perspectives I encounter as an artist. Do I believe people can have a natural inclination or bent toward being good at something in a specific area? Sure. In that sense, I do believe in talent, which is the thing inside you, and no, I would say that can’t be taught, because I think that God gives us each areas that he wires us to naturally gravitate toward. HOWEVER, art is just like any subject out there. Just because I’m not a math genius doesn’t mean I can’t learn my times tables and algebra. Just because I don’t enjoy writing chemistry equations doesn’t mean a teacher can’t help me wrap my head around the basics. Just because someone isn’t a “natural” artist doesn’t mean that they can’t be taught how to draw. I have a problem with the “art is talent that you either just have or don’t” perspective, because every artist I know who is any good put in a lot of work to get there, and people don’t talk like that about any other skilled craft I know of. A doctor is not just “talented” – everyone knows he worked his tail off to get through school and learn how to do what he does. A businesswoman isn’t just “gifted” or “lucky” – she learned how to observe and work with the structures and systems in place in order to make smart decisions that would help her make the most of the opportunities that came along.
There are a couple other issues that I see as being related to this. First, there’s the view of art being the “easy class”, that art class is a way for students who don’t want to work hard to get an easy credit. This is a devaluing statement to the students who are there because they DO want to work hard and get better at their craft, and who, if they succeed in any degree, will hear it again as adults in the forms of “Ok, you’re an artist, but what’s your REAL job?”, and every kind of variation on, “Why should you get paid to do something you enjoy?” I feel it also allows a skewed perspective of the arts to start forming for people at a very early age. If students were being taught construction drawing, and having to wrestle through all the complexities of learning form, tone, and color from an early age, I can’t help but feel that art would be taken a bit more seriously by adults who had taken those kinds of classes as children, and therefore understood the inherent work involved in becoming a good artist, even if they weren’t artists themselves, any more than I can appreciate the talent, dedication, and work involved in someone becoming an engineer, because I had to take a certain amount of math and science in school.
Second, a more modern issue I see as being connected to this is the tendency to marginalize digital art as not being “real” art, or somehow taking less skill/talent/work than traditional media. Again, I think if more people were exposed to drawing digitally, it would help dispel some of the myths people have bought about this medium. No, the computer is not doing it for us. No, just because certain things are easier to fix than traditional media or there is more wiggle room to experiment in some ways, it still doesn’t mean it’s “easy” to do.
I don’t know. I get it that writers come up against things like this too, and that’s in spite of the fact that most people have had to take English classes, so I don’t think classroom education is the sole key to fixing problematic attitudes towards the arts and artists, but I can’t help feeling that better education on the subject would still be a great place to start in combating some of the misconception artist of all kinds – writers, photographers, painters and more – have to face throughout their lives, and I do feel that visual arts in particular suffer from a lot of these misconceptions.
EXCELLENT. Spoken like a true passionate person. I wasn’t aware of some of the misconceptions you mentioned. I find it hard to believe anyone would find art as *easy*. No art is easy in my mind, especially digital. To me, digital art is harder and more complicated with all of the technology involved. All the Adobe platforms, Wacom tablets, digital brushes, settings, layering, CS 6 etc. That stuff is definitely not a walk in the park.
*According to your current understanding, what is art?
Wow, big question there! I like it though. It’s a “thinking cap question”. 🙂 I think art can be many, many things, but one of my favorite definitions of art that I’ve ever heard was from Madleine L’engle in the book “Walking on Water”. She describes art as something through which we get to bring order and beauty, or “cosmos”, into the chaos and destruction we see in the world, that the truest form of art as it reflects our Creator is in the creation of things that ultimately affirm what is true and lovely and real and alive. Seen in that way, art is a way we can make a little rightness in a world where there is so much wrong. That’s why, for me, I will never buy into the idea that art is merely “entertainment”. It can be very entertaining, and that is not a bad thing, but if it is creating that “cosmos in chaos” to any degree, then I feel it is also something more than entertainment.
I also like C.S. Lewis’ perspective on this, which comes out in this quote on friendship: “Friendship, like art, is unnecessary; it has no survival value. Rather, it is one of those things that gives value to survival.” It is interesting in light of this quote to consider some of the articles written in recent years that talk about the damaging physical effects of chronic loneliness, which some studies have claimed can be worse for our bodies even than smoking. You could make a strong case that the reality is that art, beauty, and meaningful connections are actually not only important, but actually ARE necessary, not only for the health of our psyche, but ultimately because what affects the heart and mind affects the body, and so those things are actually quite impactful on our physical well-being as well. There are reasons people like Hitler were hellbent on destroying art and the physical beauty of the land. I feel like that’s largely what Lewis is getting at in that quote – there are things that are necessary in other ways than in having immediate survival value.
Very beautiful. Your whole statement stands like a piece of art. Well put.
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