Saturday, November 3, 2012

[Interview_4] Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University in Leicester.

He is also the author of books that include the memoir, Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself (Granta, 2007) and the academic books, Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Sussex Academic Press, 2007); Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003); and, Figures of Heresy: Radical Theology in English and American Writing, 1800-2000 (Sussex Academic Press, 2005) (co-edited with Dr. Andrew Dix).

In this interview, Jonathan Taylor talks about his debut novel, Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012):

How long did it take you to write the novel?

It took me a while to write the novel: I started it in 2007, shortly after the publication of my memoir, Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself (Granta Books, 2007), and finished it four or so years later.

In fact, its origins lie further back, in that the starting-point was an episode which was eventually cut from my memoir. In 2001, my father was in intensive care, and I was travelling backwards and forwards to Stoke from Leicestershire, where I was working at the time. One night, in Loughborough, I was approached by a homeless woman, who said she hadn’t eaten for days, and who asked if I had anything she could eat. I’d had a few too many drinks that night, and decided it was a good idea to invite her back to our house to (and I quote) “eat our freezer.” She came back with me, I fed her, and then she met my housemate of the time, who proceeded to talk to her for hours about his current obsession: ants. After that, she slept on our floor, and then, next morning, just before she left, gave us both a kiss on the cheek and told us that she now “believed in English gentlemen again.”

It was one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. I never saw her again, but the novel is an attempt to imagine what her traumatic background was – what had brought her to that desperate point. In effect, she’s the novel’s narrator. The central character is a heavily fictionalised version of my ant-obsessed housemate (though he’s really a complex hybrid of my housemate, myself and other people I know).

Did you write everyday?

I wrote a great deal of the novel in 2008-9, when our twin girls were still babies. This meant that the writing process was squeezed between massive commitments – to my daughters (obviously), and also to my full-time job as a lecturer. So I’d sometimes have no more than an hour or two a week writing time. This meant that I had to maximise that time, and use it to its full advantage. Through sheer necessity, I’ve come to discipline myself to be able to write at will as and when I get the chance. I hardly believe in ‘inspiration’ any more – and I don’t have the kind of time available to wait for it to come. I’ve just trained myself to write as and when I get the odd hour free. In that sense, ‘writer’s block’ is something, I think, that is often the preserve of people with a lot of spare time.

In terms of how I proceeded with the novel, I actually wrote it in a linear way, from beginning to end. I’ve never done this before – the memoir was built up in a piecemeal fashion from fragments, and my second novel (which I’m completing now) is much less linear. But the story for Entertaining Strangers demanded this kind of treatment: it’s a very linear, step-by-step story, where each small chapter builds up towards the climax.

I wanted the story to move fast from episode to episode, and each chapter to move the story on one step.

I enjoyed the challenge of writing something so different in structure to everything else I’ve done. Of course, when I’d finished the first draft, I then went back and edited, redrafted, reshaped and expanded the novel – so, ultimately, the writing experience is never really linear. But it was in this case, at least for the first draft.

How would you describe the novel?

I’ve always described Entertaining Strangers as a ‘tragi-comedy.’ It’s a mixture of grotesque and dark comedy on the one hand, with horror and trauma on the other. The starting-point is the weird comedy: the tragedy is what lurks underneath the comedy (as it does with so much comic material).

Most of the novel is set in 1997, and centres on the mysterious narrator Jules, about whom little is known, and the manic-depressive Edwin Prince, who is obsessed with high culture and ants. Gradually, the narrator uncovers Edwin’s strange history and family background – and ultimately, in doing so, reveals another, darker and much more distant trauma which lies behind both Edwin’s family’s neuroses and psychoses and, indeed, the narrator’s own. Towards the end, the novel flashes back to 1922 and the Great Fire of Smyrna, which forms the traumatic backdrop to what happens in the novel.

Where and when was the novel published?

The novel was published in Autumn 2012 in the UK. By coincidence, Autumn 2012 is also the 90th anniversary of the Great Fire of Smyrna, which occurred in September 1922, and which, as I say, is the formative trauma lying behind everything which happens in the novel (the majority of which is actually set in 1997).

How did you find a publisher for the book? And, what advantages and/or disadvantages has this presented?

I had a lot of help and advice in terms of editing from a literary agent friend of mine, called Meg Davis. Ultimately, though, I approached Salt Publishing myself: although I know agents are important for most writers, all my books have been published without one. In part, it’s just happened that way; but it’s also because I like to establish a relationship with publisher’s editors myself.

Salt has been a great publisher: both Chris and Jen Hamilton-Emery (the editors) have been incredibly supportive, and also – most importantly – seem to love the book. Salt’s books are beautifully designed, and Salt is also quite daring in what it publishes, in a way that the very biggest publishers often feel they can’t be any more. My novel is, no doubt, eccentric and individual – and, as such, suits an independent publisher like Salt, which is willing to take risks.

Which aspects of the work you put into the novel did you find most difficult?

I think the most challenging part of writing the novel was the large chapter – towards the end – which flashes back to the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922. This was a terrible disaster, in which many people were killed, injured and made homeless. I had to find a style which somehow did justice to such an awful catastrophe. For that reason, the chapter on Smyrna is one of the most experimental and extreme pieces of writing I’ve ever attempted – and I hope it captures some of the horror, terror and grief of that event.

Another challenge, linked to this, was that of connecting the main plot, which is, at least in part, comic, with the tragedy of Smyrna, without the link between comedy and tragedy seeming bathetic. In the end, this wasn’t the problem I thought it would be, in that – as I’ve said – horror often lurks within comedy anyway, so the two plots had underlying connections. And, of course, bathos has its own horrors.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

To be honest, I enjoyed writing the novel hugely: it was a break from the pressures around me at the time, and was also a break after writing the memoir. Suddenly, instead of having to stick to the truth, I was free to invent, exaggerate, embellish.

Of course, the memoir itself could never be strictly and absolutely true – but here, writing a novel, I was freed up from truth entirely, notwithstanding the novel’s origins in various ‘truthful’ images.

I enjoyed playing around with the characters, and I also enjoyed writing something which, on the surface at least, is primarily comic. For all its constraints, there is something playful and liberatory about the novel form.

What sets Entertaining Strangers apart from other things you've written? And, in the same vein, in what way is it similar to the others?

I’ll address the second question first: it overlaps with the memoir in various ways, but particularly, perhaps, in its use of dark humour. I believe that comedy and tragedy – as I’ve said – are always mingled, even in the most extreme of circumstances. The memoir, I hope, demonstrated that – and so does the novel. People laugh at funerals, cry at jokes, feel melancholy at joyful parties. Many writers have understood this, from John Keats to Jack Kerouac. That’s what I want to capture in my work: that emotions aren’t monolithic, that experiences are strange hybrids of different emotions. Whether I’m successful or not is, of course, up to the reader to decide.

The main way in which Entertaining Strangers is different, I think, from other things I’ve written is as regards its plot: in writing the novel, I soon realised the importance of plot, and I struggled with this at first. Memoirs don’t need a plot, and short stories only need one small ingredient. A novel, by contrast, needs a whole chain of causes and effects for the story to work – and it took me a long while to get that chain right, so that each cause linked to the next effect, and so on.

My other challenge, when writing Entertaining Strangers, came when I realised that a novel often demands to be more realistic than reality. This may sound rather strange – but I think readers will happily read material, such as memoirs, which is labelled as ‘non-fiction,’ and believe what’s going on, however crazy it is. Some of things that I talk about in my memoir – which did actually happen – are crazy, grotesque, bizarre. But as soon as you transfer those kinds of events and behaviour to a novel, somehow they seem less believable. However crazy reality actually is, you’re expected to tone it down for it to seem realistic in a novel. A novel is a more moderate version of reality, you might say. In the end, though, I wouldn’t and couldn’t really do that: I wanted to write a novel which captures the insanity of the world and the people in it, so if some people choose to think it’s a caricature, or satire, that’s fine. But to me it’s not.

What will your next book be about?

Well, I’ve got a couple of books coming out in the next few months – firstly, a poetry collection called Musicolepsy, which will be published by Shoestring Press in early 2013, and then a collection of short stories called Kontakte and Other Stories, which will be published by Roman Books in mid-2013. The material for these books is already written: I’ve been writing poems and stories for many years, so it’s a matter of selection, structuring, editing and ordering them at the moment. That’s what’s so wonderful about writing individual poems and stories – you can write them whilst you’re engaged on other, longer-term projects. Speaking of which, I’ve also just finished the second draft of a second novel, called Mellissa, which is very different to Entertaining Strangers. It’s more of a ‘concept-driven’ novel than Entertaining Strangers. It’s set in Stoke-on-Trent in the late 1990s, and is about ... well, actually, I don’t think I’ll reveal that yet.

Related books:

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

[Interview] Marissa Monteilh

Marissa Monteilh is a former model, television news reporter, and commercial actress. She is a regular contributor to the literary blog, Novel Spaces, and is a member of the all female group of touring writers, Atlanta's GA Peach Authors.

Her books include May December Souls (William Morrow & Company, 2002), Make Me Hot (Dafina Books, 2008), Dr Feelgood (Dafina, 2007) and The Six-Letter Word (4D Publishing, 2012).

In this interview, Marissa Monteilh talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I did not plan to be a published writer. I sat down to write my life story in 1998, and honestly, it was so boring that I added in a whole lot of fiction. Before I knew it, I had an 80,000 word rough draft.

I did a lot of research on the craft of writing and finished the story, shopping it around to publishers for about one year. Once I self-published my title May December Souls (at the suggestion of a well-known author) in 1998 and it was in bound book form, I ended up signing with an agent who'd heard of my work, and before long three publishers auctioned for my titles.

I signed a two-book deal with Harper Collins in 2001.

How would you describe your writing?

I write relationship-type novels that fall into the category of women's fiction. I also write erotica under my pen name, Pynk.

My target audience is women, ages 21 to 65. I support women and enjoy showing the trials and tribulations of life as it pertains to love, family, careers, dysfunctions, addictions, religion, sex, etc.

I write what I call fiction-friction... people who are broken or who struggle to gain something or break bad habits, in spite of the obstacles that stand in their way.

Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to read about a woman who abuses her husband, or to read about the life of a sex addict, but through the uncomfortableness of those stories we can learn a lot about situations that we may never experience personally. Or perhaps it's a story about a tough break-up.

Many of my readers enjoy being a fly on the wall, and learning about how to deal with moving on after a tough divorce. Reading is life-therapy.

Which authors influenced you most?

Terry McMillan influenced me with her contemporary stories about love. She writes strong female characters who are very flawed, yet very relatable overall.

And James Baldwin influenced me when I was young. I read Giovanni's Room and was hooked on reading fiction. The story was bold, vivid, and unforgettable.

My very first book, May December Souls, was semi-autobiographical. Without my life experience of having a well-known father who abandoned his family, having gotten caught up in the trappings of his fame, I never would have sat down to write my first book.

All is in divine order.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Writing is my passion. I always have new ideas and manage to meet my deadlines, which, in the beginning, I thought would be challenging. Today I focus on ways to garner continual word-of-mouth momentum so that readers are constantly aware of my titles. Most authors seek out new and innovative ways to get readers talking about our works. It's challenging and so very necessary. It takes a lot of creativity.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

This is a business of numbers, so back to the previous question, we must make sure that readers know about, talk about, buy and read our books. Word-of-mouth is key.

Do you write everyday?

I try to write or edit at least a page per day.

I handle emails and promotion during the morning hours, and begin settling down to write in the afternoon and evening hours. If I'm on deadline, I can easily spend eight to twelve hours writing. I prefer writing at home, not in a bookstore or airport, and I must have total quiet. I even turn off my phone at times.

How many books have you written so far?

I've written 15 titles:
... more novels, novellas, and anthologies to come!

How would you describe your latest book about?

My latest book is called The Six-Letter Word, and it's a peek into the life of a married woman named McKenzie Livingston who is diagnosed with cervical cancer, and how her life gets turned upside down. She refuses to say the word "cancer", and refers to the disease as "the six-letter word". This is a story of survival, courage, faith, and love, and I'm very proud of it. I interviewed many women who have experienced gynecological cancers and learned a lot in the process.

I began writing this book years ago, having first written it about pancreatic cancer, but I kept it aside until I really felt I could do the subject justice and conduct more research. I changed it to cervical cancer after hearing about how many women rarely understand the risks that make us more susceptible to cervical cancer. I wanted to enlighten women and raise awareness about all cancers, particularly those that involve reproductive issues.

The Six-Letter Word is an ebook novella which was released in July 2012.

How did you chose a publisher for the novella?

While I do have contracts with mainstream publishers, I decided to self-publish The Six-Letter Word.

With all of the amazing opportunities for authors which involve electronic books, I felt this novella would do well as an ebook.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?

Creating the scenes that show the main character dealing with the reality of her diagnosis was difficult. I actually cried while writing a couple of the chapters. But, that's part of the process of writing. We create characters and get to know them. When our own characters test our emotions and surprise us, that's a very good sign.

I enjoyed showing the relationship between two close sisters. I don't have a sister, being that I have two older brothers. I found this particular familial connection interesting and complex, yet very loving.

What sets The Six-Letter Word apart from other things you've written?

This title became so much more important to me once I interviewed seven women who've had personal experiences of living with cancer. They wanted people to know about how cancer changes lives, how tough it can be to accept and deal with, and about how strong, mentally and physically, one must be. After a while I saw it as my mission to do this story justice, and make my beautiful interviewees proud.

This story is different from my other 14 novels, though I do try to create characters who face very tough challenges head on. Sometimes the outcomes are tragic, sometimes triumphant, but they are unusual and taboo and life-changing.

What will your next book be about?

My erotica title, Politics.Escorts.Blackmail, will be released in December 2012, and is the story of the world of politics in New York City and how so many politicians feel entitled to solicit the services of escorts, in spite of all that they have to lose. The book is written from the viewpoint of a madam named Money Watts, and her three escorts, Leilani, Midori and Kemba.

And, finally, what would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

My most significant achievement as a writer is that creating stories allows me to live my passion, and my purpose. I'm in love with words!

Related books:

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Friday, September 14, 2012

[Interview] Electa Rome Parks

Electa Rome Parks writes contemporary and erotic fiction.

Her books include The Stalker Chronicles (Kensington/Urban Books, 2012); True Confessions (Kensington/Urban Books, 2010); Diary of a Stalker (Kensington/Urban Books, 2009); and These Are My Confessions (HarperCollins/Avon Red, 2007).

In this interview, Electa Rome Parks talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember; writing and reading have always defined who and what I am as a person. Writing is the love affair of my life. From a professional standpoint, I started writing and penned my first novel, The Ties That Bind in 2001.

For me, becoming a published writer was a natural progression. Friends and family who knew me back in the day, they can all testify to the fact that I was always writing something (a short story, a poem, a play) or had my head buried in a book, usually mystery or supernatural. Being a quiet, shy child, writing was a means for me to express myself, non-verbally. Later, I realized I had a voice that needed to be heard (read). And reading was my escape to meeting other people and worlds that I could only imagine.

I went about accomplishing my goal by researching, networking and finding mentors in my genre. I lived and breathed the literary industry. Eventually I published via print on demand, then traditionally self-published and eventually went mainstream after being picked up by a major publishing house. I achieved this by hustling... attending every conference, literary event, signing, book club meeting, etc., that I could. I made it my mission to network with creative, like-minded people in the industry and to get the word out about my book and myself. Passion, persistence and perseverance paid off when a literary agent contacted me and within 30 days had inked a 3-book deal with a major publishing house.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

I write contemporary and erotic fiction. I’ve also been classified as a women’s fiction author.

My target audience is anyone who enjoys a good book! Primarily, African-American women and a small percentage of men tend to purchase my novels. I don’t know if I was motivated to start writing for this audience as opposed to this audience is who I am. I am an African-American woman; however my storylines tend to stem from life experiences, lessons, and situations that are universal.

Which authors influenced you most?

I absolutely adore contemporary fiction authors and my greatest influence was, hands down, author Terry McMillian. I witnessed and applauded the commercial successful she achieved with her books, from them being New Times Bestselling novels to being adapted to movies for the big screen. Her books, especially Disappearing Acts, was the first book that spoke to me as I saw myself and others in the storyline. I could relate. I laughed out loud, I cried and I didn’t want that book to end. I wanted to savor each page, digest it and breathe it in. There was such a connection that it left an impact that inspired me to reach for my dream.

How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

I’m sure in many ways that I haven’t even thought about.

I write from the heart about many topical issues prevalent in our communities. I’ve touched upon domestic abuse, molestation, friendship, dysfunctional relationships, stalking, mental illness and the list goes on. My characters aren’t perfect and my storylines don’t necessarily have happily-ever-after endings. However, they are much like real life.

I share life lessons and give readers imperfect characters they can embrace, whether they choose to love or hate them.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concern as a writer is the constantly changing literary climate. I know of many talented authors who have lost book deals and can’t appear to get another one. I hate the fact that the industry is all about sales and the bottom line. There doesn’t appear to be an appreciation for the craft or an internal mentoring process for the author anymore.

I deal with these concerns by accepting the fact that what’s going to be is going to be. What’s meant for me is for me. I simply can’t sweat the small stuff so to speak. I have to continue to write my stories and be true to myself. How the changes pan out remains to be seen.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Staying abreast of the changing industry and remaining relevant are two big challenges for me. I deal with them by doing what I love to do, which is to write. I simply can’t allow myself to worry about things which are not within my control.

Do you write every day?

When I first started my professional literary career, I did write every single day. However, with my life evolving, that has changed. I simply don’t have the time to write every single day.

My session usually starts with me writing long-hand and simply doing a free flow style. I let the characters speak and tell their story. So, you will never see me with a detailed outline that some authors utilize. Later, I transpose my notes to my computer and tighten the prose up a bit. Typically, by the end of the session, I end up with a good first draft that later will be rewritten several times and edited.

How many books have you written so far?

I have written eight books, with a 9th book, When Baldwin Loved Brenden, dropping January 2013. A brief description of each novel can be found on my website. Please stop by and check them out!
What is your latest book about?

The Stalker Chronicles - She's back, and this time it's all about revenge.

Tall, dark, and handsome bestselling male author Xavier Preston thought his nightmare—in the form of Pilar, a fanatical stalker/fan—had finally ended. Little does he know it’s only beginning. When Xavier met Pilar, he got much more than he bargained for. What started out as an erotic one-night stand quickly turned into a dangerous game of obsession and pain, with both parties playing to win. Then she simply disappeared.

Stunning Pilar hasn't gone away, though. In fact, she has been very near, watching his every move and patiently waiting for him to realize they were meant to be together forever. She still believes they’re soul mates, and the only option for her is “Until death do us part.” If she can't have Xavier, then no one can. Now no one is safe—not his friends, and definitely not him.

Revenge can be a real killer.

How long did it take you to write The Stalker Chronicles?

It took approximately 4 months to write the novel. This timeframe didn’t include rewrites and edits.

It was published in January 2012 by Kensington/Urban Books.

The novel was part of a second, two-book deal with this particular publishing house.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?

At this point in my career, I pretty much have a system or rhythm when it comes to my writing. Once I have my storyline and the characters are speaking to me, it’s on. [Laughs out loud].

As strange as it may sound, I almost see the various scenes played out in my mind like a movie. I hear my characters' voices as clear as I can hear yours.

I can’t really describe any difficulties I had with my previous project. It was a much-anticipated, much-requested sequel and the characters hadn’t left me. In fact, their voices were as strong as ever. So, it was like revisiting old friends, playing catch-up and putting it all on paper.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed revisiting old friends in The Stalker Chronicles, which is the sequel to Diary of a Stalker. I had missed my characters and it was refreshing to find out what was going on in their lives and to speak with them again.

What sets The Stalker Chronicles apart from other things you've written?

This was only my second attempt at an erotic thriller. So the genre was a little different from what I typically write.

It was familiar in that it incorporated my trademark style of writing that I have become known for: it was drama-filled, spicy, relationship-based, fast-paced with imperfect characters and with a twist to the storyline.

What will your next book be about?

My next book is titled, When Baldwin Loved Brenden.

Fair-weather friends come and go, but true friendship lasts a lifetime. Same goes for true love.

Ten years is a long time. Much can change in ten years, an entire decade. That’s how many years have passed when a former close-knit group of college friends, Baldwin, Brenden, Bria and Christopher, self-proclaimed The Group, are tragically reunited to attend the funeral of one of their own in a small North Carolina town.

The Group hasn’t seen or spoken to one another since an unfortunate set of circumstances placed their friendship in jeopardy ten years earlier. After graduation, everyone went their separate ways and never looked back, until now. The past has a way of catching up with you, sooner or later. Baldwin, the romantic, Brenden, the do-gooder, Bria, the wildchild, Christopher, the pretty boy, are all about to discover the truth in that.

Rihanna was once dubbed the peacemaker of the group. Her death reunites them for an unforgettable, poignant and life changing few days. Each friend will confront their own internal demons and leave a changed person. Secrets are revealed, hurts exposed, tears shed and laugher shared, all in the name of friendship and love.

Can anything truly tear real friendship and love apart?

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I would say my most significant achievement has been just that... the fact that I am a published author. It’s not a dream anymore, it’s a reality. I have a voice. Readers embrace my books and enjoy them. I’m doing something I love and that I’m passionate about. It doesn’t get any better than that. Priceless.

Related books:

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

[Interview] Lauri Kubuitsile

Lauri Kubuitsile writes romances novels; crime fiction; books and stories for children and teenagers; and, literary fiction.

She was shortlisted for the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing and has won awards that include the PanAfrican prize for children’s literature, The Golden Baobab Prize and the Orange/Botswerere Botswana Artists Award.

Her books include the collection of short stories, In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata and Other Stories (HopeRoad, 2011); and the novels, Signed, Hopelessly in Love (August 2011) Tafelberg, 2011) and Mr Not Quite Good Enough (Sapphire Press, 2011).

In this interview, Lauri Kubuitsile talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I started writing 8 years ago, just when I was turning 40.

I actually became a published author almost by accident. My books in my Kate Gomolemo Mystery Series were actually all first published in a small newspaper I owned in Botswana. We were changing format and wanted to see what we could do to maintain our readership. I decided I would write a serialised novel, 1,000 words each issue.

When the first book finished in the newspaper, people called the office asking for parts they had missed. On a whim I sent the manuscript to Macmillan hoping that they might publish the book so that our newspaper readers could get the parts they’d missed. Macmillan agreed, and that was my first published book. It was published in 2005.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

I write primarily popular fiction.

I have four published romances with the South African publisher Sapphire Press, an imprint of Kwela Books. I also have two detective series. I write for children and teens as well. And I write short stories, and occasionally, literary stories.

Who is your target audience?

To be honest I write for myself, my hope is that other people will enjoy my stories too.

In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most?

I have many influences. I love J. D. Robb, John Steinbeck, Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson… actually it’s difficult to mention all of them.

I do find that certain writers, though they may not come out explicitly in my work, they inspire me to write. For example, Steinbeck. I go back to his work often for inspiration. His simple solid sentences resonate with me and my hope is to someday be able to move a story along in such an honest way.

How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

I think there is hardly a story I have written that does not start with a personal experience. It might be something in my own life, something I witnessed, or something I heard.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I think my concerns are like every writer, to write the story I need to write the best way that I can.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Well, I’m a full time writer living in Botswana, the toughest thing for me is to try to make a liveable income from my work. It is a constant challenge. I try different things, I try to keep abreast of what is happening in the industry. For example, I recently published three of my Kate Gomolemo Mysteries on Amazon. Two have been published traditionally before but I kept the ebook rights. I don’t know anything about self publishing but I’m learning. I just try to be adaptable.

Do you write everyday?

I’m a full time writer and I treat my writing as my work. I usually get to my office (which is separate from my house) at about ten. I attend to administrative work first and then get to work on whatever my day’s project is. I usually knock off about 6:30.

How many books have you written so far?
  • The Fatal Payout (2005) fiction, first book in Kate Gomolemo Mystery Series, publisher Macmillan prescribed book by Ministry of Education, Form 1 
  • Murder For Profit (2008), fiction, second book in Kate Gomolemo Mystery Series publisher Pentagon Publisher 
  • Mmele and the Magic Bones ( 2009) children's fiction, Pentagon Publishers, Prescribed book for Ministry of Education, Standard 5
  • Three Collections of Short Stories for Std. 5, 6, and 7 (2009) Pentagon Publishers co-written with Wame Molefhe and Bontekanye Botumile. All three prescribed books by Ministry of Education. 
  • Lorato and the Wire Car (2009), Vivlia Publishers (RSA), a children’s book 
  • Birthday Wishes and other Stories (2009) Vivlia Publisher (RSA), a collection of three short stories for children 11-14 
  • Kwaito Love (April 2010) romance, Sapphire Press an imprint of Kwela Books South Africa 
  • Can He Be the One? (August 2010) romance, Sapphire Press an imprint of Kwela Books South Africa 
  • The Curse of the Gold Coins  (2010) Vivlia Publishers (RSA), a mystery for children 
  • Anything for Money (third book in the Detective Kate Gomolemo series), third book in Kate Gomolemo Mystery Series, Vivlia Publishers (RSA) 2011 
  • Signed, Hopelessly in Love (August 2011) Tafelberg South Africa, a humorous novel for teens 
  • Mr Not Quite Good Enough romance July 2011 Sapphire Press an imprint of Kwela Books South Africa 
  • In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata and Other Stories, ebook, HopeRoad London, Dec 2011, a short story collection, all stories set in Botswana 
  • Love in the Shadows, Romance-thriller, April 2012, Sapphire Press 
  • Murder For Profit, Anything for Money, Claws of a Killer, ebooks, May 2012 , self published at Kindle Direct Publishing
What is different about your latest books?

My latest books are the self published ebooks: Murder for Profit; Anything for Money and Claws of a Killer.

The series is set in Botswana and the books are fast paced mysteries. If you love mysteries, you’ll love these books! I know as a reader I’ve always loved series because you can follow the protagonist for some time, in different places. These books are like that. Kate’s life will change quite a bit from the first book to the last. I’ve received great feedback on the books. The first book in the series, The Fatal Payout, is currently read in all junior secondary schools in Botswana and I meet people everywhere who love the book.

Murder for Profit; Anything for Money and Claws of a Killer were self published at Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), my first attempt at self publishing.

I wanted to try KDP and I was lucky to still have the e-rights for these three books.

What advantages and/or disadvantages has this presented?

The advantages are that you have complete control over the books - the covers, the design, the marketing. That’s also sort of the disadvantage too. You really need to put time into marketing. There are so many books published at KDP so you need to work hard to get some attention for your books.

My hope was if I published all three of them at the same time I might build a readership a bit quicker. I’m currently on a very steep learning curve.

Which aspects of the work you put into the books did you find most difficult?

The marketing is tough. Especially trying to get people to read the books and do reviews, and then to put the reviews up at Amazon. It takes a lot of time. Much more than I anticipated.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I love starting a book. I work out the plot and character bibles by hand before I start writing, I like that part.

I also like writing the rough draft. I write very quickly/ I can write up to 8,000 words in a day at that stage.

What will your next book be about?

I’ve just finished the rough draft for a new romance. It’s called There’s Something About Him. I hope to have it to the publisher in the next two months or so.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I’ve won or been shortlisted for quite a few writing prizes. I’ve twice won the PanAfrican prize for children’s story, The Golden Baobab Prize. I won our national award for creative writers sponsored by our Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture, the Orange/Botswerere Prize, and last year (2011) I was shortlisted for the Caine Prize which is perhaps the most prestigious prize for African short story writers.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

[Interview] Catherine Czerkawska

Catherine Czerkawska is a poet, a novelist and a playwright.

Her books include The Amber Heart (Amazon Kindle, 2012), Bird of Passage (Amazon Kindle, 2012) and The Curiosity Cabinet (Amazon Kindle, 2011)

In this interview, Catherine Czerkawska talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

When I was very young I wrote poems, stories and fan fiction before fan fiction was ever invented – stories about The Beatles, especially John Lennon. I found some of them a little while ago in a box of old papers. They weren’t too bad, considering how young I was.

I think I probably wanted to be a published writer from the start. But it’s so long ago that it’s quite hard to remember. I submitted poetry and stories to all kinds of magazines and when I was still in my teens, I began to get personal letters instead of standard rejections. By the time I was at Edinburgh University, I’d had various poems published. My first biggish sale was a short story called "Catch Two" for She Magazine. (They paid well.) I was also writing plays, especially radio plays, and I sold my first short play to Radio Scotland when I was in my early 20s. I went on to write more than 100 hours of Radio Drama, some television and many stage plays.

How would you describe your writing?

I’d describe myself as a novelist, although I still write the occasional stage play. I’m an unashamed mid-list writer. Some of my novels are historical and some contemporary. I hope they’re well written (don’t we all?) but I also hope they’re good, readable stories. I write a lot about relationships, often in a rural setting, but I don’t always do happy endings. A sense of place is very important to my fiction. I do a lot of revision, a lot of honing. Maybe because I started out as a poet!

Who is your target audience?

When I’m writing, I don’t have any target audience in mind. I’m too involved with the characters and the story. At some point in the process, (but I couldn’t say exactly when) I start to think about the audience, the readers. Am I communicating this story in the best way possible? What am I trying to say? Will people understand it?

I would say I write for a ‘mid-list’ audience - the kind of readers who seem to be increasingly ill-served by traditional publishing, which spends too much time and money trying to predict the next big success on the basis of the last big success. And I don’t much like being tied to a specific genre. In some ways, I write the kind of books I like to read myself but I always love talking to readers about my novels.

Which authors influenced you most?

There are two distinct influences. The first involves Victorian novels, the Brontes in particular. In fact my novel Bird of Passage is something of a ‘homage’ to Wuthering Heights. It’s quite subtle, but it’s there. I love the way Wuthering Heights is so heartrending but by the end, past miseries are resolved in a loving relationship – balance is restored. I love that about these novels.

But I enjoy contemporary fiction too. I’m a big fan of William Trevor. I routinely think ‘I wish I had written that’ when I’m reading his stories. They seem deceptively simple, but they have untold depths and complexity.

How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

Obviously I’ve accumulated a lot of experience over the years. Everything feeds into the writing. People often ask ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ but ideas are everywhere, every relationship, every experience, (even the difficult ones). It’s a process of trying not to become cynical, trying to become wise instead, trying to tell the stories that might mean something to readers just as they mean something to the writer.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Big question. I’m endlessly interested in the relationships between men and women, not just in their love stories, but in how we betray other people for all kinds of reasons, how other people betray us and how we come to terms with that.

I’m interested in how past suffering influences the present.

And – of course – as a writer of historical fiction, I’m fascinated by the attempt to recreate the past as it might have been – not as we might see it through modern eyes. Well, that’s practically impossible, I know, but if you immerse yourself in a time and place, you can make a good enough job of it.

Perhaps most important of all, I want my readers to believe in the world I’ve created. It might be a past or a present world. But they have to believe that it’s real and true.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Disillusionment with the process. I had quite a lot of success early in my writing life. I spent a number of years as a reasonably successful playwright but I always knew that fiction was where my real ambitions lay. Then I had three traditionally published novels, and each time I thought ‘this is it’. One of them in particular did very well. But for one reason or another – all of them to do with fluctuations within the publishing industry – I always seemed to be going back to square one and starting again. Maybe most writing careers are like that: a switchback rather than a curve.

On the other hand, I’ve developed a lot of persistence and it has allowed me to work at my craft. I think I’m a better writer now because of it. Most ‘beginning writers’ underestimate the sheer volume of work you have to produce to get anywhere.

Do you write every day?

I write just about every day but not always fiction. I do some reviewing and the odd essay and feature article. But I’m always thinking about the latest novel, and when I do get down to it, I write very intensively. I can keep going for twelve hours at a stretch!

I work best in the afternoons and in the evenings when the house is quiet. I like to stop at a point where I actively don’t want to stop – that way it’s easier to start again the following day.

I do a very rough first draft. I wouldn’t ever let anyone see it. Then I let the work lie fallow while I get on with something else. And then I revise. A lot. It’s quite a long process.

If I’m writing something that needs research, I’ll do some preliminary research, then write the first draft to find out what I don’t know. The Curiosity Cabinet consists of two stories, separated by several centuries. I wrote each part of that story separately and then put them together afterwards – printed them out and actually shuffled the pages about physically – it worked surprisingly well.

How many books have you written so far?

Novels
  • Shadow of the Stone (Richard Drew, 1989): Novel written to go with my television series of the same name, first produced on STV with Alan Cumming and Shirley Henderson, all episodes now available on YouTube
  • The Golden Apple (Century, 1990): A novel about a cross cultural marriage.
  • The Curiosity Cabinet (Polygon, 2005): Alys visited the fictional Hebridean island of Garve as a child. Donal was her playmate. Now she has returned after a long absence and a difficult divorce. Interwoven with the story of their growing love, is the darker tale of Henrietta Dalrymple, kidnapped by the formidable Manus McNeill and held on Garve against her will. With three hundred years separating them, the women are linked by an embroidered casket and its contents, by the tug of motherhood and by the magic of the island itself.
  • The Curiosity Cabinet (Amazon Kindle Version, 2011)
  • Bird of Passage (Amazon Kindle, 2012): A novel about the shocking realities of state-sanctioned physical abuse in Ireland and its aftermath in Scotland. Bird of Passage is a powerful story of cruelty, loss and enduring love.
  • The Amber Heart (Amazon Kindle, 2012): An epic love story set in the troubled Eastern Borderlands of 19th century Poland, this is a tale of obsessive love and loyalty set against the backdrop of a turbulent time and place.
Non-fiction:
Published Plays:
How would you describe your latest book?

The Amber Heart is a love story set in the Eastern Borderlands of 19th century Poland. I think it tackles very adult themes sensitively, but there’s no denying that it’s the story of an intense physical obsession between two people, set against the backdrop of an equally turbulent time and place.

It is also the story of the ‘pancake yellow’ house of Lisko, the heroine’s beloved childhood home, and the way in which the lives of the characters are disrupted by the political turmoil of the times. It has been described as a 'Polish Gone With The Wind'. It is very loosely based on a series of extraordinary facts which came to light when I was researching my own remote family history.

How long did it take you to write the book?

Unusually for me, this one has been on the go for about 20 years! I did a lot of the research while my beloved father was still alive – I’m very glad that I did because he gave me lots of information, lots of details which would be very hard to find now. The late great Pat Kavanagh was my agent at the time and although she told me she loved the book and she was one of the best agents in the business, she simply couldn’t place it with any publisher – lots of positive responses, but they said they didn’t think they could market anything with a Polish setting. We both got very frustrated about it. I filed it away and got on with writing plays. But I kept going back to it from time to time. It’s a big piece of work, 130,000 words. Then, over the past three years, I revised and rewrote it much more intensively. I had matured as a writer and I think it’s a much more readable story now.

When and where was it published? How did you find a publisher for the book?

Last year, I took the decision to go completely ‘Indie’ and start self publishing, initially to Kindle.

The Amber Heart is my third and most recent Kindle novel.

I think like most writers of my age and stage, I had begun years earlier by looking for traditional agent/publishing deals. I was headhunted by an agent who specialised in drama after a play of mine won a major award and then the agency asked Pat to look after my fiction.

At first all went well – my first novel was sold to a small publisher, my second to a much bigger ‘mid-list’ publisher, but the whole industry was changing. That publisher, the Bodley Head, old and distinguished, was bought over by one of the Big Six and after that even Pat couldn’t sell The Amber Heart.

Much later, returning to novels after years spent on plays, I was shortlisted for the Dundee Book Prize with The Curiosity Cabinet and it was subsequently published, but although the print run sold out, the publisher declined to look at the next book and wouldn’t reprint TCC. Neither novel fitting in with their future plans, so it was fair enough But both are now available on Kindle and selling well.

For a long time, it had struck me that there was a growing imbalance for authors. Many of us were getting what my fellow writer Maggie Craig calls the Rave Rejection – ‘We love this but the marketing department says it won’t sell in big enough quantities.’ Traditional publishers were – so my agent told me – looking for an ‘oven ready product’. They were also looking for a breakthrough book right away. When I first began writing and publishing, you had time to grow as a writer. Many best-selling authors today made that breakthrough with their forth, fifth or sixth book. Now they’d be dumped after book number two. I still remember the sudden shock of hearing my later agent say ‘I won’t submit this because although it’s good, I don’t think it’s a breakthrough book and if I submit two books by you which are turned down, nobody will even look at a third.’ It was as though somebody had placed a time limit on my creativity. It was appalling.

Then along came eBooks and Amazon. I don’t have any illusions that this is a particularly benevolent industry and I don’t plan to put all my eggs in one basket, but I still wake up most mornings thinking, God Bless Jeff Bezos. This is a company which has given me the professional tools to do the job. I don’t expect nurturing – just a good businesslike relationship. Long may it continue.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into The Amber Heart?

Punctuation. Although I have a degree in English Language and Literature, I’ve spent years as a playwright. You get into the habit of writing speeches the way you want the actor to say them, regardless of punctuation. Then, suddenly, you have to get it right.

The other challenge for me was having an editor – albeit not my main editor – suddenly advise me to chop off the last third of The Amber Heart and finish it a hundred pages earlier. I enjoy working with a sympathetic editor but this was a bridge too far and I said I wouldn’t do it. When I think about it now, I see that there may be a difference between what appeals to a male and what appeals to a female reader. I felt very strongly that to do as he suggested would have made the ending of the book deeply unsatisfactory. One or two female readers agreed with me. So I didn’t follow his advice, although it did send me back to the manuscript to tighten it up a bit.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I would have to say, writing the sensuous scenes between the hero and heroine.

Fifty Shades this isn’t, but it is a story about an intensely physical but forbidden relationship - an obsession really - between two people – one that lasts for their whole lives. That’s not all it’s about of course – but it is certainly central to the novel and the key to the whole story. I loved writing these scenes.

What sets the book apart from other things you've written?

The background, I suppose. That Polish background was familiar to me from my own childhood, in Leeds, which was where my refugee father finished up after the war, and where he met and married my Irish mother – but I don’t think I realised just how strange it would seem to others. And how much subsequent perceptions of Eastern Bloc countries might colour other people’s idea of a ‘Polish’ novel.

Essentially, The Amber Heart would appeal to anyone who enjoyed the movie of Dr Zhivago but it’s quite a challenge to get that across to potential readers!

In what way is it similar to the others?

It’s a love story with a tragic twist. So is Bird of Passage. The Curiosity Cabinet has a happier ending. All of them have largely (but not wholly) rural settings.

What will your next book be about?

It will be finished later this year – I’m revising it at the moment. It’s called The Physic Garden, a historical novel set in very early nineteenth century Glasgow. The central character – and narrator - is one of the gardeners of the old Physic Garden (the medicinal garden) of Glasgow University. He’s a very old man when he relates the story of events that happened in his youth. It’s a story about friendship and horrific betrayal. He has spent his life trying to forget it, but in old age, he has to try to come to terms with it.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Two things. Finally finishing and publishing The Amber Heart, against all the odds. (It’s a BIG book and very dear to my heart.) And my stage play Wormwood which is still part of the Scottish Higher Drama syllabus. It’s about the Chernobyl disaster and I think it may be the best thing I’ve ever written. The critics liked it too.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

[Interview] Jean Holloway

Jean Holloway lives in Kennesaw, GA.

Her books include Ace of Hearts (PHE Ink, 2009)) which is also available as an audiobook; Black Jack (PHE Ink, 2009); Deuces Wild (PHE Ink, 2010) and Full House (PHE Ink, 2011).

In this interview, Jean Holloway talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

It all began when my sister, Lori, commented, ‘You read so much, I bet you could write book,’ and I answered, ‘I bet I can!’ and began writing Ace of Hearts in long-hand in 1980. I completed the manuscript in 1982.

I was 30 years old and the mother of six.

I never considered the possibility of becoming a published writer, in fact, if someone had told me I would become a published author at the age of 57, I wouldn’t have believed them. Lori pushed me into this career when she bought me a ticket to the National Book Club Conference in Atlanta and instructed me to print copies of my manuscript and give them to anyone who wouldn’t throw them back. That’s where I met my first publisher.

Two years later at a literary event in Houston, I met T.L. James, CEO of PHE Ink. I recognized a kindred spirit and switched publishers.

How would you describe your writing?

I’m a genre bender, writing risqué romantic thrillers with a splash of the paranormal.

My target audience is mainly women over 21. I thought they could empathize with my protagonist, Detective Shevaughn Robinson.

Which authors influenced you most?

All my life I’ve been a fan of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Tananarive Due and Jean Auel. I admired their ability to transport me into their world and take me on a roller coaster ride. I wanted to have the same effect on my readers.

And how have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

I thought the influence was minimal until my sister, April pointed out the similarities of my characters (especially Shevaughn’s) experiences to correlating events and attitudes in my own life. What an eye-opener!

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

I think my biggest challenge is getting readers who are unfamiliar with my work to give me a chance. I find there are a lot of readers who only read their favorite authors and won’t gamble on someone new.

How are you dealing with this challenge?

I’ve put excerpts on all my social networks. Usually, once they read a smidgen, either they love me or hate me.

Do you write everyday?

No, not every day. I usually write when my characters tell me to. A session starts when I hear one of them whisper in my mind. Then I go to my computer and write what I hear. It ends when they get quiet. Since they seem to be nocturnal, sometimes I find myself jumping out of bed at three in the morning running down to the computer to get down our thoughts before I forget.

How many books have you written so far?

  • Ace of Hearts, PHE Ink – Writing Solutions Firm, July 13, 2009, Second Edition
  • Black Jack, PHE Ink – Writing Solutions Firm, May 14, 2009
  • Deuces Wild, PHE Ink – Writing Solutions Firm, October 10, 2010. That was my 60th birthday present to me!
  • Full House, PHE Ink – Writing Solutions Firm – November 22, 2011

The four novels complete the Deck of Cardz series.

Detective Shevaughn Robinson is the main character in all four novels. You get to follow her life and career from rookie to Captain of the Homicide Division. As Portsborough, NY’s first Black female homicide detective in 1981, you watch as she strives to prove herself in a male-dominated workforce. You also meet her new partner, Jared Benjamin, and Tony O'Brien, an unexpected love interest.

The series introduces you to a series of sexual predators, starting with Eric Becker in Ace of Hearts, a psycho who has the inexperienced Shevaughn in his sights.

What is your latest book about?

In Full House, the final novel of the Deck of Cardz series, Captain Shevaughn Robinson is at the pinnacle of her career and living the challenging life of a single mother of two. It doesn’t help that her adolescent daughter still communicates with the dead and is in a relationship that’s way too serious for her age. Or that Nonna, the only one she can depend on, is beginning to show signs of Alzheimer's.

When she hears allegations that the police are ignoring the growing number of missing black women in Portsborough, Shevaughn pledges to personally investigate their disappearance. It leads her to one of the most unusual crimes in her entire career and gives new meaning to the phrase, "honor thy mother".

How long did it take you to write the novel?

Full House took me a year because it’s the last novel of the Deck of Cardz series and after working on this series since 1980, I really hated to let it go. I procrastinated a bit.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I loved seeing how everything came together.

I don’t use outlines or storyboards or anything. I write by the seat of my pants and once I’m through getting it all out, I have to arrange everything chronologically like a time puzzle.

What sets Full House apart from other things you've written?

This time I have an entire dysfunctional family instead of my usual one psychopath.

In what way is it similar to the others?

Shevaughn is one tough cookie from start to finish.

How did you choose a publisher for the book?

When I met T.L. James, we clicked. I chose PHE Ink because it’s a small, independent press which allowed them to give me the personal attention I wanted. It’s more like a literary family. I really don’t see any disadvantages since I’m now Managing Partner.

What will your next book be about?

I’m contemplating collaborating with another author or maybe another series, but haven’t worked out the details as of yet.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Ace of Hearts was nominated against the esteemed Walter Mosley’s The Tempest Tales in 2008. Of course, he beat me like a bad child, but what an honor!

Now Ace is an audiobook, but not your usual audiobook; it has music and sound effects like a classic radio show. And last year, I became a member of the GA Peach Authors. I’m proud to be touring with such a group of well-respected authors.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

[Interview] Jennifer McBride

Jennifer McBride has written and published books that include Touching the Trees (2011); Cape of Leaves (2012); Basement Daisies (2012) and Child Less Parent (2012).

In this interview, she talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I began writing a few years after I began to read. My first "produced" work was in 2nd grade. I was around seven or eight years old and I wrote a play that my teacher allowed me to make into a classroom production. At around the same time, I wrote a story that my uncle read aloud to a large family reunion. I was hooked after that.

What made you decide you wanted to be a published writer?

I resisted the urge to be published because I thought it was too difficult to achieve but once self-publishing became an option, I explored this avenue and found that I really enjoyed being involved in every aspect of the publishing process.

I majored in writing in college, but didn't do much with that for almost 15 years. Then I began taking writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and knew I wanted to work at being a published author. More interesting, though, is that about six years ago I made a conscious decision to not write. I was trying to find a way to stay in a relationship and I knew writing was going to lead me to find myself... and lead me away from the sad comfort of that situation. So, I sat in a bar in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and announced "I will not be a writer."

In that funny way life has of changing one's mind, though, it wasn't three months later that the urge and desire and calling to write became overwhelming and I began taking classes again. I haven't stopped writing since.

Needless to say, I'm not in that relationship anymore.

How would you describe your writing?

It's funny you ask that. I'm kind of a Kelly Clarkson writer. I dabble in many genres... nonfiction, essay, blogging, poetry, and fiction... just like she's able to sing in many different ways: country, pop, soul, rock, etc. I am, however, primarily a non-fiction writer right now.

Who is your target audience?

My target audience has been slightly different for each book I've written.

Overall, my audience is women and men who have had to make significant changes in their lives, whether it's because of relationships, job transitions, illness, etc. I became motivated to write for this audience when I became divorced and in search of an identity other than "wife" and "carpooler."

In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most?

Mary Oliver and Billy Collins have influenced my poetry. I try to write accessible poems that express deep emotions. Mary Oliver's poetry sung to me and I heard Billy Collins speak in Minneapolis many years ago and I thought, "Wow. I really like his poetry. I should try writing some."

For my non-fiction, I'm inflenced by Elizabeth Gilbert and Anna Quindlen. Both women are frank, unashamed, and witty. I long to write like them!

For fiction, my "mentors" are Janet Evanovich and Jonathon Kellerman. I'm trying to find a balance between murder mystery, humor, and societal issues.

Have your own personal experiences influenced your writing in any way?

That's all they do! I write nonfiction "self-help" because I needed help and finally feel I can share what I've learned with others.

When I was getting divorced, I thought there had to be a better way to "do" the incredible changes that come from such a traumatic life experience. I didn't want my divorce to be in vain... I wanted to be a better, stronger, more alive person because of it.

One of my books is in reaction to finding out more about Parental Alienation Disorder and how un-noticed and un-handled it is in the family court system. One book was written as a series of affirmations for my father-in-law, who is/was going through cancer treatment. The book I'm working on now is all the things I wish I could tell my teenagers (if only they could hear me!).

In addition, I may be the most unknown writer to have a stalker, but because of that, I've had to make very conscious decisions to ignore the fear and threats and keep writing. Many times it would have been easier to power down the laptop (and I have shut down five different blogs because of this), but I can't let that person or uncertainty stop me. Not now. I do try to be a little more careful with what I write and have chosen an entirely different name for my fiction writing, but those are the only two concessions I'll make.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My biggest concern is being able to make a living being a writer. I deal with this concern by producing quality work at a brisk pace. I network, seek out new venues, and make connections. Mostly, I believe that I'll reach my goal of self-sufficiency through writing and then I don't have to worry about it!

The biggest challenges I face are finding the right audience and convincing that audience that they want to read my work. I deal with this challenge by learning all I can about marketing, audience desires, and trends. I work on positioning my work, both in timing and content, to have the biggest impact on the market.

Do you write everyday?

I write about five days a week. Each session starts with poking around on the internet, checking email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Once that's all done (or I'm irritated with myself for procrastinating), I pull up the piece I'm working on and re-read just a little before where I'm picking it up.

I learned during NANOWRIMO 2008 (National Novel Writing Month) that the best way to move forward in a piece is to keep going back to re-do what's already been written. And it's true. When I get busy editing the first part, I don't always get around to writing the next part.

My writing sessions end when I have to be somewhere, the kids come home, I'm exhausted, or I've reached a good stopping point. I've been known to write for five or six straight hours with almost no breaks. I always wonder where those days have gone!

How many books have you written so far?

I've written six books so far:
  • Child Less Parent: "Snapshots" of Parental Alienation: a primer, with photos, of what Parental Alienation is, how to prevent it, how to correct it, and (if all else fails) how to have hope that life will go on. Written with input from members of the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization. Published in April, 2012 by my company, CCS Communications.
  • Basement Daisies: a book of thirteen affirmations and accompanying photos for people who need hope. Originally published with the blessing of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, Basement Daisies was a fundraiser to honor my father-in-law. Now it's available to all. Published in October, 2011 by CCS Communications.
  • Cape of Leaves: a compilations of poems about relationships and identity. I feel they are similar in style to Mary Oliver's work. Published in February, 2011 by CCS Communications.
  • Touching the Trees: a motivational memoir about finding identity through crisis. This book is a series of metaphors/stories that highlight all the changes one has to go through to find an authentic voice and life. Publishing in December 2010 by CCS Communications.
  • The Parents' Guide to Boys' Lacrosse: written under the name Jenni Lorsung, this book is a parent guide to understanding the sport of youth lacrosse. Published in January 2009 by CCS Communications.
  • The Parents' Guide to Girls' Lacrosse: written under the name Jenni Lorsung. This book is the companion guide to girls' youth lacrosse. Published in January 2009 by CCS Communications.
How would you describe the books you are working on at the moment?

My latest book is non-fiction and focuses on the ways I think "being" and "not being" are vital to a healthy life. For instance, in this case I'm "being" forthright in sharing my story with you!

I'm also concurrently working on a novel about a reporter who has great struggles in his relationship with his ex-wife and daughter while also chasing down a serial killer. I'm working on "not being" anxious about getting it done soon!

I'm still working on these two books.

Generally, how long does it take you to finish writing a book?

Child Less Parent and Basement Daisies each took about 4-6 months to write. My other books took over a year each.

For my longer non-fiction books, I allot about a year to do research, write, edit, and produce.

I self-publish all of my titles. I don't do this because I'm a control freak. Instead, I chose self-publishing so I could have tangible work product and potential income as soon as possible. I use CreateSpace as my production company because of their link to Amazon and (especially now that I've used them so much) their ease of developing a book. I also use Kindle as my exclusive e-book distributor. The disadvantage is that I have to do all the marketing myself, which is not my strength.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work that went into the books you have published so far?

In Touching the Trees, I found it extremely difficult to be honest and vulnerable. I'd come from many years of silenced feelings and it felt very frightening to put all those feelings out in the world for anyone and everyone to see.

As I suspected, my family (current and ex) wasn't all crazy about some of what I wrote, but I believe that I have a right and an obligation to tell the story truthfully. Based on reactions to the book, it was the right decision to stare that fear down and write it anyway.

Which aspects of the work do you enjoy most?

I enjoy the beginning and the end of the book-writing process.

I love having the brainstorms and squirting out thousands of words a day getting a book started. At the end, once the editing is complete, I really like designing the interior and the cover and planning a marketing strategy.

The middle part... editing... is hard for me.

What sets Touching the Trees apart from other things you've written?

I try to bring a sense of hope and trust to all of my work. I don't want my audience put-off by proclamations, so I write to be disarming and compassionate.

Touching the Trees is the most autobiographical book I've written. The others, with the exception of Cape of Leaves, are more objective non-fiction. Touching the Trees gets to my core.

What are your plans for the future?

My next really big project will be about a place in Northern Minnesota that hosts very old inns and has great histories of dynamic, eccentric innkeepers. I see so much potential in this book and have begun interviewing people and visiting the inns.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

My most significant achievement as a writer is that I've been able to touch lives in ways I didn't know I could.

It's not the awards or the accolades that mean the most to me. It's the honestly... or hesitantly... written emails and comments that show me that my words have found a way to lodge themselves in someone else's soul and have made a positive difference. I always knew words had that effect on me... I just never realized I had the power to use my own to have an effect on others.

It's a privilege to be read.

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