Interview with Dawn DeAnna Wilson

Dawn DeAnna Wilson, Author

It’s my pleasure to continue my series of Running Wild Anthology of Stories interviews with Dawn DeAnna Wilson. Her story, “Los Sueños,” was very vivid and poignant.

Welcome, Dawn!

Gemma: Can you give a taste of what your story is about?
Dawn: The story is about a medical student who can sleep, but she can’t dream. One night, during her pathology rotation, she discovers that she can hear the dreams of the dead.

Gemma: What a striking story premise. Do you remember what the seed for it was?
Dawn: I have serious insomnia, and the whole science of sleep has always fascinated me. There was a sleep center at the hospital I used to work for, and the director knew about all these unusual and bizarre sleep disorders. Essentially, the REM phase in dream sleep is what is responsible for keeping us healthy. Dreams are necessary.

From there, it kind of meandered. I remember thinking of the dead as being “asleep” and wondering what it would be like to never, never be able to dream.

Gemma: That is quite a disturbing concept – and disturbing concepts can turn into great stories. Yours is proof of that.

Cover of Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 3
Our New Anthology

Gemma: How did you find out about this anthology?
Dawn: Through the Submittable website.

Gemma: I need to explore more about Submittable’s calls for submissions and other resources for writers. Do you remember when and why you started writing?
Dawn: I wrote my first story when I was in kindergarten. I loved creating the characters and delving into different worlds. I can never remember a time when I did not want to be an author.

Gemma: That’s impressive – I’m not sure I was writing full sentences when I was in kindergarten! What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?

Dawn: My first novel, “Saint Jude,” is about a young adult with bipolar disorder. The novel is far from perfect, but it has touched the lives of others, which of course, is the whole point of writing.

 

Gemma: That is truly something to be proud of – and the best kind of legacy for a story. Can you tell me a little more about your writing history?

Dawn: My first poem was published when I was in eighth grade and my first short story was published when I was 16.

My work has appeared in such publications as Byline, Writer’s Digest, Evangel, and The Lutheran Journal. I won second-place in the N.C. Poetry Society’s annual contest for my love poem, “Learning English in Four-Letter Words.” My play, “Jesu of Fondue,” has been produced by the Nash County Arts Council and presented as a staged reading at the Storefront Theatre in Waxhaw, NC.

I’m the author of three novels, two traditionally published and one indie published. They are Saint Jude (Tudor Publishers, 2000), Leaving the Comfort Café (The Wild Rose Press, 2007), and the indie published Ten Thousand New Year’s Eves (Carraway Bay Press, 2011). I have also compiled a short story collection that I indie published, Welcome to Shangri-La, North Carolina (Carraway Bay Press, 2011).

Gemma: You have a wonderful array of published work. How has your writing changed over time?
Dawn: I think I’m delving much more into quirky characters, exploring the difficult facets of what makes them who they are. I’m also going more outside my comfort zone, as I’m preparing to tackle a murder mystery novel that is in a genre I’ve never written before.

Gemma: Good for you for going outside your comfort zone! What’s the biggest challenge for you to write?
Dawn: I wouldn’t dare undertake some historical fiction. I would just get so easily overwhelmed by all the research.

Gemma: I have dabbled in historical fiction, and I can totally understand – I got lost in the research for a couple of years, I think! (It was a really good excuse to not get down to the nitty-gritty of writing.) What do you like best to write?

Dawn: It’s hard to say, because every story and every project has its own joys and its own personality. I think that my favorite part of the writing process is the exploration that goes on during that first draft, when you’re getting to know the characters and unearthing the story. It’s like going on a treasure hunt.

Gemma: Oh, that’s a cool analogy. When you get an idea for a story, what comes to mind first, the plot or the character(s)? Or does it vary from story to story?

Dawn: Honestly, sometimes it’s a line or two. Sometimes, it’s a scene that stands out very crisp in my mind. Then I explore—WHY did they say that? Who is in this scene and why is it important?

Gemma: I remember C.S. Lewis saying something about how the Chronicles of Narnia (one of my childhood favorites) started with the image of a faun with an umbrella in a snowstorm. So you are in good company! What authors did you love most growing up? What authors have influenced your writing most?

Dawn: Ray Bradbury, Lloyd Alexander, Ursula K. LeGuin and Rod Searling. And maybe a bit of Donald Barthelme.

Gemma: Ray Bradbury and Lloyd Alexander are two of my favorites to this day! For a long time I’ve been meaning to read Ursula K. LeGuin, and now I want to learn more about Donald Barthelme. On another topic, is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?

Dawn: Living on the coast of North Carolina is a fantastic, inspirational place to write. There’s the gorgeous beaches, the marshy inlets and the full spectrum of Southern characters.

 

Gemma: What are you working on now?

Dawn: I’m polishing up a few short stories to try to get them ready to send out. Not trying to give anything away, but one does have a lizard man in it.

Gemma: A lizard man sounds intriguing! What do you plan to work on next?

Dawn: I’m going to tackle my first murder mystery/thriller that’s kind of in the same vein as the Stephanie Plum series.

Gemma: Going outside your comfort zones like you said! How can readers keep up with you and your writing?

Dawn: I’m around here and there. You can connect with me by contacting me through my website or on my author Facebook page. Although I encourage readers to email me through my website (I’m not on Facebook as much these days. I find that the more I’m on Facebook, the less I write)
Gemma: Oh, yes, social media and the internet in general can be such time-stealers! I find I have to keep offline to get writing done, too.

Thanks for taking time to join me on my blog, Dawn. And Happy Valentine’s Day to you and our readers!

Interview with Monique Gagnon German

Cover of Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 3
Our New Anthology

I’m welcoming 2020 with interviews of some of my Running Wild Anthology of Stories colleagues. I’m delighted to begin with Monique Gagnon German, whose story Creach gripped me with its understated tension.

Welcome, Monique!

photo of author Monique Gagnon German
Monique Gagnon German, poet and author

Gemma: Give us a taste of what your story is about.
Monique: Creach is a story about a family living a simple life off-grid, until the unexpected arrives. Creach asks the question, “When something entirely new shows up in your life, do you embrace it or fear it?”

Gemma: Do you remember what the seed for this story was?
Monique: A parenthood moment spurred this story. With two kids, there is an almost constant barrage of requests for various toys, pets, games, & tech. For me, there’s always this decision-making duality: I want to protect them but I want to give them whatever they need to grow and thrive. Knowing with certainty the “best” yes’s and no’s is impossible.

Gemma: Your story crystallizes and magnifies this paradox so well!
Monique: That is a great compliment. Thank you!
Gemma: You’re very welcome! How did you find out about this anthology?
Monique: I saw a call for submissions. I investigated the background of Running Wild Press and was very impressed with who they are and what they published. When I sampled some of their published pieces, I really wanted to be in that company. I was absolutely thrilled when they wanted Creach.

Gemma: Do you remember when and why you started writing?
Monique: I grew up immersed in books. Quite the book nerd, actually. Some of my heroes include: Alice Walker, Steven King, Stephen Dunn, Nathanial Hawthorne, Lucy Grealy, Flannery O’Connor, Emily Dickinson, and Billy Collins. I wanted their jobs; I wanted to create worlds in stanzas and paragraphs.
Gemma: That is a cool way of putting it! And you wanted to be a poet from the beginning, it sounds like. What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
Monique: One poem I’m still proud of is, “God’s Voice,” (it was picked up by The Wayfarer).

Cover of Wayfarer magazine

 

Monique: One short story I’m still proud of is, “The Gambit Game” (it was published by The MacGuffin).

Cover of The MacGuffin magazine

 

Gemma: Tell a little about your writing history.
Monique: I started with poetry, but stories were also always coming to mind. I’ve written both pretty much all along, but only in the past few years have I submitted stories for consideration to be published.

Gemma: How has your writing changed over time?
Monique: Hopefully, it has gotten better. By better, I mean better at transporting the reader into the content, so they feel they are “in” it for the journey of the story or poem.
Gemma: In Creach and your more recent story The Now I really felt immersed in the atmospheric worlds you created, so well done! What’s the biggest challenge for you to write?
Monique: My first thought is always, hey, there’s no challenge too big! And then, the second thought races in, every story/poem I write is the current biggest challenge.

Gemma: What do you like best to write?
Monique: Anything that feels new.

Gemma: When you get an idea for a story, what comes to mind first, the plot or the character(s)? Or does it vary from story to story?
Monique: Story ideas are a combination of plot, characters, setting, and mood for me; even at inception they form a sort of blurred painting in my mind. But, usually, the spur that gets me excited to write the story is the engine: the plot concept.
Gemma: I love the “blurred painting” analogy! Plot is often what comes to me first, and spurs me to write, too. Do you tend to know the ending when you start writing?
Monique: Never. Sometimes I think I have an inkling, but I am always wrong. [laughter]

Gemma: Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
Monique: I think living in so many places has influenced my writing more than any one place in particular.
Gemma: What are some of the places you’ve lived?
Monique: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona – But before you gasp at so many moves, let me explain, I married a Marine some 14 years ago. He’s retired now but we moved every three years for awhile there based on his assignments.

Gemma: What are you working on now?
Monique: A few things are in progress… a few new flash fiction stories… a few new poems. I have a process where I get multiple things started, then edit, change, edit, change, edit until they feel done.
Gemma: I admire your ability to work on more than one thing at a time! Readers can find one of your recent works, The Now, on Typishly. I really liked how swiftly I was immersed in that new world, and the tense journey you took readers on.
Monique: Thank you. I had a weird sense of fun writing The Now, I felt immersed in that world and like I was seeing it rather than “inventing” it. That story really came alive almost movie-like in my mind when I was writing it and it was such a cool journey for me.
Gemma: That is cool! And I think it shows in the story. How can readers connect with you and find out more about your work?
Monique: The best way is through my website or email.

Gemma: Thank you so much for joining me on my blog, Monique! I hope readers will check out your stories in our Anthology, TypishlyThe Wayfarer, and The MacGuffin. And if you haven’t gotten a copy of Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 3 to read her story and all its fine company, do so!

Check back in coming weeks for more interviews with my Anthology colleagues.

 

Guest Blog by Laura Selinsky: Writing By the Numbers

picture of Laura Selinsky
Laura Selinsky, Author and Teacher

{From Gemma: I am deeply pleased to welcome my friend and colleague Laura Nelson Selinsky as a guest on my blog to celebrate the release day of her new novella, Season of Hope. Please read on for Laura’s post.}

Banner of Season of Hope cover art
Release Day Nov. 1 2019

If you are a reader of a certain age, your childhood included “paint by numbers,” an allegedly artistic activity. It was the sort of gift you received at Christmas from childless and unimaginative relations. Paint by numbers sets attempted to quantify beauty and force it into the chubby fingers of eight-year olds. At best, painting by numbers represented a quixotic and foolish quest.

As a fantasy writer, I do love a foolish quest. Today, I’m on a quest to quantify my writing by numbers, starting with zero.

Zero: For much of my life, I wasn’t a fiction writer. That doesn’t mean I didn’t write, but that my writing wasn’t a passionate creative process. In college and seminary, I wrote essays, analyses, and research. As a pastor and ministry leader, I wrote sermons, scripts, and curriculum. For teaching, I wrote reports, emails, and even a few letters. But I wrote zero words of fiction from the day I graduated from grammar school to the day I turned fifty.

Fifty: On my fiftieth birthday, I started a novel. A host of fictional people live in my head, and I wanted to let them out to play. Two months later, I had completed a draft of the still unpublished Daughter of Fire. By the time I was fifty-two, another novel was complete. I began to write query letters, seeking print homes for my books.

300,000: The next decade of writing meant watching my wordcount tick toward the stratosphere. 300,000 is roughly the number of words in A Game of Thrones or Bleak House, depending on how classy you like your wordcounts. And that’s only if I think of each story as a single draft. Some of my projects have been through five drafts; one has been revised nine times. If I consider the number of words deleted, supplemented, or revised? Yikes, that’s a lot of writing. 300,000 is easier to imagine.

Ten: By my sixtieth birthday, I had published a couple of short stories and a nonfiction piece about teaching students with learning differences. My birthday gift was an email from the wonderful editor Kara Leigh Miller, saying that she was taking my Christmas novella before the purchasing committee at Anaiah Press. I had sold Season of Hope by the end of the following week—ten years after I began writing seriously. Through Kara’s editorial guidance Season of Hope grew to 50,000 words, treading the line between an overgrown novella and a wee little novel. Ten is also the number of years that I have spent in a priceless critique group sponsored by Pennwriters and marshalled by Gemma Brook, mistress of this blog.

cover art for Season of Hope novella

One: Season of Hope is being released today, November 1, 2019. It will be followed in ten days by Beach Dreams. I entered my first writing competition this summer, and my short story Shells won second place. That story, a meditation on the ways we measure the children we love, will be featured in Beach Dreams, published by Cat and Mouse Press.

cover art for Beach Dreams anthology
Release Day Nov 10 2019

Winning a writing contest in one try seems absurdly, undeservedly easy if you ignore ten and 300,000. But writers aren’t paint by numbers automatons. If you want to write, ten and 300,000, and the perseverance they represent, are the only numbers that matter.

From Gemma: Thank you for sharing a bit of your writing history, Laura, and the inspiring perseverance encapsulated within. Congratulations on the excellent news of your imminent publications! I invite my readers to connect with you through these links for Facebook and  Twitter or by searching Laura Nelson Selinsky. Readers, you can also find Laura on her Amazon page. And you can meet her in person at the Beach Dreams launch party! If you can’t make the party, you can read new interviews with Laura by Melinda Dozier, by Sara Beth Williams,  and at Batya’s Bits

My Publication News

I have exciting news – my next publication is coming out soon! My fiction is included in Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 3, due on or around Sept. 15th, 2019. My contribution is a bit of flash fiction, “The One that Got Away,” which won an award at a recent Pennwriters Conference. It’s about a bunch of fisherman swapping stories and the tale that tops them all.

My story joins Aud Supplee’s “Monkey in the Middle.” I’ve read a lot of Aud’s fine fiction, but not this one and I’m excited to read it.

This collection is a follow-up to Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2 , which features two of my pieces. That collection is packed with excellent stories; you can read interviews with several of the authors (and others) on my site.

cover of Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vot. 2
Volume Two

I can’t wait to see what Volume 3 holds! Check back for updates and the cover reveal.

Meanwhile, I’ll be hard at work on my fantasy novel.

Desk of Gemma Brook

Christopher Paolini Book Signing

Here Be Dragons!

Saphira Banner for Christopher Paolini's B & N Tour
Saphira Banner

Christopher Paolini’s dragons at Barnes & Noble, to be exact.

Barnes & Noble is hosting an Author Residency Book Tour with Christopher Paolini over the coming months. And from what I’ve seen of it, it’s a lot of fun! The staff at the B&N bookstore I went to made it a great, smooth-running event. Kudos to them.

Now I confess I haven’t read the books (so many books, so little time! I’m a slow reader, and thick books can be daunting). But a dear friend who is an avid and discerning reader has enjoyed them, and that was good enough for me to think about getting the latest book, The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm, for my great-nephew who likes mythology and fantasy.

Cover of The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm by Christopher Paolini
My copy…for now

The Residency Tour is in only about a dozen cities, so I’m quite pleased that the only mid-Atlantic location was in my state! And dragons, like most mythical beasts, are dear to my heart. So I decided to go. My friend Aud Supplee also came, bringing another friend. And Aud has also written a blog about her perspective of the event, so check that out!

 

Crowd waiting for Christopher Paolini at B&N
The Waiting Crowd

My first impression of Christopher Paolini was how warm and unassuming he was, and genuinely delighted to be there. (A friend who works at the store and helped organize the event says he was great to talk to and super-nice behind the scenes, too.) He was content to blend in with the crowd while we were playing trivia with the B&N booksellers. One of the questions was something like, “What did Eragon get from his sister?” Christopher jovially called from the crowd, “More questions!” (Please forgive me, fans – you’ll probably know exactly what that question was, and if it wasn’t about his sister, I apologize! I can only plead ignorance and faulty memory; I wasn’t taking notes.)

Then Christopher took the mike to talk to us. He honestly seemed to enjoy it as much as the audience did.

Christopher Paolini Presenting at B&N
Christopher Presenting

With self-deprecating humor, he said, “Some of you may have noticed that it’s been awhile since my last book.” We all laughed. He explained how he started Eragon when he was 15, (1998), and he was still touring with the fourth book in 2012 – a huge chunk of his young life. When he was done he wanted nothing to do with dragons for awhile! Meanwhile, he’s been writing a big sci-fi book “with tentacles.” But he would wonder at odd moments, “What are Eragon and Saphira doing now?” Then he wondered what it would be like to write about a very old, angry, hungry dragon. “Like Smaug,” I think someone in the audience said. “Or like the dragon in Beowulf,” Christopher said. That formed the basis of the “Worm” story in his new book.

A fan once tweeted him, “What’s Murtagh doing?” Because Christopher was awake at 1:00 a.m. from too much coffee and feeling kind of snarky, he answered, “Fighting off foes with a magic fork named Mr. Stabby.” But then he wondered, Could I write a story like that? That, of course, became “The Fork” in the new collection.

His sister Angela had an idea for a story, and he told her to go for it. That became “On the Nature of Stars,” part of “The Witch.” As Christopher sat down to write the story that weaves together all these tales, he felt like he was returning home after a long journey. “Why did I wait so long?” The audience cheered.

Speaking more about inspiration, he talked about how a certain disappointing blockbuster movie made him think – how could I fix that? Human beings are born storytellers, he says – we know when a story doesn’t work. He talked at length at how flawed writing can inspire a writer more than perfect writing does – as you think about how you could fix things.

As a young boy, he was inspired by a book he loved, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville, about a boy who finds a dragon egg. It made him think about what kind of world a dragon would come from, which led to more questions. That’s how we write stories and build worlds, he said – asking questions and answering them as honestly as we can.

Then Christopher engaged briefly in a bit of what he called “shameless self-promotion.” His mother is a homeschooler, and she has published books to help others; he hoped any home-schoolers in the audience would check them out. Also, he mentioned the recent Barnes & Noble Exclusive Collector’s Edition of Eragon. It has a full-color map, (I love book maps), and under the dustcover is the insignia of Brom’s ring, designed by Christopher himself. Pretty cool! Though of course that’s promoting his first book, it’s also supporting Barnes & Noble, his hosts, and like all bricks-and-mortar bookstores they can use all such support. Pretty gracious “self-promotion” if you ask me!

He confirmed (to much audience excitement) that there is a fifth Inheritance book in the works, which will answer a lot of questions. Then the audience asked fun questions, like what fantasy would he like to insert Eragon into. “Does Hunger Games count as fantasy?” His favorite movies? He has so many, including “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Terminator” and “The Little Princess (1995)”. Yep, an odd juxtaposition, that! Some of his many favorite books include The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Eddison, pre-Tolkien fantasy of Tolkien caliber, and Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peak, the gothiest book ever, according to Christopher.

When someone asked what he wished he’d known about publishing at the start, he answered: mistakes are part of the process. A bad sentence, paragraph, even a bad draft doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. When something makes you uncomfortable, the things you know you’re not good at, push into them. That’s what will make you grow as a writer, and a person.

He read a little from all four books, including an Elven blessing, (he claims he has an awful Elven accent) and something from a very angry Dwarf (he says he has an excellent dwarf accent, because he trills his rrrs with his uvula!) When he read from “The Worm,” (in normal English), it struck me it had a fine, old-epic tone.

If you check out Aud’s blog, you can hear a bit of Christopher speaking, even in the Dwarf language!

Then it was time for the book signing. Even waiting and standing in line was fun – we got to talk to very friendly fans (who didn’t seem to mind my ignorance). Christopher took time to talk to everyone who came up. He was as warm and friendly up close as he was from a distance. And early-comers got a cool Inheritance pin, compliments of Barnes & Noble.

B & N Inheritance Pin for Christopher Paolini signing
B & N’s gift for early comers

Thank you, Barnes & Noble, for hosting such a fun event. Readers, if you’ve enjoyed the books, check out his tour and see if he’s coming anywhere near you.

And thank you, Christopher Paolini. You’ve made me a fan! Even though I bought the book as a gift, and I really shouldn’t, I might just have to peek inside for a read…

 

Interview with Alexandra Coulter

The Easy Road by Alexandra Coulter

It’s my great pleasure to welcome Alexandra Coulter to my blog. Alexandra has been in a critique group with Aud Supplee and me for many years.

Welcome, Alexandra!

Tell me a bit about your writing history. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? And what led to that?
Alexandra: I had written most of my life and always enjoyed it. My earliest memory was of a story about lions I wrote in 3rd grade. I penned several collections of stories about a group of characters in spiral notebooks. From time to time I’d write stories or essays on a topic. However, no one ever said I could be a writer.

Gemma: Was that discouraging? Or was it simply not something that you thought about?Alexandra: I wasn’t discouraged.  I wrote because I enjoyed doing it.  As the years went by, I did several writing assignments and a few articles for friends and relatives, but it still hadn’t occurred to me that I might be a writer.

Gemma: Wow, even after doing significant writing… So, how did you come to that realization?Alexandra: During a time when I didn’t have to work, faced with many hours alone at home, I knew it was time for me to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had spent my working career chasing the music business the only way I knew how, through my administrative, typing and organizing skills. A series of unsatisfactory jobs leading up to my semi early retirement left me wondering what to do with myself. Was I going to give up and do nothing, looking for the same old job or make a commitment to become a writer? When it dawned on me that I had already done a lot of writing and I really enjoyed it and found it easy, the decision was made.

Gemma: Excellent! To find something that you enjoy and that comes easily is really a gift.
What came next?
Alexandra: That prompted me to take a writing class, get a lot of library books and learn everything I could about it. Despite a difficult teacher, I produced in that class, writing 2 and a half short stories, while most of the class only managed 1 over the 6 weeks. After a short set back, I came out swinging.

Gemma: Good for you for overcoming that setback. Was it the teacher?
Alexandra: Yes it was. He criticized everything I did, including commenting on knowledge he didn’t have, on the content. The rest of the class liked what I did. So, I eventually realized he was a jerk and that shouldn’t stop me from moving toward becoming a writer.
Gemma: Excellent. That’s not an easy realization to come to. Where did you go from there?
Alexandra: I had read somewhere that you can call yourself a writer when you’ve written 100,000 words. I was determined to do it! I remember the day I realized I’d reached that point. When I had reduced the number of words in my novel from 180,000 to 100,000. I figured I must have written much more than 100,000 words, maybe pushing 300 or 400,000! That was the moment I felt I could call myself a writer.
Gemma: I had never heard that definition – but that’s an excellent goal to achieve. And it’s quite cool that you came to it not by struggling to reach that number, but by cutting down to it.

Gemma: Tell me a bit more about your writing history.
Alexandra: My first published writing came in college where I maintained a monthly column called “Stick this in Your Ear,” which featured my thoughts on contemporary music and local musicians. I had been writing love stories and essays. And even a few pieces for local small-town publications. From the first writing class, I developed my stories into novels and worked with them. The first novel, The Easy Road, was published on Amazon as an e-book in 2012.

The Easy Road by Alexandra Coulter

Alexandra: When I found myself out of work again, I decided to give professional freelance writing a try. I had moderate and sporadic success which had me running back to the safety of a “real” job time and time again. I gave up the idea of freelance writing in 2014 and have never looked back. I continue to play with my second novel and am developing a book for teenage girls, through my critique group, that I hope to publish in the next few years. Writing continues to be a practice for me, striving for 3 pages a day and 10 pages a month.
Gemma: 10 pages a month is my goal, too – perhaps not coincidentally the page limit for our critique group!

Gemma: what’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of?
Alexandra: I think the initial short story of Easy Road was maybe my first truly organized and me-inspired work I’d done. For the class I wrote a sci-fi story that I do still like, but The Easy Road has come to be a much bigger piece of work and more integral to my growth as a writer. I haven’t read it in a long time, but I feel proud of putting it together and publishing it.

Gemma: that really is an accomplishment! Tell a little of what it’s about.
Alexandra: It’s about a 30-something accountant with aging parents, a girlfriend and an impending partnership in the accounting firm who’s offered a record deal. He struggles with taking what he always thought of as the easy road of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
Gemma: I’ve read drafts of that novel in our critique group, and it was quite a ride! It’s so satisfying that now it’s a book.

Gemma: What do you feel is your mission as a writer?
Alexandra: My mission has always been to say what I feel compelled to say. I wish to be a conduit for words. I believe I have stories to tell and messages to communicate. I’m not sure I can say what writing means to me. It’s always been my solace. I have been journaling steadily for many, many years now. It has allowed me to find my voice and my inner core, to learn more about myself and how I tick. Writing has allowed me to express the visions in my head. Written words have, at times, allowed me to express thoughts and feelings I couldn’t any other way.
Gemma: So much of that rings true for me, and I bet it resonates with many other writers, too.

Gemma: What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Alexandra: Well, that has changed over the years. I think, these days, the hardest part is finding the time and energy to give to it.

Gemma: What’s the part of writing you like best?
Alexandra: I’d like to say that it is when I get it right on paper. When I say exactly what it is I wanted to say. That is a wonderful part of it. But I also really like praise. When someone appreciates what I’ve said to them. That I have somehow eased or lightened their burden, lifted their hearts, opened their eyes.
Gemma: That’s the most wonderful kind of feedback, I think. Your writing has certainly opened my eyes in some new ways!

Gemma: What kind of experiences have most influenced your writing?
Alexandra: My experiences in the music business have certainly had an influence on my fiction writings. I find what inspires me more than anything is live music. Live performances. I do like to write with music on. I am quite sure that influences me on many levels. My other impactful influences are other people and their words.
Gemma: And your writing often has music and musicians in it – that influence really shines through.

Gemma: What other kinds of things have an effect on your writing?
Alexandra: Maybe movies like Help and Spinal Tap had an effect on my writing. Certainly, it was the people I met. As for my non-fiction writing, I have been influenced by Susan Jeffers, SARK, Marianne Williamson, and Libby Gill. Writing teachers Brenda Ueland, Natalie Goldberg, and Anne Lamott. I’d have to say too, that I have been heavily influenced by my writer’s group who have kept me committed, guided me back to the path and showed me a new way month by month.
Gemma: Me, too, Alexandra, me too!

Gemma: What kind of things do you read?
Alexandra: I don’t have a lot of time to read these days. Most of what I read are my colleagues’ work. I read selected works of the spiritual authors I most like and I read health and healthy eating publications.
Gemma: I’m touched and honored our pieces are a lot of what you read – but also sad you don’t have time for more!

Gemma: What are you reading presently?
Alexandra: I am reading Ask and it is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks. An Abraham book. There are quite a few business books in my stack and I always have an inspirational writing book. At the moment it’s If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland.
Gemma: I’m glad you take time to read these!

Gemma: What are you working on now?
Alexandra: My focus continues to be How to Create an Awesome Life – A curriculum for girls. A book of classes for girls 14 to 18 to help them find themselves and build lives they can love. I am working on 2-pages per day writing practice on a topic and trying to complete an essay every month (or 2). I am also working on developing my writing at work to be able to grow my career.

Gemma: What is the next project you hope to work on?
Alexandra: I have a good draft of my second novel, Lucky Day. When I complete the Awesome Life, I hope to do a final draft of the novel.
Gemma: Tell us a little bit about Lucky Day.
Alexandra: This one is about a girl drummer who dreams of recording her songs, but her bad luck continually keeps her from realizing her dream.
Gemma: I’ve read that in its earlier drafts, and I’d love to see it published.

Alexandra: My first novel, The Easy Road, will be published as a physical book this year.
Gemma: that’s very cool!
Alexandra: And I want to work on my publishing company, UpWrite Words, including a physical book from author Paulette Terrels-Clarke. Other projects bubbling under the surface are to revive my blog and develop some of the material I have in my files.
Gemma: that sounds like a lot of great projects to look forward to.

Gemma: Readers, check out the e-book of The Easy Road here. And be sure to check back for Alexandra’s future projects.

Alexandra: Thanks, Gemma, for talking with me. It’s been a real pleasure!
Gemma: The pleasure is mutual! Thanks for being part of my blog, and part of our critique group!

 

Interview with Katrina S. Forest

I’m delighted to welcome Katrina S. Forest to my blog. Katrina and I have been in the same critique group for many years, along with Laura Selinsky and others, and Katrina is the first of us to release a novel! It’s a very cool-sounding middle grade sci-fi called My Best Friend Runs Venus.

cover by Crystal Rose

You can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Katrina’s site, or order it from your local bookstore. I ordered a copy from my local Barnes & Noble – I got Free Shipping to my home and it arrived in only about 2 ½ days. (It looks even more cool in person – so cool, in fact, I ordered another copy from my local indie bookshop for my great niece!)

To celebrate this great news, I’m taking part in a blog tour for Katrina’s book; the tour runs until June 16th. This blog tour is hosted by Lola’s Blog Tours. You can see the full tour schedule here.

Be sure to get to the bottom of this post, as there’s a tour-wide giveaway for the blog tour. One winner will win a signed copy of My Best Friend Runs Venus along with a $25 Amazon gift card.

Here’s what the book is about:

“At 12.9 years old, number-obsessed Kade Walker has never heard of death. Literally. But neither has anyone else he knows. Kade is one of hundreds of kids “living” across the solar system through robotic avatars while their real bodies sleep in pods on Earth. Unfortunately, robot bodies can be hacked.

One day during an (innocent!) experiment, Kade unwittingly breaks a major security wall and releases an infamous hacker. The madwoman targets all the royal avatars, including Kade’s best friend, Princess Tamika of Venus.

If Kade and Tamika don’t want to become the hacker’s puppets, they’ve got to stop her fast–even if it means waking up on Earth to fight with bodies they never realized could be hurt.

Kade and Tamika illustration by Crystal Rose

Sidebar: after a quick peek inside, now I know why Kade looks the way he does – I think.

 

Welcome, Katrina! What a fun story this sounds like. Can you tell us something (non-spoilery!) about what first gave you the idea for it?

Katrina: It started with me trying to take a fantasy-based idea I saw on an old TV show and imagine how it could conceivably work as a science fiction setting. The show’s premise was that a group of teens were secretly interstellar royalty and drew magic powers from their respective planets. I think a lot of sci-fi starts with the “what ifs.” So in this case it was, “What if we could live comfortably on other planets without magic (or magic-like levels of terraforming)?” “What if we had kids and teenagers in charge?” and more importantly, “Why would we do that?” I came up with the concept of the robot avatars allowing people to live across the solar system. And since kids are much more adaptive to new technology, they’re the only ones that can use it 24/7. Hence, they’re in charge. The characters who would inhabit this world were then developed, which is actually the complete opposite of my usual brainstorming process.

Gemma: I love the thinking behind this! Tell me a little more about one of the characters. For instance, which of them would make the best friend?

Katrina: Princess Lorelei of Mercury would make a great friend, as long as you can understand her unique way of talking. (She’s trying to create a simplified language and throws a lot of invented words into her speech.) She’s very open and accepting and tends to see the good in people. She’s also a creative type, and let’s face it, they’re awesome. 🙂

Gemma: oh, she sounds like a lot of fun!

Lorelei illustration by Crystal Rose

Gemma: I’d like to know a bit about your writing past. What’s the first story you remember writing?

Katrina: The first story I ever wrote was called “The Prettiest Flower.” I think I was five. Old enough to sound out simple words but young enough to go pester my mom for spelling helping every two minutes. I guess technically it was a non-fiction piece and included such impressive insights as, “Flowers are pretty” and “Bees like flowers.” I stapled together pieces of construction paper with only a mild attempt to straighten them out first, and my cover was an extra-wide sheet of paper from a dot matrix printer. I knew that “real” books had logos of some kind on the back of them, and because I was making a “real” book, mine got one, too. It was the Chiquita banana logo. I took the sticker from the fruit basket. My mom still has this book, and a few years ago, she showed it to me. It was a totally surreal experience. ^_^

Gemma: I love this! And it’s awesome your mom kept it to show you. When did you realize – or decide – that you wanted to be a writer?

Katrina: Pretty early. My mom got me a school memories book when I entered kindergarten. Every year had the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (It changed to, “What do you hope to do after graduation?” for 8th grade and up.) Every year, without fail, I wrote “writer” or “author.” In kindergarten, apparently, I was also open to the possibility of being a ballerina.

Gemma: it’s always good to keep an open mind about such things. And it’s quite impressive that you’ve followed this dream for so long and now have brought it into the world with a novel! What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Katrina: The hardest part is admitting when I’m stuck. I like to try to push through problems, and sometimes what’s really needed is a quiet step away with a long walk, a cup of tea, or a good book. Or, you know, all those things, because they are all awesome.

Gemma: I totally agree – and those are good ways to get unstuck. What’s the best part for you?

Katrina: The moment of breaking through the aforementioned stuck-ness.

Gemma: yes – that’s a wonderful moment! I think many writers can relate.

A lot of writers when they start out emulate other writers, consciously or not. Can you think of any authors you emulated?

Katrina: Not specifically, although I’m sure I have subconsciously. I do remember being a kid and writing a line I thought sounded totally awesome and way better than what I normally wrote…only to realize shortly afterward that it was a line from Charlotte’s Web. Apparently I’d read the book so many times, my brain just sort of internalized it. ^_^

Gemma: well, that’s an excellent book to absorb! What are you reading presently?

Katrina: I’m currently reading The Merchant Princess series by Charles Stross. My friends are all reading the Laundry series by the same author, but I just really latched onto the protagonist in this one. She’s a very analytical character who finds herself in what’s essentially a magical portal story. Characters really make or break a novel for me. I’ll sit through the most predictable of plots and the most uninteresting of settings if the characters are good. Thankfully, The Merchant Princess has good characters and an intriguing setting and plot to go with them.

Gemma: that sounds like a great combination, and I know what you mean about good characters. If I don’t like at least one character, I can’t make it through a book.

What are you working on now?

Katrina:  I’m finishing up a YA novel called How to be an Immortal. It’s about a gorgon and a vampire forming an unlikely friendship as they try to find the gorgon’s sister and stop a mysterious entity from stealing a bunch of humans’ life energy.

Gemma: I’ve been enjoying reading this in our critique group, and I’m very excited to hear you’re close to finishing it. I can’t wait to read the finished book — and, of course My Best Friend Runs Venus! I think it will make a great summer read.

Thanks so much for joining me on my blog, Katrina – and congratulations on your new novel! 

 

Find out more and connect with Katrina at:

– Website: http://www.katrinasforest.com/

– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkatrinasforest/

– Twitter: https://twitter.com/forest_paterson

– Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14369266.Katrina_S_Forest

– Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katrina-S.-Forest/e/B01M0DPFIA/

And you can find My Best Friend Runs Venus on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44549693-my-best-friend-runs-venus

 

Here’s the link to that giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/3ede45711/

And hats off to Lola for hosting this blog tour.

 

Interview with Aud Supplee

Aud Supplee, Author

Here begins a new chapter of interviews featuring members of the two awesome critique groups I belong to. Aud and I have been in the same group for about seven years now, and I’m delighted to invite her to my blog.

Welcome, Aud! I understand you have some news to share.

Aud: I’m excited to announce that one of my stories has been recently accepted for publication by Running Wild Press. It’s a novella for adults titled Broken Soul to Broken Soul, about two people with separate traumas who come together and help each other heal.

Gemma: That is exciting! I’ve read prior drafts of that novella, and it not only brought tears to my eyes, it gave me goosebumps, and also made me laugh! I’m so happy it’s going to be seen by a wide audience.

Check out Aud’s book trailer.

G: That’s a very cool book trailer, by the way.
Aud: Thanks!

Gemma: I’d like to chat a bit about your past as a writer. How long have you known that you wanted to be a writer?
Aud: Ever since I was about 8 years old.
G: Do you remember what led you to that?
Aud: Two things:
One: I grew up in a chaotic environment and writing was my way to create order from chaos.
Two: As a kid, I couldn’t find stories that I wanted to read, so I made up my own.
G: Both of those are really compelling reasons. Writing is definitely a positive, powerful way to deal with chaos.

G: What’s your goal as a writer?
Aud: To entertain. I like it when a reader wonders, “What’s going to happen next?” My characters often make me laugh and/or cry. It’s my hope that they’ll do the same for my readers.
G: Your characters have definitely made me laugh! And sometimes make me yell their name out loud in frustration! But that’s only because I’ve come to care about them like friends. And Broken Soul to Broken Soul isn’t your only story that’s brought tears to my eyes.

G: What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of and/or happy with?
Aud: Standing Ovation. It was my first published book, put out by Ace Tempo Books. It’s a YA novel about a girl trumpet player who upsets her family’s balance when her dream of fame motivates her retired jazz musician father to come out of retirement. Sadly, this book is out of print. The last time I read Standing Ovation was during a train ride to an author presentation to promote another novel. Even though the book was old, it still made me laugh out loud!
G: Oh, I love that! Now, tell me more about that other novel.
Aud: That other novel was my second published book, I Almost Love You, Eddie Clegg, put out by Peachtree Publishers.

Eddie Clegg by Aud Supplee

Aud: It’s a middle grade novel about an 8th grade girl who begins to develop a father/daughter relationship with her alcoholic stepdad. Fun fact: That book was rejected over 30 times.
G: Wow! That is all too common, but still, how did you deal with all that rejection? What did you do next?
Aud: I had a few cool rejections for Eddie. One publisher wrote that the main character was “refreshing and endearing” and the book was “beautifully written,” but it wouldn’t fit their list. I remember saying to myself, “They don’t want refreshing and endearing characters or a beautifully written book?” Obviously, there’s nothing you can do with a rejection like that. A lot of the other letters were form rejections. They sting, but I’m blessed to have a significant other who always takes my side. Whenever I complain that publishers are stupid for rejecting me, he not only agrees with me, he tells me I’m a genius. (Laughter) They’re not really stupid; calling them that is just part of the process.
G: Dealing with rejection can be a multi-step process for sure!
Aud: After a day or so of whining about it and licking my wounds, I’ll put the manuscript aside for a while, then re-read the manuscript with a critical eye, make changes and submit it somewhere else. Here’s the other thing about Eddie. I loved that story and the characters and I believed in it enough that I would have kept going until somebody accepted it. Also, it didn’t hurt that whenever I’d ask my husband if I’d ever be published again he always said, “Yes.” And he’s the most indecisive person I know!! (Laughter)
G: It’s wonderful to have so much support! And that you were dedicated to your characters and your story.

G: Now, what’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Aud: The dreaded first draft. Once that one’s out of the way, the rest is pure joy.
G: What’s the best?
Aud: Editing! I love polishing and seeing how a raw idea evolves.
G: Wow – for me, it’s just the opposite. I really enjoy the first draft. The editing makes me sweat. Of course, having a great critique group really helps. Even if their hard questions are sometimes what make me sweat the most!

G: Is there a place that you’ve lived, or visited, that especially influences your writing?
Aud: When I was 15, I spent a summer at a lake in Maine with relatives. It ended up being the setting for Broken Soul to Broken Soul, as well as for my adult short story, “Monkey in the Middle,” also accepted by RWP for their next short story anthology.
G: Congratulations on that acceptance! And a lake shows up in your book trailer, too.

G: A lot of writers when they start out emulate other writers, consciously or not. Can you think of any authors you emulated?
Aud: This probably makes me different from the average author; I began life as a reluctant reader. As a kid, I didn’t think anybody wrote stories I wanted to read, so I started writing for myself. When it comes to emulating, I probably emulated lively stories and conversations I’d heard when my mother and grandmother met for coffee. I think that’s why I enjoy writing dialog so much. Without realizing it, I paid attention to the cadence of their voices.
G: That’s very cool! And I can vouch for your dialogue – it just feels so real when I read it.

G: What writers do you most admire?
Aud: Right out of college I couldn’t get enough of Kurt Vonnegut. Back then I was also a big fan of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. I was also impressed with Stephen King’s down-to-earth dialog.

G: What authors do you read most and enjoy most now?
Aud: I like Timothy Keller and Andy Stanley. Both are Christian nonfiction writers. As for fiction, the actual author doesn’t matter. If it’s a fantasy, cozy mystery, romance, literary fiction, Christian fiction, middle grade, YA, or anything about horses, I’ll pretty much read it. Good or bad. You can learn a lot about the art of writing by reading really bad fiction.
G: You know, you’ve got a good point. I’ll have to remember that the next time some writing doesn’t impress me.

G: What are you reading presently, or most recently?
Aud: I just finished a YA novel about a girl surfer titled, We Thought We Were Invincible, by Michelle Lynn. I’m bad with names, I only know that author’s name because I just checked it on my Kindle. (Laughter)

G: And what are you working on now?
Aud: Edits to my middle grade novel called, This Way/That Way.
G: We’re reading that story at our critique group now, and I’m really enjoying getting to know your heroine, Nickie. She’s quite a character!

G: What is the next project you hope to do?
Aud: It better be book three of my Frama-12 trilogy. (Laughter)
G: Good, because having read the drafts for the first two, I can’t wait to find out what happens in book three!

Check out Aud’s blog at https://audsupplee.com/
While you’re there, you  can read her interview with me and Stan Gale, another of our critique group.

And check out Aud’s Instagram for some fun photos.

Thanks for joining me, Aud!

Happy Book Birthday!

A year ago today, my stories first appeared in print in Running Wild Press Anthology of Stories Volume 2!

 

Some exciting things have happened since then. My story, The Guest, about an unexpected visitation on a cold spring night, was chosen as one of RWP Readers’ Choice Best for 2018! It joins many excellent stories from “my” anthology and RWP’s novella anthologies.

And our anthology was featured with other RWP books in amazing swag bags given to Golden Globe celebrities.

Golden Globe Weekend Gift Bag

Meanwhile, I’ve been hard at work on my fantasy novel. If you look deeply into my author photo, you can catch a peek at early lines from my first draft.

All right, honestly, I haven’t been writing it with quill and ink, but I do write the first drafts longhand. I like the ease and physical contact of writing with pen and paper.

 

During this year, Running Wild Press has been busy with many awesome projects – just check out their twitter. Among their latest offerings are writing courses.

From RWP: we’re launching a fully online creative writing program.

Want to join a supportive, online writing community for feedback and encouragement? Take a Running Wild Press writing course.

These fully online courses will be taught in 4 to 8-week formats entirely online by experienced instructors from higher education institutions from around the country.

Three of these courses will be taught by my anthology colleagues Elan Barnehama, Nick Mazzuca, and Amelia Kibbie. I heartily vouch for their writing abilities, because their stories are honestly some of my favorites. Check out my interviews with them for more about them and their stories.

Elan Barnehama, Contemporary Fiction Writer
Nick Mazzuca, Author
Amelia Kibbie, Author of Fantasy, LBGT & Historical fiction

A fourth course will be taught by Dr. Lisa Montagne. I’m not acquainted Lisa, but if you’re interested in reading and writing poetry, have a look! You can check out all the courses here.

As for me, check back soon for more interviews with new authors, and of course I’ll keep you posted with any news!

 

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