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!

 

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!

 

Interview with Author Elan Barnehama

Elan Barnehama, Contemporary Fiction Writer

Continuing in this series of interviews with my Running Wild Anthology colleagues, it’s my pleasure to welcome Elan Barnehama. His story, “Just Be,” truly moved me.

Welcome, Elan!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing. What do you like best to write?
I like writing flash fiction and novels. Opposite ends of the story spectrum – but I like the way they influence each other.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
I would say my stories are more character driven as I like knowing who people are, who characters are. Of course, it’s impossible to separate who they are from how they are in a situation. So maybe the easy answer is both. Clearly, plot influences the choices a character makes, but how they respond reveals who they are.

What authors did you love most as a kid? Now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
When I read EAST OF EDEN as a kid – my mother gave it to me– I loved it and it was the first time I thought to see what else a writer had written. That was followed by falling in love and in awe of the characters and the writing of J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Bob Dylan, and others. Later Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon came and knocked me over.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I was born and raised in New York City, and while I have lived away from the city more than I lived in it, New York continues to be a large part of who I am. But I have also spent time in Los Angeles, and it’s become a part of me and is the setting of the novel I am working on.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
My story in the anthology, “Just Be,” is an excerpt from my novel, ESCAPE ROUTE – which is making rounds with agents/publishers. Since the Anthology was published, another excerpt of Escape Route, “Raining In The Holy Land,” was published in JewishFiction.net, September 2018.

In July, I had a new piece of flash fiction, “Snowflakes and Earthquakes,” published by DrunkMonkeys.us. A book I helped edit, “A Mile In Our Shoes — Personal Stories of Global Journeys,” will be published by Whyte Tracks Publisher, Denmark, in September 2018. And, my flash story, “Everyone to Dance,” will be published in the October issue of BostonAccent.com.

What do you plan to work on next?
I am working on a new novel about starting over and taking risks that is set in Los Angeles.

How can readers connect with you?

Twitter: @elanbarnehama
Website: elanbarnehama.com
Facebook: facebook.com/elan.barnehama
Instagram: elan32
Email: Elan32@gmail.com

Thank you for joining me on my blog, Elan! I’m happy to hear of your ongoing publications and wish you many more to come.

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