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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Interview: Indy Thriller Author Mandy White

Today Famous Writer has managed to get busy-as-a-bee Mandy White to sit down long enough to talk about her writing, which is sure to make her the Stephen King of the Pacific Northwest.

JK: Have you been writing for a long time?

Mandy White: I’ve loved writing and storytelling ever since I was old enough to write. As a child, I used to make up “bedtime stories” in my head as I lay in bed at night.  I created an ongoing series complete with carefully developed characters, about a pair of sisters who owned a farm that had every type of animal imaginable and of course, hundreds of horses of every breed.  I often wonder if I could turn that sort of thing into a Young Adult series and turn the farm into an animal rescue facility. Maybe one day I will.

When I turned 40, I realized that writing was the only thing I’d ever truly wanted to do and decided to get on with the business of pursuing my dream. I now write full time, writing books and doing freelance article writing for extra money. To date, I have three published books: The Jealousy Game, The Immigrant and Avenging Annabelle. I write poetry as well, and have considered compiling my work into a book sometime in the future. I have several more projects in progress, and I intend to release them at a rate of one full-length novel per year. 

JK: Ambitious! Tell us more about your latest.

MW: My latest novel, Avenging Annabelle, is a thriller set in the area where I currently live.  It’s about a logger who takes the law into his own hands after his daughter is abducted and he is unable to go to the police to tell them what he knows. It may sound like a typical tale of revenge, but one of the things that makes this story unique is the setting.  It transports readers to Vancouver Island, giving them a first-hand look at the breathtaking beauty of the area and allowing them to experience what small town life is like in this part of the world.  It also gives the reader a brief glimpse of the Canadian logging industry from an insider’s point of view. 

I’m expecting Avenging Annabelle to appeal to a wide variety of readers. It has a little bit of everything. There’s a supernatural aspect to the story that should spark the interest of my fellow King and Koontz fans, as well as plenty of suspense, sprinkled a bit of romance and violence.

JK: Do you have a favorite word? How do you use language to differentiate your characters and/or settings?

MW: A person reading Avenging Annabelle is likely to think that my favorite word is the F word, and perhaps that isn’t far from the truth because I have a tendency to use it a lot. The language a character uses is extremely important in the development of that character. In Avenging Annabelle, much of the dialogue is filled with profanity, which I felt was necessary in order to make these characters believable. In this particular story, some of the characters are loggers, who are known for their colorful language, and the villain is a psychotic drug addict so once again, the use of foul language is appropriate.  Foul or not, the type of language a writer chooses to use is an integral part of any story.

JK: What is your favorite book? How does what you read influence your work?

MW: I have so many favorite books that it’s impossible to pick just one. One series I particularly enjoyed was the Droughtlanders trilogy by Canadian author Carrie Mac. If you like tales of post-apocalyptic fantasy with plenty of action, this series is a must-read!

As I mentioned, I’m a long-time fan of both Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and I think a lot of my work is fashioned after that sort of thing. When I’m creating a scenario in a story, I often find myself thinking, “WWKD?” (“What would King do?”) I contemplate whether or not he would use a particular type of language or scenario. Essentially, it is his work that gives me the guts to go ahead and say it, spray it, or use whatever graphic imagery it takes to say what I want to say. I was a ‘shy’ writer for many years, and in my opinion, it made my work dull and unimaginative – a perfectly acceptable style for writing articles, but lousy for fiction. When you look at Stephen King’s work, you see that he isn’t afraid to go there, no matter where it is that needs to be gone to tell a story, and that’s what has inspired me to “come out of my shell” and just write without worrying about who I’ll offend. My favorite Dean Koontz characters that I’d like to see more of are Odd Thomas (Odd Thomas series) and Christopher Snow (Fear Nothing and Seize the Night).

JK: That is certainly some solid writing to allow to influence your style. Where does the actual breath of inspiration come from for you?

MW: I get inspiration from so many different things. All of my best story ideas have come from dreams. My second book, The Immigrant, is based on a bizarre dream I had many years ago, in which a creepy Richard Simmons lookalike creates a genetic abomination.  I have another dream-based story currently in the early stages of development; a fantasy tale involving time travel.

Avenging Annabelle started from a scene I saw in a dream, in which a man was digging up a child’s coffin while the child’s ghost sat and watched him. That scene is now Chapter 1 of the novel. I remember writing the scene down, thinking I might be able to work it into a short story. Somehow, a full length novel grew from it. At some point in the early development of the story, when I was contemplating the issue of where it should take place, it occurred to me that it could take place right here, in the very neighborhood where I once lived.

JK: So geography definitely influences your creative process. What else from real life creeps into your fiction?

MW: My life experiences have provided me with a seemingly bottomless well of material to write about, and my rather twisted imagination has been known to take me in some unexpected directions. Most of my characters are based on people I have met, or a combination of characteristics from several different people. This is true of both the heroes and villains I create. Avenging Annabelle was very directly influenced by my immediate surroundings, and I found it easy to craft such a tale simply by drawing on what I knew. People from afar are so often amazed when I describe this place where I live that I thought it would make a wonderful setting for a story. There are several details in the story that are taken from my real life; for example, the characters Jim and Trish referring to baby deer as ‘transformers’ because of the way they fold up when they sense danger. Then there’s the bumper sticker that reads, “Hug a Logger – You’ll Never go Back to Trees”, or Trish nicknaming her faulty mini-van the “Anti-Chrysler.” I had a Dodge mini-van once that was the biggest lemon I’ve ever owned, and I named it the Anti-Chrysler.

JK: How much time a day do you devote to fiction writing? What is your work area like? Do you have any methods that might seem unusual or inspiring to other writers? 

MW: When working on a book or any project that’s really coming together, I try to spend several hours a day working on it. I sometimes put the comedy network or a funny movie on for background noise while I work. It may seem odd that my latest book covers a rather dark topic, yet I wrote most of it while listening to comedy. I’m a die-hard comedy addict, and it’s reflected in some of my work, such as The Immigrant, which can only be described as a sci-fi comedy novella.

I find comedy inspiring because it makes me laugh. Laughter makes me feel joy, and that joyous feeling creates a tidal wave of creative energy. To be at my most productive, I’ve found that I do best when I get into the happiest state of mind possible. Sometimes it takes comedy to get into that state of mind, and sometimes I can do it by listening to a favorite song, such as “I Love Myself Today” by Bif Naked or my latest favorite, “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. When the weather’s nice, my favorite spot to sit and write is in my back yard. I have a wooden two-seat swing that sits next to a pond. The spot is surrounded by a huge grape arbor, and during the summer the grapevines cascade down to the ground, creating an amazing curtain of green leaves. It’s one of the best places in the world to be, and I do a lot of writing there, either listening to the gurgle of the pond or wearing headphones and listening to music.

JK: Ah. Color me massively jealous. The entire state of Arizona is on fire and there’s not a gurgling pond to be had. You describe Avenging Annabelle as your third book. Can you tell us a little more about your first two?

MW: My second book, The Immigrant, is reflective of one of my earlier efforts, written back in the early 1990s.  I liked the story idea, but it was lacking in many ways so I just filed it away.  I intended to one day include it in a collection of short stories, once I had written more stories to fill said collection. I resurrected the story and rewrote it last year, when I was looking for something a little more light-hearted to follow my first book, The Jealousy Game.

The Jealousy Game is a sort of self-help guide to bad relationships that demonstrates how seemingly innocent displays of jealousy in the beginning can be a warning of worse things to come.  It’s based on a combination of my own personal experiences and those of many other women I’ve known, including my own daughter.  I was inspired to write it when I saw her in a relationship that very closely mirrored one I’d had in the past and I was terrified that she might follow in my footsteps.

After writing The Jealousy Game, I was worried about being pigeonholed early in my career as some kind of angry man-hating feminazi writer when fiction writing is where I actually want to be.  I redeveloped The Immigrant, extending it into a novella that could be published as a stand-alone story. I wanted to have another example of my writing out there besides The Jealousy Game, a book I personally wasn’t very fond of. The depressing subject matter of that book evokes far too many unpleasant memories for me. The crazy thing is, The Jealousy Game has outsold The Immigrant by twice as much and it has gotten amazing reviews so far.  

JK: I’m sure a lot of readers have found something to identify with in The Jealousy Game, and I know that, as I reader, I look for a book to speak to me directly somehow before I buy it. Do you get feedback aside from sales figures? Are your family and friends supportive?

MW: So far, my first two books have gotten some great reviews, which I find promising, considering that my career as an author is still essentially in its infancy.  I’m still working on developing a definable fan base, but I’m hoping that Avenging Annabelle will take me over that threshold and help me gain a solid foothold as a writer of fiction.

I have some close friends and family who are very supportive, even though not all of them necessarily read my work.  There are some others who act a bit uncomfortable when the topic of my writing is raised, and I’m guessing it could be one of two possible reasons:  A: They aren’t terribly interested in reading my work and are worried  about being put on the spot and expected to read something they don’t want to, or B: They don’t want to read my work because they’re afraid it might be absolutely dreadful and they’ll be forced to either lie to me or hurt my feelings by telling me the awful truth.

JK: Those sound like typical family reactions: filled with unfounded fears! It’s okay because statistically most readers in the world aren’t related to you.

MW: I’ve gotten amazing support from afar, from fellow writers (and readers) I’ve met online and also from old childhood friends and acquaintances I haven’t seen since we went to school together.
I know how cruel critics can be, and I’m as prepared as I can be for the inevitable slamming of my work. I know that not everybody will like what I write, and that’s perfectly understandable. There has yet to be a book written that appeals to each and every person who reads it, which is why there are billions and billions of books out there. As long as my work appeals to the people who enjoy that particular sort of thing, then I am building a fan base and consider the work to be a success.

JK: That’s a healthy attitude, since writing is a long haul. Finally, the most important question: Where can interested readers find your work?

MW: At present, Avenging Annabelle is only available from here, but it should be on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major booksellers by late July to early August of 2011. (Update 7/2/2011: it's also available here!)

I don’t have a blog at this time, but readers can find information about my upcoming projects on my Facebook fan page.

JK: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us here. 

MW: Thanks Jessica!

Also find out about all Mandy's work at her Amazon author page

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's So Obvious We Don't Even Realize It Until Someone Points It Out

About 98% of the thoughts that go through our minds are repetitive and useless.

Yep. It's a side effect of the way human consciousness has developed.

Take a moment now to witness the thoughts that cross your mind. Just by observing them and letting them go on their merry way, a lot of people can decrease these repetitive thoughts. Enjoy the silence!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday Sail To Italy Again!

Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy are back and better than ever, with a spiffy new cover and in print from Açedrex Publishing!

I'm celebrating with six sentences from the beginning of the big blowup between Carlovita and Conchita in Sail From Italy. Conchita was Javier's girlfriend in a time long ago, and I think we all appreciate that Carlovita has to protect her marriage!

* * *

Conchita went directly to the mirror and started adjusting herself. Carlovita slammed the door behind her as hard as she could, to show her purpose in a way the most idiotic could understand.
“All right, missy,” she said as she advanced on Conchita.
“What?” squeaked Conchita before Carlovita backed her up against the wall.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
      Conchita opened her mouth to reply, but Carlovita stuffed a piece of toilet paper in it. 

* * *
The video finishes the scene in rather a more mellow manner.

And look up there on the left. I now have whole page of Sailing Italy excerpts for your enjoyment.

Thanks so much to everyone for the comments last week. I'm so thrilled my work-in-progress The Seven Noble Knights of Lara seems to interest you!

Check out the other sets of six here!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy Now Available in Paperback!

You've all seen the gorgeous new cover and have been waiting on pins and needles. Here it is at last, Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy in paperback! It's still economical, but trust me, the book is a thing of beauty. Buy it here, or from the Amazon ad at left. And it will always be available as an e-book, too.

There are tons of great excerpts from these silly books on the excerpt page.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday Wedding

A magic circle is immortalized in stone alongside the cathedral in Arcos de la Frontera, Spain.
Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Hello, Six Sentence Sunday fans! Here's the long-awaited wedding clip!

I did a bit of research, but we just don't know much about tenth-century weddings beyond the fact that it wasn't yet a sacrament, so it wouldn't have taken place inside the church. I guess it was going to be another thousand years before Bride Magazine could immortalize all these great traditions.

So, as we know, doña Lambra is really nervous, and her perceptions of the ceremony are clouded by the sinking feeling she can't shake. They're standing in a magic circle in the middle of the cathedral square because the last time I was in Arcos de la Frontera, I saw what was supposed to be a pre-Christian ritual circle where they performed some kind of blessing or cleansing before a child was baptized inside the cathedral.

* * *
Doña Lambra saw the face of Count García smiling and shouting, and, blurrier, all seven of the the noble knights of Lara with their father, mother, and tutor. Someone threw a veil over Lambra's head, and then Ruy Blásquez stepped into the circle with a sure foot. The Count of Castile was addressing the crowd in a voice that had as much meaning for Lambra as the twittering of birds.

The first words she heard clearly came from Ruy Blásquez's mouth. "I receive you as mine, so that you become my wife and I your husband."

Doña Lambra's chest was rising and falling so dramatically she could see it out of the corner of her eye, but she still couldn't feel the air passing inside her.
* * *

Thanks so much for your views and comments. I appreciate them and take them to heart, so much.

Please take a look at Friday's post for the Big Announcement! Thanks for looking.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Big Announcement: Açedrex Publishing is Now Ready!

When I got some funding and the blessing of Tom Grundner of Fireship Press, I took the plunge. I have always wanted my own publishing house. The time is now. The result is Açedrex Publishing, a bilingual (English and Spanish) press that I hope will meet the needs of readers and writers alike.

Visit us here: We're having a big debut party sale!
Please like us on Facebook.
And tell everyone you know (especially readers, writers, and translators).

Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I couldn't do it without my readers and supporters.

This was a big, scary venture that required a lot faith and a lot of work. Here are some highlights from the soundtrack of my life over the past couple of months.

When Chenoa's singing, you know everything will go well!

Madonna can really rock an inspirational song, but here's one of the sassier ones.

When you need every day to be the first day of your life, turn to Los Aslándticos.

And Stacey Q teaches us to seize the moment when the moment is right.

Any success Açedrex has will be the result of even more work, so there's no stopping now! I won't be giving up my own writing, either, so wish me stamina.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interview Series: Lauryn Allison Lewis

Now, for a second round of questions and answers, Famous Writer welcomes Lauryn Allison Lewis, who writes fiction, essays, interviews, and bakery reviews. Her writing has appeared at Dogzplot Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Knee-Jerk Magazine, Curbside Splendor, and others. She regularly hosts all-night dance parties in her kitchen and has just published a haute chapbook of her story collection, The Beauties, available for purchase at She is an assistant editor and regular contributor at Barrelhouse Magazine and Literary Chicago.

JK: Tell me a little about where you grew up and what you do/have done besides writing.

LAL: I grew up about an hour’s drive west of Chicago. I also briefly lived in Washington during high school. At fourteen, my first job was as an ice cream scooper at a soda fountain. But I’ve had all kinds of wacky jobs. Floral designer, chocolatier, barista, personal assistant. The worst job I ever had was at a toy store. The owners were really mean, especially considering they worked around toys and kids all day.

JK: What is your favorite book? What other things influence your work? 

LAL: My favorite book is whatever I happen to be reading whenever someone poses that question! Right now it’s My Sister’s Continent, by fellow Chicago writer, Gina Frangello. She is so incredibly brave and emotionally intelligent.

I’m hugely influenced by my dreams. The fantastical, magical, and odd elements of my prose reveal that. I love changing or shifting the rules of nature, logic, and physics in my stories, and then following the story thread as it plays out. I’m a big fan of unreliable narrators, I think because in my dreams, I become my own unreliable narrator.

JK: Are dreams also a source of inspiration for you?

LAL: I take inspiration from everywhere; what I’m reading, eating, dreaming, and who I’m spending time with. For The Beauties, specifically, I tapped into feelings from my childhood and my memories of early motherhood. None of the events in the book actually happened to me in real life, but the emotional base is there; the feeling of pubescent awkwardness, the alienation I think all new mothers feel on a certain level.

JK: How much time a day do you devote to fiction writing? What is your work area like? Do you have any methods that might seem unusual or inspiring to other writers? 

LAL: I don’t have any hard, fast rules regarding how much or how often I write, other than writing every day. I aim for 500 words a day, but most days I manage more. I used to wait until very late at night when the house was quiet to write. Nowadays I’m not so precious about when and where I write, though I still prefer a quiet space. I turn the ringer on my phone off and often forget to turn it back on. I’m bad with the phone.

If I’m having a hard time getting started, I’ll usually read a page or two from an author I love to get motivated. I also never hem myself in with rules such as: begin at the beginning, or, write full scenes. The most important thing for me is just not slowing down once I start, and not getting too caught up with thinking. If that means I have to pick up in the middle, then that’s what I do.

JK: I’m sure your natural approach contributes to the rhythm and flow of your writing. When and why did you get started writing? What characteristics from your first efforts survive today?

LAL: I was tiny, probably first or second grade when I first started writing little stories. I was an only-child, so writing as a solitary endeavor fit in perfectly. Even as a kid, I can remember putting emphasis of the emotional dynamics of my characters, the things they felt but perhaps did not or could not express directly; the things revealed through body language, internal dialogue, and gesture. I still strive to do that today.

I’m an unabashed people-watcher. That is definitely a holdover from my childhood. The best is when you can’t hear what two people are saying, but can still discern what they’re talking about by their body language, a subtle angle of one’s jaw, the hands pressed into one’s lap.

JK: You observation skills serve you well in your chosen career. What about language? Do you have a favorite word? How does language figure into your writing?

LAL: I’m often struck by the lyricism of our language, even when we’re just using it to give directions, or commiserate with a friend over coffee. The narrative style of The Beauties really taps into that; the inherent poetics of the language we use to discuss everyday events and feelings.

Each of the characters in The Beauties has her/his own unique way of speaking and thinking the thoughts they think. Enid, being the youngest, uses a lot of youthful, ambivalent tags, such as, “whatever” “so what” and “who cares”. Fern is very uptight and her cadence and the economy of her voice reflects that. Opal, being the oldest, has a way of speaking that is very unhurried, thoughtful, and strives for clarity.

I don’t have a favorite word, per se, though I do love words so, so much. The bookshelf beside my writing desk is crammed full of dictionaries, thesauruses, and books of idioms and palindromes.

JK: If most of my books weren’t in storage, that’s what my desk would look like, too! Lauryn, thank you very much for coming by my blog and sharing some of your writing secrets.

LAL: Thank you so much, Jessica! It was fun.

Again, you can take a look at (and purchase) The Beauties here. Find Lauryn on Facebook here

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review/Interview: Lauryn Allison Lewis's The Beauties

My copy of The Beauties.
From the first few sentences, Lauryn Allison Lewis’s The Beauties makes a serious impact on the reader. One character is in a homicidal rage, but the main character describes her victimhood with language so delicate and imagination so vivid, you won’t be able to stop reading. The Beauties is a family saga, moving from a cinematic whirlwind romance during World War II through about the 1980’s on the extraordinary backs of Opal, Fern, and Enid – grandmother, mother, and daughter. Each woman has a unique gift (I won’t give away here) that is also her burden to bear. Each woman deals with her difference as best she knows how, and each shows herself to be an authentic character with a fully developed psychological life. Together, their differences make up a tale of survival and what it means to be human. The Beauties is a fast read at only 48 pages, but the emotional intensity and astonishing imagination of this book will not soon abandon the reader. 
I was able to ask Lauryn about some of the more puzzling aspects of this book, and she graciously answered.

JK: Why did you decide to release The Beauties as a chapbook?

Lauryn Allison Lewis: I decided to make the chapbook for several reasons, the first being that I wanted the experience of making a book by hand, from scratch. After so many years of writing, it started to feel strange to me that I’d never tried to put a book together. Like a chef who’s never tried to write a recipe, or something. From the folded pages, to the binding, to the cover art, each one was made entirely by my hands. So when you order The Beauties, you take possession of an object made exclusively for you, which is why I’ve been calling them haute chapbooks.

JK: When someone orders The Beauties, what comes to them is a thing of beauty (as readers can see in the picture). The book I received was hand-decorated beyond what is portrayed on the purchase site, with a ribbon down the spine, and beads, stars and sparkly glue on the cover as well as the hand-folded pages and sewn binding. Haute is a good word for it. It’s not something you see every day, that’s for sure.

There seems to be a lot more to this story, and on the acknowledgments page you mention a novel-length version of it.

Lauryn Allison Lewis: There is a novel length version of The Beauties, and it’s getting some exciting publication buzz, but I’m terribly superstitious and afraid to jinx the project by saying more now. Apart from wanting to craft the book, I also wanted to get the key moments of this story out to publishers and have a chance to gage what my audience’s reaction would be, before laying the whole hugely strange novel on them. I’ve had many readers tell me that they were struck by the intensity of the stories in the chapbook, and at times surprised by its grittiness, its sinisterness. The surprise seems to double when the reader is someone who knows me personally, knows that I’m really the antithesis of sinister and gritty.

JK: The chapbook is powerful, and not for the prudish. Did you have a specific audience in mind?

I think that The Beauties will resonate with all women, but it wasn’t written to be considered an exclusively feminist text by any means. If you have a mother, a sister, a daughter, The Beauties will offer insight into how they might have felt during various phases in their life, especially the more tumultuous ones; puberty, pregnancy, and growing older.

JK: Does the novel pick up where the chapbook leaves off, or flesh out the chapters?

Lauryn Allison Lewis: The novel length version of The Beauties fills out the spaces between the stories included in the chapbook, but it also expands on them and introduces many new characters. It has different plot twists and an entirely different shape. Readers of the chapbook are not going to have an identical experience to readers of the novel.

JK: And about this exciting publication buzz – not to jinx it, but what kind of feedback have you gotten? Are your family and friends supportive?

Lauryn Allison Lewis: The most common reactions are either stunned silence, nervous laughter, or mild incredulousness: “Where do you come up with this stuff?!” I’m also not shy about stories of a sexual nature, and that can make people flustered.

I think I have a definable fan base. I don’t want to be so presumptuous as to define it here, though. I have a ton of support from other writers in my community. I’ve been given so many opportunities to share my work in a safe and generous environment, with people I really admire and respect. I’ve forged lifelong friendships with other writers, and I’m so grateful for them.

My family is supportive, but they’d be supportive no matter what I was doing, I think. My parents are both artists in their own right, so I think they’re both delighted and not the slightest bit surprised that I chose to become a writer.

The friends I’ve grown up with are rather indifferent toward my writing. I don’t mean that in a snarky, pouting way. To them, writing is just something I do, not who I am, and they know precisely how convoluted my imagination is, so nothing really shocks them anymore. I’m grateful for people in my life that I can spend time with when I need to escape my work or the industry for a minute.

JK: Well, they may be indifferent, but I guarantee anyone who reads The Beauties will not be!

The Beauties can be purchased at Lauryn's website:
Come back on Wednesday for the rest of the interview! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday Medieval Feast

Thanks to everyone who stops by, and especially you great commenters! You're fabulous! See other wonderful excerpts here at the new site.

This is to make up for my husband's working on Memorial Day (i.e., no barbecue!). The scene is at an outdoor banquet just days before the wedding we saw doña Lambra get swept into week before last. The innkeeper offers her a choice of the cuts of a freshly roasted bull with her future husband (who is not one of the masculine lineup from three weeks ago, but their uncle) looking on beside her.

* * *
She studied the mound of steaming meat, which was smothered in a parsley, fennel, and red carrot sauce made more red with beet juice that whetted her appetite at her very core. "I'll have the tail," she stated.

"Really, my lady?" the innkeeper asked as he used both carving knife and fingers to dig through the pile in search of the piece. Finding the tail, he said, "It doesn't have much meat on it."

"I don't mean that tail," she said. "I mean the other ones."
* * *

If you swing by next Sunday, you'll catch a glimpse of the actual wedding ceremony.

This week, Monday and Wednesday: the incomparable Lauryn Allison Lewis and her The Beauties. Friday: the biggest announcement in Famous Writer history!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Interview Series: Fantasy Novelist and Fantastic Blogger Sharon Jones

Sharon Jones is the author of the work in progress (and surely soon-to-be-published) fantasy Ravenswynd:

Elizabeth Rose is in her last year at Rhode Island College. She's an excellent student, never misses a class and has each day planned to the minute. She and her twin sister, Melinda, have known their kooky friend, Fiona, since junior high and have endlessly put up with her unrivaled fascination with vampires. For as long as the twins can remember, Fiona has ranted and raved about all the strange local legends – especially the Raven Legends: once every ten years vampires gather in Providence to attend a very exclusive party. Rumor has it that a few "privileged" humans are often invited – hand-picked, and sworn to secrecy, of course. Elizabeth has to make the biggest decision of her life when Fiona announces that she has, in fact, received such an invitation, and not only is she planning on going, but she also wants Elizabeth to join her.  

Elizabeth believes the legends are nothing more than folklore and that it is only Fiona's wild imagination that has her convinced otherwise. But she decides to accompany her foolhardy friend to the party, if for no other reason than to keep an eye on her. As the girls are waiting to be ushered aboard the boat that will take them to an undisclosed destination, things are beginning to feel eerily strange, and Elizabeth begins to wonder if Fiona isn't right after all. What if they’re making a gigantic mistake? When one of their hosts finally makes an appearance, all doubt fades away. They are now face to face with the truth: The Legends are true. 

JK: Ravenswynd sounds like a thrilling story. Is your fiction influenced by your real life at all?

SJ: Love - relationships - family: I'm sure all of these affect my fiction. I write from my heart, always wanting Love to win over everything else. Obviously, a work of fantasy is nothing like real life, but I've tried to make my characters believable within the world they live in. And since I've incorporated the element of romance I'm sure some of my own experiences may have seeped in a bit. (Well, perhaps some of my wishful thinking!)

JK: Not too many vampires in your real life, huh?

SJ: I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but finished school in Mentor, Ohio. After coming back to Milwaukee, I worked at several jobs, began marriage number one, and had my first two children: a boy and a girl. Once my youngest started school, I worked for a surgeon in Milwaukee as a medical assistant / insurance collector. This full time job gave me the much needed self-confidence and money enough to end said marriage.
Marriage number two: Husband had two children, and then together we had one more son. (We were not the Brady bunch...but we tried!) My husband had his own automotive business for about 10 years, and I did the weekly payroll, billing, banking, etc. Along with "his-mine-and-ours" we raised Polled Herefords on our 30 acre farm in Eagle, Wisconsin. (Polled Herefords are beef cattle without horns) We also tried our hand at chickens, sheep, pigs, and one lonely billy-goat.  Of course we had cats, dogs, bunnies, and more kittens than I can count.
In 1990, we decided to home school the kids. (our youngest- from K through 12th)  And then, in the mid 90's, dear hubby decided to go back to school himself.  And even though we moved several times during his undergrad, medical school, clinical years, and residency, (8 times to be exact) I was able to continue home-schooling the youngest until he graduated...and... still do a bit of writing.  
During hubby's medical school years, I worked at the Medical School bookstore in Kansas City, and then during clinical years I worked at an Orthopedic clinic in Davenport, IA. Once we moved back to Wisconsin, I "retired" from working outside of the home, and not only was I able to spend more time with my awesome grandchildren, I was finally able to get serious about my writing again.

JK: And how about fiction? Does the vampire element in Ravenswynd have anything to do with current trends?

SJ: I suppose that some of the current modes of vampire stories have influenced my work to a certain degree, although I try to steer away from too many similarities. My vampires do not adhere to many of the usual characteristics, and they have some (hopefully) unique ones never before seen. I won't give away any details, but what my people experience during their transformation from human to vampire is quite awesome! 

JK: Is there any particular author who inspires you to be unique?

SJ: My favorite book is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I don't even remember how many times I've read it. It is a time-travel, historical fiction, love story like no other. Diana writes with such pure emotion and wonderful description! This book is the first in a series of seven, and she is writing the eighth right now.

JK: I just love those novels that combine everything you love in one small package! I always wonder where those authors get their ideas. Do you generate ideas or just let them come to you?

SJ: My inspiration (in general) comes in a variety of ways ... dreams, conversations, every day life, and quite often an idea pops into my head when I'm standing in the shower! I actually invested in one of those awesome water-proof notepads so none of those ideas flow down the drain! You can get them online for under 10 dollars!

JK: Super cool. I only need a small light by the bedside in my case.

SJ: Inspiration for my current novel came from one of the most vivid dreams I've ever had. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and took notes ... and the next day I wrote three chapters. The scene from my dream didn’t even come into play until a few chapters later. Another bit of inspiration came from a most unusual sight at a local mall ... my main male character's appearance, characteristics, and his innate ability to turn heads. Yep ... I saw him!

JK: That’s how you know it’s meant to be. What are some of the linguistic perks of writing fantasy?

SJ: Many of my characters are from the UK, and one is from the Hebrides (Scottish Isles) so I have tried to incorporate some of their colloquialisms and accents into the dialog. My main male character never uses contractions, but my human girls are completely American, slang and all. 

JK: I understand you have a lot of responsibilities. How disciplined are you as a writer? Any unusual habits?

SJ: I'd like to say I spend about 4-6 hours a day writing...but lately it has been less, what with blogging, twittering, and face-booking! I work in the living room at my desk surrounded by bookcases and all my books. The only unusual thing I can think of is that I never use any type of outline ... I write as the ideas come to me, taking notes as I go so that I can refer back now and then to keep things in order. I wrote the ending of Ravenswynd when I was about half-way through the middle. However, writing the ending gave me more ideas for a sequel!

JK: That’s a great way to never get writer’s block. It’s also a technique that forms early on, if at all. How long have you been writing?

SJ: I wrote short stories when I was in high school, and then played around with poetry as a young adult. I've wanted to be a writer ever since reading Little Women around the age of 12. I've always prided myself at being good in grammar and spelling, and it always seemed that I was much better at expressing myself clearly and effectively with the written word ... hopefully these characteristics continue in all my works, at least enough to not drive my editor too crazy! (I love my editor.)

JK: What kind of feedback do you get? Do you have a definable fan base? Are your family and friends supportive? 

SJ: I have gotten positive feedback as far as my story goes: character, plot description, etc., from all who have read my book. My sister in law is my "editor" and she tells me when something just doesn't flow correctly, or when I've used too many commas! So far, it has been mostly family members who have read all, or parts, of my novel – except for a few excerpts that I've posted on my Writer's Page, where I did get some positive feedback from non-family members as well.

My mother, daughter, sister-in-law, and sister are all very supportive ... except for the times they nag me to hurry up and get published!

JK: How far along are you in the publishing process? And what else are you working on?

I am (hopefully) working on the final edit of  Ravenswynd, and I have written ten chapters (so far) of the sequel.  My muse has not let me know yet if there will be a third!

I’m also in the middle of writing a time-travel book and having lots of fun with that! One of these days I’d love to get back to my first novel that’s been sitting on a shelf for years. It needs a ton of editing, but I love the story and the characters!

JK: Well, I’ll let you get back to all those great projects. Thanks so much for chatting with me.

SJ: Thank you for having me, Jessica! It's been a blast ... and talking about Ravenswynd has prompted me to get serious about writing my synopsis for the dreaded query letter! Wish me luck!

JK: I’m sure we all wish Sharon the best fortune in her writing ventures!

Follow Sharon on Facebook (where she often posts excerpts in the Notes section!).

Monday, June 6, 2011

East, West, North, South

Doc Holladay said it, not me.
It's starting to get seriously hot in Arizona. I wouldn't notice much if it weren't for my dear husband, who melts at the very thought of 85 degrees, not to mention the 120 averages we can look forward to. Added to his weird job and our accommodations on the floor of our apartment, I really can't blame him when he says out of the blue, "We have to get out of here!"

Ideally, we would return to the place we met, Beautiful Boston. I had made a conscious decision to live within the Hub's radius when I completed my degree in England because anything else was just too far from civilization. Boston retains so many old world traditions it's practically madness, including letting cattle "plan" the city layout. But I know the city layout. It's carved upon my heart, no matter who came up with it originally.

Boston thinks it's a big city, but really it's a cozy size, surrounded by suburbs that count as Boston in any normal tally. On a nice day with good shoes, you can walk from end to end of the city limits effortlessly and see hundreds of years of history as you go. Alternatively, the public transportation is not only safe and convenient, but real people use it every day, to the astonishment of some Westerners. This is all in contrast to where we live now, where everything I'd like to do is so far away from where we live that the buses won't take me there unless I ride for literally hours. After waiting for 45 minutes under the burning sun. (Why don't people in the desert create shade? The Pima had ramadas for a reason, people!)

I fell in love with Boston during my college days. I went to Wheaton College, which is much closer to Providence, Rhode Island, but both of those places are satellites to the Hub. It's still easy to see the city as the ultimate college town, so there are a lot of intellectuals and resources for a writer like me. Also appealing to me, they have nonstop flights to Spain and something like 8 Spanish restaurants, most of them very good. I could go on and on.

But it's far from healthy to do so. Boston has its disadvantages, the only one I can think of now being that, as a coastal city, it will be flooded with rising ocean levels by midcentury.

But seriously, we may get out of Arizona soon as a result of my husband's never-ending efforts in that regard, but it will probably not be a return to the city where we met. We just don't seem to be welcome there among employers. While I too, will be glad to put an end to our Arizona Year Without Furniture, I will hold some things about it very dear: the progress I've made in my writing, editing career and blogging, and an announcement I'll save for later this month. Luckily, these things are not material, so they'll fit comfortably with us in our compact car when we leave for... the next great adventure.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

No Six Sentence Sunday, Cucumbers

The magnificent organizer of the Six Sentence Sunday institution is judiciously moving the site to somewhere she considers more stable, so I'll just take this opportunity to say that I love that one of Yahoo's big searches this week has been "deadly cucumbers." One of the most unforgettable scenes in the novel I've been excerpting from, The Seven Noble Knights of Lara, will involve a highly ominous cucumber (that has nothing to do with salmonella). No, really. I'll post an excerpt when I've written it.

Come back next Sunday for the titillating banquet scene!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Handsome, Successful Businessmen Love Tree/House!

This is actually a picture of my husband, who enjoyed Tree/House very much and supports all of my writing efforts besides. Thanks, dear!

My husband is the hardest working person I know who does a job he's not especially interested in. When he lost his lucrative position at the big-bad-we-break-your-kneecaps-if-you-don't-pay-your-student-loan place, he didn't hesitate to take a job at a place my dad calls WallyWorld so we could still eat while paying the mortgage with savings. WallyWorld is not an easy place to work for. It is physically demanding: he lost a lot of weight he'd put on because I love to feed him and went through pain relievers like candy because of the aching muscles. It's mentally draining: most of the workers treat the job according to pay level, meaning that they don't care at all. My husband has an inherent impulse to do a good job, so when he was working in grocery the place had never been so spotless, and there had never been so many customers satisfied with the way they'd been treated. There was never a more efficient checker, and when he became a supervisor over the checkers, the place had never run more smoothly.

The situation was not sustainable, because, as I hinted above, the pay is laughably miniscule. We were going to be on the snowy street if we stayed there, and that's one reason we came to Arizona. I know I'm not making up what a good worker my husband is because when he had to leave the Arizona WallyWorld he'd transferred to, they did everything they could to keep him, including offering to hire me in the bakery department. Even with the two small incomes, I'm sorry to say, that situation would have been just as untenable as the previous one in Pennsylvania.

He left that job, which he's called his favorite job ever (!), for something that still doesn't pay what we were used to before economic armageddon, but is just about livable.  It involves working at an office park in the middle of nowhere with scorpions and coyotes in the parking lot, at weird hours, and with an ever-shifting landscape of unpredictable people. And he's doing the best job he can do there, too, and he's so good at it.

He's the thing: when he comes home to me, he really comes home to me. He's with me, present and fully involved, no matter how much his job exhausts him, interested in my day, willing to clean the house, and ever so much in love. I'm so blessed to have such a husband!