Category Archives: Writing

Interview with Laura Best, and book giveaway!

Laura BestIt is my pleasure to welcome author Laura Best to my interview chair for a second time as she was the first author I interviewed here.  Laura, who has lived in a small Nova Scotia community all her life, is the author of the award nominated “Bitter, Sweet“, and more recently “Flying with a Broken Wing” – my review of which you can read here.  Laura has been published in literary magazines across Canada, and in 2003 her short story “Alexander the Great” was nominated for the Journey Prize. Now on with the interview!

I am very pleased you agreed to this interview, Laura, especially since it provides a great excuse to give away a copy of your new book … and to pick your brain a little … and to give someone a copy of your new book, which I already said.  :) 
 
Near the end of our interview back in January 2011, which was after your first novel – “Bitter, Sweet” -  you said, “I’m working on another novel at the moment. I don’t often discuss my work with others. All I will say is that it is young adult and set in a fictitious community in Nova Scotia.” 

Flying with a Broken Wing Now we can discuss that project since it has come out into the spotlight as the young adult novel “Flying with a Broken Wing”

First, to address the obvious, you seem to enjoy writing fiction based in Nova Scotia. Why Nova Scotia?

Often, we tend to think that books happen in other, more exotic places, and not in our own back yard. When I was growing up, I never read a story set in Nova Scotia. I wouldn’t have even thought that was a possibility. I might even have thought it would be boring. I’m happy to know that is changing and there are many wonderful books out there that are set right here in Nova Scotia. For those of us living here, I think it gives us a sense of pride to have our home province as a setting for a book. And while Nova Scotia might not be exotic to me it might be for people living in other places. I love this province! It’s what I know best, that and rural life. Most everything I write also has a rural flavour to it. It’s a large part of my identity.

I love this province, too, Laura, and it makes me glad to find books that are set here. Your writing is doing Nova Scotia justice, for sure.

I’m always impressed and fascinated with the ideas that come together to create well-rounded characters, their life stories, communities, even worlds. Where did the idea come from for “Flying with a Broken Wing”, and how long did it take you to fit this novel together?

The book started out with the idea that I wanted to write a story with a visually impaired protagonist. My writing usually begins with the idea of a character first. While I begin with a broad idea of what will happen most times the character leads me through the story. Situations crop up as I write. In the beginning, I didn’t know for instance, that my main character’s caregiver would be a bootlegger or she’d make friends with a boy whose father was a “drunk and a bully.” These things emerged along the way as Cammie told her story.

I’d say it took about a year to write the book if I were to add it all up. A few months into the writing of this book, I stopped because I wasn’t sure that I was happy with the way it was going. After taking a break for a few months I went back to it, decided I liked what I’d written, and continued on until I finally was able to write, “the end.”

You’ve given a good example of what a little time away from a manuscript can do for an author to finish the story. I’m very glad you continued it. Did you have to do any research to make this story believable?

There was very little research required for the book, just a few small facts to check out to make the story more authentic since it’s set in 1949.When writing a story with a historic setting it’s important to know what was going on in the world at that time. In one place, Cammie makes mention of a movie star whose legs were insured for a million dollars. I love these little details and find them quite interesting. For instance, the Standard magazines, that were mentioned several times, are magazines I actually have from when the queen and king toured Canada right before the Second World War. I’ve always loved looking though those magazines and knew it would fit into a story one day.

While Tanner is a fictitious community, the story could have been set in any number of rural communities in Nova Scotia. There’s this common bond in rural communities, things that are passed down from one generation to the next. It’s a part of the fabric, an inner knowing, if you will, of the people and the lifestyle. Cammie’s whole way of speaking, the sayings she used, are all things I grew up hearing, and still hear today. No research required in that department. :)

You are a fine example of ‘write what you know’. :)Flying with a Broken Wing” is an intriguing title, and very suitable. How did you come up with it, and was that always the title you had in mind?

The title came from a line that appears several times in the book and also makes up the very last lines in the book. “‘They say birds can’t fly with broken wings, Evelyn Merry,’ I whisper. ‘But that doesn’t mean that we can’t. I promise you we will.’”

More importantly, the title suggests that we can fly in the face of adversity, just as the main character, Cammie, does. We all face hardships in life. We’re either born into it or we encounter it along the way. We can allow these things to define us, and accept our limitations for what they are, or we can do what some might say is the impossible regardless of our life’s circumstances. I think it’s an important message.

The title originally began as “Fly with a Broken Wing” and slowly progressed to “Flying with a Broken Wing.” 

Flying with a Broken Wing” works so much better! Who or what inspired you to make your main character visually impaired? 

Writing a visually impaired protagonist was challenging because I knew I’d be entering a world that’s totally foreign to me. Not only did I have to let the reader know what Cammie could see (or couldn’t see) her other senses had to come into play as well. I had to make sure the reader understood Cammie’s visual impairment and I had to do it in a believable way. My mother is visually impaired and has been since birth. I decided that Cammie would experience the world the same way my mother does. When Cammie takes her glasses off to read up close, or her ability to read Aunt Millie’s moods by listening to the sound in her voice and her body language, these are things I borrowed from my mother. Several times through the writing of this book I’d call and ask her to explain what her range of vision was with and without her glasses on.

You did an excellent job of portraying that; your mother must be proud of the results of your work. In this book you have several very interesting and spunky characters. Do you have a favourite, and why?

I do love Cammie, but her aunt Millie might just be my favourite. Many people have expressed their strong dislike for Millie, and she’s certainly a hard nut, there’s no denying that. She’s self-centered, tough, and a known liar. But she’s more than that. She’s a product of her environment, someone who does love but doesn’t know how to love very well. Her toughness is a matter of self-preservation. She’s a bootlegger. She has to be tough. Perhaps Millie’s my favourite because I don’t judge my characters. I simply observe their actions. I don’t become upset by what they do or don’t do. And then, of course, I know a bit more about Millie than everyone else. She comes off as cruel, not only because she’s physically abusive, but because of the lies she’s told Cammie over the years. But we can take heart in knowing that Millie didn’t simply invent these lies to be cruel. There are reasons for the things she’s told Cammie. We just don’t know what they are. I think that’s the way it is with the people in our lives. How many times do we pass judgment on others without stopping to consider what personal challenges they might have faced in the past or are facing at this very moment? Everyone has a story. We don’t always know what it is, but we’re often quick to pass judgment.

Excellent points! I’m learning we must know our characters well in order to portray them effectively to others. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble, and in what way?

That’s a tough question. I’m not sure I’d say any of the characters gave me trouble. But if I had to choose one I might say Cammie because her visual impairment was challenging to write. Still, I didn’t want this to be just a story about a visually impaired girl. More importantly, I wanted it to be about a girl with hopes and dreams, a girl who isn’t about to sit back and let life happen to her, a girl who decides to change her life, someone who isn’t defined by the things that make her different, a girl who just happens to be visually impaired. I’ve come to have such respect for the blind and visually impaired. I’ve heard so many stories from my mother about some of the people she went to school with and some of the remarkable things they went on to accomplish. If my readers gain anything from this book, I hope it’s a better understanding about people who are living with physical challenges and the things they are capable of achieving. 

I believe readers of “Flying with a Broken Wing” will hear Cammie’s heart and root for her as I did. This is a book that should be encouraging to girls in whatever their situation. Which of your characters is the most like you in attitude and/or approach to life?

I’m probably most like Evelyn Merry. I’m the person who offers support to others, who cheers for the underdog, and holds other people’s secrets close to my heart.  

There are names which can be considered unisex, my name being one of those, and you created a male character with a female name that is very unusual for a man, at least not one I had ever heard a man called. Why did you choose to do that? And why that name?

I like unusual names. They tend to be the ones we remember, and I wanted Evelyn to be a memorable character, not simply Cammie’s sidekick. I’m really bad at choosing names for my characters but, thankfully, I have a book to look through. When I came across the name Evelyn, the book said that at one time it was a popular name in England for a man. I wasn’t sure in the beginning just how I felt about the name, but as time went on it really grew on me. I can’t imagine it being anything else. I love his name. 

It was really odd to me at first, but the more I got to know Evelyn the more I liked his name. Do you have another novel in the works since this one really leaves the reader hoping for a sequel?

 I’m working on several different stories at the moment. I didn’t plan for it to happen that way but it did. And while I am planning on a sequel to “Flying with a Broken Wing” my heart is pointing me in a totally different direction these days. I’m the type of writer who is led by the characters and the story. When a story demands that I work on it, and I try to ignore those demands, I’ll encounter all sorts of problems until I give in. While my logical mind might tell me to write one thing, I need to listen to the quiet whispers inside me. If I don’t pay attention I end up losing the joy in writing because I’m looking off into the future at the end result instead of enjoying the process along the way. So, for now, I’m working on a story that makes me truly happy and the sequel, I’m in the midst of writing, has been put on the back burner for a little while longer.  

I am so glad there will be a sequel! I think because you follow your heart is why your writing is so good. Is there anything you would like to add to this interview that I may have left out? 

I can’t think of anything I’d like to add only that it’s been fun, and some of your questions were quite challenging. I think that’s a good thing. Thank you so much, Lynn, for interviewing me about my latest book.

Thank you, Laura, for agreeing to share your writing wisdom and experience with us again. I am learning from you. Now let’s give away a copy of your new book!

Readers, if you would like to have a chance to win a SIGNED copy of “Flying with a Broken Wing” by Laura Best, please leave a comment about anything you found especially interesting in the above interview. On April 22 at 6:00 PM EST one name will be selected using the “random name picker” tool. At Laura’s book launch, Nimbus Publishing gave me an extra copy just for this event! So … remember to check your inbox in case you are the winner because I will be contacting you for a mailing address. :)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)

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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 14: Ready, Set, Go!

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month fourteen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 14: Ready, Set, Go!

I have a terrible time making a good first impression. I either come off looking stuck up because I don’t say anything at all, or like an idiot because I talk way too much.

The good news is that most people are willing to overlook that first sentence or two that does (or doesn’t) come out of my mouth, but, when we shift our focus from social situations  to novels, that first sentence becomes all important. For many people, including editors and agents, the first sentence is all they need to determine whether or not they read the book.

So let’s discuss two important things you need to learn about writing a first sentence.

1. The first sentence doesn’t have to be written first.

Duh. Of course, you don’t need to write it first. But seriously, you don’t. Since that first sentence is so important, it sometimes stands like a wall, blocking off every strong intent, every beautiful word, every delicious story that could follow, because the writer chokes.Trust yourself, go on with the novel. Start the marathon, but, when you return to that first sentence, consider your prime target.

IMG_1426photo credit: Neil Harrison

Strangely enough, your prime target isn’t craft or artistry. It isn’t even voice, although all those things are important.

2. Your prime target is your reader.

Allow me to share the first sentences from three very different manuscripts that I’m working on. (The titles are “working titles,” which means they’ll probably be changed.)

1. From TAIL FEMALE, “I’ll be fifteen next apple harvest and I got me a baby girl one years old and she’s named Chinaberry Scott.”

2. From WISH, “If you pace it off, the cement floor measures six feet wide and nine feet long, and the ceiling stands high enough that I can’t reach the camera mounted in the corner, even with a running jump.

3. From BONE FIRE, “The morning the giant walked into the village, Rose was stirring a bag of stew that hung over the outside hearth.”

Whatever weaknesses these first sentences contain, each carries one important attribute. It targets the reader, because most readers are going to stop and say, “What?”

My best advice about your first sentence? Write a sentence that holds a bit of mystery in its gut, so it pulls your readers forward into that story you can’t wait to tell them!

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back April 24, 2014, for part 15.

How is your grammar? Take this quiz!

How’s your grammar? Ever wonder how you rate or what words still trick you?

question mark

I recently discovered a short grammar test. I’m always interested in knowing how I rate when it comes to proper grammar usage, so I took this twenty question quiz to test my skills. It is easy to do and I’m sure you will find it of benefit.

I didn’t get a perfect score, and would have been surprised if I had managed that. There are a couple of things that still trip me up. 85% isn’t bad, though. It makes me a Grammar Warrior:)

Interested? Try it here.

How about testing your grammar skills, then please come back and let me know how you scored? 

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Interview with young author Erik Weibel, and book giveaway!

This Kid Reviews BooksI am very pleased to introduce to you the youngest author I have interviewed so far. Erik Weibel is the author of The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, book 1: A Bad Idea. If you missed my review of his book you can read it here. I hope you enjoy our interview and then participate in the giveaway.

Hello, Erik. Welcome to my interview chair; it’s my pleasure to interview you before you become famous. :) Please tell us a little 
about yourself.

Thank you for having me here Mrs. Davidson! I am 12 years old and I am in 6th grade. I run the blog This Kid Reviews Books that I started when I was 9. I also write a monthly book column for The Upper Bucks Free Press.

You are a very ambitious pre-teen! Now that you have a book out, do you consider yourself to be “a writer”? If so, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

I guess I am a writer. I blog, I have a newspaper column and I am trying to write books.

I have always liked to write, but it was my uncle, Dave Costella, who got me interested in writing Tomato & Pea. Uncle Dave made two stuffed toys and told me they were named Tomato and Pea (I think he named them after the color of the fabric he made them out of). Dave gave me the toys and asked me if I could write a story about them (I am always making up stories). I was nine years old at the time. Dave told me he didn’t care what the story was about, to just use my imagination. That was my original prompt to write an entire story for the first time.

Your Uncle Dave must be delighted. :) I know you are a voracious reader. Do you read every day? How many books do you think you read in a month?

I actually get into trouble at school and at home because I read so much. I read every day, no exceptions. I can’t remember ever not reading something on any day. I started keeping a list of the books I read every month. I read about 20-30 books per month. This past February I have 30 books listed.

You read three times as many books as I did in February. Do you have any favourite authors, genres, or books so far?

Brian Jacques, Rick Riordan, Roland Smith, Jude Watson, Nick Bruel, Michael Buckley, James Patterson, Tom Angleberger, Brandon Mull, Matt Phelan, Chris Grabentstein, Matt Myklusch… I can go on and on… my list is too big. Brian Jacques is one of my top 3 favorite authors, and I wish to be more like him in his writing. I love Fantasy and Sci-Fi and Action Adventure books. A specific book? Impossible. ;)

Would you read less so you can write more? Or would you write less so you can read more?

I write when I get in the mood (an average of 2-3 hours a week), so I don’t think I would change much. I think I have a good balance of both. I enjoy both so I wouldn’t give one up for the other.

Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you motivated?

I will quote Master Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” I also try to live by the Golden Rule: To treat others as you wish to be treated.

I like that quote, too. I may have to post it somewhere on my blog (and near my desk) as a reminder to keep moving forward. As for the Golden Rule, if everyone would keep it in mind we would live in a happier world. What is your biggest dream for your life, Erik?

Besides a world-famous author and a government agent (AKA secret agent AKA spy!), I want to try to make the world a better place somehow. Maybe help people through whatever work I will be doing.

Interesting choices! It’s always good to strive to be a good influence. What can you tell us about your very first time to be published (before your book), how did that happen?

I wrote a poem called “One Kid” for Dr. Niamh Clune of Plumb Tree Books. It was published in an anthology called “The Song of Sahel.” It was a charity event to help the people of Sahel Africa. My sister Josie painted a picture that was published in the same book. We were very happy to be published in the book and that it was for such a good cause.

What have you had published thus far? What do you most enjoy writing?

The poem for “The Song of Sahel”, my book The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, and the articles I write for the Upper Bucks Free Press are things that have been officially published. I compete a lot in writing contests too. Sometimes they get posted on other people’s blogs.

I really like writing funny stories. I like to make people (and myself) laugh. I also like to write fantasy. It’s cool to get lost in another world.

I appreciate good humour and enjoy reading fantasy, so I look forward to your future books. What helps you with writing and perfecting a book or article?

I read a lot of articles and took classes on how to make your writing better. I also ask for help from other people to critique my work. I think it helps to have others cheer you on and give you good advice (not necessarily what you want to hear, but honest advice). That helps keep you motivated.

Sometimes it is hard to accept what you don’t want to hear, but your writing will keep improving with your good attitude. How do you keep track of your writing ideas?

I have tons of journals and idea books. I carry one with me at all times (my idea journal).

That’s a good habit. How long did it take you to write The Adventures of Tomato and Pea?

My uncle, Dave, gave me the inspiration – actually he challenged me, to write a whole story. I kept telling him bits and pieces of different stories and he wanted me to write a whole one down. That’s why I wrote Tomato and Pea.

It took me about one year to write, and another to edit. About 6 months were spent looking for agents and publishers.

Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? 

I wrote some of the things I love to do into all of the characters. I like to cook (Skew), spout random facts (Poppy Lobster), I am good with tech-y things (Pea), and I like to lead (Tomato). I also like to laugh in a maniacal way (Wintergreen). MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Why did you decide to publish your book in the non-traditional way?

Well I tried to get an agent and that didn’t work. I couldn’t even get a rejection letter. Then I tried sending my MS directly to publishers and I finally got what I wanted – my first rejection letter! It started off “Dear Author” – and I thought, “Hey! That’s me! Author!”

So, I figured that either no one was going to take an 11-year-old seriously or maybe my MS really wasn’t that great or there are so many other awesome books out there that I’d never get anyone to look at it. So I figured I’d try to self-publish it. I’m happy I did. I got some people to read it and mostly everyone who reads it likes it. That makes me happy.

It is a great start, Erik. What do you most enjoy about writing?

The freedom. The notebooks. The pens (have you seen how many different types there are?). The fact that I get my ideas down (I have a lot of ideas, and they all get cluttered). I like that I get to write out my thoughts and feelings and write a story no one has thought of.

I have lots of pens, too. What other interests do you have for a change from reading and writing?

I study 3 different martial arts (TaeKwon-Do (black belt), Karate (green belt), and Jujitsu (blue belt)). I also study 3 foreign languages (Latin, French and Russian). I like to cook and do things outdoors (like hike and camp). I also just started to train to run in 5ks. I like to run (makes sense, because I’m 5’7″ and wear men’s size 11 wide shoes, so I can cover a lot of ground. :) ).

Impressive! How do you find time to write when you are busy with school and everything else in your life?

I write when I have the urge to do it. It seems like I can write (or type) things down faster when I get inspired to do it. I also work well if I put goals or deadlines on myself. If I didn’t do that I would just probably read all the time. :)

I also *barely* watch TV, and we don’t even have cable, actually we don’t have a TV hooked up at all right now. If I do watch “TV” it’s usually movies or old TV shows we stream on the computer. I don’t play video games that much either (2 hours a week, on average).

I try to keep organized. My mom helps me with that too.

I bet you keep your mom busy with that task. ;) What are your writing goals?

To have 10 best-selling novels. To be world-wide famous. :D

I expect you will do it, too! Do you have another book in the works? If so, can you share anything about that with our readers?

I am working on the next book in the Tomato and Pea series. To give you a hint, Wintergreen (the villain), is up to no good and is loose on EAR-TH (Earth). Tomato and the gang have to ask for help from some locals to get Wintergreen under control.

I am also working on several picture book drafts. One I wrote while taking Susanna Leonard Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic class and a couple of others that I am writing during Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 challenge.

I also have several novels I am working on (waiting for the inspiration to hit).

Good for you, you’re a novelist in the making! Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be able to take criticism. There are a lot of really nice people out there who really want to help you.

That is wise advice, Erik, thanks! And thank you for this wonderful interview. I wish you much success which I am sure you will achieve. 

Thank you Ms. Davidson for interviewing me! :)

Now, dear readers, how would you like to win a copy of Erik Weibel’s first book, The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, book 1: A Bad Idea? Erik’s mom has kindly offered to send a copy to one person who leaves a comment. Just tell us what most impressed you or helped you in this interview. One name will be drawn on Tuesday, March 11, at 6:00 PM EST.  I will contact the winner for a mailing address.

Be sure to check your email; you could be the one to win a copy of The Adventures of Tomato and Pea by Erik Weibel!

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 13: Where are you?

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month thirteen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 13: Where are you?

Magicians and novelists have something in common. They must learn “sleight of hand.”  You know, the old smoke-and-mirrors deal. Magicians pull rabbits out of hats. Novelists pull their readers into landscapes and time periods.

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If we’re out in the audience, we probably don’t have a clue how that rabbit got into the magician’s hat, and, in a really well-written book, we don’t quite understand how the author so successfully plants us into a time and a place. For magicians the secret is often roomy sleeves and quick hands. For novelists, the twin secrets are subtlety and visualization.

Let’s take a look into a novel that does a great job of transporting us into time and place. That novel is FALL OF GIANTS by Ken Follett. In the hardcover edition (page 31) Follett describes a gray house. He doesn’t come right out and say, “The house was gray.” That’s too easy, and more importantly it doesn’t touch a reader’s soul. Instead he tells us that the house is named “Ty Gwyn.” He says that Ty Gwyn is Welsh for White House (aha! we’re in Wales), but he then tells his readers that the name is ironic, because the house is covered with coal dust. It’s so dirty that it discolors the long skirts of women (time period hint) who brush too closely as they walk by.

Follett knows his readers well. They’re the folks who love big fat thick historical novels packed full of story and facts. In this paragraph, those readers receive a visual image of a dirty gray house, but they also see women in long, full skirts, they learn two words in Welsh, and they discover that this particular house is located in Welsh coal country. Now that’s the way to write setting.

So  we’ve seen the fantastic finished product, but I still haven’t addressed the how-to angle. Here’s a few ways that I help myself write settings.

1. I watch a video or a movie set in the area I’m writing about.

2. If possible, I visit the location.

3. I talk to/interview people who live there or who have visited the area.

4. I read travel books and magazine articles about that particular location.

5. I look up statistics on Wikipedia or in my handy old-fashioned set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

6. I purchase maps and study them ardently.

7. I pinpoint the location on a globe. My globe has raised areas where mountains and highlands are located. I love the tactile aspect of exploring my setting with my fingertips.

All of those ideas will help you, but here’s the best-kept secret about performing the magic trick of producing an effective setting — or any visual image — via words. Before you write it, see it in your mind. Close your eyes and imagine that place until you feel as if you were there. If you the writer have a fuzzy image in your head, then it will also appear “fuzzy” to your reader. I don’t know why it works that way, but it does. (I told you it was all about smoke-and-mirrors!)

Once you have succeeded in placing that image in your mind, then you are ready to write it for your readers.

How do you help yourself visualize settings for your stories or novels?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

(Photograph Copyright 2012, Krystal Harrison)

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back March 27, 2014, for part 14.

Interview with Diane Lynn McGyver & book giveaway!

01dlmcgyver-shadows-in-the-stone-smallI’m pleased to introduce to you Diane Lynn McGyver, author of Shadows in the Stone. Please read my review here if you missed it. 

Diane is a Nova Scotia native who is quite the romantic, which you will discover from this interview, and a prolific writer. If you are in NS you may have read her articles.

Diane, welcome to my interview corner. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Lynn, thanks for having me here. So, a little about me: I enjoy tea, chocolate, raw cranberries, tart Cortland apples, ice skating, sitting in a boat for hours and letting the tide move me, gathering around a fire with family and friends, John Denver, walking in snow-covered woods at night, learning, Scottish music, exploring, adventure, stories and laughing. I’ve worn many hats in my life time and worked at more than 25 jobs, looking for satisfaction I never found except in the words of my own stories. I had been told by many I couldn’t keep a job. It wasn’t until I was forty I realised, “the jobs couldn’t keep me.”

It’s good you discovered what does keep you. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

I have never not wanted to be a writer, but I was told it was a hobby only. Still, that was all I ever wanted to do from as far back as my earliest memories. If I had to lay blame on one reason why I am a writer, it would be the story itself, or more accurately, the capturing of a story, so it could be read later, perhaps years down the road.

As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?

My first response would be: No, I don’t read a lot. But when I think about it, I read every day. If I had to tally up my reading time, it would probably be about six hours a day. I read fiction (novel and short story), nonfiction (for research, learning and pleasure), blogs (for the same reasons), email and various other types of writing.

The authors I enjoy most are Robin Hobb and Dr. Seuss. Oh the Places You Will Go is my most favourite. One by Richard Bach was the book that made me think the most.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

I feel like giving up several days a month, but I keep moving in the direction of becoming a more confident writer. I don’t believe I can without a doubt call myself a writer. Perhaps it is because I do so many other jobs or because I can’t make a full living from my writing income. Is being a writer a destination, or is it the journey that makes us writers?

Good question! I think it is in the attitude of one’s will on that journey, and the destination – both say ‘writer.’ Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I have a few favourite quotes posted at my desk or stored in the shadows of my thoughts for when I need them:

1) Be the hero in your own story.

2) Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

3) It could always be worse.

Good ones! What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?

I was first published in East Coast Gardener magazine in 1998. It was a newspaper-style publication out of Yarmouth, NS. I became aware of it while working at the garden centre Lakeland Plant World in Dartmouth. When I went on maternity leave for my first child I became bored, picked up a pen and thought about submitting an article on gardening to the magazine. To my surprise the editor Carla Allen liked it and wanted to publish it. I was ecstatic. I think I received $25 for the 800-word article. The money didn’t matter though. My writing in print for all to read was the real reward. That one publication was all I needed for me to pursue a writing career.

An exciting start! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

In the nonfiction category I’ve had a few dozen articles published in local and national magazines. They were about gardening, genealogy, horses, homemade soap, photography, raising kids and writing. My first column ran for six years. It was all about gardening. My second column focussed on genealogy. It celebrated its eighth year in October. Roots to the Past is currently published in four newspapers in Atlantic Canada.

In the fiction category I’ve published one fantasy novel (Shadows in the Stone), one romance novel (Pockets of Wildflowers), one anthology (Nova Scotia – Life Near Water) and several short stories. 

 My most favourite of all is writing fantasy novels.

There’s no doubt you are a writer, Diane. What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

Step one: I write down the story as quickly as possible. I don’t look back and edit or I might stall or get stuck. Step two: I stash it in a drawer for a week or more. Step three: I read and edit it, then I go on the hunt for a list of words I’ve flagged (that, even, was…). Next I read it out loud and edit, then I print it and edit. And then…I read it and edit one last time. Then I send it off to an editor. When I’ve applied their suggestions I read it one more time. Then I’m ready to publish.

That’s something I learned when participating in NaNoWriMo, to not look back and edit along the way. I see it works well for you. What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I have a computer file where I stash ideas. If I have a title only, I write it on a piece of paper and tape it to the kitchen cupboard door. A few times I’ve dreamt entire books. When this happens, I immediately write a summary of the story, print it and stick it in a duotang.

What inspired you to write Shadows in the Stone?

When I was thirteen I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. It shined a new light on dragons, fairies and magic, one that captivated me. I studied the D&D books and played faithfully every Friday night. Yes, while other teens were out doing things that might horrify their parents, I was in a room with like-minded individuals seeking adventure. We didn’t stop until I was about eighteen. Those adventures left a lasting impression, one I wanted to preserve in story. And Shadows in the Stone was born.

How long did it take you to write Shadows in the Stone? Did you have to do any research? And how did you come up with that title?

I began Shadows in the Stone in the early 1980s. I wrote the original draft which didn’t tell the story I wanted to tell, so I started again. The second book was better but still not what I wanted. In 1998, home with my first child, I picked up the story again, and this time nailed it. I spent years rewriting, adding characters, taking them away, researching fairy and druid magic, spells, healing herbs, castles, mediaeval clothing, primitive food and weapons like swords and daggers. Along the way I also worked on my writing skills, learning more about nouns and verbs, dialogue tags, plot, style, characters, point of view, engaging readers and anything else that would make my story better. I invested in several books and dictionaries to help me on my adventure. I read blogs and talked to other writers. It was a long journey but well worth it.

I chose the title Shadows in the Stone because there are many secrets hidden in the shadows of Aruam Castle. Some are good and some are evil. I also love stones and feel they possess their own energy. I’ve used this idea and gave the stones in this story their own powers.

The word stone is used in all three book titles in this trilogy: Scattered Stones (to represent the scattered characters who long to be together) and Healing Stones (to represent the healing that must be done for a happy ending).

I look forward to the books to come! Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?

I believe every character has a bit of me in them, including the ones who are not so nice. Bronwyn has my shyness and lack of confidence when it comes to issues of the heart, and he has my sense of honour for doing the right thing even when it doesn’t benefit him. Alaura possesses my dedication to getting the job done which sometimes makes her appear as an unfriendly individual. She also shares my love of nature and horses and learning. I gave Isla my serious side, my curiosity and sense of adventure. Tam is my quiet side; he thinks and does more than he talks. He’s strong, silent and keeps his troubles to himself. I didn’t know he was like this until after I knew him for a few days.

My favourite? That’s a difficult question. I suppose Bronwyn is because he possesses the high sense of honour with a dash of hidden humour I enjoy.

Why did you decide to publish your book in the non-traditional way?

Although I easily had nonfiction articles published since 1998, fiction was another matter. I had submitted several different stories to dozens of editors for more than ten years without success. Many times I had positive notes from editors, and even once was told the story would be accepted except they didn’t have room for it. I read about the many things others did to get published but nothing worked for me. Then I read about only one percent of submitted stories get published. It sounded near impossible for me to get accepted, or at least it would take years to receive the acceptance letter.

The final straw was the summer I submitted Shadows in the Stone to DAW in New York. They wanted the entire manuscript, not just the first few chapters and synopsis. It cost me almost a hundred dollars to submit, and I received only a simple rejection letter after waiting about three months.

That rejection hurt more than the dozens I had received beforehand. I had invested a lot of time, emotion, energy and money in that submission and got nothing for it. For several months afterwards I walked around in a daze, thinking I was going to give up, break the pencil and never write again.

Then I learned about self-publishing. And I learned this powerful quote (or something like this): Don’t let anyone else—not even an editor—tell you your story isn’t good enough for others to read.

I immediately began to learn how to self-publish and never looked back. It was the best decision I made in my writing career.

I can understand why you did what you did, although it’s a tough decision to make. What do you most enjoy about writing?

I most enjoy putting my feet in the shoes of the characters and telling their stories. Writing the first draft is the best part.

How do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

I make it a priority. I write every day without fail. It is the best part of my day. It’s why I rise, how I continue to make sense of the world and what makes me who I am.

What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I have many interests. I love photography, drawing, painting, raising goats, watching movies, gardening, fishing, biking, hiking, camping, riding, baking, watching the stars, shovelling snow, yoga, reading, archery, boating, dancing, rock collecting, beachcombing, travelling, genealogy and exploring. I like sharing all these things with my kids.

How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals– daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

I make goals every year and break them down into months. I try to write 1,000 words a day, but I will settle for 500. I have also set goals to what I want to have accomplished in five years and ten years. In the next five years I’m supposed to have fifteen novels and two nonfiction books published. It’s a tough goal, but when I break it down to years and then months, I realise it’s not impossible.

Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?

This year I’m working on several projects that are in various stages. My next romance Twistmas should be out in February. It was supposed to be out in December, but family turmoil threw me off course in the fall. The novella Fowl Summer Nights, a humourous story about a retired Canada Post worker, is due out this spring/summer. I’m excited about this project because it’s my first attempt at writing humour. It makes me laugh out loud, so I hope it makes others do the same.

Also due out this spring or summer is Scattered Stones, the second book in the Castle Keepers series. The fall will see When a Boy Becomes a Crow. It’s another attempt at humour.

Through my pen name Candy McMudd, I will release Throw Away Kitten in the spring. It tells the story about a problem many farmers have with people dropping off unwanted kittens. I’m in discussions with our local vet hospital to see if they will offer the youth novel for sale in their office. A portion of the profit will go into a fund which will pay for spaying or neutering of cats owned by people who can’t afford to get their animals fixed.

Wow! You are busy! What a nice thing to do with your Throw Away Kitten book. Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

My advice is to write. Apply butt to chair and write every day if you can. Don’t give up on your dream. Keep learning about writing. It will inspire you to write more. Attend workshops and join writers groups. Don’t let anyone tell you your writing isn’t important, that no one wants to read it. It is, and you will find readers.

Thank you for this encouraging advice, Diane, and thank you for an interesting and detailed interview. 

Now for the giveaway: Are you interested in winning a copy of Diane Lynn McGyver’s book Shadows in the Stone? Please leave a comment about what most interested you in this interview for your chance to win. At 6 PM EST on Tuesday, February 4, not one name but TWO NAMES will be pulled from the basket! Yes, you have two chances to win!

Diane said, “I’ll give away two eBook copies of Shadows in the Stone with this interview. I’ll provide coupons to Smashwords, so they can choose the format they wish to have.”  

I will be contacting the winners after 6:00 PM EST on February 4, so be sure to check your email. You could be a winner of Shadows in the Stone. :)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twelve:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Here’s what I love about reading novels. They give me the opportunity to see the world through another person’s eyes. For a novelist to provide that great joy to his readers, he has to develop full and believable characters and then choose how to convey the thoughts and ideas of those characters on the written page. That choice is all about point of view (POV).

 

In determining POV, every writer has two main options, first person or third person. We’ll talk about variations, like second person,  in a later blog post, but today let’s keep it simple.

 

First Person POV: I went for a nice walk, and I saw a pretty flower.

 

Third Person POV: She went for a nice walk, and she saw a pretty flower.

 

I know, I know, the two sentences above deserve trashing for multiple reasons, but let’s not complicate matters. Two choices. That seems pretty straight forward. So how do you decide which is best for your novel? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you how I decide which POV is best for my novels.

 

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I consider these four things:

 

1. The usual POV in which my genre is presented.

 

2. My preference.

 

3. The strengths and weaknesses of each POV.

 

4. The unique characters in my novel.

 

So let’s talk about #1 – the usual POVs for some common genres. In my next “Writing the Third Dimension,” I’ll discuss numbers 2 through 4.

 

Historical fiction is usually presented in third person POV. That’s because historical fiction often paints on a wide canvas, and most authors prefer to open the minds of many characters to their readers. Multiple third person POVs are less awkward and, to most readers, more “believable” than multiple first person POVs.

 

Mysteries and Who-Done-Its boast a wide variety of sub-genres. Because of the differing requirements in each of these sub-genres, readers will find some novels presented in first person POV and others in third person. If the novelist wants the main character to be as stumped by the mystery as the reader, she will often choose first person POV. If the writer wants to present what happened from multiple viewpoints, he will often choose third person POV.

 

Romance novels are built on a foundation of strong emotions. They are often presented in first person POV, which is able to convey emotions at a very intense level.

 

Young Adult novels are often told from first person POV because of that same strong emotional bond the writer is trying to forge between a main character and the reader.

 

Action-Adventure is another genre that is split between both POVs, but if the novel has only one main character, authors often choose first person POV.

 

Children’s novels, those first chapter books, are also usually written in first person POV, and that is done to help young children bond more easily with the main character.

 

Feel free to add to our genre list. Do you have a reading preference for POV?

 

Enjoy the Journey!

 

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

 

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back February 27, 2014 for part 13.