Tuesday, December 18, 2007

[Interview] Kristen Collier

Kristen Collier's first children's book, Joy the Jellyfish (Dragonfly Publishing, 2007) is a 24-paged picture book that tells the story of an almost invisible and shy jellyfish called Joy who is on a mission to make new friends.

The picture book was followed by Dreamchaser (Guardian Angel Publishing, 2007), a novel for young adults which Kristen co-authored with her husband, Kevin.

In a recent interview, Kristen Collier spoke about her concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

Five years ago, in September, I was at the library waiting to take a test for a job. I’d heard that if you wrote your goals down you were more likely to achieve them, so I took out the only piece of paper in my purse -- an envelope -- and wrote on the back of it my goals.

The next day the story for my novel King of Glory came to mind. And now, five years later, I finally have a publisher, not for my novel, but for a picture book called Joy the Jellyfish.

What did you do to achieve this end?

I spent a lot of time learning to write, mostly by re-writing and re-writing and by using some good reference books from the library. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, is one of the best writing books I’ve ever read. Also, Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction is an excellent book.

And then I just started sending out queries. There were endless rejections but after five years I finally found a publisher for a picture book I’d written with my husband’s help.

How would you describe your writing?

Christian fiction, although a few of my books are just nice stories with uplifting messages.

Most of my books are for kids or teens but my novel is my main book. I write for all ages.

My biggest goal is to get a publisher for King of Glory which is about Jesus. It’s sort of like the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. Jesus walks invisibly with the characters, comforting them, etc. So I wanted to get that story out there to encourage people and remind them that they’re never alone.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My biggest concern is to not let it interfere with my family. For the last five years I’ve tried to make it a career. That hasn’t happened, so I’m scaling back and only writing when it doesn’t interfere with my guys.

My biggest challenge is finding a day job. I moved here in February when Kevin and I got married and am currently working in retail. Michigan is in what’s considered a one state recession, so I’m thankful to even have this job, but I’m looking for a clerical position. I’m also a feature writer for The Chronicle of the Horse, which I enjoy.

How do you deal with these challenges?

Just by continuing with the job search. Most writers dream of writing full-time but I think of it as a hobby. My focus is on my current gig and on finding an office job.

Do you write everyday?

I used to write for hours after Jarod went to bed and I’d worked a full day. I did that for a long time but it wasn’t good for him, my shoulders developed problems and I never got anything published. Now I’m sitting on a handful of manuscripts that are ready to find a publisher, so there’s no need to write more until they go somewhere.

Now that I’m in Michigan and married I’m not making the mistake of running myself into the ground anymore. I figure if the time comes for me to spend large amounts of time writing again, the Lord will provide the time block, because I won’t let it interfere with my family or health anymore.

How many books have you written so far?

I am the co-author of an e-book called Dreamchaser (Guardian Angel Publishing, 2007). Kevin wrote that book with me. I have about seven or so manuscripts laying around waiting to find publishers and my publisher for Joy the Jellyfish wants a sequel.

Most are [books for young adults] YA and picture books. Dreamchaser is about an urban teen, destined to become the next LeBron James, who learns that the greatest life is one that serves others.

How did you find a publisher for Joy the Jellyfish?

My husband landed Dragonfly Publishing for me. I’d queried them about another picture book but Kevin told them about Joy. They’d wanted him to illustrate for them and liked the story so picked it up. They’re wonderful to work with and are very excited about the release of Joy.

Joy the Jellyfish is about a little jellyfish who swims the Great Barrier Reef in search of friends. But because she is nearly invisible and too shy to talk to anyone she fails. When she swims to the cold arctic North, a wise white Beluga whale teaches her that a true friend sees from the inside out. Joy didn’t take long to write. Kevin gave me the idea one night and helped me with some sticky parts. As it’s a picture book, there are only a few lines of text per page. As illustrator, Kevin did most of the work.

In a picture book every word counts. It’s not like a chapter book where the rhythm’s not as important because there are tens of thousands of words. Joy is not poetry but it does have a certain rhythm and meter that I was very careful with.

What sets the book apart from others you have written?

It’s the first book I’ve gotten published! But seriously, what sets it apart is the illustrating, not the writing. Kevin has spent more time on this book than any other book he’s illustrating because he believes deeply in his wife.

The only books I’ve written alone are my novel, King of Glory, and my first picture book, The Day Jarod Met Jesus. And since I started writing with him I’m re-working those books, too.

What will your next book be about?

I’m going to do a sequel to Joy. There will be some online short stories, as well, so I'm not sure which storyline I’m going to pick for the sequel.

I’m also working on a really transparent allegory for prayer, called The Fairy Princess. I like that story. It’s a YA chap book about a fairy princess named Angelina. She is filled with tremendous fear but must go out into the world to rescue her lost brethren. It’s based on what Isaiah told the Lord, “Here am I, send me.” It speaks to the heart of girls young and old who find themselves in a scary world but who are willing to say, “Here am I. Send me…send me.”

Who would you say has influenced you most?

My husband, Kevin. As an author/illustrator of about 60 children’s books, he’s taught me a lot about writing… life… and love.

This article has also been featured on Associated Content.

Friday, December 14, 2007

[Interview] Karl Stuart Kline

Poet and author, Karl Stuart Kline is a past president of Epilepsy Concern, a coalition of self-help groups; a past president of the Greater Miami Avicultural Society and a lifetime honorary member of the Florida Sheriff’s Association.

He made his debut as an author in 2004 with the publication of Poison Pearls, an 88-paged collection of poetry and prose which explores issues that include forced labor, modern-day slavery, human trafficking and prostitution.

He followed this up with Going Without Peggy (PublishAmerica, 2005), another collection of poetry and prose about his marriage of 17 years and the bond that existed between him and his first wife, Peggy; her struggle with breast cancer and the effect her death had on him.

His latest book, Brain Stemmed Roses (PublishAmerica, 2006) is also a collection of poetry and prose and includes some of his early work from the 60s and 70s as well as poetry about romance and friendship in Eastern Europe and a section dedicated to his wife of seven years, Marina.

In a recent interview, Karl Stuart Kline spoke about the work he is doing.

How would you describe your writing?

Impulsive... I seldom sit down knowing in advance just what it is that I am going to write or what form that it is going to take. I find a certain amount of freedom in that because each time that I sit down to write, I have a different story to tell and a different way to tell it.

I want my work to withstand the test of time and for it to be as popular and well-read in a hundred years as it would be now if I was writing to please modern stylists.

I don’t write to accommodate the style du jour and refer to myself as writing poetry that will appeal to people who think that they don’t like poetry.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t believe that it was ever a conscious decision any more than it is for a fish to swim. Writing has always been as natural as breathing for me and the instruments of my craft are always close to hand.

A school assignment prompted me to write my first poem in 1966. The medium just had a natural appeal for me and I continued to write poetry as a matter of preference whenever possible.

Ten years later that same poem motivated me again, when I entered it and a few others in a college level competition... The poem took first place.

Later I found out that I had caused some consternation amongst the judges when the three winning poems were matched to their authors and they found my name on all three entries. Contest rules did not allow any one person to be awarded more than one prize, so all my poems had to be removed from the competition and those that remained were judged again for the second and third place awards.

The three poems were "The Tear", "Storm’s End" and "Patterns". All three are included in my most recent book, Brain Stemmed Roses.

Who would you say has influenced you most?

I suppose I would have to say that it has been the women in my life. With few exceptions, they have been a source of encouragement and inspiration for my writing.

As for writers that might have influenced me, I might mention the story-telling abilities of Mark Twain and Robert Heinlein. Neither of them were noted as poets, but they both had that wry sense of humor that I like to bring to my own work.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Now that I have three books to my credit, my priorities have shifted. Over the last year I have continued to write but not with the immediate goal of my next book in mind. Rather, I have been concentrating on my Internet presence, so that my name is starting to be recognized in an ever widening circle of people.

I’ve also kept my websites free of any advertising. I hate to be bushwhacked any time that I find a site that I want to visit and I refuse to do it to anyone else.

Do you write everyday?

Unfortunately, no... My day job can be very demanding and there are often days that I just come home and collapse.

When I do write, many times I start by sorting through notes that I have made to myself over the preceding weeks, months and even years... they can be newspaper clippings, journal entries or scraps of verse, jotted down on napkins or placemats and saved.

I follow my muse, separating or bringing together different notes etc., according to perceived discords or commonalities. When something or a combination of things starts to sing to me, it tightens my focus. Soon I have something new to share with my readers.

Where I start often has very little to do with where I wind up. For example, I wrote an epigraph for a page on my website and it later became a rhyming sestina, done consistently in iambic heptameter.

How, where and when does the process end?

I don’t think that it ever ends! I may complete a piece to my satisfaction, but it almost always leads to something else!

Your latest book, Brain Stemmed Roses is divided into six sections. How and why is this?

The first of them is “A Poet’s View of Poetry”... mostly verse, but also an essay titled “Poetic Form and the Community of Man.” The second, “Early Works”, is material that I wrote in the ‘60s and ‘70s, including my very first poem. The third, “Smart and Sexy” details some of my dealings with the fair sex, starting about a year after Peggy’s death.

The fourth section is “The Ukrainian Connection” and it tells of my friendship with two itinerant Ukrainian artists. Through them, my acquaintance with Anne McCaffrey became possible and their friendship encouraged me to consider taking a bride from the old USSR. The section finishes with my expedition to Kyrgyzstan.

The fifth section, “Finding Marina” was meant to be a book in its own right, but my lovely Russian wife is also shy and she discouraged me from completing the book. However, I’ve still managed to tell the story of our ‘round the world romance, "Love, Marriage & Immigration."

The sixth and final section, “Passions of Poetry”, is comprised of several of my best and most recent works.

You mention Anne McCaffrey. Do you mean the Anne McCaffrey who wrote the Dragonriders of Pern series of books?

Yes, that's Anne McCaffrey. We know each other through a common acquaintance, the sculptor Vlad Ivanov of Kiev, Ukraine -- on his website you will see my name pop up as you run the cursor over some of the sculptures that are displayed in his gallery. (Except that he misspells my middle name as "Stewart.") Those are pieces that I commissioned with him and he also did the dragons for the gates to Anne's estate in Ireland (Dragonhold-Underhill).

Incidentally, my poetry that went into Going Without Peggy was inspiration for his Orpheus & Eurydice sculpture. I'm the reason Orpheus has a ponytail. Vlad surprised me as well when he revealed Orpheus & Eurydice to me. He'd been rather secretive about the project and I had no forewarning that he was doing Orpheus in my image.

How long did it take you to write Brain Stemmed Roses?

Counting my early works? Forty years!

When and where was it published?

April, 2006, by Publish America. This is my third book with this publisher.

Originally they were recommended to me as being friendly to first time authors. The writer who suggested them to me had his book turned down by them, so my first impression of them was also that they weren’t accepting just anybody who could submit a manuscript. They were also a relatively new company and at the time they were using new technology in an industry that had been relying on a business model that’s been around for decades, if not longer.

Better yet, they didn’t ask for any money and even offered a token advance that was at least symbolic of the fact that they expected you to be able to earn some income with them.

So I sent in my query letter and Poison Pearls was accepted for publication!

What advantages or disadvantages has this presented?

One advantage that I had was being able to retain a great deal of editorial control over the finished product. I know of one typo that slipped through in my first book and I have yet to find any in either of my other books.

Also important is that they have a very capable art department that pays close attention to the ideas that I present to them for the covers of my books. The cover art for all three of my books has been better than it had to be.

The most enjoyable part of having these books published is the sheer number of people who have come back to me and told me that not only did they enjoy reading my books cover to cover, but that they went back and read them two or three times over.

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

Blending and transitioning from one section to another. I didn’t really have a single unifying theme in this book, except that it presented several different periods in my creative life and wove together several interesting stories from my life.

All my books are quite different from what I have written in the past as a reporter, columnist or contributing editor.

Brain Stemmed Roses is a larger book than the other two and gives a broader overview of my art through the course of several decades while Going without Peggy could be read almost as a true life romance novel. Its story has brought tears to many eyes.

Poison Pearls, on the other hand, is a poetic voice for human rights and is meant to help in the fight against human trafficking. Nonetheless, it was quite a surprise for me when the booksellers classified it with Criminology, Social Issues and Women’s Studies instead of poetry! It’s also the beginning of what ultimately became scaredsafe.org, a website that unabashedly uses the power of poetry to combat the evils of human trafficking.

This article has also been featured on Associated Content.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

[Interview] Sheila Roberts

Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children.

She has been writing since 1989.

Her debut novel, On Strike for Christmas was released from St. Martin’s Press late this year..

Currently, she is working on a second novel.

In a recent interview, Sheila Roberts spoke about her writing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know that I ever officially decided.

I was writing stories in the third grade. As an adult, I was still writing. I probably realized I wanted to be published when I was in my early twenties.

How would you describe your writing?

Women’s fiction probably describes it best.

I definitely write for women since I write about things that are important to women, like relationships. And chocolate. You can’t forget chocolate.

I’ve written all kinds of things over the years under different names, but On Strike for Christmas is my debut in women’s fiction, and I’m very proud of it. I think St. Martin’s Press did a lovely job on it. I think a lot of women will identify with this story about a group of friends who go on strike for the holidays and put their men in charge of everything.

Women often go into holiday overload this time of year. Maybe it’s time we all took a step back, deleted a few things from our to-do list, and relaxed a little more.

Do you write everyday?

Yes. The amount of time varies -- anywhere from two to four hours. Sometimes longer. I don’t keep set hours. When I start, I start. When I’m done, I’m done.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

Hmmm. When I started writing I wrote a lot of Regency romance because that was what I loved. I devoured Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer books. But who has influenced me the most? That’s actually hard to say. I think that, as writers, we all have other authors we love, but as for influence, our own life experience, our own unique outlook and brand of humor are what turns our pens one direction or the other.

I often find myself writing about things that intrigue or irritate me or that I’m struggling with. On Strike for Christmas grew out of a conversation I had with my husband, who didn’t seem to be sharing my Christmas spirit. My next book with Saint Martin’s Press, Bikini Season was inspired by some of my own diet adventures. It's also about men, women, diets and cheating.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Probably what concerns most writers: can I keep coming up with new book ideas? Can I pull them off? Will anyone want to read what I have to say?

Growing as a writer and building my career, juggling writing, promoting, and managing all the business aspects of a writing career can be a challenge. But I love it all. I need a few more hours in my day. I wish I could clone me! If I did that, though, my husband would probably run screaming into the night. Heck, I’d run screaming into the night. Probably one of me is enough for anybody, including myself.

How do you deal with these challenges?

I work hard. And then I reward myself on a regular basis with playtime with my girlfriends.

Which aspects of the work that went into On Strike for Christmas did you find most difficult?

This is probably going to sound silly -- but the hardest part was working on the recipes that are included in the book. Not coming up with them, but getting the measurements and directions just right. I’m a “by guess and by gosh” cook and not the world’s best detail person and making those recipes reader-friendly turned out to be much harder than I thought.

Which did you enjoy most?

Re-reading and editing what I’d done.

Story telling really is great fun. Sometimes I’d read something and chuckle, and say to myself, “Oh, I’m good.” In other words, I kept myself highly amused. Hopefully, I’ll keep readers amused, too. Putting a fun story out there is a little like telling a joke -- you want other people to “get it” and share the laugh also.

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

This book has a large cast of characters and a lot of story lines. I found myself with a lot to keep track of.

It's similar to the others in, well, humor. I hope that is a thread that will always run through my writing.

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

I once wrote a devotional for women all about spiritual lessons I learned through everyday interaction with my children. Sadly, it’s long out of print, but I got more positive reactions to that than anything else I’ve ever written. I think it was because that little book offered women advice and encouragement. I hope to be able to do more of that in the future. I want to touch hearts. And lives.

Being able to help people with my writing is huge for me. And the only way for a writer to touch people is to spend a lot of time writing, which I have done and will continue to do. I don’t think anyone else would look at my writing life and consider me “there” though. I’m not there yet. I’m a long way from “there.” But maybe I will be someday. I’m certainly not done writing yet. I hope!

This article has also been featured on Associated Content.

Monday, November 19, 2007

[Interview] Peter Tomlinson

Peter Tomlinson is author of The Petronicus Legacy series of books.

So far, the series is made up of three novels: The Stones of Petronicus (Bewrite Books, 2004); The Time of Kadrik (Bewrite Books, 2006) and The Voyages of Delticos (Bewrite Books, 2007).

He has also published four poetry volumes: Whispers in the Dust (Hengist Enterprises, 1999); Reflections in the Rock (Hengist Enterprises, 2000); Echoes in the Stones (Hengist Enterprises, 2001) and Tunnels of the Mind (Bluechrome, 2004).

His two short stories collections, To Tell the Tale (2000) and The Short Straw Society (2002) where both published by Hengist Enterprises.

In a recent interview, Peter Tomlinson spoke about his writing.

How would you describe your writing?

For about ten years I concentrated on writing poetry and have had nearly 300 poems published by about 80 small press magazines in the U.K. and abroad.

I continue submitting poetry to numerous magazines in the U.K. and abroad. I prefer poetry that deals with the joys and tribulations of modern society. I also write poems about nature and landscape.

My first major poetry collection, published by Bluechrome, was entitled Tunnels of the Mind. Three other poetry collections: Whispers in the Dust, Reflections in the Rock and Echoes in the Stones are all published by Hengist Enterprises.

Two collections of short stories: To Tell the Tale and The Short Straw Society are also published by Hengist Enterprises.

I am now concentrating on writing novels, having recently completed a series of three novels titled The Petronicus Legacy published by Bewrite Books.

Who is your target audience?

I did not have a target audience for The Petronicus Legacy series. The characters in the books represent all age groups from the very young to the very old. I hope my audience are those readers who are not tied to a particular genre but are prepared to allow an author to take them into unknown places.

I am not writing in a specific genre that booksellers can recognise. The three novels in The Petronicus Legacy series cannot be neatly slotted into a genre type in the way that booksellers would like. If pressed I would describe the genre as Fictitious History rather than Historical Fiction but they are definitely not Historical Fantasy.

The civilisations described are credible and realistic but they did not exist and cannot be given a historical description or designation. The places the characters lived in could be anywhere in the world: the Americas, Europe, the Middle and Far East -- anywhere on the planet. I wrote the novels without a genre straitjacket in order to allow my imagination to range freely over human experience, locations, beliefs etc. without being tied down.

The first novel, The Stones of Petronicus, was published by Bewrite Books in 2004. The novel follows the trials and tribulations of Petronicus, an itinerant healer and man of wisdom who takes an abandoned baby to heart and together they begin a quest for knowledge, groping through a maze of magic and madness to find answers in the cruel and mysterious ancient world. Although it is the first novel in a series, it is also a self-contained story.

The second novel in the series, The Time of Kadrik, was also published by Bewrite Books. It is a self-contained saga set ten lifetimes on and begins in an entirely different location. The novel ends with a coming together of the characters, ideas and locations in both novels.

The third self-contained novel in the series is titled The Voyages of Delticos. In this story all the ideas come together in an enlightening and thoroughly satisfying manner. Full details of the plots and characters in the series are available on Bewrite Books' Petronicus Legacy page. The site also contains extensive reviews from readers.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

My own experiences of life must surely have added to the direction of my writing. I was born in Merseyside, U.K. the year World War II started. We were evacuated to a remote hill farm in North Wales to escape the blitz. We returned to much wartime dereliction and lived in a prefabricated house on a bomb site. We were separated from my father who served in the Royal Navy throughout the war. I left school at 15 and worked for an American Telegraph Company as a messenger boy. I was trained as a telegraphist and then conscripted aged 18 into the British Army and served overseas in Cyprus. After demobilization I took a B. Phil. degree and followed an academic life. On early retirement I worked for a while as an overseas cultural guide. I also regard a propensity for just mooning around and daydreaming as an important influence.

I suppose one writer who influenced me was William Golding. I am influenced by writers of good stories; stories that are credible, convincing and full of originality and invention. They must be smoothly written and have a beginning, a middle and an end. But perhaps the biggest influences are the many different characters and personalities I have met in real life.

What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

By far the biggest challenge is persuading the big booksellers to stock my titles. I try to overcome this by visiting small independent bookshops, trying to get book signings and competing with the big names the quality of whose books does not always reflect their celebrity. All that is on the bookshelves is not good and all that is good is not on the bookshelves.

Do you write every day?

Writing is a discipline but that doesn’t mean I force myself to write even when I don’t feel like it.

I have found out what times of the day or what parts of my daily routine are most conducive to work and I stick to them. I find that first thing in the morning for about one hour and late afternoon for another hour are my best times for moving the stories on.

My session usually starts by revising the work from the previous day and then constructing the follow-on events in the plot.

You are currently working on another book? What sets this book apart from others?

My latest book is different from The Petronicus Legacy series because it is written in the third person and is set in modern times. It is provisionally titled A Message From Siakhara and is not quite finished. It is a modern suspense thriller in which the heroes are two very unlikely ex-squaddies in their late fifties. The novel will come in at about 93,000 words and has taken me six months to write.

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

I find that the most difficult aspect of the writing is dialogue. It is so easy to give each character the same linguistic idiosyncrasies and this can produce a sameness which is irritating to the reader. In my latest book the problem does not arise because the principal characters are from diverse backgrounds.

Related article:

Peter Tomlinson [Featured Author], Conversations with Writers, June 11, 2010

Friday, November 16, 2007

[Interview] Dennis N. Griffin

Crime writer Dennis N. Griffin has written and published six novels and three non-fiction books about Las Vegas police and organized crime history.

Four of his six novels, The Morgue (1996); Red Gold (2000); Killer In Pair-A-Dice (2001) and Blood Money (2002) were published by AuthorHouse while the remaining two, One-Armed Bandit (2002) and Pension (2004) where released through Publish America.

His three non-fiction books, Policing Las Vegas (April 2005); The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. the Mob (2006) and Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness (2007) were all published by Huntington Press.

In a recent interview, Dennis Griffin spoke about the work he is doing.

When did you start writing?

I began writing my first manuscript in 1994, following my retirement from a 20-year career in law enforcement and investigations in New York State . My motivation at that time wasn’t money or fame. It was solely to tell the story of a medical examiner’s office run amok. It was based on the last investigation I did prior to retiring and was a story I felt needed to be told.

I plunged ahead with my project without doing any research on the writing business. I didn’t know traditional publishing from self-publishing. I had no idea what a [print on demand] POD book was. I only knew I had a story to tell and wanted to get it out there.

The Morgue was completed in early 1996 and that’s when all the things I had failed to do came home to roost.

There I was with a 110,000-word document and clueless about what to do next.

Belatedly springing into action, I researched publishing options and commenced sending our queries, followed by sample chapters, followed by the entire manuscript in some cases. Each attempt ended with a rejection. As the copying and postage expenses mounted, along with the frustration, I was about ready to pack it in. Suddenly, out of the blue I was thrown a life line. A company called 1stBooks (now AuthorHouse) contacted me to announce they were expanding their services to include printed and bound books as well as e-books. Was I interested in being one of the first authors to have their manuscript published in POD format for only a $75 setup fee? I still didn’t understand what POD was all about, but without any attractive alternatives I couldn’t sign fast enough.

I had the book in my hands in a fairly short time — a couple of months as I remember. After the euphoria wore off, I was confronted with yet more realities. I was responsible for marketing and promoting my book. The publisher didn’t do it — they didn’t even offer a promo package at the time. And book stores, especially the chains, weren’t anxious to schedule events for self-published and/or POD authors, or stock their books.

It was crunch time for me. I had to decide if I wanted to write any more. And if I did, in order to have any chance for personal or financial success, I’d have to develop a readership beyond family and friends. So, did I want to establish myself as an author and was I prepared to put forth the effort to develop my writing and marketing skills?

I decided to go for it.

How would you describe your writing?

I am currently writing non-fiction Las Vegas police and organized crime history, specifically Chicago Outfit enforcer, Tony Spilotro’s reign. This is the era dramatized in the hit 1995 movie Casino, in which actor Joe Pesci plays a character based on Spilotro.

My target audience is the millions of people who are fascinated by the workings of organized crime, have organized or true crime books at the top of their reading list, watched The Godfather series, Casino and Goodfellas multiple times and felt a great sense of loss when the last episode of The Sopranos aired.

Author and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi has been a great influence in my non-fiction efforts. I admired his work in the book and movie Casino, and the book Wiseguy, which was the basis for the movie Goodfellas.

I decided to turn to non-fiction in 2001, when my career seemed to be stalled. I felt I either had to try something new or get out of the writing business. By coincidence, it was at that time I attended a writers’ conference in Florida , where I met a lady who had written the story of the Indiana State Police. I purchased a copy of her book and read it cover-to-cover. I was still searching for a subject for my first non-fiction effort and doing a police history book appealed to me. I had been living in Las Vegas since 1994 and thought doing a book about my new home town’s police force would be fun to write and might sell fairly well in Sin City.

My first step was to secure the cooperation of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (Metro). I prepared a proposal and submitted it to the department’s Undersheriff. In less than an hour my plan was accepted.

I next sought a publisher. I had already determined that because my book was going to be about Vegas, my best bet to land a publisher would be to look locally. With Metro having signed on to the project, I prepared a proposal and presented it to Las Vegas publisher Huntington Press (HP). Huntington is a small press owned by well-known gaming expert Anthony Curtis. They publish a handful of books per year and don’t handle fiction. Their titles all have Las Vegas or Nevada connections. After a few weeks, HP informed me they’d publish my book if the manuscript lived up to my proffer. Policing Las Vegas was released in April 2005.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

In writing non-fiction, my biggest concern is accuracy.

In order get the best information possible, I make every effort to find credible sources whose stories can be corroborated through other witnesses and/or documentary evidence.I believe my background in law enforcement and investigations makes writing organized crime appealing to me. I actually enjoy doing the research and look forward to conducting interviews with the people who lived the events I’m writing about.

My biggest challenge, particularly when I first began writing non-fiction, has been gaining the confidence of potential sources. Approaching someone I’ve never met before and asking him or her to share intimate details of their professional or personal lives with me, has to be handled with great tact.

If I’ve been referred to them by an acquaintance, I mention the name. I never ask for information during the initial contact. I explain what I’m working on and why I’m requesting an interview and answer any questions they may have. After that I back off to allow the potential source a chance to check me out.

I don’t lie to my sources. If they tell me something that is off the record, it remains off the record. And I always review the text with them prior to adding it to the manuscript. I believe that gives both of us a chance to detect any misunderstandings or points that require additional clarification.

Do you write everyday?

I try to do at least three hours of writing-related functions every day. They can include writing, editing, research, or marketing and promo. Each day I prioritize what needs to be done and then work on those items. I quit when I’ve met my goals or if I reach a point where I’m tired or frustrated and my efforts are becoming unproductive.

How did Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness come about?

Cullotta is the biography of Frank Cullotta, a former master thief, arsonist, mob tough guy and killer. The book explains in graphic detail his life as a criminal on the streets of Chicago, his days running a crew of thieves and murderers in Las Vegas and life in the federal Witness Protection Program.

I was fortunate in that I had already done a tremendous amount of research regarding the so-called Spilotro days when writing The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. the Mob. Even with that advantage, it took about eight months to complete the manuscript and gather related documents.

My first two non-fictions were with Huntington Press. Through those books I had established a good working relationship with them, both as a writer and marketer. Per my contract with them they had the right of first refusal. But I’d have gone to them first even without the contract provision.

Shortly after my first meeting with Frank Cullotta, I approached Huntington with a proposal outlining what Frank’s story would contain and the amount of detail he would provide. As an illustration, the proposal included Frank’s description of the facts behind the so-called M&M murders. They were the basis for one of the most memorable scenes in Casino, the one in which Pesci’s character places a man’s head in a vise and squeezes until the guy’s eyeball pops out. Huntington saw the book’s potential and agreed to publish it.

After my initial experiences with self and/or POD publishing where I had to do almost everything myself, working with Huntington was a refreshing experience. A professional editor worked closely with me as I prepared my manuscripts. Help was always only a phone call or e-mail away. HP’s attorneys rendered opinions on any legal issues that needed to be addressed. A marketing person gathered the information necessary to pitch local book stores and other venues. And when my books were released, the publicity director arranged radio and TV interviews for me.

Which aspects of the project did you find most difficult?

The start of the project was the most difficult for a number of reasons:

Frank and I didn’t know each other and had to go through a feeling out process. After spending 20 years in investigations and law enforcement, I had to overcome my inhibitions about entering into a business relationship with a man who — at least for many years — represented everything I had been against.

Our lack of familiarity with each other caused me to have to grope my way along during our conversations to avoid getting Frank upset and possibly alienating him. Would I ask a wrong question? Would I react to an answer in a way that would offend him? Would he sense through my body language, tone or expression that I found some of his previous conduct repulsive? I guess I could say that at the start I sometimes felt like I was sitting on a powder keg and hoping not to accidentally ignite it.

Communications were a problem. For security purposes I wasn’t allowed to know Frank’s new identity, location or business. All contact had to go through a middle man, retired FBI agent Dennis Arnoldy. This was cumbersome to say the least and proved to be unworkable.

In addition to dealing with Frank, my wife was not at all happy with me for getting involved with writing his story. While I was working on Battle a couple of things happened — annoying/threatening phone calls, suspicious persons loitering near our home — that had made her nervous about my writing true crime. Battle wasn’t even back from the printer and here I was tangled up with a hit man.

Fortunately, these early problems evaporated rather quickly. As Frank and I developed mutual respect and trust things went much smoother. I was given a way to contact him directly — along with a stern warning by Dennis Arnoldy that I was responsible for maintaining the security of that information. I learned that Frank has a code of ethics and there is only one way to deal with him: directly and honestly. If you treat him that way you’ll gain his respect and he’ll respond in kind. He also has a great sense of humor. As time went on

Frank went from being a business associate to being a friend.

Even my wife has experienced a transformation. The first time Frank came to our place for a meeting, as he came in one door she and our dog went out the other. But now they’re buddies. She looks forward to his calls and visits.

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

While Battle and Cullotta are similar in regard to reporting on things that happened in Las Vegas, having Frank’s input adds a whole new perspective. And Cullotta also addresses events that took place in Chicago, Frank’s prison and Witness Protection Program experiences as well as his involvement with the movie Casino.

I think Cullotta is the highlight of my writing career to date. Everything fell into place for me to write this book. It started with my decision to try non-fiction. The contacts and information I developed while writing Policing Las Vegas resulted in The Battle for Las Vegas, which in turn led me to Cullotta.

The road has had a few bumps in it. But all-in-all it’s been a great ride.

What will your next book be about?

I’m currently finishing Vegas Vixen, the third book in my Vegas trilogy. This time my detectives have to delve into the Las Vegas of the 1960s and ‘70s to solve a 2002 murder.

Killer In Pair-A-Dice, an AuthorHouse publication that was released in 2001, is the first of in the trilogy. Featuring homicide detectives Steve Garneau and Theresa “Terry” Bolton, it is the tale of a serial rapist and murderer stalking the streets and neighborhoods of Sin City.

One-Armed Bandit is the second and was published by Publish America in 2002. This time, Garneau and Bolton have to solve the murders of four people in what initially appears to be a convenience store robbery.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

[Interview] Dyan Garris

Dyan Garris is a clairvoyant, musician and author.

She has written and produced six music compilations, among them, A Healing Journey: The Voice of the Angels CD, Reflection and Patterns.

Her books include The Book of Daily Channeled Messages, Voice of the Angels Cookbook: Talk to Your Food! Intuitive Cooking and A Healing Journey: Spiritual Journey Cards, which were all published by Journeymakers, Inc. during the course of this year.

In a recent interview, Dyan Garris spoke about the work she is doing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Writing has always been an outlet and a way to express the many reflections of what is deep in my soul for as long as I could put pen to paper. I can't remember a time when I didn't write, draw or express on paper.

I think I first knew I had a talent for it and a love for it in ninth grade Creative Writing class. When everyone else would cringe at a creative writing assignment, I would be ecstatic. My teacher told me that my imagination seemed limitless. She inspired me to keep writing and I did.

How would you describe your writing?

I write mostly nonfiction, although I just wrote a short fiction book, Fish Tale of Woe: Lost at Sea.

I am a spiritual teacher so what I write always has the spiritual element and the goal is always to teach and help people get more in touch with themselves on more than just the physical level. For example, my cookbook, Talk to Your Food! Intuitive Cooking, teaches a way to use one's intuition and innate creativity while preparing food. It isn't just a cookbook with recipes to blindly follow. It is about opening up and putting the whole self into the cooking process, thus opening up other avenues for energy to flow in one's life.

My next book is a book on manifesting and money and the energy of money and how to open channels to money flow and work effectively with it. This is about applying universal principles (the law of attraction, for example) to the energy of money. If you try to force the opposing sides of two magnets together you won't ever get them to stick together no matter how hard you try. They repel. Turn one of them over and suddenly they stick. In this new book I teach people how to turn the other one over so they can attract what they desire.

I can't really pinpoint exactly what motivated me to begin writing in this genre. I just let it flow. It's in my soul and what I write is just a reflection of that.

Who is your target audience?

My audience is anyone who really wants to understand the deeper meaning and purpose of their lives. I write for people who want a change and people who want to bring their lives into focus and balance.

The key is to bring all layers of who you are, mind, body and spirit, into harmony with each other. This is where we find life becoming synchronous. This is where we are able to manifest our desires.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

My ninth grade English teacher had so much influence. She inspired me to constantly create and my style has always been to wrap up the deeper meaning of things into my stories. I remember wanting to inspire her too. She was really my only audience at the time. I loved having a basic parameter and being able to expand more fully into that.

My mother also influenced me at a very early age by reading to us every evening and by teaching me to read at age three. By the time I got to first grade I had already read all of the stories they presented us with.

My real love of books came when my mother took me to my first book fair at age four. I still remember the thrill and excitement of seeing all of those books laid out on the tables. I was fascinated. She told me I could pick out any book I wanted.

I chose The Blue Fairy. I still have it.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concern as a writer is being able to effectively convey higher concepts to the readers in such a way that they can integrate them into their lives. My motivation is to help those that want to improve their quality of life be able to do that.

Sometimes I see the concept of what I am trying to bring forth in a more multidimensional way and it can be challenging to get that down in a manner that is simple to grasp and then implement in a practical way.

I like to look at challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.

I find one of my biggest challenges to be that I seem to thrive on doing several things at once. For me this is like composing a song. I don't just want to write two or three notes. I want to write the whole melody and then fill it in with the harmonies and other layers. And then I want to get all of those integrated so I can hear the whole song.

I try to enjoy the process and stay in the moment, knowing that ultimately each note and nuance is what makes the finished product or song so completely enjoyable.

How many books have you written so far?

Voice of the Angels: A Healing Journey Spiritual Cards is a deck of 30 cards to be used for spiritual growth and divination. Each card has an uplifting channeled message in verse. For example, The Dolphins card has this verse: "Your friends are near and very dear, helping you on this day. This is the thing that you must trust as they guide you on your way."

The deck comes with a 67-page instruction book detailing how to use the cards as tools for transformation and there is also a journal for recording progress, which is available separately. The instruction book contains a Transformational Healing Exercise, healing affirmations, and more.

I drew and developed these cards in 1993.

The artwork on the cards are all scenes from A Healing Journey Guided Fantasy, which is a guided meditation I wrote and developed into a music and meditation CD.

When you put all the verses of the cards in order, they form the story of A Healing Journey.

Although these are not books, I also write guided visualizations/journeys and put them to music, which I compose and perform. Some of my music can be heard on Music Choice's Soundscapes cable TV channel. This is my series of music and meditation for self-healing, relaxation, chakra balancing, help in sleeping and vibrational attunement of mind, body and soul. There are six of these in this series and the titles are: A Healing Journey: The Voice of the Angels CD, Moment by Moment: Music for the Soul CD, Reflection CD, Patterns CD, Illusions CD and Connections CD.

Each CD has seven or eight tracks of soothing, instrumental relaxation music and a guided meditation as the last track. Each CD is for a different and specific purpose. A Healing Journey is for healing, meeting guardian angels, chakra balancing and more. Moment by Moment is for breathing and discovering one's power symbol. Reflection is for manifesting our heart's desires. Patterns is for overcoming obstacles and learning forgiven. Illusions is for recovering lost personal power while Connections is for releasing whatever keeps us tied up in endless repetitive cycles. They were all published by Journeymakers, Inc. I began this series in 2005 and completed it in 2006.

Voice of the Angels: Meditation Journal explains how and why to meditate, and includes "How to Create a Sanctuary" and "Grounding and Centering." It teaches different breathing techniques and provides a place to record one's "journeys." It was published by Journeymakers, Inc. in October 2007.

Voice of the Angels: Talk to Your Food! Intuitive Cooking was published by Journeymakers, Inc. in August 2007. The book is an adventure in opening one's creative centers and listening to one's inner voice about what truly nourishes not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well. It includes 12 food-related channeled messages and several "Intuitively Speaking" paragraphs, which explain how to prepare the recipe using one's own unique creativity.

The Book of Daily Channeled Messages contains 180 angelic messages from the past year. Messages such as: Magic, Release, Power, The Future, No Regrets, Transformation, Transition and Miracles, uplift and soothe the mind and spirit and provide comfort and direction. There is more than one way to use this book. One can read it straight through or seek out messages on a particular topic, such as manifesting. Another way is to employ the techniques of Bibliomancy or Libromancy to derive guidance for the day. The book was published by Journeymakers, Inc. in October 2007.

Fish Tale of Woe: Lost at Sea is a fictional story about how to "save" oneself from patterns of entitlement, manipulation and victimhood. It is currently at the printer and will be available in November 2007.

Do you write every day?

I do write every day. I publish the Daily Channeled Message on my Web site. This is a free and inspirational daily message for my Web site visitors.

I don't spend a specific amount of time on writing. Sometimes it just completely flows and other times I will know the theme of what I am to write about. But it takes a little longer to figure out how to say it in such a way that the reader will be able to identify with.

I find all of my projects to be great fun to write and produce. Each one is similar to watching a child grow and mature. What was challenging about the cookbook was deciding which recipes would photograph well and then actually preparing all of those and plating them up for their big day. There are 60 color photographs. So it took me awhile. I think I took over 1,000 photographs to get the ones I wanted to put in the book. It was like food on an endless photo shoot!

The thing that I found the most difficult was actually translating the recipe to paper. I never measure anything, not even when I bake, so trying to explain to the reader that "you just talk to it" was a real challenge. I knew I had to put more in there than just that. I ended up making everything in the book and writing down what the measurements were so I could put those basic guidelines in the recipes.

Which did you enjoy most?

I have a real passion for cooking and entertaining. In the process of making all that food I had a lot of friends over and a big party at the end. That was the frosting on the cake!

The cookbook was a different way to incorporate spiritual concepts into everyday living. I wanted to try to raise the culinary experience to a different level so that readers would begin to feel what they cook and on some level communicate with their food as a way to nourish themselves on every level. I believe that cooking should be fun and inventive, not intimidating. The end result should be a creative exchange rather than a mundane task.

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

I'm not sure I've achieved anything significant yet. I think it becomes a matter of how we define significant. What is significant to me might not have any significance to someone else.

I am proud of my body of work and I like that it all works together as tools for transformation. I like that it all integrates, interrelates and works together. Anyone that wants to can now take these tools either individually or as a whole and really make some positive forward movement toward their own life achievements.

I believe one should take all the ingredients in their refrigerator and make something out of them. That is what I try to do on a daily basis.

The other thing I learned along the way is similar to the message of the Raft card in my deck of spiritual cards: "A raft is here for traveling on to places yet unknown. Surrender now to love and light and see how much you've grown." What I love about this card is that the raft has no oars so you can't steer it yourself. You have to give up any control issues you may have and just go with the flow and trust. That's how I get to wherever I am supposed to go. I climb in the raft, gracefully or not, and trust the process.

Monday, November 5, 2007

[Interview] Sam Smith

Sam Smith is one of the most versatile writers currently living and working in Britain today.

He has written and published over a dozen novels, among them, The Care Vortex (BeWrite Books 2002), The End of Science Fiction (BeWrite Books, 2004) and We Need Madmen (Skrev Press, 2007).

His poetry collections include To Be Like John Clare (University of Salzburg Press, 1997), Pieces (K.T. Publications, 2001) and Rooms and Dialogues (Boho press, 2005).

His sole nonfiction book, Vera and Eddy's War (BeWrite Books, 2002), recaptures a British working-class couple's experience of World War II.

In addition to this, Smith publishes Original Plus books. He also edits The Journal (once The Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry) as well as BeWrite Books' "The Select Six" poetry column.

In a recent interview, Sam Smith spoke about his writing.

How would you describe your writing?

I tend to switch between genres… thrillers, SF, and mainstream… which is probably best described as non-genre.

And if poetry can be classed as a genre then that too is a constant.

Each book has defined itself. I may start with one idea, one scenario in mind; and then in the writing of it discover that the tale might work better in another genre…

Which writers influenced you most?

There are simply so many writers that I admire. Starting with, of course, Henry Miller.

In the summer of 1969, I sat on a rock beside Breakwater Beach in Brixham, Devon, read from start to finish Henry Miller's Smile at the Foot of the Ladder and decided that if I could create something as worthwhile as that, then my life would not have been wasted.

But I suppose the writing that has sprung from Albert Camus' The Outsider must be a principal influence. I've found myself attending IMISE conferences (International Movement for the Interdisciplinary Study of Estrangement), and lately have had work published in The Sons of Camus as well as in various issues of IMISE's Lo Straniero.

Do you write every day?

Every day, from about seven in the morning.

First, I check my emails (I'm also an editor and publisher, and work as an editor for other publishers) and if there's anything that requires my immediate attention I'll get stuck into that.

But usually I make out lists of work to be done -- first draft chapters of this to be written, a second draft of another chapter, rewrite of another, typing up of another; followed by the writing and edit of another book (I always have at least two on the go); then I'll switch to the writing of some poetry -- though most of that gets binned; and then I'll switch over to reading submissions to The Journal and "The Select Six," continue with any other editing jobs; and then back to the first draft of a chapter…

The working day ends when other responsibilities claim me or my eyes will no longer focus where I want them to focus.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Telling the truth. Always telling the truth.

Language so easily leads one to the facile and the fundamentally deceitful. Always I examine what I say -- even and especially within fiction -- suspecting that I may have misled myself first, my readers next.

How do you deal with these challenges?

Draft upon draft upon draft upon draft… Sneaking upon it anew time and again.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I'm angry. Over so much. This world is so corrupt and the majority of its people so without influence over their own lives that it brings me almost daily to despair.

So I write out my despair and my anger, all the while knowing that it won't change a thing, but in the hope that someone reading of my anger and despair might console themselves that they are not alone.

What are you working on at present?

My latest book is called The Friendship of Dagda and Tinker Howth and is about a leper colony on the Devon/Somerset border. I've been working on it -- on and off -- for three years now. It's yet to be submitted to any publisher. In fact, I'm not sure what to do with it.

The research presented many difficulties, simply because -- being a freelance depending on very occasional commissions -- I didn't have the funds to take me where I needed to go to do the research. I dealt with these difficulties by including them in the writing of the book.

My intention was, in writing of a leper colony, to include lyrical descriptions. What I enjoyed most was when I thought I might have succeeded.

And publishing being in the flux it is at present, no one knowing quite what direction book publishing is going in… I'm going to wait until I can do no more to the book and see where we are then.

Because there is no publishing establishment now. If ever there was. All five of my principal publishers are small teams or even one-man bands. Illness, a piece of bad luck, could see them disappear in a twinkling. While the bigger publishing houses are as likely to be taken over and the favoring editor moved on, their list shortened.

What has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Keeping on writing for 23 years without having had a word in print. And when in print having individuals from around the world write to me to say how much my work has meant to them. As Henry Miller did to me, to have spoken to one other across space and time, that is my greatest achievement.

How did you get there?

Grim determination. And a joy in language, in ideas, and in wanting to share that joy, that knowing.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Friday, November 2, 2007

[Interview] Shobhan Bantwal

Novelist and playwright, Shobhan Bantwal has a master's degree in public administration from Rider University and works for a government agency in New Jersey.

She was born and raised in Belgaum, a small town in Southwestern India and moved to the United States, as a young bride, in an arranged marriage.

The Dowry Bride (Kensington Books, 2007) is her first published novel.

Bantwal also writes plays in Konkani, her mother tongue and performs them on stage at Indian-American conventions. Her short fiction and other articles have been published in newspapers and magazines that include India Abroad, DesiJournal.com, Sulekha.com and New Woman India.

In a recent interview, she spoke about her writing.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

The Dowry Bride is my first book. It was published by Kensington Books on August 28. The book is based on India's notorious dowry system and its atrocities but it also tells a tale of hope, triumph and the resilience of the human spirit.

I categorize it as mainstream women's fiction with romantic elements. It doesn't really seem to fit into a particular genre for some reason.

My target audience is women of all ages, ethnic groups and religious affiliations. Although, l have had many men who have given me marvelous feedback about how much they enjoyed the book.

How long did it take you to write The Dowry Bride?

My books have to do with Indian culture, its colors, textures and cuisine, and the Hindu religion. That's what I grew up with. I had an arranged marriage more than three decades ago, and all those factors influence my writing directly or indirectly.

The Dowry Bride is set in India and tells the story of one young woman trapped in India's arranged marriage and dowry system and her escape and extraordinary journey to freedom and hope.

It took me about a year to write and edit and re-edit it. It took me longer to find a reputable agent and then sell the book. Kensington Books bought the rights to it in April 2006 in a two-book contract.

The Dowry Bride was published on Aug. 28, 2007 in the U.S. and Canada.

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

Writing the chapters that are in the points of view of the males was a real challenge.

I've written the thoughts of two male characters, a young man who's in love with the protagonist, and an older man who wants to help her but is helpless to do so because he's weak and caves under societal pressures.

Which did you enjoy most?

Creating the main character, Megha, was a lot of fun.

Putting myself in her shoes and in her mind gave me an opportunity to see a familiar world from a different perspective. Suddenly the small town in which I grew up in India wasn't quite the same when seen through Megha's sad but discerning eyes. I experienced all of Megha's joy, humor, pain and hope.

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

The Dowry Bride deals with a dark and controversial topic, unlike the short stories and other books I've written.

The similarity is in the genre -- mainstream women's fiction with strong romantic elements.

I am rolling around some ideas for the next book with my editor at Kensington. It'll definitely be set in India. That much I know, but the story is something I've yet to start work on.

What motivated you to start writing?

I took up writing rather late in life -- around the age of 50. I call it my "menopausal epiphany" because I hadn't written anything creative before that. I believe my yo-yoing hormones kicked into creative gear for some reason.

I started on a small scale to get my feet wet.

At the age of 50, I enrolled in a creative writing class. The Dowry Bride was actually the short story for my homework project. Then I started writing articles for a number of Indian-American publications.

The next step was short stories. Imagine my astonishment when three of my stories won awards and honors. That's when I got more ambitious and decided to turn The Dowry Bride into a full-length novel.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

I enjoy women's fiction books in the same vein as mine written by other authors, like Dorothy Garlock, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell and Barbara Delinsky.

Dorothy Garlock, with her simple heroines, who are heroes in the true sense of the word. Her books are set in small towns and deal with ordinary folks, but her stories are extraordinary. By the way, Dorothy very kindly gave me a wonderful blurb for my cover immediately after I asked her. It's a kindness I'll never forget.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

That I may not be able to reach as wide an audience as I would like by boxing myself into the "romance" genre, which seems to be the general perception about The Dowry Bride for some reason. I don't consider myself a pure romance writer and I don't want to be called one.

[Also, there is] the potential bias some readers might have regarding reading about an alien culture, or a particular genre.

I'm afraid people very often get hooked on one type of genre or certain authors and they rarely steer away from them. In the end, it's not so much the advertising that counts; its word of mouth that sells a book in large numbers.

Do you write every day?

Unfortunately with a full-time job and a hectic social life, I can't write every day. Also, my creativity often takes a vacation, so I write whenever I can. Some weeks it's 10 hours and others it's a lot less. I don't have a typical writing week.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

[Interview] Elena Dorothy Bowman

Elena Dorothy Bowman is an honors graduate of Fitchburg College where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and Management.

She grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts and spent 25 years working as an aerospace software engineer.

She now writes full time and serves as an officer in the Massachusetts Chapter of the National League of American Pen Women.

Her books include Sarah’s Landing: Contact (Writer’s Showcase Press, 2002); The House On The Bluff (Write Words, Inc., 2006) and Gatekeeper’s Realm (Write Words, Inc., 2007).

In a recent interview, Elena Bowman spoke about her writing.

When did you start writing?

I have been writing off and on since way back when it only cost a dime to go to the Saturday Matinee, or any other time I could scrape up the price of a ticket. And in most cases when the ending was not to my liking, I felt compelled to go home and rewrite it. I discovered I enjoyed writing stories… putting words down on paper gave me a sense of accomplishment… but I never did anything with it.

When I wrote my first novel it was just for the pleasure of it. It wasn't long after that writing became an obsession with me and I have been writing for publication ever since.

How would you describe your writing ?

My first book was a science fiction, mystery, romance novel. It didn't start out to be a series, but four novels later, it was.

After completing the series, I decided to try another genre, so I settled on a mystery novel. That novel ended up being a three book series and I have since learned that it is not only a mystery novel, but it spans three genres: romance, mystery and the paranormal.

Who is your target audience?

I don’t believe I gave that much consideration when I wrote my first novel. I was probably thinking of adults who were interested in science fiction, but have since learned that a younger audience is also into the genre, so I suppose I could say, my target audience is a general one.

What motivated you to start writing?

My early interest in space and working in the space industry had captured my imagination, and was instrumental in writing my first novel. The influence of Jules Verne and the writers of the Buck Rogers, Star Wars, Babylon Five series probably had a hand in motivating me to write science fiction.

Being an avid reader, the written works of earlier scribes captivated me and I would say were the most influential in my career as a writer.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

I don't believe that my personal experiences influenced the direction of my writing in any way that I could consciously say. However, there is no way of knowing if something, or some experience from the sub-conscious seeped through and wound up in the pages of my books.

What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

They were finding an agent who believed in me and my work, a publisher who thought my work was worth publishing and getting published.

How do you deal with these challenges?

I sent out query letters to every agent and publisher that published or represented my genre I could find in the Writer's Market. I can't say that every one of those query letters were answered, but some of them were. Most of them were just a short note that said "no thanks". No explanation, no reason given. Others were form letters that when you get down to it, basically said the same thing. But I do recall that many rejections were positive in that they were personal replies written by the agent or publisher in their own hand, and encouraging me to persevere even if they weren't in the market for my novels. I found that extremely encouraging as if they'd actually sent a contract instead of a rejection letter.

Do you write everyday?

I try to write every day, at least 10 pages… but that doesn't always happen. I spend every spare moment I have on my writing. Sometimes that takes me to the wee hours of the morning.

What is the Gatekeeper's Realm?

My latest book in print is the Gatekeeper's Realm. It's the second book in the series of a house one could say was enchanted. A house that appears to be alive because of a relic that dates back to the Crusades.

In the second book, the appearance of uninvited and mysterious spirits from an earlier era causes the unusual experiences that befall the guests. Some disappear into strange worlds, others into prehistoric times. The main characters do all they can to enlist the townspeople and the 'local' ghosts, who have inhabited the house since the 17th Century, in searching for them. But since the house has a mind of its own, and able to invoke visions that confuse and disorient the inhabitants to the point that no one can be sure where they looked was still in existence, the searchers wonder if they will ever find the answers.

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

This may sound strange, but I didn't have a problem with the book at all. It was as if someone else was writing it and I was a bystander watching the words as they flowed on the page.

Which did you enjoy most?

Seeing the words as they flowed on the page and wondering who and where all these words were coming from.

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

It's not a science fiction novel, as some of my other books are… it's a romance, a mystery, and a thriller with much of the paranormal running through it.

I would say it is similar [to the others] in that it is also a love story, with a mystery that needs to be resolved as is The Sarah's Landing Series.

What will your next book be about?

At the moment, I am working on two projects: one is a paranormal novella and the other hopefully will be an historical one.

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

Since all writers work to be published, I would have to say, that being published is my most significant achievement, considering all the books that are available and the difficulty an unagented writer has on being published by a traditional publisher.

How did you get there?

Perseverance! Sending my work out in spite of rejections until the right traditional publisher, Write Words, Inc, Cambridge Books, ebooksonthe.net came my way.

How many books have you written so far?

At present, I have written eight full novels. All of my books have been published in ebook format by Write Words, Inc's ebooksonthe.net. Two are presently in trade paperback editions, with the others to be released this year by Write Words, Inc's Cambridge Books.

The titles of my novels are: Sarah's Landing I: Contact (published March 2007 ); Sarah's Landing II: The Telepaths of Theon (published February 2007); Sarah's Landing III: The Barbarians (published April 2007); Sarah's Landing IV: Genesis (published May 2007); The House On The Bluff: The Legacy Series Book I (published February 2006); Gatekeeper's Realm: The Legacy Series Book II (published November 2006); Adam's Point: The Legacy Series Book III (published January 2007) and Time-Rift (published August 2006).

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Monday, October 29, 2007

[Blog Review] Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize Laureate

On Oct. 11, the Swedish Academy announced that Doris Lessing (87) had won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Most bloggers reacted to the news by recounting meetings they have had with Lessing and by discussing the influence her writing has had on them as individuals and as writers.

They also discussed some of Lessing’s books and the themes she explores in her writing.

A few reacted by reviewing what has been said in newspapers about Lessing and her books. An even smaller minority, like T. K. Kenyon, the author of Rabid — used the news to launch a diatribe against the “self-appointed literati and men” who had unfavorably criticized Lessing’s science fiction.

There was an almost unanimous agreement that the award was well-deserved and long overdue.

Nury Vittachi, author of The Feng Shui Detective responded by revealing how, a few years ago, he had gone to a book signing Doris Lessing was hosting and about how she was holding one of his books when he approached her table.

“So it ended up with her signing my book and me signing hers,” he says.

Writing in the Guardian Arts blog, John Mullan, professor of English at University College London and author of How Novels Work, recounts the impression Lessing had on him when he went to interview her for the Guardian Book Club. He also tells us of the impression she had on others who met her.

“She was the first writer at a Book Club event to earn an ovation simply by dint of entering the room. When those attending asked her questions it was clear that she had one requisite of the Nobel Prize winner: readers who believed that she had changed their lives.”

Mullan goes on to review two of Lessing’s books, The Cleft and The Golden Notebook.

He describes The Cleft, as an “unsettling dystopian fable of maleness and femaleness… The very faults that some found -- the book’s freight of ideas and its intellectual ambition -- were unusual enough to appear virtues to me.”

He identifies The Golden Notebook, as one of those books that defined the feminist movement because it explored arguments between and by women about what it meant to be “Free Women.”

“For 1962 it was audacious stuff. It brought to the English novel a heady brew of new material: political debate, psychotherapy sessions, disastrous sex. It is the earliest novel I know of to include matter-of-fact mentions of pre-menstrual tension and tampons,” he writes.

J. Carter Wood, author of Violence and Crime in Nineteenth Century England analyzes how the media in Germany covered news of the award. He or his wife (between the two of them it is not very clear whose views these are) suggests that most supporters, detractors and journalists who commented on the news misjudged Lessing because they had not read much of her work.

He takes particular offense at an article which appeared in the S├╝ddeutsche Zeitung, which suggested that Lessing was “politically correct.”

“No, Lessing has not been indulging in the facile pleasantries of political correctness… In fact, she has spent much of her career mauling the self-comforting, self-satisfied ethical certainties with which she is now being falsely associated,” he argues.

He does not explicitly explain what it means to be politically correct.

He draws on the many turns Lessing’s life, writing and ideas have taken and analyzes Lessing’s novel, The Sweetest Dream, and uses these to show how Lessing has dismantled the political ideas that she had held earlier.

“There is nothing utopian or politically correct about Lessing’s protagonist. Frances is Everywoman, trying to make do in a world of radically different individuals with conflicting interests and expectations, only to realize that, however hard one tries, there will always be plenty of loose ends left over,” Wood writes.

Robert Stikmanz, author of Prelude to a Change of Mind says he has read about 20 of Doris Lessing’s books and that half of these were her science fiction.

“There is no novelist I admire more, nor one who has had more influence on my own work. Her Canopus in Argos series was more of an inspiration for The Lands of Nod than either Tolkien or Casta├▒eda,” he explains.

He finds it odd that in the U.S. and in the U.K., media coverage on Lessing’s award has downplayed the science fiction.

“One claim shared by all the press has been that she is “best known for” The Golden Notebook,” he observes.

He suggests that The Four-Gated City is “a more remarkable book” but does not explain why he holds this view.

Matthew Cheney discusses Doris Lessing in relation to his experiences with J. M. Coetzee, Harold Pinter and Joyce Carol Oates.

He tells us that while he was most affected by The Golden Notebook, The Four-Gated City and Mara and Dann, the books he remembers most clearly are The Fifth Child and its sequel, Ben, in the World.

“The first is a knockout of a novella, a profoundly disturbing and alienating book. The second recasts the whole thing, as if one writer had written both Beowulf and Grendel. Taken together, the books are marvels of manipulation, and show just how severely a writer can reconfigure our sympathies,” he writes.

He discusses the challenges he faced when he tried to read The Sweetest Dream and notes with amusement that by Lessing becoming a Nobel Laureate, it “gives us the first Nobel Prize in Literature winner who was also a Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention (in 1987).”

Lizz Shepherd develops this theme further when she expresses the hope that Doris Lessing’s win will lead to a change in how science fiction is perceived in literary circles.

“I love me some sci-fi, but it’s rare to see the genre taken seriously as literature. I hope this signifies a change in its literary reputation,” Shepherd writes.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Related article:

[Blog Review] The Mind of a Working Writer, Conversations with Writers, October 22, 2007.