The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour: Author Interview with Sabina Khan

Sabina Khan

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

What’s not to love? Sabina hails from Illinois, Texas, and also loves karaoke? We have so much in common…read on

Sabina Khan

Sabina Khan is the author of Realm of the Goddess, the first in a series of YA Paranormal Fantasy books based on the gods and goddesses of India. She is an Sabina Khaneducational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three daughters, one of whom is a fur baby. She is passionate about the empowerment of girls and women, hoping to inspire them with the strong female characters in her novel.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

I think I must have been in Grade Three when I wrote a short story about two kids who found themselves transported to this magical world where giant golden raspberries hung from the trees and friendly giant snored on the fields.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

The fact that I can legitimately daydream and watch TV/movies and say it’s research. Also that I can watch people in public and imagine them as characters in my books, without wondering if I am slowly going insane. My least favorite aspect has to be the nailbiting moments when you wait to see if anyone will love it as much as you do.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

It has hit me over the head multiple times since I started writing, so yes I believe in writer’s block. It can be paralyzing and extremely humbling, but I find that giving yourself a good kick in the butt or better still having someone else around to do that for you can be a swift but effective remedy.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

Currently I am working on Book Two of the Realm of the Goddess series. I would say that the most challenging aspect of this is to fill the reader in on what happened in the first book without going into it too much. It’s hard to find a balance sometimes. Realm of the Goddess

What supports you in your writing?

I would have to say that the constant encouragement of my family and friends has kept me going. It’s important to have a cheering section in your corner, but equally essential to have people who keep you grounded. I feel very lucky to have both. Of course I also have a puppy who keeps my toes toasty while I’m writing.

What are you currently reading?

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Absolutely magical and mesmerizing.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

Follow me on Twitter: @Sabina_Writer

and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RealmGoddess

Find out more at http://realmofthegoddess.wordpress.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Realm-Goddess-Sabina-Khan-ebook/dp/B00Q0OWI4G

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Interview with Marly Youmans, Award Winning Author of ‘Glimmerglass: A Novel’

Social Media is an amazing thing! I Tweeted about a book I was reading and loving. Before long, I’m interviewing the award winning author of  Glimmerglass: A Novel. Read on for the lyrical prescription for what ails our reading souls. This interview was published originally on www.Blogcritics.org and also appeared in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. I reviewed Glimmerglass for Blogcritics in January 2015, and you can read the entire review here.

 

Interview: Marly Youmans, Author of ‘Glimmerglass: A Novel,’ Poet and Writing Instructor, Part 1 of 2

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Marly Youmans, Author

Marly Youmans is a poet, novelist, and teacher living in Cooperstown, NY, with her family. She has been called “the best kept secret” among contemporary writers and her prose hailed as “gorgeous, haunting, beautiful and brilliant.” Youmans is a recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship and her previous novels, short stories and poetry have won numerous awards. I found Glimmerglass (Mercer University Press, 2014) on my library shelf and after falling under its spell, requested an interview. She was gracious with her time and experience as we covered ground from the lack of quality literary criticism to the trait most writers need to cultivate.

As you know, I read and loved Glimmerglass and am curious to know where you got the idea for this tale about the artist in the gatehouse.

A great deal that characterizes the book has to do with my belief that Cooperstown (the inspiration for Cooper Patent) is a place that mixes the real and unreal, but there are more straightforward elements that led me to an artist and a gatehouse. I have a lot of friends who are painters, and Cooperstown is awash in visual arts; the Susquehanna River Valley is still strongly appealing as a place to live for many artists. My most frequent lunch buddies are the two painters to whom the book is dedicated, Ashley Norwood Cooper and Yolanda Sharpe, though I’m glad to say that they do not suffer from Cynthia’s art troubles.

We live in a time when every person who strives to make art that is authentic and strong must mull how the work can and should be done, and how it relates to a commercial, mainstream world that rates money above the true, the good, and the beautiful. Through Cynthia, I dealt with the problem of making art in our current culture (though that was not in the least what I consciously intended, when dreaming through the story), considering the situation of someone who had made a choice that she came to see as wrong. The book offers her a kind of redemption, and even though she does not get to keep the physical proof of what she achieves, the possibility of meaningful work is still is open to her. She reaches for the same joyful knowledge that Hawthorne’s artist of the beautiful achieves in his glittering, mechanic art.

glimmerglass a novelThe gatehouse is a charming local one with seven doors and a stream rushing by, down to Otsego Lake, James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass. I once ate lunch there and had a tour of the place, and the house stuck in my mind as magical and odd. (The watermark, the ceiling motifs, and the overall look of the place all draw on that memory. Frog pageants also were borrowed from the gatehouse residents.) I took the liberty of creating Sea House because the mansion near the gate burned to the foundation stones long ago.

Can you elaborate on your creative process? Specifically, do you begin with a pre-planned plot, a simple idea or problem? Does the story seem to write itself or come from some mysterious place within, and is it the same for all of your stories?

No, I don’t care for much pre-planning and am not one of the people (I know some of these and admire their organization) who make charts of characters and detailed outlines of plots. With Glimmerglass, I had a feeling for the places and knew that there would be a labyrinth. In writing, I tend to move by instinct, but I don’t claim that as a virtue – I don’t suppose there’s merit in one way of working over another. After all, it’s the final result that counts, no matter how it was made. I just write in the way that feels like a “rightness” to me. Sometimes I am suddenly gripped by something that I did not expect at all; that’s the way Thaliad (2012) arrived. I just woke up one morning and the narrative was in my mind, burning to leap out. The poems for The Book of the Red King (a lot of them have been published, but I’m still not quite ready for a book) arrived in a similar manner. For about three months I was inhabited by the book and wrote at least a poem a day.

With fiction, I often start with relatively little knowledge. With A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (2012), I wrote the first two chapters in a big swoop and then had to figure out what happened afterward. But some things were quite clear in my mind – the main character, the sharecropper’s farm (modeled closely on the one my paternal grandparents worked), the fact that Pip would ride the rails west and north. I did not know if he would ever return or find a place to alight and stay. My 13th book, Maze of Blood (September, 2015) is one of the few books that I’ve written based on specific happenings in our real world. Though fiction, it depends on events in the life of pulp writer Robert Howard. I’ve wanted to do something based on an existing pattern for a while, as I’ve long been fascinated by the way Shakespeare takes what was known about the history of a figure and makes something new from it. So I did choose some key moments to juggle and play with as fiction. That plan had its own odd challenges, and I ended up radically re-working the order of events.

My favorite times tend to be when poems rush out unexpectedly, or when stories or parts of novels seem to pour out as if by magic. I love the strange sensation that something is pouring through me – a waterfall of language that feels like me and not-me at once. It leads to a thrilling sense of surprise. Of course, there are parts of novels that must be stitched together in a more mundane way. I’ve never been particularly interested in elaborate transitions and the “fat” of many novels, and my books tend to be lean. If a reader does not like that Jack-Sprat tendency, well, he or she has a challenge.

I would say that every narrative begins in a different way, that it is never “the same.” In order to make books that live, a writer needs to strive to do something she can’t do – to make something that has no recipe or instructions, that is not explained or plotted-out by one of her previous books. So I never know at the start where I am going, or whether I can master the dream and make it shapely.

Even your prose responses to my questions seem to have a bit of poetry in them. Was this unusual way of looking at the world something you’ve always possessed? Do you view the daily “mundane” world through similar spectacles (e.g., when giving instructions to your children, etc.)?

Some of my early childhood memories sparkle – my memories of my years as a small child in Louisiana (Gramercy and Baton Rouge) are colorful and magical. But I think a lot of us tend to veer from the grossly mundane to the soulful, often in the same minute.

I believe that one of the great functions of storytelling is to share a kind of enchantment – to give us eyes to see how beautiful and extraordinary the world is, and to know that being alive and conscious is a gift. Storytelling also tells us how very far we have fallen from being creatures who know and love what we are, and who love the world we possess for a while as the stage for our lives.

“When giving instructions to children?” Interesting question. Children love it when things are slightly askew, and when adults are playful. So yes, I was sometimes playful. But I expect that many parents are. During the teen years of the older two, I posted a big chart of epithets that my three could use on one another – they were drawn from Shakespeare and Wodehouse. “Great steaming radish!” “Peevish canker-blossom!” “Prating malignancy!” For a time, that list eliminated most of the bad (and boring) things that they called one another and meant that they laughed a good deal more than they might have otherwise. And occasionally I would sing my advice or requests in operatic flights (Cooperstown is home to Glimmerglass Opera.) Right now I have only one child left in high school, and we do often act quite silly or dance around the kitchen together.

Can you describe in any specific technical detail how you approach the revision/rewriting process? Is this different every time as well or is there a routine you follow?

I’m fairly simple-minded in this area. With fiction, I write on the computer because I like being able to fly along with my thoughts. Then I print out what I’ve done and blacken it with additions and deletions. Then I let time go by and repeat the process. And again and again until I’m just fiddling. Then I stop and read the whole thing aloud to catch any weird, unattractive rhymes and sounds. Reading aloud to children, you learn that a great many writers skip that step, and that they should not. My mode is similar with poetry, although poetry enjoys a much richer structure of sounds.

Can you share a colorful or magical memory from your childhood?

When I lived in Gramercy, I spoke Cajun French with the children next door. I was only three and don’t remember it, but I do remember playing with Maxine, and that she taught me to wear little green lizards with pink throats as earrings. The poor creatures could not release themselves until we pinched their jaws. In the yard were holes with big, hairy spiders. We had a garden bed made out of sugar slag from the refinery, and the plants grew up into the trees. My small garden was cucumbers and moonflowers; I loved to see them spiral open at night, their faces looking up at the moon.

Back to your writing, when did you start to produce material for publication? How did you know you were ready and how long did it take you to get there?

In seventh grade I was living in Delaware and attending a huge junior high school. I remember that my English teacher recommended a piece of mine for the literary magazine, and that was the first time somebody requested a piece of writing, and that I was pleased. I had poems and the occasional story in plenty of school magazines, but I’m not sure when my first poem was accepted by a little magazine – probably when I was around 19. I doubt that I did know if it was ready! When I was 20 and graduated from college, I threw away everything I’d done up to that point. I was sorry later, as it was so full of youth.

Along the same lines, what is the one piece of writing advice you received yourself or have heard that you think newer writers should ignore?

Ignore it all! Listen to it all, and then take advice with a grain of salt. I was told all sorts of things – write what you know, don’t use certain words (like “love” and “rainbow” and “beautiful”), show don’t tell, and so on. Hearing those things just made me obstinate and determined to do the opposite, often in some unexpected manner. There is no writing rule that cannot be broken. Just write. After a while, you will have your own ways of putting words into patterns. But I expect that even those ways will grow constricting, and you’ll leap over them and make new ways and then leap over them.

In a previous interview you said that when you first started writing fiction, you didn’t understand anything about plot, propulsion or causality. How important are those things in Glimmerglass and your other stories and how did you learn about them? What aspect of the craft of writing do you think is undervalued? Overvalued?

My feeling is that you learn about how to write by putting words on the page. Between Little Jordan and Catherwood, there’s a kind of jump – I’m more interested in how choice causes event. Then by the next book, The Wolf Pit, I’m fooling around with both causality and form in a bigger way, so that the book becomes a kind of helix composed of two stories, each with its own propulsion. If you look at those books as a group, you can see a poet hopping forward from little lily pad to bigger lily pad, reaching toward those tasty bits of plot and form.

The importance of any aspect of a book is surely determined by the story. With Val/Orson, I was working with Shakespearean, mythic materials that had built-in traditional motifs and shapes, ready for play – mistaken identities, twinship and separation, Arcadian romance, fey hints, love for the wrong person that is later transferred to another, doublings, and more. Plot emerged naturally out of those things, and right up to the final page, the story is influenced by Shakespeare.

With the two Southern fantasies, The Curse of the Raven Mocker and Ingledove, crossing Cherokee lore with the beliefs of Scots-Irish settlers seemed to easily generate story, large mythic entities, and causality. In fact, I would say that marrying two unexpected elements tends to be generative for a writer because something new will always be born.

Underlying A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage is a simple, basic structure of journey-and-return, but the main character’s hunger to know, to reject, or to search gives birth to a lot of action. The initial tragic event sends Pip pell-mell into the world, and then his inability to love and to trust keeps him moving and dictates a good deal of sudden change in place and event. Character breeds causality.

Glimmerglass is again a more mythic sort of tale – well, I can describe it but don’t know exactly what that book is, as yet! – but the engine-thrust of the story is Cynthia’s deep ache to be more than she has been, and to make something of meaning from her art and life.

Undervalued. Overvalued. “Value” is an interesting word when applied to craft because we live in a digital age awash in advice to writers on “product” and “platform” and how to become visible to the world. Google the topic, and a wearying onslaught appears instantaneously. The “value” most often evident in the online realm is the value of money – that is, the measure of writing is by its relation to money. We’ve slipped into a state where we measure and value success in writing by monetary success, even though we know perfectly well that major writers from the past often failed to find that kind of success and so failed to make a lot of money.

This tendency to rate by cash afflicts all the arts. (In addition, we no longer have the kind of publicly-admired critics who once helped us see merit and sort out the literary scene –figures like Randall Jarrell, Lionel Trilling, or Edmund Wilson.) So I’d like to misread your question a little, avoiding craft and saying that what is overvalued is money as a measure of art. What is undervalued is mastery, which quite frequently has precious little to do with money and success.

Part 2 Follows

Interview: Marly Youmans, Author of ‘Glimmerglass: A Novel’, Poet and Teacher, Part 2 of 2

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Marly Youmans, Author_Version 2

Continued from Part 1

This is the second of our two-part interview with author Marly Youmans. Her deep love of language, books and art shone through her thoughtful answers. Read on for more insight into her writing process.

As for the aspects of the craft being valued or undervalued, I guess I was trying to understand how you learned to jump from lily pad to lily pad. What knowledge gleaned kept you from ending up on the same level of lily pad? Were you searching for “causality” and “propulsion” because a teacher or book told you that was the right way or was it more of a natural insight as a gifted storyteller?

I’m not so sure that we learn much from advice when it comes to writing. Yes, I may occasionally come upon a comment in a review, say, and think it a good point, and that I might need to think about an issue a little more. But we learn by writing. I’m not saying that a writer can’t learn anything from advice, but that I learn infinitely more by trying to make something out of words.

The way I think about moving from book to book is this: I’ve established a certain land mass, a kind of country made up of poems and stories and novels. That’s the ground under my feet. That’s where I have been, what I have made. When I want to write a new book, I run across the land and leap off the edge of the known world. I trust that my feet will find something solid as I fall.

Did you always trust your feet would find something? Is that a natural-born confidence?

I definitely grow bolder over time, so I suppose it is a learned confidence and faith that the work will find its way. Meanwhile, I’m not particularly adept about the business side of things. I do a good many events, but I have more and more gone on my own path in terms of publishing. I’m not with a Big 5 publisher any longer, and I have sacrificed a certain amount in order to have my books be the way I want them to be. I’ve loved being with small and university houses and plotting with my friend Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ Artlog: to make beautiful books – particularly Thaliad from Phoenicia, The Foliate Head from Stanza, and Glimmerglass from Mercer. The Throne of Psyche and Glimmerglass are also immaculate-looking books (Mercer outsources to Burt & Burt, a great design team), though there’s less collaboration on those. Part of the impulse to make beautiful books [comes from] starting out as a poet, where smaller and university presses are so important.

Some time ago I parted with my agent, Liz Darhansoff, and I have not bothered to look for another one, a lack which has some drawbacks. Usually I’ve relied on requests for manuscripts from publishers. Also, I’ve gotten some recent film option nibbles and ought to get a good film agent, but I tend to be so busy with family and books that I don’t get all the practical things done.

Your work has received many awards and has been hailed as genius and rare and beautiful. How do you celebrate finished books and are you emotionally affected by critical acclaim?

I am one of those writers who gets good critical feedback and awards and has loyal readers but who really needs a larger readership. That’s something that’s hard to manage when I do a lot of projects with smaller houses, where marketing and promotion are limited. And I probably need a more “braggadocio” personality! When books come out, I’m pleased but don’t do anything extraordinary – just more events. I tend to be relieved as well as glad when I have good reviews and notice and awards. Relief was part of my attitude to my first book acceptance as well. Externals don’t affect what I do next.

A family thread runs through your responses, Glimmerglass, and much if not all of your other writing. How has being a mother influenced your prose and poetry? Is it possible for you to distinguish natural growth as a writer from any specific effects of parenthood?

Life comes before art, and parenthood is important to me. Children are not easy, they don’t need a writer in the house, and their needs seem quite pressing to them. Being a mother has meant that I had to learn how to use well what time I had – and to go without sleep when I needed to do so! It meant that I had to learn how to think about stories while doing other things (particularly housework). Sometimes it meant being clever about help; the two Southern fantasies were written as gifts for my daughter, who begged for them, and who babysat her busy little brother in order to get new pages. It was a good swap for both of us. Bits of my children as babies, children, and young people appear in characters who inhabit my short stories and poems and novels. Catherwood in particular is about the potency of motherhood and mother love. My eldest child’s obsession with the Civil War led me in the direction of The Wolf Pit. Lots of my poems began with some detail of a child’s life.

Anything that deepens your life is of use to a writer. Anything that makes you a bigger person on the inside is of use. Anything that helps you understand other people is of use. And anything that causes you to grieve, love, be sheltering, be upset, and feel joy is of use. Children may be Bacon’s “hostages to fortune,” but they also teach, widen the mind’s focus, and make a parent change and mature. I would say that my growth as a writer has often been tangled with my life as a mother.

You still do a bit of teaching. What do you try to offer your students if you consider a lot of writing advice suspect?

Clever of you to ask me about teaching stints since I’ve cast doubt on writing advice! Of course, I might very well contradict myself in a weak moment and blather away with advice! But if I did, I would always give the anti-advice that writers must find their own rules of how to go, and they must not let those rules harden into stone. A person’s own writing will dictate what she believes about and wants in her work, but those ideas should keep evolving.

Being individuals, students write differently than I do, so I don’t often give them generalized advice but like to figure out the nature of the writing they have already accomplished and in what direction they seem to be and want to be going. From that point, it’s interesting to consider what works and does not work in their pieces. Sometimes I might have them write in an unusual form and talk about the advantages and pitfalls of the form, or look at where their use of the form took advantage of its one-of-a-kind demands. Also, sometimes their stage of progression means that they have concerns and questions I did not anticipate. For example, one thing that I didn’t expect to do at Antioch last summer was to talk about ordering a poetry manuscript, but I had students who were ready to submit a chapbook or book. So we all tried arranging a couple of 10-poem manuscripts and then discussed why we grouped poems as we did.

What do you feel is the most common trait lacking or underdeveloped in writers who aren’t having much success?

Persistence.

In assisting your students with the chapbooks, how do you assess their levels? How do you judge “stages” of writing?

Assessing any work is a result of having read the good and the great – that’s the yardstick.

You mentioned a lack of great literary criticism nowadays. Do you consider yourself an astute critic of other literary works?

I do seem to be critical, which I find rather sad at times. I am less able to finish books than years ago, and more prone to setting down a book unfinished. But I have no desire to write criticism.

What do you like to read for pleasure? Are you always “reading like a writer” or are you able to get lost in stories other than your own?

At the moment, I have a number of books underway – Ted Hughes’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and also his Selected Translations, Lawrence Principe’s The Secrets of Alchemy, and Jack Zipes’s The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition. Soon I am going to read Scott G. F. Bailey’s The Astrologer, which has re-surfaced after being carried off and read by my husband.

Getting lost in a story doesn’t happen as often as when I was young. The last book in which I strongly felt that childlike sensation was Anthea Bell’s translation of a 1971 children’s novel by Ottfried Preussler, Krabat and the Sorceror’s MillI have it more frequently with poetry.

Favorite novel of all time?

Tom Jones? Bleak House? Pride and Prejudice? Jane Eyre?

Favorite poet of all time?

It’s between Yeats and Shakespeare.

First book you remember loving as a child?

I was given slipcased copies of the Alice books when I was about five, and I have never gotten over Carroll’s wondrous freedom.

Any last thoughts or recommendations for writers at the beginning of their journey, or something you wish you had known at the start of your own journey?

Many more presses and awards (especially for early books) and retreats and scholarships exist than when I was young. A national system for producing poets and fiction writers and supporting them via college and university programs is now powerful. A huge number of competent writers are at work. In poetry, I see a lessening of the stigma against writers who care about form and traditional tools. Publishing includes ebooks and self-published paperbacks. These and many other changes have changed the conditions for writers, but I think that a simple “Persist” is still the best advice to give a young novelist or poet.

Yet it’s a difficult path, and plenty of writers have found publication to be like dropping a precious manuscript down a well. Most novels are not anointed as lead book for a Big 5 publisher and given what’s called a push. Nor do most ebooks have the pleasant outcome of Hugh Howey’s Wool. Many poetry books find few readers. So I would add that if a writer chooses to put an end to his work, he should not be harsh on himself but search for a meaningful way of life elsewhere.

If I could tell my young self something, I’d say that she should not let anything take away her joy in making things out of words – that whatever tends to take away from that deep play and pleasure should be questioned. I would praise persistence and the weird intuitions of the soul. (I would probably also tell her that living in a snowbank in the remote boondocks is not all that helpful when it comes to visibility and doing events. On the other hand, a Southerner may get a lot of work done, living in a region of mighty snows and long winters.)

You can find out more about Marly Youmans, including all the novels mentioned here, on her blog, “The Palace at 2am.”  Her books are available at independent bookstores as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview with David Powning

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

Today we meet David! Hopefully, you’re enjoying getting to know all these folks as much as I am.

David Powning

I live in the south of England, not far from London. Last year I published my first novel, The Ground Will Catch You. I’m now working on a second.

Before writing The Ground Will Catch You I completed another novel, which I submitted to agents but got nowhere. Looking back, I think they were right – even I suspected that it wasn’t good enough. This time I sent the manuscript only to ten agents, and even as I pressed the stamps onto the envelopes I knew I was wasting my time. I received plenty of positive feedback, but nothing concrete. No one called me in for a cappuccino, but I genuinely didn’t care. Self-publishing has been so liberating, a truly fantastic thing. There are plenty of people out there (designers, proofreaders etc.) who can help you get your novel into great shape if you’re willing to invest some time and money and are truly committed to doing yourself credit by making your book as good as it can be. And there are also many indie authors who are only too happy to offer their advice, and from whose experience you can benefit if and when you lose your way.

Finally, I’m a writer – I have two cats. That’s a given.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

As a teenager I kept diaries for a long time, which I think I still have in a drawer somewhere, although I haven’t looked at them since. That’s probably for the best. Later on I was always committing ideas to paper, writing down ideas scenes, dabbling in a bit of terrible poetry. I even did some songwriting. Most, if not all, of what I wrote was probably awful, but they don’t call it a learning curve for nothing.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

Like every creative person, I imagine, writing is an outlet for something within. It chooses you, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. I’m sometimes envious of people who can go through life happily without this compulsion. But then, when I hit my stride and write a great scene, or even just a good piece of dialogue, it all feels completely worthwhile. It’s a rush, creating something out of nothing. And getting a novel out into the world was enormously satisfying, precisely because it was such hard work.

On a practical level, it would be so nice to release standalone chapters one at a time, like a musician releasing a couple of songs before an album comes out. But writing a novel isn’t like that, it’s all or nothing, so in those moments when you’re riven with self-doubt, it can be overwhelming. All those months or years spent committing words to the page, in the hope that something good comes of it – that’s tough.

Also, having to work to pay the bills and then writing in my spare time often leads to a lack of time left for reading. Ironic, really.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I’m not convinced that writer’s block exists, although there are plenty of times when the words don’t flow in the way I’d like them to. And that’s the point really: if the drain outside your house were blocked, nothing would get through at all, whereas I think this thing they call writer’s block is different. The words are coming out, they’re just in the wrong order. Or they’re the wrong words.

The key, I think, is to not edit yourself as you write, to rid yourself of that self-critical way of thinking. Just let everything flow. No one’s watching you, no one’s going to judge your work unless you ask them to. There have been many times when I’ve written pages of prose, only to read them back and be embarrassed for myself. But so often when I go back and read them again, weeks or even months later, I spot a phrase or an idea that has something, a little spark. And it’s nearly always something that didn’t occur to me at the time, something I wasn’t aware of at all. So that’s why I’m not sure about writer’s block – nothing stops you from writing, it’s a question of attitude. You’re not digging dirt in an East African diamond mine for 16 hours at a time – you have the luxury of sitting at a keyboard when it suits and putting pretty words together. A sense of perspective is needed.

One more thing: lose the internet. It’s amazing how unplugging that cable for a few hours can send productivity soaring. Who knew?

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

My new novel is going to be a real challenge, because it’s in a genre that I don’t normally read. But I had this idea for a story a while back, and it won’t let me go. I think it might be a dystopian-style novel, in that it’s either going to be set on an island or in a very remote place where an experiment is taking place. However, the rest of the world is carrying on as normal, so I’m not sure whether that’s dystopian or not. Imagine trying to sell that idea to an agent…

However, I’m excited, which is vitally important. And depending on how the book goes, there’s a possibility for a sequel, which I gather is a good thing.

What supports you in your writing?

Fear and belief. Fear because with The Ground Will Catch You I was terrified of making a fool of myself, which is why it had a structural edit, copy-edit, beta readers, a proofread and professionally designed cover. It went through four drafts, and I read the final one over and over trying to find mistakes. I was so paranoid. But the reviews have been excellent, so now I feel a lot happier. I don’t care if I sell a hundred or a hundred thousand – the book is out there, people are reading it and enjoying it. That’s what counts.

And that has led to belief. I’ve done it once, I can do it again. Although no doubt I will still obsess over tiny details in the middle of the night.

What are you currently reading?

I have Stories by TC Boyle next to my bed – big fan – but at the moment I’m mainly reading books that are in a similar area to the novel I’m working on, such as Wool; The Island of Dr Moreau; The Handmaid’s Tale; The Passage. This is not so that I can copy them; in fact, it’s the opposite. I want to avoid plot elements that might have appeared elsewhere.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

I blog at www.inkwrapped.com and people are welcome to email me with any queries or points of view. If I can help, I will. If not, I may know of someone who can. You can also find me on Goodreads.

Amazon would be the place for The Ground Will Catch You in ebook or paperback format. I’ve just unpublished it from Smashwords because I’m thinking of trying Kindle Unlimited to see how that goes. And ten per cent of the profits from the novel in any format will be donated to breast cancer charities.

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Sara Connell, Author, Speaker and Life Coach, Shares Her Journey to Publication

Sara Connell, Author

Sara Connell, Author

 

 

 

 

 

Women, 61, Gives Birth to Own Grandchild” read the headlines in the Chicago Tribune. This is the subject of Sara Connell’s memoir, Bringing In Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story which was nominated for Elle Magazine’s 2012 Book of the Year.

In this audio interview, Sara shares more of her journey as a writer and some behind the scenes glances into her first traditional book deal with Seal Press.

Full Audio Interview: 

 

We tell ourselves we're not something, Sara Connell

A self-proclaimed “closeted writer” for years, she talks about the break that lead to her first byline and how both her journey to motherhood and personal growth work in her 20’s helped her follow her dream of being a writer.

“I had all these conditions that had to be there for me to write. I have to be inspired, to be in the mood, to have not had an argument with someone.” Her tip for those that dream of writing? “It will be there. Just show up to the page and go for it!”

Get out of my small self - Sara Connell

That experience taught me to have a discipline to be able to delay instant gratification and go for something that’s a bigger picture…to let something have a process…to focus on my part instead of the outcome.” 

Sara’s next book project is a novel with some magical elements. Though determined to publish traditionally for her first book, she’s changed her thoughts about self-publishing, and shares tips for aspiring writers on listening to their inner voice.

“I think now we have as many opportunities with

some really quality, high-level people in both worlds.”

~ Sara Connell on self-publishing

“I’ve seen so many wonderful people who have been in traditional publishing now become editors and publishers of hybrid presses and are working with people around self-publishing. It’s less about the quality and even sometimes the prestige. It’s more about what is important to you as a writer. I no longer think one is necessarily better than the other.”

She also reminds us that “books get published in all sorts of ways.”  Sara completed an in-depth 90-page proposal for her fist memoir which ended up not being published. It took just a three-page letter for her agent, Joy Tutela, to secure the deal for Bringing in Finn. Turns out the publisher remembered her writing and hard work on the previous proposal and that was enough to sell them on this project. “As a writer, nothing is wasted.”

“As a writer, nothing is wasted.”

With a busy toddler and all of her other commitments, Sara schedules her writing time each week and will write in her office, on her bedroom floor and even in her car outside of preschool. “Writing is at the top of my priorities after family. The more I write, the more I submit, the more I publish, the better I get.”

Full Audio Interview: 

Sara has a thriving private coaching practice in Chicago and is in demand as a speaker and contributor to national magazines. To find out more about Sara, visit her website at www.SaraConnell.com, via Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

You can read my review of Bringing in Finn here, or on Blogcritics and it is available for purchase at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

cover_bringinginfinn-387x600

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview

Fia Essen

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

 

Have you been enjoying the tour? Feel free to pass on the links you find here to other readers or writers in your circle. These authors have a range of accomplishments along with insight and tips for writers of any genre!  Welcome and let’s meet Fia!

Fia Essen

Fia Essen – that’s me. I grew up on the move, and then I kept going. I still haven’t really settled down anywhere. I’m not ready to say I’ve settled. You could say I got lost in transition. But I’ve found some great people and places on my journey to… well, destination unknown. And my journey through life is what gives me ideas for the stories I write.  Fia Essen

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

I wrote a short story when I was nine years old. I had just started a new school in Dubai and I was still learning English. Predictably, the story was about the adventures of a girl from Sweden who had just moved to “The Desert of Arabia”.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

The best thing about being a writer is being my own boss. It’s also the worst thing about being a writer. It’s not a “regular” 9-5 job, and I don’t get a regular paycheck. Nonetheless, I’m serious about my writing. Writing is my job and I give it my all.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I can’t say I believe in writer’s block. Having said this, I can only speak from my own experience. As I mentioned above, writing is my job. I sit down and I do the work. Every day! I don’t expect inspiration to hit me out of the blue. I’m not that kind of writer. I don’t get struck by sudden flashes of brilliance. I work hard to create a story that I hope someone will ultimately enjoy reading.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

At the moment, I’m working on a novel called Ariel, which is about a woman who has lost control of her life and finds herself stuck in a rut. Currently, Ariel is being looked over by an editor. Personally, I think the editing process is one of the most challenging aspects of writing. It requires patience and an open mind. The thing to remember is that both you and your editor want the same thing – for your story to be the best it can be.

What supports you in your writing?

It’s not a what. It’s a who. Her name is Sanna, and she’s my mum.

What are you currently reading?

Blogs. I’ve recently started blogging myself and I’m having a wonderful time reading what other bloggers are writing. If you’re a writer or interested in writing, there are plenty of both established and aspiring writers that share tips and useful information on their blogs. Much appreciated!

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

You can find my 100 Word Blog at https://essenfia.wordpress.com/ . As soon as Ariel is released, I’ll write an overjoyed post about it. Meanwhile, I’d love it if you drop by and take a gander at my daily posts.

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview Renee N. Meland

Renee Meland

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

Get to know Renee!

Renee N. Meland 

Renee N. Meland lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs. Her favorite obsessions are Rome, learning new recipes, and exploring the world around her. She is an avid reader of speculative fiction, and believes that telling stories isRenee Meland the best job in the world.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

I remember writing a fantasy piece, that we used cardboard and wallpaper to make into a book. It was called Yendor (my dad’s name spelled backwards)

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

I get paid to play pretend. Least favorite part? It’s very hard to stand out when there are millions of other books out there.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I believe in it but I don’t usually experience it. It’s more a block of motivation than ideas. Especially in the middle of a third or fourth draft, I’m ready to be done even though the story isn’t ready.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

I am working on the third installment of The Extraction List Series, titled Leave me Lost. The challenge is I have to make people fall in love on paper, which I’m discovering is very difficult.

What supports you in your writing?

My husband and my parents.

What are you currently reading?

A dystopian called Station Eleven.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

www.reneenmeland.wordpress.com

Available on Amazon

The Extraction List

 

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Elite Book Promotions Book Tour: He’s Mine by Bernadette Y. Connor

Elite Book Tour He's Mine by Bernadette Y. Connor

Elite Book Tour He's Mine by Bernadette Y. Connor

Welcome to my first Blog Tour! Today I’m happy to feature an excerpt from He’s Mine! by Bernadette Y. Connor. Be sure and visit the other Blog stops on the Tour for reviews and interviews with the author.

 He's Mine by Bernadette Y. Connor    BUY BOOK HERE

Excerpt from He’s Mine!

Patrice went into the kitchen. Only wanting to make this announcement once, Patrice had to stop her mother’s bustling and get her into the den. That could be a problem when Sierra was involved in preparing a big meal. Anticipating having all of her children home at once had her flying at warp speed. 

Patrice walked over to her mother and took her by the arm. As she led Sierra toward the den, Patrice said, “Mom, Miles and I have to talk to you and Daddy about something.” 

Not wanting to be disturbed, Sierra asked sharply, “Can’t it wait until dinner?” “No, Mom.” 

Seeing how serious Patrice’s expression was and noticing the tension marks on her forehead, Sierra stopped struggling. Patrice thought she saw fear in her mother’s eyes, and hated knowing she was the cause of it.

 

“He’s Mine! is a gripping tale of love, dysfunctional relationships, deceit, passion, infidelity and unrequited love.  Bernadette Connor writes unapologetic, in your face prose with her searing human touch.  Connor’s seventh novel is a must-read and will keep you guessing about the fate of Patrice Mays and Miles Alexander, until the last page.”

      ~ Thelma Balfour, author of Black Love Signs and Black Sun Signs (Touchtone/Simon & Schuster)

 “Using passion and intrigue as her thread, Ms. Connor has woven a fascinating story. HE’S MINE! is a tale you’ll remember long after you turn the last page!”

      ~ B. Berry, author of Clothesline Blues and Cold Crazy (series)

 “Love, murder and mayhem.  It is a love story after all!”

      ~ Lori Bryant Woolridge, Emmy winner and author of Can’t Help The Way That I Feel

 

Find more information about Author Bernadette Y. Connor here:

 

About The Author
 
Picture
Bernadette Y. Connor is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was born at home in a one-room apartment in North Philadelphia; the fourth of five children. To help her family financially, she sang rhythm and blues in many of the local nightclubs until she graduated from Dobbins Vocational Area High School in 1969 and was hired as a secretary by Sun Oil Company.

Bernadette’s first love was music, but she found herself writing poetry. Some of her earliest writings were published in SCLC monthly magazine. Both singing and writing had to take a back burner to caring for her family, but midnight often found her doodling. A divorced mother of three, Bernadette saw that all of her children graduated from college.

Bernadette found her niche’ at AT&T as a communications technician. With the merger came a lay-off and she saw as an opportunity to begin a new career, but that was put on hold by a series of medical problems and finally the devastation of the brutal murder of her eldest son on Christmas Eve of 1991. Her zest for life, travel and adventure were nearly extinguished. However, Bernadette’s thoughts slowly returned to writing.

The literary fire was stoked by reacquainting herself with her earlier poems. Bernadette embarked on yet another adventure. She wrote a simple love story called “Finally” that opened the gate to an avalanche of works . . . 13 novels and 7 screenplays. Bernadette’s published debut novel, “Damaged!”, the first psychological thriller ever written and published by an African American garnered her a spot in “Who’s Who In America 2004”. Publishers Weekly dubbed her the “genre-crossing writer” and she loves the distinction.

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Interview with Kate Evans

Kate Evans

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

First stop on the blog tour is with Co-Host Kate Evans. Tomorrow we’ll meet Kate Colby.

Kate Evans

I am a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, currently living in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. My book, Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment, was published by Sense Publishers in 2013. I have an MA in Kate EvansCreative Writing from Sussex University and teach on the Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, Scarborough campus. I have created two art installations using words and images for the local festival Coastival, one inspired by the work of Edith Sitwell.  The Art of the Imperfect, the first in my crime series set in Scarborough, was indie published in December 2014. My crime fiction is inspired by Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters and Ann Cleeves, though one reviewer thinks I write like Hilary Mantel. I am trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor. I love walking by the sea and afternoon tea.

 What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

Initially I struggled at school with reading and writing. I had to have extra classes, working my way through the Ladybird readers, right up to number 12 (when most people stopped at 5 or 6 and went onto real books). However, by my early teens, I’d obviously found my stride; we read Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country in class and our homework was to write something inspired by it. I wrote a short story imaging what would happen if two of the main characters who were children in the book met up as adults in an airport lounge in London. I remember the teacher praising it and thinking, oh well, maybe this is something I can do. It was also my initiation into the writer’s question: what if?

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

I love the freedom, as a writer I can go anywhere, be anyone, explore, explore. I get completely lost in my writing at times, and even when I’m not writing, there is a parallel universe in my head which I can dip into and enjoy. My least favourite part is probably the struggle to find an audience. Despite there being so many more ways to reach readers, it’s still difficult for an unknown to get heard.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I do believe in writer’s block, I wrote a book about it! I also have times when I have to face my own demons which want to stop me from writing. These are mainly to do with the fear of putting myself out there, or being seen, and the shame this induces, shame which comes from way, way back in my childhood. Would it be ungracious to say my best tip would be to read my book? I think, knowing oneself, knowing one’s creative process, reading, having a writing routine and getting support from other writers are the main things which help.

 What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

I am writing a series of crime novels based in Scarborough which explore themes of mental health/illness and marginalisation. I indie published my first, The Art of the Imperfect, in December 2014. Number two, The Art of Survival, has been through several drafts and had feedback, so is waiting for the final craft/edit. Intended publication date will be Autumn 2015. Number three, The Art of Breathing, is moving towards a first draft, and I would hope to publish in 2016. I also have two more in my head. The biggest challenge will be/is finding an audience and keeping motivated if I don’t have the sales I would like.

 What supports you in your writing?

Other writers, both here in the UK who I can meet face-to-face, and those who I have got to know on-line. They are good for advice, motivation and encouragement. I choose very carefully who I ask for feedback from, I think there needs to be an understanding of what I am trying to achieve and also an honesty without brutality. I tend to ask for feedback from writers who I can help in one way or another, it’s a lot to ask someone to close read over 60,000 words for nothing.

 What are you currently reading?

I decided to read what is reckoned to be one of the first crime novels published in the UK, Wilkie Collins’s ‘Moonstone’. I am rather regretting it as it is long, slow and verbose. However, I do want to know what happens, so am doing a bit of skimming to get to the end.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

www.writingourselveswell.co.uk

The Art of the Imperfect Book Jacket

The Art of the Imperfect is available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon.co.uk http://goo.gl/5r9WBv and Amazon.com http://goo.gl/GsQ6a8

 

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Interviews with Writers

2K International Writer's Blog Tour
2K International Writers' Blog Tour

Tune in for a month of interviews with The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour

Do you enjoy picking the brains of other writers? I’ve become obsessed. True, sometimes it’s procrastination rearing its ugly head but more often, I know I have a lot to learn and what better way than from another writer? Tomorrow, The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour gets underway. Hosted by Kate Evans and Kate M. Colby, every day in February (except Sundays), you can tune in to read interviews with writers from around the globe.

Tomorrow we will start with one of the Kates!

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Laura Munson: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat, Now What?

Haven Retreat Muse

Last September, I flew to Montana where I spent several days with total strangers at Walking Lightly Ranch in the gorgeous mountain valley of Whitefish. I left with friends and inspiration.  Laura Munson, Haven Host and New York Times Bestselling Author of This is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, shared my essay and those of other retreaters on her personal blog.  If you’ve thought of attending a retreat, hers is one of the best in the country! Find out why here. This isn’t so much an advertisement as it is an invitation to say “why not?” If you’ve dreamed of treating yourself or testing yourself or just spending time with yourself, don’t wait!

Haven Retreat Muse

Flowers from a fellow writer and our Muse

 

Haven retreat - lake view with benches

One of many gathering spots of Haven Retreat at Walking Lightly Ranch

 

Haven Retreat - Checking in

Beautiful Guest Rooms at Walking Lightly Ranch – Peace and quiet at Haven Retreat

 

Haven Retreat - Garden

Abundant gardens of Walking Lightly Ranch Provided Most of Our Food While at Haven Retreat

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