Posts Tagged ‘author interview’
During an open mike segment of a reading hosted by Marjorie Hudson, I heard M. Todd Henderson read from his new novella, Shifting Sands, about a mentally ill husband and father. I’m always eager to understand others’ insights about mental health issues. Depression and anxiety are challenges that many Americans face daily. I’ve had close friends struggle with various mental health crises. And, as a creativity coach, I’ve worked with clients who struggle with depressive cycles. I also recently interviewed Eric Maisel about his new book on depression. Intrigued by Henderson’s reading and also impressed that he is donating 10% of the profits of the novella to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, I got a copy of Shifting Sands. After reading it, I knew I wanted to interview him about his experience with depression and exploration of mental illness through narrative fiction.
Other than the ABCs, my first taste of writing was when I was 10. I wrote and edited The Local News, which my Mom, a school teacher, mimeographed copies at the high school for me to distribute. That was before Xerox. The newspaper was actually a combination of school, church, weather, and sometimes international news. It ran sporadically from December 18, 1969 to October 1, 1972. Yes. I keep copies of all the issues and most everything I’ve ever written. They are a big part of me and I can’t seem to part with them.
In high school I mostly read American classics (e.g. Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, etc.) and learned the mechanics of writing. Then I took a creative writing course my freshman year at Indiana University. I won the award for outstanding freshman essay for a story about my Granddaddy’s house. It was a thrill and it compelled me to continue writing throughout college and to submit to creative magazines, including The New Yorker. I failed to publish, but appearing in The New Yorker is on my bucket list.
The next several years I journaled some, but concentrated on my advertising career. Over my almost-thirty-year career I worked for five different Midwest ad agencies, a non-profit, and an international corporation. I wrote extensively – mostly memos, plans, research papers, and direct mail. I also travelled quite a bit internationally (Australia is a must see.) and throughout the US.
The advertising business is definitely exciting, but it’s also extremely intense and high stress. After I got married to Lori and we had our two sons the stress doubled and I ended up with high anxiety and low depression.
Ultimately, I left the advertising business, resumed journaling, and published my first book. Just. Like. That. Well, maybe it was slightly more involved. Much of my journaling was while I was in the dark- unrelenting- clutches of depression and anxiety. I wrote extensively in blue and black Moleskin journals about the effect of mental illness on myself, my family, and our friends. It was the lowest part of my life.
Then my novella emerged. Shifting Sands: His Hell. Her Prison. was born out of my journaling, yet it’s not autobiographical. I chose to write fiction for a few reasons: fiction is my forte, fiction provides room to speculate and embellish, and fiction is simply fun.
Why did I write Shifting Sands? In the end I wrote this story to assure my family, my friends, and my readers that when in the depths of despair they will always have hope for a better tomorrow. Perhaps I was also trying to convince myself.
What is your favorite scene in the book and why do you love it?
I love this scene from the book and really enjoyed writing it. At the lowest point of depression, the main character Scott T. Walters, runs from his responsibilities and drives to the North Carolina Outer Banks.
“Scott hitches up the pop-up camper to his ‘91 Ram pick-up, and heads east on Highway 64. He plans to stay at the KOA in Rodanthe for a few days. Maybe take a drive to Buxton. Or on to Ocracoke by ferry to see the wild ponies. Salty, clear air welcomed him at Whalebone Junction where the truck turns south onto Bodie Island, and crosses Oregon Inlet on a narrow, high-flying bridge alongside gliding pelicans and gulls and onto Hatteras Island.
Scott pulls into the KOA, eases the camper into its site next to the twenty-five foot dunes, and settles in. He has brought along seven bottles of cab, two six-packs of PBR, chips, cheese, salsa, eggs, and bacon. Scott takes his customary first-day-back hike over the dunes and up the beach toward the new Rodanthe pier. It’s a three-beer journey. As it is early in the season, prime sea gifts that waves have tenderly carried and placed on the sand—angel wings, sand dollars, sea stars, and a rare intact horseshoe crab—remain scattered along the beach long after high tide. Amongst all the loot ghost crabs scurry to and fro rearing back with front claws raised in defensive mode as Scott approaches.
This is a familiar stretch of beach for Scott; he walks it at least three times a year. And three times a year the sea oat-topped dunes have a new story to tell. On this go ‘round the dunes tell tales of Hurricane Dennis. Dennis came ashore two times. On the first visit, he danced a slow graceful waltz with the dunes. They inched this way and that till they all rested fairly close to where they took their first step. The second visit was a herky jerky two step. Moving this way and that, the dunes found themselves uncomfortably closer to the breakers with their sea oats tossed to and fro like a bad hair day.
From a front row seat on the dry side of low tide, Scott scans the waters for live sea critters. Out a bit over the water, a grouping of three brown pelicans in a row skims the valley of a swell, looking beyond their reflections for a meal underneath. The most famous pelican to fly over these waters was black and larger than life. Legend has it that the black pelican scanned the shore and the sea from the Core Banks to Corolla, searching for those in peril. Many a survivor described a Black Pelican guiding their ship to safe waters. The savior hasn’t been seen in recent years, but most ship crews and locals believe he will return one day.”
This is my favorite scene because my soul can be found in the Outer Banks. In its salty perfume, its sea oats waving to me from atop dunes, its sand pipers scurrying to snag sand fleas, its breakers washing the top of my bare feet, and so much more.
What does your writing practice look like?
My writing practice starts with journaling. Most days I journal off and on in my pocket-sized Moleskin. Mostly I journal about interesting people or events as well as dialect and interesting word uses. At the end of the day I rip pages from the small journal and tape them into my large red Moleskin (my color of this month). Then I usually journal more about pocket-sized entries. Since I fill one to two large Moleskins a month, I spend some time in completed journals adding notes, highlighting key thoughts, and entering the best ideas into my current project.
When I’m on a specific project I spend the majority of the time on my Toshiba until the book is in the editing phase. Then the cycle starts all over again.
Without a doubt, Scott T. Walters will be front and center for my next two works. We’ll follow him and his family as they face new challenges and old foes.
What’s been your experience of being a self-published author?
I would never have had the opportunity to publish and sell my stories if it hadn’t been for online publishers. So, I’m very grateful that they exist. My publisher, iUniverse was very professional and helpful during the editing and production phases. The process was flawless.
However, after Shifting Sands was published, iUniverse began to push their added-value services, like marketing, printed copies, promotion kits, design, and publicity. Frankly, I found them to be too aggressive in their approach.
In the long run I consider self publishers to be another tool available to me, like my Toshiba, The Chicago Manual of Style, and my Moleskins. I can use some or all of iUniverse’s service depending upon the project.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
In my case the key to success is actually two: observation and recording. Look so you can see. Listen so you can hear. Taste. Smell. Pick up on the nuances because it’s often the smallest of observations that are the most telling and interesting.
And, record them into your handy dandy journal (or, sometimes take a photo) for further observation.
M. Todd Henderson was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana University’s School of Journalism in 1981. His career includes nearly thirty years in the advertising and marketing business. In addition he served as an AmeriCorpsVISTA volunteer to help fight poverty in his adopted North Carolina. Todd and his family live near Raleigh, North Carolina. Currently Todd is working on his second book which will continue the story of Scott T. Walters.
He invites your questions and thoughts on writing, your work, and his work at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about Todd and Shifting Sands through his Amazon page
Steve Mitchell is doing his part to keep readers fascinated by the craft of short stories with his new collection, The Naming of Ghosts recently published by Press 53. One reviewer described his prose as “lyrical” and how his richly imagined stories in Ghosts “haunt the reader long after the final pages.” Steve has been a construction worker, cowboy, substitute teacher, chef, and has developed and managed a mental health program for the chronic mentally ill. His work has been published in the Southeast Review, Contrary, Glossolalia, and The North Carolina Literary Review, among others, and has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize.
And aside from these great credentials, I can say he’s generous and kind toward emerging writers. I met Steve while assisting my writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (another Press 53 author), at a workshop she gave. He made me and other aspiring writers feel welcomed and encouraged. I’m so happy to connect him with this wonderful community of creative folk.
What drives your creative work?
Curiosity and doubt.
In the end, writing for me is about wonder. Even if the particular work doesn’t reflect it immediately. It’s about the wonder and mystery of living; the necessity of questions, the beauty of not knowing, the wonderful impossibility of ever understanding another person completely. Uncertainty provides a beautiful space in which to meet one another.
I pretend to be another person, pretend to see the world through their eyes. I’m searching for patterns in our experience, I guess. The things which draw us together and pull us apart, the things which make us want to reach out for another or the moments when we have no choice.
Also, I think all writers revel in a love of language. The thrill of it, the way it tastes and sounds and forms itself around the tongue. It’s a tactile, sensual obsession we share.
How do you decide what point of view a story will be in? Do you experiment a lot or just get a sense right away? Has there ever been a story you had to completely rewrite in a different point of view?
Generally, the point of view comes with the story. I write predominantly in the first person, from the point of view of the characters themselves, so that’s usually where I begin: with a particular person in a particular situation or state of mind. They form together, story and point of view, from an amorphous blob of frustrations and associations.
The voice, however, can take quite a while to develop. I do experiment a good bit with voice and I have started a piece again from the beginning with a new voice more than once. The voice requires patience.
Tell us about your new short story collection, The Naming of Ghosts. Is it held together by a set of recurring themes?
These are stories written over a number of years and the idea was simply to collect stories which held together, got along with each other somehow. It was more of an intuitive process, not around themes, more as a certain kind of ride or journey. It’s always about people, what happens within or between people and how that changes the world around them.
With that said, the themes present are those that always intrigue me. The tension between intimacy and safety, between intimacy and community, the ways in which we all constantly change shape to negotiate that tension. The way tiny moments or insights in our lives can bring about lasting shifts in who we are, changes in our world. The way the past and future are constantly sifting into our present as active forces
Robert Olen Butler, in an interview, said that developing a character is about understanding yearning. He differentiates between a fully rounded character who yearns (“for self or for connection”) versus a character “who simply has problems.” He feels that the “yearning dictates every other choice.” When you’re writing, how aware are you of the essential yearning of your main character?
I think this is the essential human condition; we are creatures who imagine, envision and yearn. It’s the foundation of empathy and empathy is the key to writing.
As a writer, I feel I must love every character. That’s my job. To love the inarticulate or the unlovable; to understand something about them which makes them human.
There may be characters who can’t articulate their own yearning. This doesn’t mean it isn’t there, it only means it isn’t spoken.
Yearning is the driver, superseding other concerns, because yearning speaks to the shadowy, ill-defined ways we actually see the world around us. Yearning is always idiosyncratic; it means we make choices which comply to an internal logic or mythology, but aren’t necessarily understandable to anyone else.
And I love the gaps which occur between our personal mythologies, between what we accept as a given which, possibly, no one else sees or understands.
What’s changed for you since being published by Press 53?
Well, it was a year and a half between acceptance and publication, during which I was always vaguely anxious, certain that some crisis or tragedy would prevent the book from coming into being. It was scheduled for 2012, so I secretly believed the Mayan calendar would end the day before publication and the universe would blip out of existence. I was relieved when that didn’t happen.
There is a sense of completion, the ability to take a deep breath.
But I’m really just beginning. It’s only been a month or so. I’m looking forward to going on the road and reading in bars, on street corners, maybe even in bookstores. I’m looking forward to meeting people and introducing them to the stories, beginning a dialogue. That should be fun.
It’s also released a good bit of energy. Suddenly I have five or six projects going at once.
What’s on your bookshelf, next to your bed? What are you reading right now?
Jen McConnell’s Welcome, Anybody. She was published in the Press 53 Spotlight Anthology 2011 with me and I enjoyed her stories.
Mindscreen, by Bruce Kawin, a theory and study of first person film. I read it years ago and hadn’t realized what an influence its been.
Roberto Bolano’s 2666, a re-read. A beautiful, mysterious, relentless book.
Final Acts, Death, Dying, and the Choices We Make, edited by Nan Bauer-Maglin and Donna Perry. Research for a novel in progress.
Just as important, I’m currently watching Alex de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus and the second season of Treme; I’m listening to Bruce Peninsula, Foals, Osvaldo Golijov, and Jon Brion.
What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?
Cultivate a sense of beauty. Because if the world isn’t beautiful it’s not worth saving and all writing is about saving the world, if only from the wear of time.
Be curious; not only about the things that interest you, but especially about the things that frighten you, make you uncomfortable.
Work beyond your reach.
Writing is life; life is writing. There’s no other way.
Sorry, I couldn’t stop at one.
Steve Mitchell is a writer who has also worked in theatre, film and multi-voice poetry. He is currently completing a novel, Body of Trust. Find out more about him and his cat, Mr. Zip at http://www.thisisstevemitchell.com/
MaryLynn Bast is rewriting the rules in paranormal fantasy romance and erotica. Her ‘Heart of a Wolf ‘series has electrified readers with No Remorse, the first novel in the series, released earlier this year. Her newest novel just released May 18th is called One Bite to Passion, an erotica paranormal romance novel published by Renaissance E Books. Her strong and complex female characters, seductive erotic scenes, and productivity (producing two novels and short stories in a year!) are gaining MaryLynn a strong fan base. She also is an exemplar for writers to learn from as she is navigating both traditional and self-publishing routes.
A friend of mine on She Writes, I’m delighted to welcome MaryLynn to this community of readers.
1) How did you get interested in writing about Amber, a dominant female werewolf, in your new novel No Remorse?
A friend recommended that I enter a short story contest writing about werewolves. I had always written contemporary romance, so I figured what the heck, so I gave it a shot. All the werewolf stories I had read were predominately male. I wanted to change it up and created Amber’s character. I felt that she had to be independent and strong to live up to being a werewolf.
I wrote Amber’s story as suspense but never entered the manuscript into the contest. I put it aside and continued working on Softest Touch, the story I had been working on. However, Amber kept calling to me. When I started working with her again, her story just flowed Amber’s character was created. Since I write romance, No Remorse turned into a paranormal romance.
2) When a story idea comes to you, how do you decide what point of view to use?
I generally like to write third person because I find that first person is limiting. However, there are a few stories I have written that are in first person. Sometimes you just want the mystery that goes along with not knowing everything that is going on around the character we get in a third person view. For the most part my opening paragraph is what determines how I am going to write. I don’t really think about…the words usually just as I type them and it happens.
3) When you get stuck what do you do?
When I get stuck I usually put the story aside and work on another story that I have worked on. When my brain just won’t wrap around writing, I try to step away and read a book. Sometimes that helps to me to work through the writer’s block or the issue I am having in a scene. When all else fails, my aunt Peggy is my go to person. I talk through the scenes with her. Generally just talking about it and getting the thoughts out of my head helps me work through it.
The most rewarding experience was when I was received a message from a reader that they absolutely loved my story and that I was moved to the top of their favorite author list. That made me smile and just made my day. When I am wondering what I was thinking in pretending to be an author, I look back through those kinds of messages and remember that my stories are being read and bring joy to others. It makes it all worthwhile.
5) What have you learned about being a writer in public (i.e. dealing with reviews, managing the promotional aspect of publishing, finding time to write, etc.)?
Dealing with my first negative review was really hard for me in the beginning. I had to remind myself that not everyone is going to like my style of writing. I even picked up a book by a famous author that I had read before and liked. In my opinion, the book I had read really sucked and I just could not read it any further. I realized then that it was the frame of mind I was in when I started reading. I went back later when I wasn’t having a bad day and read the story and I liked it.
Managing the promotional part of writing takes a lot of time and effort. It is really hard to juggle the time spent promoting and find that it takes a lot of time away from writing. Especially having two different books come out within two months of one another gets a little harrowing when you send the info for one book to the web host and they were expecting the other.
I have lost A LOT of sleep over promoting and worry about doing it just right.
I have learned though, that there are some great bloggers out there who are willing to step in and help an author out. Like Michele and so many others. They have taken time out of their day to help promote an author’s book. I for one appreciate how much they have helped out.
6) If you could invite three living writers to a dinner party that you’re hosting, who would you invite and why?
Of course I would have to invite my favorite authors Sherilynn Kenyon because I absolutely love her Dark Hunter Series. Christine Feehan, her Dark Carpathian novels are one of my favorites. And I could not forget to invite Laurel K. Hamilton. The Anita Blake Series is hot and steamy and shows that a girl doesn’t have to just have one lover or be stuck with loving just one being. Getting these three authors in the room would make my day, hell, my year! With the three of them, I could only imagine the ideas that would be flying around the room.
7) What’s the best writing tip you’d like to share?
Editors are all knowing. That is what I thought when I first started. I have since learned that there are three different kinds of editors, Content, Line and Proof.
Content editors look at the story as a whole to help insure that the characters are well developed and the story is strong and concise.
Line editors help with sentence structure and word flow.
Proof editors fix grammar, typos, punctuation, etc.
Most people who call themselves ‘editors’ are usually a proof editor and know very little on how to work with content and line editing. Before I realized it, I had spent a lot of money with my first editor to get proof editing only.
I later found out about beta readers. After the editing fiasco, an author offered to beta read for a fee. I had no clue and once again paid for services that were less than par. Later, I found out that most beta readers do this service for free.
Plus, I had done the process backwards. Beta reader first, and then editing would have saved me a lot of re-writes and a lot of money.
There are so many people out there who are willing to help. And just as many willing to take advantage. Talk to authors, bloggers and book reviewers. Most are very willing and able to point you in the right direction. I can’t stress enough…research and ask as many questions as you can if you want to become an author.
MaryLynn Bast resides in Las Vegas when she is not traveling the world with her job as a contractor with the US Military. Bast enjoys writing paranormal fantasy romance erotica stories because she can allow her imagination to run rampant, her characters can obtain abilities not possible in the real world…or are they?
Go visit her http://heartofawolf.com/Blog/
I’m so excited to introduce readers to newly minted novelist Jessica Yinka Thomas. Her novel How Not To Save the World is a social justice thriller. Jessica Yinka Thomas is a novelist with a background in mechanical engineering and social entrepreneurship. As managing director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, she has authored several award-winning academic articles. Jessica has also worked as a designer of interactive educational toys, as the director of a social enterprise business plan competition and as a program manager for a community development nonprofit. How Not to Save the World is her first novel.
Jessica’s writing highlights her twin passions for technological innovation and for creating significant social change through entrepreneurial ventures. Growing up in West Africa and traveling around the world has provided her with a rich background from which to draw in her writing.
Her main character, Remi Austin is a fundraiser for the African Peace Collaborative (APC), a conflict resolution nonprofit founded by her late mother. Frustrated by her inability to raise funds and faced with the imminent closure of the APC, Remi turns to a life of crime to keep her nonprofit afloat. From Sydney, to Tokyo, Geneva and Cape Town, Remi transforms from a fundraiser too shy to speak during staff meetings into a daring international art thief who must stop a war from breaking out and figure out how to save herself from a life behind bars.
I think Jessica has single-handedly invented a new genre—the social justice thriller.
I came to know Jessica through The Creative Tickle, my coaching practice. She was finishing her novel when we worked together. She focused on time management issues and juggling her many commitments including job responsibilities, creative writing and new motherhood. I’m thrilled to see her work in print and that she is making her writing dreams come true.
1) Where did the idea for your novel come from?
I started out writing nonfiction travel stories as I traveled around the world in my twenties. I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron while traveling across Australia and wrote in big letters at the close of the book, I WILL WRITE A NOVEL. That was 13 years ago. Since then I’ve taken my inspiration from the world around me and from the parts of life that I love. I weave my travel experiences into my writing, my passion for technological innovation and my personal vision for creating large scale social and environmental change. The story in How Not to Save the World evolved from a desire to create a compelling story that would include all of those elements. That kept me going for 8 years!
2) What does your writing practice look like?
Juggling a day job, a family, a social life in addition to writing is a delightful challenge. I have to be very strategic about fitting in my writing. Recently I’ve had the flexibility to scale back my day job to half time. So these days I can usually commit at least 2 hours to marketing and promoting my first novel and two hours to working on the second novel. Part of my marketing strategy includes getting book clubs to read the novel. This has actually provided fantastic feedback for me as a writer and as I work towards completing the sequel. The time I commit to writing, I don’t have a special place. I’ll often write on my lap using my laptop on my living room couch or the local library if I’m going to put in several hours. Much of the writing process for the sequel involves idea generation. The woman who runs my fitness class is probably frustrated that I will often pick up my iPhone in between sets and make notes about dialogue, character development, settings, etc. She probably thinks I’m texting my friends, but it does help my productivity and keeps my mind distracted during the bicep curls.
3) What (or who) inspires you to write and why?
I’m inspired to write because I see storytelling as a compelling mode to engage people in big ideas. My hope is that everyone who reads my work will think about how they can find their personal path to leaving this world better than the way they found it. I also just love writing. I’ve never had a moment of writer’s block. The page is the one place I can funnel all of the ideas swirling around in my head. With a generous amount of editing, those ideas can be transformed into a story and even a novel, or two or three.
4) What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?
Write every day! Even if it’s only 5 minutes on the computer or 30 seconds on your iPhone. This Year Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley was an inspiration to me and that was one of the core concepts.
5) Will we see more of your main character? What’s your next writing project?
Absolutely, we will see more of Remi Austin. I have laid out a plan for a 3 book series with How Not to Save the World as the first Remi Austin Adventure. I’m hard at work on the second, tentatively titled How Not to Make Friends. I’m shooting to release it in September 2012.
6) Who is one writer that you’d love to know was reading your work?
My father. He is an economist and would never define himself as a writer although I have a shelf full of his academic publications. He has committed his life to demonstrating how technology can be a powerful tool for social change. His work has changed many thousands of lives for the better. He is my writing role model in many ways. I would love to know that he was reading my work. He has read the first novel and I hope he feels compelled to keep reading.
Find out more about Jessica and where to buy her thriller!