My guest today is Margie Church, AKA Churchlady, author of romance/thriller novels with “SASS.” She tells me that stands for Suspense, Angst, Seductive Sizzle. Margie is a married mom of two children, and a Minnesota native. He writing career began early when she published in “McCall’s Magazine” in the sixth grade. Margie describes her professions as a mother and author whose guilty pleasures are great beer, real vanilla ice cream, and lobster. I couldn’t agree more with that list! Read More
Tag Archives: Magazine
MA: I’m happy today to introduce my guest-blogger, Nelson O. Ottenhausen. Nelson is a retired Army officer and an accomplished writer published nationally in periodicals and anthologies. His latest poem, Out of Sane, appears in a Siruss Poe anthology collection, Mind Mutations. His book, Flowers, Love & Other Things, released in November of 2005, is a selected collection of his own published poetry and short stories.
Several of his short stories have been published and one, A Fish Story, is included in the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, Chicken Soup for the Fisherman’s Soul, now available in book stores everywhere. His short story, Duty, appeared in the December/January 2006 issue of the Pensacola Today magazine. Feature articles of his have been published in various magazines about the USS Oriskany, an aircraft carrier sunk in the Gulf of Mexico in May of 2006 in the Navy’s artificial reef program, and Survivors a human-interest story about a Pensacola military family that survived Pearl Harbor, World War II, Hurricane Ivan and 70 years of marriage.
He has published five novels, Civil War II, (2004), The Blue Heron (2005) and The Killing Zone: Evil’s Playground (2007), Jugs & Bottles (2009) and The Sin Slayer (2010).
Nelson founded Pen WISE Poets (Writers in Service to Education), a literary arts outreach program in the schools of Northwest Florida, which he managed from 1994 thru 1998, and in 1995, he was cited by Governor Lawton Chiles of Florida for this work. In October of 1995, he received a fellowship for his writings, and in August of the same year was appointed by Florida’s Secretary of State to the Directory of Visiting Artists to lecture in Florida schools about poetry, only one of five poets throughout the state to be honored so.
He holds a Bachelor of Business Degree in Operations Management and a Masters of Business Administration Degree from Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois.
A former native of northwestern Illinois, he now resides in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
Okay, that was a mouthful! Tell us how you began writing novels, because it seems like you wrote a lot of poetry before this.
NO: I wrote poetry for over 7 years and had 40 poems published, 28 of them I actually received compensation, but the highest payment I ever received for a poem was $35.00. In the late-90s, I came to the conclusion I was wasting my time with poetry and began writing novels. However, the poetry writing experience taught me to express my thoughts in a more concise manner and greatly improved my sentence structuring.
MA: Tell us about your novels, and did any real-life experiences inspire them?
NO: My first 2 novels are action adventure novels with political overtones and loosely based on my military experience as an Army officer. Almost all of the main characters in my novels are based on people I know or have met in a professional working relationship in some way.
Here’s the list:
Civil War II – My first published novel, action/adventure (2004) – A story of coercion, bribery and a military coup, overthrowing a sitting President of the United States, the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court.
The Blue Heron – An action/adventure (2005) – A story about a U.S. military covert operation and coup to overthrow the Cuban government.
The Killing Zone: Evil’s Playground – Police thriller/mystery (2007) – Police Detective Daniel Patrick O’Malley is called out to investigate the death of a young woman in what appears to be an apparent suicide, but he soon discovers she is a victim in a series of bizarre murders.
Jugs & Bottles – Police thriller/comedy (2009) – A woman deaf since birth, is targeted for murder after witnessing a Mafia style execution then identifying the two hit men to the police. She, along with her dog become involved in a series of chaotic events as two brothers attempt to silence her with their bumbling, comedic ways.
The Sin Slayer – Police mystery/suspense thriller (2010) – For thirty years, a self-ordained church leader has convinced his small congregation to secretly kill dozens of people after hearing an inner voice, whom he believes to be God, telling him to cleanse the world of chosen sinners.
Flowers, Love & Other Things (2005) – A collection of poems and short stories by Nelson O. Ottenhausen published in other media from 1994 through 2005.
MA: That’s quite an assortment! Are your heroes based upon real people you’ve known?
NO: Protagonists, as well as the main characters in all of my novels, are mirrored after someone I knew, both relatives and friends.
MA: I’m intrigued by Jugs & Bottles because your protagonist is not human. Tell us more.
NO: My hero in that story is a dog. His strong points are; he is loyal, obedient and lovable, and will face danger without hesitation to protect his charge. His biggest weakness; he tries to befriend everyone because of his lovable attitude.
MA: I take it you have many different antagonists in your stories?
NO: Each novel has a strong “bad guy” and all of them are a little whacky. In Jugs & Bottles, there are really 2 “bad guys” and 2 good “bad guys” (2 brothers wanting be major criminals, but just don’t have the smarts nor ability to become so).
MA: As prolific a writer as you are, I assume you are working on something new?
NO: I’m presently working on two novels, Black Mist of the Trinity, a story of terrorists, nuclear warfare and black OPS; and Auggie, a historical novel about a young Russian girl growing up in Japanese occupied China during World War II, based on the true life experiences of a long time acquaintance.
MA: Anything else you’d like to add?
NO: I am President and part owner of Patriot Media, Inc., a small independent publishing company in Niceville, Florida. We are a traditional publisher in the sense we do not charge authors to publish their work. We are specialized and publish only military theme books, both fiction and non-fiction. To review our titles, go to www.patriotmedia.inc.
MA: Nelson, thanks for your service in the Army, and thanks for being my guest today. Folks, please visit Nelson’s Patriot Media website, as well as his personal site: www.booksbynelson.com. Read More
MA: I am pleased to have visit with me today, Australian author Diana Hockley. Diana lives in a southeast Queensland country town, surrounded by her husband, Andrew, two 19 year old cats and four pet rats. She is a dedicated reader, community volunteer, and presenter of a weekly classical program on community radio. She and her husband once owned and operated the famous Mouse Circus which travelled and performed for ten years throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales. Now that the circus is sold, she is the mouse judge for the Queensland Fancy Rat and Mouse club shows!
Diana and Andrew also bred Scottish Highland cattle. Prior to 1995, her last occupation was medical transcriptionist specializing in Radiology at a major Brisbane hospital.
They have three adult children and three grandchildren.
Diana has had articles and short stories accepted and published in a variety of magazines, among them, Mezzo Magazine USA, Honestly Woman (Australia) the Highlander, Austin Times and Austin UK, Australian Women’s Weekly, It’s A Rats World, Solaris UK, Literary Journal of University of Michigan USA, Foliate Oak, children’s website Billabong. She was awarded Scenic Rim Art Festival prizes for poetry and fiction. Since that time she has published two crime novels, The Naked Room and The Celibate Mouse.
Now, that’s one of the most diverse – and interesting – backgrounds I’ve ever seen. How did you go from the circus to novels?
DH: I wrote a novel in 1971 which was rejected but deemed “worthy of merit.” After this, I didn’t write anything more until I attended university when I was in my 30s. Raising children was a fulltime occupation for a widow, so I didn’t write anything more until 2005, by which time I was living on a small farm in rural Australia, married again and on my own a great deal in the show season. I started off with articles about our animals – always a rich source of amusement for city magazines, then ventured some short stories and had some success there as well. It was a short step to novel writing after that.
MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?
No, my professional life – from which I retired in 1993 – didn’t inspire my writing, but I think some of my characters couldn’t help being heavily disguised as some people I know!
MA: I won’t ask which of them resemble rats! Tell us about your stories.
DH: My debut novel, The Naked Room, fits into the crime genre, the idea for which came to me one night when I was in the studio at the radio station. What would happen if the pianist didn’t turn up for the big concert? There would have to be a very good reason why not. So I set about creating one!
MA: How did you develop your protagonist?
DH: I allowed Ally Carpenter’s character to develop in response to her abduction and the personalities of her kidnappers. I once read that you have to listen to your characters, rather than trying to force them to do what you want (within reason of course) so that is what I tried to do and it seems to have worked.
MA: Is there a hero in addition to a heroine in your story?
DH: It’s hard to say who is the hero in The Naked Room. Is it her boyfriend who takes it upon himself to investigate the crime? Is it her father who holds himself together and works on the ransom money? Or are they both the hero? My heroine’s strength is that she refuses to give in. My hero’s strengths are neither of them are about to give up searching for Ally Carpenter.
MA: I understand you have more than one antagonist in the book. Tell us about them.
DH: Oh yes, there are three bad guys and one bad woman in this – but they too have an agenda other than money.
MA: Any real life experiences that flowed over into your stories?
DH: No, not really. I psyched myself into standing behind each character, listening to them speaking and the reaction of those around them – like reading a newspaper over someone’s shoulder. And I am sure they got a bit cranky with me sometimes (chuckling).
MA: So who migrates over from The Naked Room to your other novels?
DH: I have taken the main female detective from The Naked Room and given her the starring role in The Celibate Mouse. In this novel, the reader finds out what is happening to three of the protagonists from The Naked Room. For After Ariel, my next story, I have taken one of the characters from The Naked Room and made her the character. We find out what is going on with some of the Naked Room characters who were not in Celibate Mouse (some have moved on, it’s two years later) and Susan Prescott turns up again, now an Inspector. I don’t want to over-use the same characters beyond giving continuity to the series.
MA: Any last thoughts?
DH: It’s said that you should always write what you know, so my novels will always be set in small towns/rural/Australian city/UK or Wales and they will feature people whose lifestyles I understand and whose point of view I can put across. My stories will never feature high finance, spies or sophisticated political themes because I have no knowledge of these genres. I do know, however, how people keep secrets!
I tend to write my main characters in first POV and the rest in third, with the exception of The Naked Room which is very different, darker and more violent than The Celibate Mouse.
MA: Thanks, Diana! Please visit Diana Hockley’s website for more information about her writing: http://www.dianahockley.webs.com. Read More
No one likes rejection, but rejection is just a word – a word on which too many writers place too much emphasis.
When you understand the process of submissions and rejection, that word will hurt less if at all. You’ll see it as just another step in your progress.
The process includes you wearing your fingertips down to nubs as you get your prose written. Before you send your submission, what you need to know is that many factors become involved in acceptance or rejection. Here are only a few:
1) Did you follow the Guidelines perfectly?
Every publisher has different guidelines because they all have varying publishing formats and processes, from the type of story they accept to the format in which they require you to submit. Do you know how to switch your story from a .doc (in Word) to .rtf (rich text format)?
So you have followed all the guidelines? Next…
2) Did you read a copy of the magazine or some of the publisher’s novels or books to understand the type of stories they accept?
Are you submitting blindly, thinking your plot is so good they will accept it? No matter how good your story, someone else has written a better one.
3) Another factor may be the mood of the person on the receiving end.
You have no control over that, but if your story doesn’t ring bells with a literary agent or editor, no matter how good, you’ll get a rejection. The agent or editor could have recently been slapped with a divorce suit, or suffers from PMS that day. You have no control and human frailties do play a part in the process.
4) Have you submitted your manuscript all over the place, especially when guidelines call for “no simultaneous submissions,” and irritated a bunch of professionals you had hoped to impress?
Agents and editors all know one another. They talk. They tell each other of their negative experiences. Once someone associates your name with a really negative experience – C’est la vie!
5) Did you meet the deadline?
Did you wait till the last possible moment to submit? Most editors will choose favorites from the early entries because they can’t depend on what’s coming in with the slug of last minute arrivals. That’s not to say they won’t change their minds when a late arrival is so good they feel compelled to share it.
People find themselves in a rush when they wait till the last minute to finish their manuscripts. When they do, it’s thrown together haphazardly. An agent or editor can’t be blamed for picking favorites early. I believe all stories get read, but it would be difficult to displace a favorite. Submit early. Show you are ready to do business.
These are just some of the reasons for rejection, both in your control and out. If you know the process and still feel depressed over a rejection, your issues are not with the word “rejection” but, perhaps, you feel you’re being slighted. That just isn’t so.
I keep records of all my submissions, acceptances, and rejections. You should do that from the beginning. I have so many rejections that, knowing the process, rejections bounce off. My response is, “Hmmm… didn’t fit in that agent. I’ll try this new one.” That’s all the thought I give to it. That’s if I followed all the guidelines correctly.
Agents may send rejections, but editors won’t tell you if you followed the guidelines. You’ll just get a standard rejection. Sometimes it’s a form letter on their office memo; other times they may hand write a note on your cover letter and return it. In the case of magazines, you may never hear from them again, maybe not even get a rejection, just… nothing. But times are changing.
One of my biggest lessons of rejection was that I forgot to transfer my manuscript into .rtf format. I sent it in .doc. I knew I’d not hear from that editor again. I submitted the story elsewhere and got it accepted. To this day, I have never heard from the first editor, nor will I send a follow-up email since the story was accepted elsewhere. The first magazine was my first and greatly favored choice. I paid for my mistake.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
I’m honored to have been selected as the monthly featured profile in the online magazine, “Voices.” Voices is produced by the military community’s largest social networking site, TogetherWeServed.com. It reaches over 1 million readers. If you are a military member, veteran, or eligible family member, I encourage you to become a part of this community by signing up for a free membership.
Thank you Together We Served!
Mike Angley on Voices @ Together We Served
A Halloween Treat: “Wanted Undead or Alive” Authors Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry Descend to the Child Finder Trilogy Blog
MIKE ANGLEY: No trick, just some treats this Halloween! I’m delighted to take a departure from my norm (fiction authors) and host Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry today. They have co-authored a non-fiction book, WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, an ideal topic for today. Let me introduce them first, then jump into the interview.
Janice Gable Bashman has written for THE BIG THRILL, NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and many others. She can be reached at www.janicegablebashman.com.
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner and a writer for Marvel Comics. He has written a number of award-winning nonfiction books and novels on the paranormal and supernatural, including THE CRYPTOPEDIA, VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THEY BITE, ZOMBIE CSU and PATIENT ZERO. He can be reached at www.jonathanmaberry.com.
MIKE ANGLEY: Tell us about your book.
JANICE GABLE BASHMAN: WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE deals with the struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers. It includes interviews with folks like Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, Charlaine Harris and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics & fantasy artists.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Our book starts with good vs evil as a concept and then we chase it through philosophy, religion, politics, literature, art, film, comics, pop-culture and the real world. It’s such a complex topic, one that’s fundamental to all of our human experience, from evolution to the formation of tribes and society. We take a look at it historically, mythologically, in terms of storytelling from cave paintings to literature, we track it through pop culture and into our modern real world.
The book has a real sense of humor, too. We have fun with the topic as well as bringing a lot of information to the reader.
Plus the book is illustrated with forty black and white pieces and eight killer color plates. Artists like Chad Savage, Jacob Parmentier, Don Maitz, Francis Tsai, David Leri, Scott Grimando, Jason Beam, Alan F. Beck, Billy Tackett and more.
MIKE ANGLEY: Why did you decide to tackle the battle of good versus evil?
BASHMAN: The concept of good vs evil surrounds us. There’s just no avoiding it, and it’s been around for as long as man has walked the earth. Yet the definition of what’s good and what’s evil varies depending on who you’re asking—it’s not a black and white issue, so there are a whole slew of things to cover on the topic. In WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, we tackle the whole good and evil idea in a fun and exciting way—through its presence in movies, books, comics, pop culture, and real life.
MABERRY: I’ve done four previous books on the supernatural but they mostly focused on the predators (VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, ZOMBIE CSU and THEY BITE—all available from Citadel Press). I wanted to wrap that series with a book based entirely on the good guys. Now that we know what’s out there in the dark, who are we gonna call?
Also, times have become tough lately. Wars, racial tension everywhere, religious tension everywhere, the economy in the toilet…it’s nice to shift focus from those things that frighten us and take a look at what is going to save our butts. And, yeah, the book doesn’t deal entirely with real world problems (after all, most of us aren’t like to have to fend off a vampire or werewolf!) but it’s reassuring to know that at no time in our vast and complex human experience has mankind ever said: “Screw it, the Big Bad is too big and too bad.” We always fight back, we always rise. That, more than anything, is the heart of this book.
MIKE ANGLEY: You delve into fiction, movies, and comics, and interview so many great people in the book. Sounds like a ton of research, yet the book’s a fun read. How do turn all that material into something so exciting?
BASHMAN: What’s not fun about talking about good and evil? Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs vampires. Batman vs The Joker. Dracula vs Van Helsing. FBI profilers vs serial killers. Ghosts vs ghost hunters. It’s the ultimate showdown between opposing forces. We take a look at this concept from all angles and put it together in a manner that’s easy to read with lots of interviews, sidebars, and interesting facts. There’s something for everyone in WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE.
MABERRY: I’m a research junkie. I started out as a magazine writer and did a lot of that for a lot of years. I also wrote college textbooks that I wanted my students to not only read but ENJOY reading. That’s the challenge of writing for the mass market –you have to develop a set of instincts for what people want to know. At the same time you have to be able to craft what you write so that you can impart useful information in a digestible fashion, even with the notoriously short attention-span of the modern reader.
That said, having a Big Picture sensibility in the writing helps us to present the info in a way that is neither offense nor off-putting. Sometimes that means using a bit of snarky humor, and sometimes it’s taking off the disguise and allowing the reader to glimpse our own inner geeks. Once they know that we’re part of their crowd, the book becomes more of an act of sharing cool stuff with our peers than authors writing to a demographic. Much more fun.
MIKE ANGLEY: Vampires have been the subject of fiction and fantasy for many years, but what do you make of the current interest in them with such moves as the Twilight series?
BASHMAN: The enduring appeal of Vampires is one that seems to have no end. People are fascinated by beings that can live forever. The Twilight series moves that whole vampire idea into one that appeals to a generation of readers who want their vampires attractive and appealing. None of this bite your neck stuff and you become a nasty being. The idea of falling in love with a vampire, of being in love forever until the end of time, is one that many women (and men) find attractive. But what the interest in vampires really allows us do is to examine good vs evil in a way that is easily tolerated.
MABERRY: Vampires will always be popular, and there will always be new spins on them. Currently it’s the tween crowd with TWILIGHT and the urban fantasy crowd with Laurell K. Hamilton, L.A. Banks and that crowd. A few years ago it was Anne Rice, Stephen King and Chelsea Quinn Yarbrough. Before that it was Hammer Films, and so on. Vampires are changeable characters who represent our desires to transcend the limitations and natural crudities of human physical existence. They are, to the modern pop culture era, what the gods of Olympus were to the Greeks: admirable, larger than life characters that we can idealize, lust after, want to be, and be entertained by.
There has been a lot of unfair criticism about the TWILIGHT books and movies. I don’t play into that. Those movies and books have done immeasurable good for the vampire as a pop culture commodity. And a lot of people are getting massive career boosts as a result, even though they are some of the loudest critics.
A Big Picture way to look at it is, if the readers get tired of sparkly pretty-boy vampires, then they’ll go looking for nastier horror-based vampires. That’s already happening—hence books like THE STRAIN by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE. The so-called backlash is really just the process of people seeing one thing, deciding that it’s not for them, and seeking out something that’s a better fit. The contempt so many people throw at TWILIGHT is more than just snobbish, it’s ill-informed and short-sighted.
MIKE ANGLEY: How do you manage the writing process when there are two people writing one book?
BASHMAN: We each came into this project with our own strengths and that made it easy to decide who should tackle what part of the book. The most difficult aspect was finding one voice that worked for both writers so that the book read like one person wrote it. We accomplished this fairly easily, with some trial and error, since we had worked together on a number of articles in the past.
MABERRY: We also divided the book according to personal interest and existing knowledge base. I tackled stuff that played to my strengths –vampires, comics, pulp fiction, etc. Janice played to her strengths. She’s writing a book on thrillers, so she tackled serial killers, etc.
I agree that finding a single voice was a challenge. We’re different kinds of people and different kinds of writers, but now, even I have a hard time remembering who wrote what. Janice even picked up my smartass sense of humor—which means that I may have caused her some permanent damage. On the other hand, she’s an enormously disciplined writer, so I hope I picked up some good writing habits through osmosis.
MIKE ANGLEY: What’s the hardest part about writing a book with someone else? The easiest?
BASHMAN: I can honestly say that I didn’t find any aspect of writing the book with Jonathan difficult. It’s important have an open line of communication with your writing partner and a willingness to view things from your partner’s perspective. Otherwise, you run into the potential to butt heads on some matters. We both came into this project with the attitude that we’re writing a book together and we’re going to do what needs to be done to write the best possible book we can. When both partners have the same goal in mind and both share an excitement for the subject matter, it makes it pretty easy to co-author a book.
MABERRY: I agree…this was a fun, easy, fast and very rewarding process. It helps that we’re friends and have a lot of mutual respect. That goes a long damn way in making the book fun to write and (I hope) fun to read.
MIKE ANGLEY: What’s next for you guys?
BASHMAN: I’m finishing up a proposal for my next non-fiction book; it’s still under wraps so I can’t share the details at this time. I can say that dozens of key players are already on board for the project and it’s sure to be a fun one. I continue to write for various publications, and I’ll also be shopping a young adult novel shortly.
MABERRY: This has been my most productive year to date. Between novels, nonfiction books, short stories and comics (for Marvel), I’ve had something new coming out every month, and often multiple things coming out in a single week.
Next up is ROT & RUIN, my first young adult novel. It’s set fourteen years after the zombie apocalypse and kicks off a new series that will be released in hardcover by Simon & Schuster. Then I have my third Joe Ledger thriller, THE KING OF PLAGUES, hitting stores in March from St. Martins Griffin. I also have three mini-series from Marvel in the pipeline. MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE PUNISHER is already running, and it’s a post-apocalyptic existentialist adventure. Very strange, even for me. Next up is BLACK PANTHER: KLAWS OF THE PANTHER, kicking off in October; and then in January we launch CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, a five-issue Marvel Event that follows Cap from World War II to present day. And my graphic novel, DOOMWAR, debuts in hardcover in October.
I’m currently writing DEAD OF NIGHT, a standalone zombie novel to be release by Griffin in June.
MA: My guest-blogger today is Jessica Knauss. Born and raised in Northern California, Jessica has become something of a wanderer who hopes to settle down soon. She has worked as a librarian and a Spanish teacher. She lives with her husband Stanley, with whom she plans to open a soft-serve ice cream shop in the future. Jessica has participated in many writer’s groups and workshops, including the International Writers’ Program at the University of Iowa. Her nonfiction has appeared in Medieval History Magazine, Hortulus, LL Journal, and an encyclopedia entitled The World and Its Peoples. To date, she has published fiction in Bewildering Stories, Do Not Look at the Sun, (Short) Fiction Collective, Full of Crow Quarterly Fiction, Sillymess, This Mutant Life and Short, Fast, and Deadly. Her poetry can be found at Haggard & Halloo, Apollo’s Lyre and The Shine Journal. Her novella Tree/House, about a woman’s awakening through sleeping in trees, is available at Amazon. Açedrex Publishing will release her poetry chapbook, Dusk Before Dawn, in September. Get updates on her writing at her Facebook page.
You have been very busy with all your writing projects!
JK: I came out of the womb with a pencil in my hand. In grade school, I could hardly be bothered with math, but let all other experiences influence the stories that just kept coming out of me unbidden. I grew up in Northern California, close to the Redwood forests, near the foggy grey beaches, and gained a sense of awe at nature and a strong isolation from civilization that shows up in all my work. I studied a lot of subjects, mainly Spanish, because my love of Spain sprouted spontaneously one day when I was about 11. I’ve been a librarian (love those books!) and a Spanish teacher in the beautiful cities of Boston and Providence. Somewhere along the way I lost sight of creative writing, but have now taken it up again with complete seriousness. The stories and characters were patient. They knew I had to come back to them some day.
MA: Was your decision to write novels a conscious, formulated one, or did something simply inspire you?
JK: The novels chose me instead of the other way around. For me, being a writer consists of taming the wild muse and making a craft out of a formless mass of creativity I’m re-learning to tap into.
MA: So tell us about Tree/House.
JK: My novella, Tree/House, is a timeless coming-of-age story in which a woman, Emma, has made terrible decisions throughout her life, allowing herself to be led around by anyone with more force of will. When the husband who took her on dies suddenly, she slowly turns her drifting into a direction, learning some shocking truths along the way. She could not go through this process without Geraldine, a vagrant who camps on her property, sleeping not in the barn or the stable, but in the wild old trees. Geraldine is in need of some emotional rehabilitation herself, but with her assertive personality, she helps Emma see the alternatives to the passive life she has lived. The novella has a slightly nineteenth-century feel to it, because the characters write letters, build libraries, and trek through the countryside on foot, but at just 28,000 words, it’s a fast, fun read that will leave you time to read it again! It’s perfect for book clubs and discussion groups or just sharing with friends.
I also have a poetry chapbook that recently released, called Dusk Before Dawn. This is a compilation of most of my poetry from over the years, and I’ve put them together in a trajectory that addresses the nature of language, the search for love, the nostalgia of place, the creative process, and, most importantly, personal identity. Some are like stories, and others a very lyrical. They make a nice companion to Tree/House, as they address many of the same issues.
MA: Emma sounds like an intriguing character. How did you go about developing her in the story?
JK: One of the lines from what ended up being the third chapter came to me in a bolt of sheer inspiration. It’s when one of the servants on the estate is telling Emma some unsavory truths she didn’t know about Geraldine: “Do you know she killed the cat, aimed for the stable boy and slept with her boss?” The protagonist at that point was merely a receptacle for this information. Emma’s character grew out of the way she reacted to Geraldine’s extravagant style. The antagonist, Franklin, grew out of that passivity in a natural way, creating the drama organically.
MA: Would you say Emma is a strong character? Is she flawed at all?
JK: I’m afraid Emma is all weakness: confused, not confident, no direction, no definable talent, and worst of all, led easily astray. She represents any woman who finds herself at a crossroads, and I think her indecisiveness and insecurities make her very sympathetic for readers.
MA: Do you have a definable antagonist, or is Emma challenged by many characters because of her weaknesses?
JK: Franklin, who ends up as Emma’s husband (and then brutally murdered in revenge for past misdeeds) is very dangerous because he knows how to manipulate her, all while she believes she is making her own choices. His praise of Emma seems unfounded and bizarre, just like the rest of him. He seems to have sprung out of nothingness to impose an ancient order on her disorganized life. He is a jailer and a neglecter and represents every thing evil and intransigent, at the same time that he opens a new world of literature up to Emma. His gifts are awkward, beautiful only in a certain light, and I hope the reader feels as weird about him as I do.
MA: Is there any of Jessica’s real life story in Emma?
JK: Absolutely. Because of the organic development of the plot, Emma’s predicament reflects the trapped feeling and self-doubts I was going through at the time. The writing and sending of letters comes directly from my experience, and I think it increases the feeling of isolation as she’s trying to make a decision about what to do with her life. I had a terrible experience with a wrinkled wedding dress that I make Emma go through with a little more naiveté, and I had a friend in college who told me that eating French fries gave her the hiccups, so thanks for that tidbit! (I’m not sure she would want me to broadcast her name, but she knows who she is.) Franklin turned out as a Bluebeard type. He has elements from just about anything I felt stifled me in the past, including, of course, old boyfriends! I think all this leakage between life and fiction, unintentional or otherwise, helps give the story psychological realism the reader can really get into.
MA: Now that Tree/House and your book of poetry, Dusk Before Dawn, are out, what’s next on your writing horizon?
JK: I’m striking out into territory that may seem very different by writing a historical novel set in tenth-century Spain and based on an epic revenge poem. It’s full of battles, glittering armor, and exotic locales. It’s not really a departure for me because I have a PhD in Medieval Spanish, and, continuing the feminine theme of my previous work, the story has female characters who know how to manipulate the society in which they live.
I’m always working on weird short stories, and waiting for that bolt of inspiration for my next longer work.
MA: Will Emma come along in future works?
JK: Tree/House readers have said they would love to spend more time with the characters. I have considered writing the further adventures of Geraldine, or even a prequel showing how she really got to be the fascinating woman she is in Tree/House, but nothing concrete is on the writing schedule. Read More
A rejection that I received for a short story caused me to take a look at the beginnings of all my stories, short or book length.
Your reader needs to make a connection with your main character. Your heroine or hero needs to have at least one strong quality with which a reader can empathize. When your readers make such a connection, they experience the story through that character’s senses.
Reader empathy must happen at the top of the story. When your reader cannot find anything about your story or characters to like, interest quickly wanes. Then they may not read deep into the story; if they get so far as to finish, the lack of connection will leave them asking “So what?”
I received a rejection from a magazine editor for my fantasy story about a woman’s experience with a UFO and aliens. While I thought it was one of my best fantasy stories, he said,
“I don’t know what to make of the protagonist’s experience. On one level, I don’t need to know whether they’re real or imaginary, but I didn’t learn enough about her to feel much empathy. Although I can’t use this story, please feel free to submit another.”
This editor didn’t say that I should tell more about my protagonist at the top of the story. Placing additional information at the top is my idea for the re-write. After all, how far into the story will a person read when they cannot find rapport with the main character? This editor, most likely, read or scanned the story all the way through because that’s an editor’s job. A reader is not obligated to do the same.
Another possibility of building rapport exists with the reader learning about the main character as the story unfolds. But again, how far into the story will the reader pay attention in order to build empathy? In the case of my story, I see that I can add two sentences at the very beginning of the story that should solve the problem.
Building reader empathy can happen by revealing anything about the main character that will draw the reader to them. The characteristic may be something that elicits any type of emotion, be it love, pity, admiration, or anything else that helps the reader feel connected to that character.
When your main character is the villain, you must still build a trait into her or his makeup to keep the reader’s eyes glued to the page. In a case like this, it might be someone we love to hate and will keep reading just to see that the villain gets a comeuppance. Yet, how many people write stories from the villain’s point of view?
Usually, stories are written from other than the villain’s POV. Not too many readers want to identify with a villain.
Test this advice next time you read a story or, specifically, when you are looking for a new novel to read. Usually readers test the story by reading the beginning paragraphs or pages. How soon do you make a connection to the main character, or even a secondary character? What was the connection made? Was it strong enough to keep you reading, even purchasing the book?
Clues, such as I received in the rejection, help so very much. If I must receive one, it’s the type of rejection I welcome. I’ve already fixed my story and sent it elsewhere. You can bet I will be sending other stories to this very generous editor. And I’ve already rewritten the beginnings of two of my future novels. Read More
MA: Today I have the pleasure of interviewing award-winning, best-selling author, Miss Mae. Miss Mae holds a special place in my heart because she honored me with my first guest blog as a new author when I was trying to navigate the waters of marketing and promotion!
She has a long list of books that have earned awards and special accolades. “Said the Spider to the Fly”, published by The Wild Rose Press, has consistently rated outstanding reviews and has won the esteemed title of Best Book of the Week for The Long and the Short of It Reviews and from The Romance Studio. It can be purchased both in digital format and in print directly from the publisher’s site. “When the Bough Breaks”, a young adult coming-of-age is the first from Whimsical Publications. Not only has this book generated top reviews, it’s also won a Best Cover of the Month award, and won the 2009 P & E Readers’ Poll in the YA category.
The highly acclaimed “It’s Elementary, My Dear Winifred” won a 2009 Top Ten Read at MyShelf.com. It’s slanted for a late summer re-release from Whimsical Publications, with the second in the “Dear Winifred” series planned to be finished late 2010.
She also enjoys writing humor and non-fiction articles. Besides her monthly contributions to the ezine American Chronicle, some of her publications can be found in The Front Porch Magazine, Good Old Days, and Writers Weekly.
Whew! I could go on and on…Miss Mae, welcome to my blog. It’s such an honor to have you guest with me. It’s obvious you have a love for writing, so why novels in particular? Read More