Wednesday, October 31, 2007

[Interview] Elena Dorothy Bowman

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

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

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

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

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

When did you start writing?

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

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

How would you describe your writing ?

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

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

Who is your target audience?

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

What motivated you to start writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you deal with these challenges?

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

Do you write everyday?

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

What is the Gatekeeper's Realm?

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

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

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

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

Which did you enjoy most?

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

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

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

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

What will your next book be about?

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

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

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

How did you get there?

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

How many books have you written so far?

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

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

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Monday, October 29, 2007

[Blog Review] Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize Laureate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Related article:

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

Friday, October 26, 2007

[Interview] Nadia Aidan

Nadia Aidan lives and works on the East Coast in the United States.

In addition to writing erotic romances, she enjoys watching, reading and writing about strong, assertive heroines and is an enduring fan of Fight Girls, Xena, Buffy, and La Femme Nikita.

Enthralled (iUniverse, 2007) is her first published novel.

In a recent interview, Nadia Aidan spoke about her writing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I began writing about a year ago when I was finishing my dissertation, but once I finished my dissertation I didn't look at the novels again. It wasn't until my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer that I began searching for an outlet for the emotional highs and lows of taking care of her.

My mom recently lost her battle to cancer, which gave me the courage to submit my work. My mother was (and continues to be in spirit) my biggest cheerleader and support system. She was a strong, courageous woman who wasn't afraid of anything, and she raised me to be the same. I know she would have been disappointed in me if I let insecurity and fear stop me from submitting my work. So that is really how I ended up becoming a writer, and the journey has been amazing.

How would you describe your writing?

I write erotic romance, and within that genre my themes fall under multicultural/interracial, contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi and historical.

My target audience includes professional women between the ages of 25 and 45, but I know when I write I am writing to anyone that enjoys romance with spice!

It is funny that you ask what motivated me to begin writing erotic romance because many of my mentors started writing because they became frustrated with a lack of this or too much of that. The same is true of me. I wanted to see more interracial and multicultural erotic romance novels so I figured if that is what I wanted then I needed to write it myself!

How else have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

My personal life has made me more driven to succeed in my career as a writer. It has also forced me to be more diligent in setting aside time to devote to writing and marketing my novels.

The biggest challenge I run across is not always writer's block because the thoughts are there but the will to write isn't.

I try to prevent myself from getting stuck in that type of rut by setting a 10,000-word per week writing goal. As a writer you can set whatever writing goal you want but 10,000 words per week works for me. The great thing about setting a weekly goal and not a daily goal (which is what I used to do) is that some days I may not write at all whereas others I may write all day.

I used to set a daily goal of 1,500 words per day but I hated it because I would force myself to write on the days I didn't want to and then later end up having to scrap all of it or revise a lot of it. The weekly goal has worked for me and it keeps me from hating to sit down at the computer.

What would you say your novel, Enthralled, is about?

Enthralled, from iUniverse, is my first published novel:

Strong willed and beautiful, Candace, Queen of the Amazonian planet Kush, is used to fighting battles, giving orders and subservient men. From birth she is taught the art of war and that men are the enemy. What she hates more than a man is a domineering man!

With a body as powerful as a god's, the heir to the Akkadian throne is far from subservient. A man of honor, Ares is all masculine dominance!

When war tears their planets apart, the two are faced with entering into a marriage contract in order to save their kingdoms and their people. Forced into a marriage neither wants, at every turn the two warriors clash as they battle for dominance. But what begins as a marriage of convenience quickly turns into something more as they fight their growing passion and hunger for each other.

The ultimate challenge comes when they are forced to forsake their old beliefs for a chance at a future together.

How long did it take you to write the novel?

Because I stopped and started, it took me over a year to finish Enthralled, but nowadays it can take me a day to finish a first draft of a novella and about a week to finish a short novel (approx 50,000 words). With my current writing schedule I am much more productive than I was in the past.

When you were writing the novel, what did you find most difficult?

Getting the mechanics and dialogue right. It took several drafts for me to find my voice and to stop making beginner mistakes like head hopping and talking from awkward POVs [point of views].

I enjoyed creating another world. I love fantasy so I had a ball developing another universe and just really stretching the limits of reality because it was a work of fantasy.

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

My voice in this novel is very different from my subsequent books, which are contemporaries and historical, mainly because I can't take so many liberties as I did in Enthralled. I have to remain true to the time period and the dialogue.

Of course the erotic elements are still there! Also, while my voice may have shifted my writing style is still consistent.

What will your next book be about?

I am working on a five-book contemporary series titled Friends and Lovers. The first title, Sweet Revenge, is currently under review with an editor and hopefully it will be released in the next few months. Sweet Revenge is actually the first book I ever wrote so it is very dear to my heart

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

Seeing Enthralled receive good reviews has turned out to represent a tremendous accomplishment to me. And while I don't believe good reviews validate my work, it does make me feel like at least there is someone out there who enjoyed reading my book, and if there is one then maybe there are others!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

[Interview] Kate Hofman

Kate Hofman was born in The Netherlands. She lived in England for a few years before moving to Canada where she now lives and works.

This year alone, she has published seven romance novels, among them, A Greek Love Story (Romance At Heart, 2007), Castle in Spain (The Dark Castle Lords, 2007), Navajo Dreams (Romance At Heart, 2007), Greek Fire (Romance At Heart, 2007) and A Sensual Seduction (Romance At Heart, 2007).

Two more novels, A Greater Love (Romance at Heart, November/December 2007) and The Spanish Conquest (AweStruck EBooks, February 2008) are going to be released soon.

In a recent interview, she spoke about her writing.

When did you start writing?

On April 22, 2002. The romance author Nina Bruhns, for whom I do Internet publicity, said that I should write. I was very surprised, but decided to try it, and found that she was right. Writing came easy to me.

I’ll also tell you my most daunting moment: when I sat down in front of that blank page on my computer. I remember thinking, I must be mad to think I can do this. And then I thought, Nina thinks you can. Do it! And, slowly, I began to type WILL AND KIKI (right from the start I titled all my books with the names of the protagonists. Later, when I got published, I had to think of actual titles -- which I am lousy at…) I remember looking at my watch as I began to type WILL AND KIKI.

It was five o’clock.

By one o’clock that morning, I had 13 pages of close-typed script. Not all of it good, mind you! I did a lot of revising, rewrites, deleting, you name it, I did it. But I had a strange feeling that I could do this.

This year alone, you've published seven books. How did this happen?

I had been writing in happy obscurity for about five years, when one of my friends, the writer Jennifer Mueller (a fabulous writer!) said to me, You should submit something to a publisher. I doubted I was ready for that, but I had written 25 books in the five years since April 2002, and Jennifer persuaded me to submit.

In November, 2006, I submitted a book to Awe-Struck, and three books to Romance At Heart, intending to give RAH a choice. To my intense surprise, they accepted all three.

Later, I heard that Awe-Struck, too, had accepted the book I submitted.

In the writing that you're doing, who would you say has influenced you the most?

Rose Brungard, the publisher of Romance At Heart. We had become friends when she wrote reviews of Nina Bruhns’s books. One day she asked me if I wrote, and I said, Well, um…uh… She asked me to send her something, and I did. She pointed out what was good, what needed improvement, what I should avoid, and so on. My book Navajo Dreams which came out in May 2007, was our first collaboration.

How would you describe your writing?

I write contemporary, sensual romance.

Who is your target audience?

People who like what I write.

I prefer to write about Alpha males, mostly Mediterranean, with a preference for Spanish and Greek heroes. There was one exception: A Navajo painter who falls, slowly, in love with a tourist he met at the Grand Canyon.

I think the genre chose me, it wasn’t a conscious choice. My first book was partly auto-biographical, and I found myself writing about a very happy time in my twenties. Add a stunning man who fell in love with me (which was entirely mutual) and I was writing romance.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

When you are writing romance, you have a hero, a heroine, and certain circumstances. How to vary these enough to keep the book fresh, not a copy of the others, that can be a challenge. Particularly the love scenes. When you write sensual romance, you can’t spill over into erotica to make things ‘different’.

You have the same two people, a bed, or a meadow, or the hearth-rug, or the bedroom in a private plane… but they do, invariably, what the others have done before them. I do my best not to get repetitive, but it can be quite a challenge.

How do I deal with this? Mostly by remembering my previous books, to make sure I stay well clear from the exact-same circumstances. If I have an uneasy feeling that this is somewhat deja vu, I re-read the book I think was similar.

That helps me stay away from too much similarity in circumstances which are so very similar.

What are you working on at present?

The Greek Prince’s Love Affair, a book that describes Prince Leiandros in exile in France -- first on the Riviera, then in Paris -- in 1949, when the Greek civil war 1946-48 had just ended. Some extremist elements had put a price on the Prince’s head. He meets Genevieve de Villiers, an archaeologist, and suggests she might be interested in a ruin close by his home in Greece. He is careful not to say castle, because he wants her to be interested in him, the man, not the Prince. They fall deeply in love...

It isn’t finished yet!

It will be published by The Dark Castle Lords. It’s a good fit for them and me. They like historicals, which I don’t usually write, but they also like castles, and this definitely is about a castle, a ruin, etc.

There are decided advantages in finding publishers for whom you are a good fit. I have that with Romance At Heart and The Dark Castle Lords.

What sets The Greek Prince’s Love Affair apart from the other things you've written?

That’s easy... I had never before written anything but contemporary. This time, I am writing 1949. It makes a lot of difference.

In what way is it similar?

It is similar because it is a love story. They meet, meet again by accident, begin to fall in love, trying to keep the details a little different every time, but the similarity is there. Then the difficulties put into their paths, and how they deal with them, triumphing, of course.

What did you find most difficult when you started working on the book?

This was my first ‘historical’ -- admittedly only going back to 1949, but it meant constantly checking: was this or that available in 1949? For instance, they have mineral water. In Paris, in 1949, what mineral water? You have to check, and I discovered in April 1949, a few months before the beginning of this book, Vichy brought out their Celestins water. Eureka!

It is difficult for someone living in 2007 to imagine a time without cell phones, freezers, microwaves, to mention but a few. So you’re not only writing the book, you’re constantly on the qui vive: Did they have this, then?

Another example, when Lee and Genevieve begin their love affair (I didn’t want an unexpected baby in this book) what contraceptives were there? Ah! the diaphragm! Condoms are reported to have been unreliable in those days.

I deal with these difficulties by Googling. I doubt I would even have started this book if it hadn’t been possible to find details of the most esoteric things in Google.

Do you write every day?

Yes, I write every day. The only exception was when my sister was dying. All my thoughts were for her.

I go to my computer with my first cup of coffee, check my emails and answer them. Then comes the good part, I go to Word and find my present book. I read over the last few pages and start writing. I usually forget to eat, but eventually I become aware that I’m hungry, and I stop at the first convenient place. This goes on, with frequent checks of the emails. I have no set times for working, stopping. I keep writing until I feel I’ve set down everything that was in my head. I am a widow, so my time is my own.

What has been your most enjoyable experience as a writer?

I think my first most enjoyable moment was when I mentally wrote ‘The End’ after finishing my first book. That feeling of accomplishment wears a little thin after 27½ books.

My next ‘high’ came when Rose Brungard of Romance At Heart emailed me that they would accept the three books I had sent them.

I printed her email up!

My final ‘high’ was when Rose gave me the url to a site she had made for me: There were all my books, the covers shown, a brief synopsis, the review sites, with brief quotations from the reviews…

What will your next book be about?

About two people who meet, and fall in love.

Hopefully I can make the circumstances as different as possible.

Usually, a new book begins to ask for my attention when I’m about three chapters from the end of my present book.

Sometimes the temptation is too great, and I’ll write a quick synopsis (which I’ll deviate from on p. 2, I know that already). Sometimes I even go so far as to quickly start Ch 1, to see if this will work. Only once it didn’t, that was my tenth book, which does not exist any more. It richly deserved the Delete button.

Oddly enough, the book I wrote in its place is one of my favorites.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Monday, October 22, 2007

[Blog Review] The Mind of a Working Writer

Emmanuel Sigauke teaches English at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento and is one of the Cosumnes River Journal's editors. He is also founder and editor of Munyori Poetry Journal, which publishes poems by established and emerging writers from all over the world.

His own poems and other writings have been published in journals and magazines that include Virtual Writer, Slow Trains Journal, Ibhuku and AfricanWriter.com.

His blogs, Wealth of Ideas, Chisiya Echoes: New Zimbabwe Poetry and Namatsiwangu give an insight into the mind of a working writer.

Chisiya Echoes is the oldest of the three and is a collection of over 370 poems in English that Sigauke has been writing since February 2006. The second blog, Namatsiwangu, was started in November 2006 and is made up of 10 Shona poems.

Wealth of Ideas, which is the focus of this article, is three months old. So far, it has about 20 posts of varying length. The posts focus on Sigauke's observations on African literature and poetry.

One of the things that make Wealth of Ideas interesting is that it shows how a working writer can use the blog as a creative tool, as an aid to writing and creativity.

For example, in one of his posts, Sigauke tells us, "I blog my poetry first, which means I create and publish my work instantaneously".

He emphasizes that the poems he creates in this manner are drafts.

"I am aware that this is some form of drafting. I always transfer the work to a local document for editing. Once the poem sounds polished, I send it to journals," he says.

He points out that one of the effects this has had on his work is that it has allowed him to produce more poetry than he would have done had he not been blogging.

"Look at the blogged pieces as the raw materials for high-quality poetry," he says.

Wealth of Ideas also reveals the link that exists between visual images and poetry.

The blog has a small collection of photographs, one of these is of a bird's nest on a tree in Capitol Park, Sacramento. Sigauke's brief comment about the nest reads and sounds like a poem. It has the rhythm, the rhyme and the effect of a poem.

"The nest is a poem that no words (even these) can build yet. But what bird, under what influence, would build a nest this close to the ground?" he asks.

Another of the things that is engaging about Wealth of Ideas is that Sigauke uses it as a writer's notebook or a journal. This gives the reader the feeling of eavesdropping, the feeling of listening in to a person talking to himself, the feeling of watching a mind brainstorming about literature, books, poetry and life.

You see ideas being formed. You see those ideas giving birth to other ideas and possibilities. You get the feeling you are standing over his shoulders and watching him write and you want to tell him, "This sounds good... What happens next?"

One of the reason why Sigauke's blog entries have this effect is because they are short and packed with concepts, associations and allusions.

For example, in another post he starts off by talking about reading, about how he reads and about the effect that this has on him as a writer. He then talks about John Steinbeck's description of a fog in The Chrysanthemums and the associations he has been able to make between that description and an event in his own life.

"I am taken back to Chipinge or Rusitu valley; I am reminded of the morning fog there, especially on that day when I arrived at Chipinge bus terminus and found out that all the day's buses had already left and the next troupe of buses would not arrive until the next day. I slept at the bus rank in the rain. All night I shivered; all night I shared a talk about life with a vendor from Bulawayo who had slept at this place too many times to worry about a little bit of rain."

If you have been to Zimbabwe or some other parts of Africa, Asia or South America, the scene Sigauke describes will be familiar. You want him to go on. You want to find out how it was for him. You want to find out what happened next.

He does go on in his own inimitable way.

"The fog is what I remember most about the morning of the night the rain pounded me at Chipinge. To the east of the town lie mountain ranges which seem to guard the town from some possible intrusion. On the morning I watched the fog first veiling the ranges, these sleeping lions, then the veil rose to cover the whole valley like the lid Steinbeck describes. It gets better; when the sun arose, the fog vanished, but then some low-lying beastly clouds settled on the peaks of the mountains and spent some hours feasting on the ranges. The longer I looked at the white beasts, the longer the bus delay seemed. I did not leave Chipinge until a day later, after spending another night at the open terminus, soaked on the outside, arid inside. Then from somewhere between insistent night rain and greedy beastly clouds, the self harvested new hope, the beginning of a new journey, already bruised by the grazing clouds."

His account is captivating. It leaves you wanting more. It makes you want to pat Sigauke on the shoulder to get his attention so that you can tell him to go back to it and work on it a little bit more and see if he can't turn it into a short story or a piece of creative non-fiction piece stands on its own.

All this is part of what's positive about Emmanuel Sigauke's blog, Wealth of Ideas.

However, possibly because he sees the blog as a personal platform for ideas he wants to gather and work on later, a personal platform that happens to be accessible to everyone who has access to the internet... possibly because he sees himself as more of a poet than a blogger, Wealth of Ideas doesn't have the polished feel of his poetry blogs, Chisiya Echoes and Namatsiwangu.

The paragraphing could be tweaked up a little bit more.

The blog is also riddled with spelling mistakes and other typographical errors. This is understandable. It's a common pitfall of writing on the huff. But if errors of this nature can't be avoided, you can at least go back to the entries and correct them later. Sigauke does not seem inclined to do that. For example, in a different post he tells us he's been reading Dambudzo Marechera's Symetry of Mind when he meant to say Cemetery of Mind.

The most challenging aspect of the blog is also one which sets it apart from a lot of other blogs that talk about literature and writing: Sigauke's tendency to make very short entries that are densely packed with allusions to a diverse range of concepts. The thing I found particularly challenging about these is that Sigauke does not really define the concepts or adequately relate them to the main topic of each blog entry.

For example, in one of his most recent posts, he writes about Valerie Tagwira's novel, The Uncertainty of Hope. He suggests that there is conflict between the language(s) Tagwira uses in the novel and the message behind the novel. He says this leads to writing that is "a bit journalistic or anthropological."

This is an intriguing observation but it's so raw and undeveloped that a person reading the comment can only respond to it with more questions, questions like, "When a novel is "a bit journalistic" or "anthropological" what does it do? What does it not do? In what way is The Uncertainty of Hope "journalistic" or "anthropological". Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Why?"

Sigauke has promised to answer these and other questions in the book review he's going to write after he finishes reading the novel. I look forward to reading the review with as much interest as I look forward to more of the entries he will make on Wealth of Ideas.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Related article:

[Interview] Rory Kilalea, film-maker, playwright and author, Conversations with Writers, September 21, 2007.

Friday, October 19, 2007

[Interview] Caroline Pitcher

Caroline Pitcher has written over 60 books which range from stories for small children to novels for young adults.

She says she started writing because she’s always loved words and stories, especially those about the natural world and its creatures.

“One of my favorite books was The Tailor of Gloucester, a re-telling by Beatrix Potter of a legend. As soon as I was able, I wrote poems and stories of my own and illustrated them (dreadfully).”

Her mother and her primary and high school teachers encouraged her writing.

After high school, she went on to the University of Warwick where she studied English and European Literature. There, her tutors included Professor George Hunter, Germaine Greer, Gaye Clifford, Bernard Bergonzi and Edward Thompson.

One of them told her that she wrote very well and should become a professional writer.

“That meant a lot to me,” she says, in an interview with the English Subject Centre.

After university, Caroline Pitcher worked in places that included a fish factory, an art gallery and as a teacher in an East London primary school.

“I had a variety of jobs after university and wrote whenever I could.”

Her first novel, Diamond (Floris Books, 1988), won the Kathleen Fidler Award in 1985 and was published two years later.

“Now I have between sixty and seventy books published, and various awards and short-listings.”

Other awards she's won include the 1993 Independent Story of the Year Award for Kevin the Blue; the Arts Council Writers' Award for Silkscreen (Heinemann Young Books, 2002) and the East Midlands Arts Award for Cloud Cat (Egmont Books, 2005).

Books which have been short-listed in competitions include Cloud Cat, which was also shortlisted for the Stockton Children's Book Award and was Ottakar's Book of the Month; Ghost in the Glass (Mammoth, 2001), which was short-listed for the Portsmouth Award; Silkscreen, which was also nominated for the Carnegie Medal; The Winter Dragon (Frances Lincoln, 2005), which was nominated for the Greenaway Award; Time of the Lion (Frances Lincoln Childrens Books, 1999), which was nominated for the English Association's 4-11 Award and The Snow Whale (Antique Collectors' Club; New Ed edition, 1999), which was nominated for the Children's Book Award.

She says her immediate concern is to write the story well for herself.

“The second is to engage with my audience, which can be small children through to young adults.

“I worked with children for 12 years in London and often meet them at festivals, writer visits and residencies. I love their fresh, unpredictable responses, and their enthusiasm.”

Her latest novel, The Shaman Boy was published by Egmont Books in July, this year.

“It is 480 pages long and has fantastic illustrations by David Wyatt of the creatures and characters in the `seeing-ball’.

“The story has various sources, such as the conflict in Bosnia, a face full of compassion I have seen in a painting, and an image of a man walking up a hillside wearing a cloak of snow. There is a bakery in the book. Many of my books contain descriptions of food.”

In 11 o’clock Chocolate Cake (Egmont Books, 2002), for example, there are even recipes.

The Shaman Boy tells the story of Luka -- who is blind and who gets through the disasters in his life through the power of his imagination, through friendship and through music -- and his older brother, Jez. The action in the novel takes place in a land that’s being torn open by war.

“The book falls into four parts concerned with the four seasons, four elements and four power animals for Luka’s shape-shifting,” Pitcher explains. “The first part won an East Midlands Arts Award.”

She adds that the story which makes up The Shaman Boy doesn't fall easily into any one genre.

“It has humor, sadness, strong characters, old magic, the superstition of an isolated community, and fear.

“The natural world plays a central part, just as it did when I was a child.”

She reveals that she’s had great feedback from young readers and adults as well as from teachers who’ve read the novel to their classes, some of whom were as young as 7 years old.

The Shaman Boy pre-occupied me for at least four years.

“Now I am writing more stories for picture books, a young adult bodice-ripper set in eighteenth century Derbyshire, and an adult fairytale.”

She explains that she's working in such diverse genres because she finds the exercise inspiring.

“I don’t like to write the same kind of book over and over again because I like variety.

“This is probably a bad career move in today’s market of series books! However, I keep my head down and write what I want,” Caroline Pitcher says.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

[Interview] L. Diane Wolfe

L. Diane Wolfe grew up in Salem, Oregon and traveled around the United States before eventually settling in North Carolina.In addition to being an author, Diane Wolfe is also a professional photographer and a motivational speaker. She conducts regular workshops and seminars on writing, publishing and book promotion.

Her books include The Circle of Friends series of novels for young adults which, so far, is made up of four books: Mike (AuthorHouse, 2007); James (AuthorHouse, 2006); Sarah (AuthorHouse, 2005) and Lori (AuthorHouse, 2004).

In a recent interview, Diane Wolfe spoke about her writing.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

My current series falls under young adult fiction. Previously, all of my writing had been science fiction... but when I discovered I had a growing teen fan base, I shifted the focus to young adults. I had never intended to write anything in this genre, especially since my first love is science fiction, but I was inspired to write realistic stories that portrayed healthy relationship dynamics. The YA section tends to have rather salacious material, and I wanted to give teen readers something that was positive and uplifting.

My biggest concern is in how teens and their parents perceive the message of my work. I want them to realize that real people do the wrong things sometimes, but all mistakes can be corrected and obstacles overcome with the right attitude.

Who has influenced you the most?

I’ve always been a reader, devouring several books a week. The desire to write sparked inside of me when I read Anne McCaffrey’s The White Dragon. I’d already fallen in love with science fiction, but what I admired most in her book was the richness of character.

Motivational writers such as Og Mandino, Norman Vincent Peale and Gary Chapman influenced the positive focus of my work.

Have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

Most definitely! I learned so much reading books that taught relationship, success and positive mental attitude principles, and I poured a great deal of that into my current series. My own moral standards of faith are very evident in what I write as well.

I feel there is enough out there promoting negative, destructive and deviant behavior already. What the world needs is more hope!

What are the biggest challenges that you face? And, how do you deal with them?

Optimism is a tough sell! The media wants the salacious, controversial news. It’s difficult to promote a series that is secular but moral.

For one, I just continue to hold fast to my resolve and refuse to sell out my standards just to move a few more books. While enticing the teen audience, I try to capture their parent’s attention with the wholesomeness of my series.

Do you write everyday?

I do try to write everyday, but during my peak promotion times, it is difficult.

Some days I will spend several hours on a scene, especially if I am “in the mode”, and other days it’s only twenty minutes.

How long did it take you to write Mike?

Mike follows a character that was very prominent in Book II. Mike is the epitome of stability and despite the temptations of college life, he has maintained his moral standards. Yet beneath the peaceful surface, Mike is consumed with guilt. A former girlfriend’s abortion and the intense love he feels for his roommate’s wife constantly remind Mike of his failures. Unable to forget and full of shame, he refuses to forgive himself. When Danielle enters his life, he realizes he can no longer hide his past.

Book IV took me a little over a year to complete, due to the fact I was heavily touring for Book II at the time, and was published in March of 2007.

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

Several of my books followed characters through college, so accurately presenting each campus experience was a challenge. Research into settings is always the most difficult for me.

Which did you enjoy most?

The character development is the most fun! I have studied personality types in depth, so knowing what personality a character possessed took the guesswork out of their response to situations. Relationship dynamics fascinate me and it’s interesting to place the characters in different situations and watch them respond.

What sets the Mike apart from the other books you have written?

To start with, the entire series was a departure from my science fiction work. Mike probably has a much stronger emphasis on faith that the other books. It has also been the one men have responded to best, which tells me I am portraying a male character accurately.

In what way is it similar?

All of my work is encouraging and positive. I show realistic people responding to situations, adversity and obstacles with the desire to do the right thing.

What will your next book be about?

I will be completing the series with Book V: Heather. Her character is evident in the first two books and I had many requests for her story. She is bold, dominating and a bit overbearing. Her story will explain her selfish nature. It will also show her overcoming this negative personality trait.

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

For me, it is the response from fans and readers. They are so encouraged by my series! I wrote The Circle of Friends in hopes of inspiring others to achieve their dreams, and knowing I have made a difference in other’s lives is true success to me.

The work I have done in promoting my series, along with research into starting my own publishing company, has allowed me to become a paid speaker on these subjects as well. It is a delight to be able to pass along the knowledge gained through my experiences to others.

How did you get there?

Hard work and determination helped me acquire those achievements. I have never lost my enthusiasm and persistently pursued my goals without compromising my standards. And if I can do it, then I know other writers can achieve their dreams, too!

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Monday, October 15, 2007

[Interview] Steven M. Reilly

Steven M. Reilly is a practicing attorney, a baseball coach and an author.

Since 1976, he has coached Babe Ruth, Senior Babe Ruth and American Legion teams in Connecticut's Lower Naugatuck Valley. He has also spent the last 20 years assisting high school coaches. Schools he has been involved with include Derby High School; Emmett O'Brien Regional Vocational Technical School and Seymour High School.

His book, The Fat Lady Never Sings tells the story of the 1992 Derby Red Raiders and has been described as "a marvelous adaptation from an exciting era... which blends emotion, humor and ultimate success."

In a recent interview, Steve Reilly spoke about his writing.

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

My writing so far has been of a true story that I was fortunate to be a part of. I think even if I decided to write fiction, I would likely use my personal experiences at least as a starting point. I believe it would be hard to avoid unless I decided to write science fiction or a vampire novel. I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek... TNG [The Next Generation], Voyager and Enterprise episodes (probably all of them) but they never motivated me to write a science fiction novel. I’ve never experienced warp nine point five, but baseball is something else.

For example, before writing this interview, I just got back from coaching a fall baseball team in a scrimmage against a neighboring town. The only thing that stopped the game is the fact the sun went down. I think the events of that one scrimmage, without any umpires and the kids calling balls and strikes and making out and safe calls themselves and the personalities of everyone involved is a compelling enough story. But that’s just me. Perhaps no one may want to buy the book about that game, but I would love to tell the story and I’ll bet you’d listen, unless you just flat out hate baseball or stories about teenage kids.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I decided only very recently. In my case it was simply the desire to write a memoir concerning a remarkable group of high school athletes which I helped coach back in 1991 in my then home town of Derby, Connecticut.

Derby, is the smallest city in the State of Connecticut. Like the town of Odessa, Texas described in the book Friday Night Lights, high school football was everything in Derby for many years. Up until the 1991 season, Derby had not had a losing season in twenty-eight years. That streak ended on Thanksgiving day 1991. After blowing the streak, the football players, were labeled losers forever.

Three seniors on that football team, including the quarterback, also played on the school’s baseball team. One of the seniors was the Mayor’s son and almost all of the other players on the baseball team played football. The head coach of the baseball team was also an assistant football coach who was also battling his own difficulty.

Their last chance at redemption was playing on the baseball team. Two of the Seniors were pitchers. The smallest school in the league, Derby battled for and made the state tournament and ultimately, as the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jimmy Valvano would say, they “survived and advanced” to a state championship game.

But the game turned into a nightmare after an early lead disintegrated. The team ended up down by two runs with two outs in the last inning. With two runners in scoring position, the quarterback came to the plate and ultimately got a base hit to tie the game and send it into extras.

The excitement continued as each extra inning resulted in Derby scoring and their adversary tying the game. Complicating matters, a pitching limitation rule forced one of the senior pitchers to return to the mound several innings after being removed. In the eleventh inning (the fourth extra inning) another Derby senior fouled off seven pitches in a row with a three-balls two-strikes two-out count until he ultimately drove in the winning runs. In the bottom of the last inning, Derby’s senior pitcher hung on despite barely being able to pitch.

The fifteenth anniversary of that state championship team was coming up and since no one else ever wrote their story, I decided to write it.

Who is your target audience?

My target audience is a rather large one or at least I’d like to think it is. I believe anyone who has been involved in sports, especially youth sports, whether as a parent, coach, athlete or fan understands the pressure high school athletes face to succeed. In many places, high school sports binds communities. Like the basketball team in the town of Milan, Indiana (in the book and movie Hoosiers), Derby’s football team was always the center of attention in Derby. Imagine what the movie Hoosiers would have been like if the final game went into triple overtime or if the stakes of that final game had been ratcheted up.

The challenges our players and coaches faced and how they faced it motivated me to write the story. My experience with the team dictated the genre.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

As it pertains to writing, no one person stands out in my mind other than my first editor who was gentle enough to encourage me, yet firm enough to make me think about the story I was telling and how I was telling it. Prior to and during my writing of the memoir, I read a ton of books, magazines and web articles about the craft of writing, but it’s not the same as actually writing.

It’s like me as a baseball coach telling you how to throw a curveball or providing you with books and video tapes by baseball gurus. They help, but you still have to go out, take the mound and throw a ton of them in the dirt before any of them resemble a decent pitch. I think writing is the same. You have to keep doing it. To some degree that scares me a bit since I don’t want my first book to be my last, unless of course my book is turned into a movie in which case I’d probably retire to some beach area like Malibu Adjacent and sell ice cream. Hey,“What would that be like?”

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Making sure that what I write is compelling and interesting enough to entertain and inspire.

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

The biggest challenges I face with my writing are simply to get someone to buy it. People will read my book, tell me they love it, but then tell me they got it from somebody else and are passing it on to someone else. I think people love to read books; stories are what life is all about. They just don’t want to pay for them. You know what I’m talking about. Go into any Barnes and Noble or Borders any day of the week and it's like a library with benefits. You can talk all you want and sit and read, at least until the store starts to experiment and slowly pull away the chairs without any music to see how it affects sales.

I’m just as guilty. I went to a Barnes and Noble last night and thumbed through about ten magazines and about ten books, (after checking my book out -- I just can’t help it) but at least I bought two magazines albeit with my wife’s discount card.

I just got back from The Big E, the largest fair in New England. I was one of the featured authors in the Connecticut Author’s and Publisher’s bookstore in the Connecticut Building. I had used a prop which was a gigantic baseball glove made by Academa. I met hundreds of people, many of whom loved baseball, pitched my book, allowed many of them or their kids to have a picture taken with the gigantic glove, talked to them about how Jason Giambi of the Yankees could use it or how the Red Sox catcher could snag Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball easier with it, but... in five hours, only sold four books. To sell those four books was a challenge.

From everything I’ve read and learned about writing and publishing, it seems as if the secret is to get the book published in New York but market it in Hollywood. If you can get a celebrity to endorse it, any celebrity, even My Life on the D-list Kathy Griffin, I believe your book will outsell over ninety percent of them out there.

How do you deal with these challenges?

By trying to be doggedly persistent. (Also I’m trying to write an adapted screenplay based on the book.)

Do you write everyday?

In my day job as a solo practicing lawyer, I do quite a bit of writing, just not of the entertaining type. Most of my writing on my first book was done late at night -- about an hour and a half -- sometime after Leno/Letterman (No offense to Conan meant) and longer on weekends/holidays, unless I got interrupted by a great classic on TCM.

It took me about six to seven weeks to write the first draft and then about a year and a half to have it professionally critiqued, edited and proofread. I wanted to finish the book before I turned fifty (another goal of mine that helped me push harder to complete it).

I read everything I could about the publishing field and its inherent delays as well as other options. I decided -- after having it critiqued and edited -- to publish it through iUniverse where, after additional editing and proofreading, it ended up being an Editor’s Choice, Reader’s Choice and Publisher’s Choice Book.

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

The editing process by far. Sometimes it felt as if I was dragging my feet in a desert without a compass or a hat. It sucks the life out of you. Each time I looked at all the red lining, arrows and highlighted areas of a draft, it was just a mirage. The end was never really near. But every once in a while, I’d see a new sentence that I created and think, hey that sounds pretty good.

Early on in the process, whenever I sent a draft, I would hear back, “You need more dialogue. You’ve got to have more dialogue.” I felt like I was listening to Christopher Walken on Saturday Night Live. “More cowbell, Steve, more cowbell!”

During my editing process, James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces got trashed when it was discovered he exaggerated some of the events he wrote about. It forced me to do a lot of thinking and research about what actually transpired back in 1991/1992 so that my book was as accurate as I could possibly make it. I can see where Frey probably got tempted and may have convinced himself he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He might have been hearing a similar voice telling him, "More cowbell Jim... It needs more cowbell."

What did you enjoy most?

Writing the first draft. It made me think about the great kids and coaches that I was fortunate enough to have been associated with. The research for the draft, reading a number of newspapers and examining the ton of photographs my wife took that year of the team brought back many pleasant memories.

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

Before my first book, I only wrote in the legal arena trying to be persuasive on the points of law I was arguing in legal briefs; a totally different world of writing.

In what way is it similar?

I guess in both you are trying to get someone to see your point of view. Remember Professor Kingsfield (played by John Housman) in the movie The Paper Chase? (a story about Harvard Law School freshman). Remember his famous quote, “You come here with minds full of mush -- and leave thinking like a lawyer.” I had a old professor once who criticized that statement arguing pretty strenuously that lawyers just think and write like human beings. So in many ways, all of my legal thinking and writing prepared me for the much different publishing world.

What will your next book be about?

I’m beginning to work on a screenplay now for The Fat Lady Never Sings and after finishing that will probably move toward another baseball memoir. I see that another fellow attorney and Myspace friend, John Grisham, is trying his hand at a fictional sports novel, Playing for Pizza... so who knows if I will ever gravitate toward the fiction arena.

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

Seeing the smiles on the faces of the characters in my memoir and talking to them about it at book discussions. The wife of one of the characters in the book told me that I am responsible for the fact she needed to get a new door for their house to fit her husband’s head through it.

I guess second to that would be the fact the book was a finalist in Pubinsider.com’s book contest and has achieved almost every award that iUniverse gives.

How did you get there?

Persistence, persistence and more persistence and a lot of help and advice from some very good people.

Friday, October 12, 2007

[Interview] Nicola Beaumont

Nicola Beaumont writes contemporary romance stories as well as regency romance novels.

Her books include a novel, The Resurrection of Lady Somerset (Wild Rose Press, 2007), a novella, The Lighthouse (Wild Rose Press, 2007) and an inspirational short story, "Hyacinths in Winter" (Wild Rose Press, 2007).

In a recent interview, she spoke about her writing.

How would you describe the writing you do most?

Lovely escapist fiction. Romances are a great way to lose oneself for a time in another story, knowing full-well that there will be a warm-fuzzy "happily ever after."

I write specifically for women between the ages of 18 and 70. However, anyone can enjoy a romance, I believe, and since I write "sweet" romances, there's nothing of what some would call "inappropriate" included.

What motivated you to start writing?

My love of reading the genre and a desire to create the same types of stories.

I seriously decided to try my hand at writing after reading some Harlequin romances. I mistakenly thought they would be easy to pen. In my abysmal first attempts, I discovered two things: Romances are not easy to write -- and, I love writing.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

I'm not easily influenced!

Seriously, I hope that my Christianity is what influences me the most, so that my characters are infused with a high regard for other people, and a love of virtue that helps them conquer whatever conflicts they are dealing with in their created worlds.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Always, my main concern is writing an interesting sustainable story with complex characters that are both flawed and able to overcome.

The biggest challenge I face in writing is creating believable characters with whom readers will sympathize. Creating contrived situations and dialogue is easy -- making it "feel" real is the challenge.

How do you deal with these challenges?

As I write a scene, I picture it in my mind as if I'm watching it unfold, and I allow the character to grow and change beyond my initial thought for who they should be.

Do you write every day?

I used to write every day. Now, with my other responsibilities, I don't have time to write each day, but I do set goals and deadlines for myself to keep on track.

As far as fiction, I've had two novels published: The Resurrection of Lady Somerset, a traditional regency romance which was published in September 2007 by The Wild Rose Press [and] The Lighthouse, an inspirational novella that was also published in September 2007 by The Wild Rose Press.

I can tell you, I was very excited when I was told both books would be released on the same day! It's a rarity, and one for which I'm very grateful.

I also have an inspirational short story that was published in July 2007 by The Wild Rose Press, entitled "Hyacinths in Winter." It's a story of mistakes and forgiveness.

How long did it take you to write your debut novel?

The Resurrection of Lady Somerset took me a couple of months to write. The most difficult aspect of this book was also the most enjoyable -- I love a challenge -- and that aspect was writing a mute heroine. It's a challenge to create conflict and tension when one of the main characters can't vocalize her own concerns.

Every author has a unique voice, and I think that regardless of genre, that voice comes through in whatever they write. Hopefully, my voice, shines in all my work.

The Resurrection of Lady Somerset was my first Regency. Wanting to write it was the catalyst for me to research and learn about the time period -- a period I now love -- I think as a "first" it will always hold a special place in my heart.

What will your next book be about?

I'm working on a couple of things -- a Christian Regency novella and a traditional regency full-length book.

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

My most significant achievement as a writer was finishing my first book. It was an awful specimen that will never see the light of day, but if I hadn't finished it, I wouldn't have gone on to write more, hone my talents, and finally pen something that was actually entertaining.

The only way to learn how to write is to write -- and listen to constructive criticism.

This article was first published on OhmyNews International.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

[Interview] Kate Rigby

In addition to writing novels, Kate Rigby has also had several short stories published in various publications including several in Skrev's magazine for experimental fiction, Texts' Bones.

Her novels include Fall of The Flamingo Circus (Allison & Busby 1990); Seaview Terrace (Skrev 2003); Sucka! (Skrev 2004); Break Point (Skrev 2006) and Thalidomide Kid (Bewrite 2007).

In a recent interview, she spoke about her writing.

How would you describe the writing that you are doing?

[I write] contemporary literary fiction, mainly [for] adults, although as I sometimes have teenaged or child protagonists, I like to think there's crossover appeal too.

I've often be told that my writing doesn't easily fit into one genre.

Do you write everyday?

I try and write as often as possible, but my personal circumstances and health are making it difficult at present to write as much as I used to. I'm hoping this will change in the next few months or so.

When I'm working on a novel, say, I try and jot down notes or phrases as cues for the next session, so that I can pick up the flow where I left off. I try and end a session at an inspiring point so it's easier to pick up the thread next time!

What is your latest book about? How did you chose a publisher for the book?

My latest book is about a boy called Daryl affected by the Thalidomide tragedy (he has no arms) and the way he copes with his disability through humor (he calls himself 'Thalidomide Kid'). At the heart of the story is the burgeoning romance between Daryl and the deputy head's daughter, Celia, and the pains and prejudice they face in a 70s school setting.

It took me two or three years to write it, and when I submitted it to Bewrite [Books] they accepted it for publication. It was published in 2007. My sister designed the cover, and my brother worked on the graphics side so it was a joint family effort. This is one of the things I liked about Bewrite. They also offer more opportunities for writers to get published while still being selective.

I was a bit cautious at first because there are some Print on Demand publishers who should be avoided but the Bewrite team were very happy to go through any queries/concerns I had and I am very pleased with the professionalism and production shown by the team. Some people might find it a disadvantage not appearing in book shops, or not having the heavy marketing that often comes with a new release but Bewrite's books can be ordered from most book shops, and they're also one of the few publishers at the forefront of the new technology, publishing all books in an electronic format too.

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

I did find it a challenge writing about a disability about which I have no direct personal experience, and was a bit worried about what the reaction might be. But part of being a writer is getting under the skin of a character who may be a different gender, age, sexuality or dis/ability to yourself.

Which did you enjoy most?

The way Daryl's jaunty character and upbeat attitude to life took over the momentum of the book.

What sets Thalidomide Kid apart from the other things you have written?

I think there's a stronger plot line in this novel than some of my others. A lot of my work tends to be character-driven.

In what way is it similar?

That's difficult because I do try and make each piece of work different from what went before, but I think the retro setting and the teenaged protagonist with some problem to overcome is a common theme.

What will your next book be about?

That's still under wraps until it's completed, but suffice to say it has another teenager at its heart with a very unusual upbringing! I've also drawn on my psychology background for parts of the story.

What are your main concerns as a writer? And, how do you deal with them?

The decline in independent publishers, book sales and fiction reading as a leisure activity concern me. Nowadays your work has to be commercially viable and fit easily into a market.

Fifteen or twenty years ago it was much easier to get a book published and to find an agent. Now you are lucky if they reply at all. This is in part due to more and more writers chasing fewer traditional outlets. These challenges face all writers, but the internet has opened up new and different opportunities for writers.

I think it's important to hang on to the positives and keep having self-belief. There are such things as positive rejections when editors take the trouble to give you constructive feedback rather than a standard letter. Support from other writers is also essential for beating off demoralization and isolation.

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

For me personally I'd say getting to grips with technology and overcoming my natural technophobia is one of my biggest challenges! The other is having the right conditions and a quiet place to write which has been very difficult in the last few years.

How do you deal with these challenges?

Not very well! Technologically I'm probably several years behind most people -- I don't have state-of the-art equipment, more like state of the ark. But making money from writing (in order to upgrade my Mac) is another challenge that all but the most successful writers face.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I never consciously decided to be a writer, although I always enjoyed writing stories as a child. When I was eighteen or nineteen I decided to write a novel as I had something I wanted to write. My mother had written at least one novel, and so it didn't seem a daunting thing to do. She was a member of a writing group so I used to pick her brains for tips and techniques!

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

There's no one person, but a few of the authors who've inspired me include Paul Magrs, Jane Gardam, Ali Smith, Daithidh MacEochaidh, Mo Foster, Nick Hornby and Helen Dunmore.

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

They say write about what you know and I think this is also true for me to some extent, but a lot of writing is about the power if the imagination and imagining possibilities which may not be directly from your own experience.

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

I think there's nothing like getting your book accepted for publication for the first time and seeing it in the shops.

How did you get there?

I suppose it comes down to that well-worn adage: 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration.

Tell us a little bit more about the five books you’ve published.

Fall of The Flamingo Circus (Allison & Busby 1990) is told in diary form and is about a troubled but feisty young girl growing up in the punk era. (Also published in American Hardback 1990).

Seaview Terrace (Skrev 2003) takes place in a seaside resort one sizzling summer and is about the fragile relationships between neighbours, and the passions and prejudices that arise when so many disparate personalities live in close quarters.

Sucka! (Skrev 2004) is about a life long and mutually-dependent friendship between two men, beginning in Liverpool in the sixties when they are children: one recently bereaved and looking for a substitute brother, and the other a trouble maker from a violent background but looking to improve himself.

Break Point (Skrev 2006) is not only about an obsession with Wimbledon but the game of tennis itself becomes a metaphor for the other matches taking place at old Gwen's house, where carers fall like seeds, and only those with the deadliest return of serve may survive to the final.

Thalidomide Kid (Bewrite 2007) is (hopefully) a life-affirming tale about coping with disability and the passage of childhood into puberty in a 1970s school culture.

This article was first published on OhmyNews International.

Monday, October 8, 2007

[Interview] Glen H. Stassen

Peace activist and award-winning author, Glen H. Stassen is the Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

His books include Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, which he co-authored with David Gushee (InterVarsity, 2003) and went on to win the Christianity Today Award for Best Book of 2004 in Theology or Ethics.

Other awards he has received include the 1983 Peace and Justice Award from The Peace and Justice Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville as well as the 1991 Clarence Jordan Peace and Justice Award from the Long Run Baptist Association of Louisville.

In a recent interview, Professor Glen Stassen -- who is also the author of Living the Sermon on the Mount (Jossey Bass: July, 2006) and Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace (Westminster/John Knox, 1992) -- spoke about his writing.

How and when did you decide to become a writer?

When I saw that the world needs correction, especially in its ethics of peace and war.

I began as a nuclear physicist, saw the growing threat of nuclear weapons, decided we didn't need better bombs but better ethics so the bombs would not explode us all. So I switched to becoming a Christian ethicist, specializing in peacemaking.

I [now] write on ethics and peacemaking, and also on method in ethics -- how to do Christian ethics in a way that is helpful to real people.

I write some books and articles for people, [for the general reader] and others for scholars. Mostly Christian ethics, with special interest in peacemaking, and in how to think well, ethically.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

To connect with people's real concerns. Logic and vision are easy; expressing them in a way that grabs people is work.

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

My own limitations. How to find the words? How to find the time? How to become just halfway efficient? Way too much to do for a person of minimum efficiency and lack of fluency. What's the word for this thought?

How do you deal with these challenges?

I work on humility and patience and hope.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

John Howard Yoder, James Wm. McClendon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Daniel Day Williams.

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

I began as a nuclear physicist and therefore could not look away from seeing the growing danger personally; many practice denial and prefer not to notice.

I co-led and organized the Duke University civil rights organization when I was a student, and then the Louisville-Jefferson County ecumenical civil rights organization, and Martin Luther King Jr. and the whole civil rights movement shaped me significantly.

Before that, American Friends Service Committee work in the struggle with poverty in Philadelphia shaped my basic sensitivities and loyalties markedly. My work leading the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign's work with the European Peace Movement leaders that got rid of all medium-range nuclear missiles, which was key to ending the Cold War peacefully, gave great encouragement that we citizens, when linked together in groups, can make a huge difference. So did participation in the civil rights movement.

Do you write everyday?

No; I do research and write paragraphs as I get ideas; and then put it together in a long-lasting burst of concentration when I put other tasks aside.

How do you research your books?

I've worked inter-disciplinarily, in international relations theory as well as in Christian ethics, so as to be able to do ethics with critical awareness of changes in international relations.

What would you say your latest book is about?

Peace Action: Past, Present, and Future learns from the fifty years of SANE, Freeze, and Peace Action for how to organize effectively, describes Peace Action's current strategies, and describes our unifying vision for correcting the disastrous unilateralism of present policies with our program of Real Security Through International Cooperation and Human Rights.

It took only about half a year [to write the book] because of the enthusiasm of our authors and the delightful efficiency of Lawrence Wittner, my co-editor.

We chose [to publish the book through] Paradigm Publishers because we were impressed with the quality of the books they have been publishing, the fit of these books with Peace Action, and Paradigm's ability to get books into popular bookstores. Paradigm has been great in all dimensions of cooperation.

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

No problems, because everyone was so cooperative and responsible; great people to work with

Which aspects of the work that went into the book did you enjoy most?

Sharing with these great folks.

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

It's such a cooperative effort. All the authors have extensive experience in real organizing.

In what way is it similar?

I'm always thinking of ethics not as abstractions, but as guidance for concrete practices that can make a difference.

What will your next book be about?

How to find solid ground in our postmodern time of contending ideologies, dialoging religions, and rapid social change; and from that solid basis how to form an ethics of peace and war grounded on the rock.

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

Developing the new paradigm in Christian ethics, "just peacemaking theory." Writing the award-winning textbook in Christian ethics, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context (InterVarsity Press); discovering the transforming-initiatives structure and meaning of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and its help for the ethics of peacemaking, and publishing it as Living the Sermon on the Mount (Jossey- Bass).

This interview was first published by OhmyNews International.