Tuesday, December 18, 2007

[Interview] Kristen Collier

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

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

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

When did you start writing?

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

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

What did you do to achieve this end?

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

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

How would you describe your writing?

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

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

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

What are your main concerns as a writer?

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

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

How do you deal with these challenges?

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

Do you write everyday?

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

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

How many books have you written so far?

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

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

How did you find a publisher for Joy the Jellyfish?

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

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

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

What sets the book apart from others you have written?

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

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

What will your next book be about?

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

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

Who would you say has influenced you most?

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

This article has also been featured on Associated Content.

Friday, December 14, 2007

[Interview] Karl Stuart Kline

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe your writing?

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

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

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

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

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

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

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

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

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

Who would you say has influenced you most?

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

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

What are your main concerns as a writer?

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

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

Do you write everyday?

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

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

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

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

How, where and when does the process end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counting my early works? Forty years!

When and where was it published?

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

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

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

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

What advantages or disadvantages has this presented?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article has also been featured on Associated Content.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

[Interview] Sheila Roberts

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

She has been writing since 1989.

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

Currently, she is working on a second novel.

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

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know that I ever officially decided.

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

How would you describe your writing?

Women’s fiction probably describes it best.

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

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

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

Do you write everyday?

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

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

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

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

What are your main concerns as a writer?

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

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

How do you deal with these challenges?

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

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

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

Which did you enjoy most?

Re-reading and editing what I’d done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article has also been featured on Associated Content.