Keys to Effective Writing
If you haven't subscribed to our blog, please do so. We are conducting an interview with author Grace Peterson. Her memoir Reaching was awarded the Gold Standard of Literary Excellence by the Princeton Literary Review. The book is phenomenal. Not only is it just a damn, fine read, it will also alter the way you think about many subjects. Pick it up today, and subscribe to our blog so you can read her interview.
I am happy to present my interview with my friend, colleague, and fellow writer/editor, Erin Lale. Intelligent, well-rounded, and extremely talented, Erin is one of the few authors who has 'made it' in this industry. She was very candid in her interview. I hope you enjoy it.
1. I know a lot about you since we are colleagues, but many of my readers aren’t familiar with your work. Can you give us a list of your publications?
The full list is rather long. It's available on my author page LaleLibrary at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaleLibrary/ as one of the free file downloads, which also include some free short stories and poetry. Highlights of my writing and publishing career since it began in 1985 include writing the Outdoors column for the sports page of The Sonoma Index-Tribune, publishing and editing the quarterly magazine Berserkrgangr, having my science fiction short stories in the first issue of Sterling Web and the first issue of the new Perihelion Science Fiction, 15-- or is it 16 now? -- books currently available, some nonfiction, some science fiction, and a book of poetry. I also used to own a bookstore, The Science Fiction Store in Las Vegas, back in the 90s.
2. You and I know how tough the publishing world can be. What advice can you give to new writers who are just starting out and trying to get published?
Join a writer's critique circle. The difference between a yes and a no from a publisher is often a matter of how much time it would take an editor to fix the manuscript, because you're competing against manuscripts that arrive perfect.
3. Tell us a little about Time Yarns. Why the project is so important to you? What surprises will readers find in Time Yarn reads?
Time Yarns is a shared world that I originated. It's a different kind of shared world, because what all the stories in it have in common is the way physics and "magic" and time travel work. It's truly a universe, rather than a group of shared characters and places, although writers are invited to use my characters. I publish short story anthologies by multiple authors in the Time Yarns Universe, in addition to my own books. My 7 book series Punch is a military sf / hard sf / space opera, but it's also an attempt to publish the book of the future, packed with video and pictures and sound. Time Yarns was built for fans to play in, and the Time Yarns official page has photo instructions on how to build your own alien "dej" weapon and costuming notes and links to fan fiction. Time Yarns official page: https://sites.google.com/site/timeyarns/home
4. In addition, to writing, editing, and a slew of other things, you’ve been involved in politics. Which is more difficult- the world of publishing or the world of politics?
Politics, definitely. You can become a successful author without starting out rich. Writing has a low barrier to entry, money-wise; almost everyone who lives in a first world country has access to the internet. After running for office twice, I've seen how the sausage is made in the political world and there is just no way for someone like me to win against the establishment. I learned a lot, but I'm never going to run again. Next time I'd be happy to be someone's paid staff. You can read some of what I learned the first time I ran in my 2 chapters in the book How to Run for Office on a Liberty Platform, edited by Gigi Bowman with an introduction by Tom Woods. Also, I combined my interests in politics and science fiction in my essay The Politics of Story Structure, which was published in the May edition of Perihelion Science Fiction. If you're a WorldCon member, nominate me for a Hugo in the Related Works category, and vote for me!
5. You and I both work for Damnation Books/Eternal Press. Unfortunately, DB/EP has a negative rating on Preditors and Editors. However, since that review, the company has been completely revamped. P&E is in need of an update because there are many company review that need to be updated. With that being said, can you speak a little about DB/EP and the work you do there?
I love my job! I read books all day, mwhahaha evil little laugh. Actually, I do a lot of social networking, both on the net and in person at conventions, for both my writing career and my job as acquisitions editor. The book that's been occupying the #1 bestseller spot at Eternal Press for the past few months, Autumn Leaves, I acquired by mentioning I was looking for that kind of book to a friend at a picnic in Town Square, Las Vegas, near where I live, and my friend had a friend who had a book.
I get asked about P & E all the time. I just looked up their entry on Eternal Press and it still says "A Canadian epublisher that plans to also produce print versions in 2008." Firstly, the couple who owns Eternal Press and Damnation Books live in California, secondly both imprints produce print books, and thirdly, anyone who bases their business decisions on data from 2008 probably isn't doing too well with their stock portfolio.
6. As the acquisition editor at DB/EP, what ‘gets your motor running?’ What tips can you give authors in regards to writing a great query?
Remember that a query letter is your first impression of your writing, so polish it as carefully as you do the first page of your book, don't just dash it off thinking it's unimportant. Read the submissions guidelines on our website and follow all the instructions. A lot of writers leave out important information like what genre their book is, or send the file in the wrong file format, or the synopsis is like a condensed version of the book that's a dozen pages long and lists every single action in the book, or they leave off the required marketing plan or don't seem to know what a marketing plan is. Check out the Daily Chocolate Rant on the LinkedIn group Fiction Writer's Guild, where I talk about the right and wrong way to write a cover letter. Link: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Daily-Chocolate-Rant
7. Let’s get heavy. Being a Christian is my religion of choice, but I also think it’s important to not be closed-minded about other viewpoints. It has been estimated that 92% of humans believe in a higher being. In my opinion, we all believe in the same power—it’s just our doctrines that vary. Although we ‘creative’ people tend to be more open-minded, I feel like Earth would be a lot more peaceful if we stopped fighting over ‘religion.’ From reading your work, I know that you are very spiritual. Can you speak a little about your views regarding spirituality versus organized religion?
I belong to a disorganized religion, myself. Read a short introduction to it in my book Asatru For Beginners. There are of course great advantages to organized religion. To take a non-random example, in the county in which I live, the Las Vegas wedding industry is a huge money-maker for both the local economy and the local government, and local government allows Elvis impersonators to perform legal weddings, but not the clergy of my religion because we aren't ordained by a church that owns property in the county. It's about owning property, not about being recognized as a religion, since the Flying Elvi aren't a religion. There are enough Asatruars in my local area to combine to buy property for a religious building if we all got together, but we don't because we aren't organized. All the advantages I can think of to organized religion are like that, though; they are all about living in the world, not about one's relationship with God. Spirituality as distinct from religion is purely about relationship, it's internal rather than external, and focusing on spirituality rather than worldly advantage is one of the things I love about my personal belief system.
8. Greater than the Sum of my Parts was enthralling, informative, and ingenious. By reading it, my respect for you multiplied. Due to modern dramatizations, there are lots of ‘myths’ and ‘assumptions’ regarding Dissociative Identity Disorder. Can you tell us a little about how you overcame those stereotypes? What’s the most important thing you want people to know about Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Thank you, I'd like for people to read the book to find out about how I triumphed over this. I get a lot of submissions in my inboxes at EP and DB featuring a character with DID, and the authors always make this person the killer. I am tired of it. Having a mental health label does not make a person more likely to commit a crime, it means they are more likely to have been the victim of a crime. Mental health labels from the DSM exist for one reason only: to get insurance companies to pay for treatment. They aren't an excuse for murder or even for just being a jerk; people still have the ability to choose whether to do good or evil regardless of what labels have been put on them.
9. As writers, we sometimes find inspiration in the strangest places. What inspires you?
A lot of my story dialogue and poetry is literally inspired; I wake up with poetry running in my head. I get these fragments of dialogue between characters who just pop up fully formed, and then I try to figure out how to string it all together into a coherent story. I sit down at the computer and start typing and it just comes. This even happens in some of my nonfiction. I've been working on a new nonfiction book, American Celebration, which started out to be a happy smiley book of how to celebrate holidays with friends and family of different faiths, and has ending up being full of political ranting, without any intention on my part. For example, I was writing about American rites of passage and started to talk about prom dresses, and my fingers just started going and out popped a screed that left me wondering when I became a feminist. They say that highly creative people are "mad geniuses;" perhaps they are right.
10. Do you think that writing is an inherent talent- or is it a craft that can be learned?
Mostly craft. My "talent" basically consists of exactly the same elements that got me labeled with a mental health diagnosis. A ton of writers hear their characters' voices; "we're all mad here," as it says in Alice in Wonderland. Everything else is plain hard work.
11. Writers are artists, so many readers are always curious about how an ‘artist’ spends his/her free time. What are your hobbies?
Cats, gardening, cooking, swimming, martial arts, hiking, meditation, drum circles, quilts, and of course going to sf cons and filking and costuming, although now that I am going to cons as a pro guest I usually don't get to do any costuming anymore. At LepreCon, I had both professional and costuming panels on the same day and thought I'd change outfits in between but didn't have time and ended up showing up for an indie publishing panel at which I was: 1. the only woman among 12 panelists, 2. the only person representing indie press rather than self-publishing, 3. dressed as a hobbit, including a Pendragon corset and hand-made wig-hair hobbit feet. That was not an experience I cared to repeat, so when I went to SpoCon last week and had both costuming and professional panels on the same day, I showed up to the costuming panel in a normal-looking outfit where each separate piece could be used in costuming.
12. Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book or books?
I have so many favorite authors and books, but if I had to pick just one I'd say my favorite living author is Lois McMaster Bujold, for the Vorkosigan saga. I reviewed her latest book in Perihelion and managed not to squee too much.
13. Are you working on any new projects?
In addition to American Celebration, I've got some new sf books in the Time Yarns Universe in the works. Planet of the Magi, and The Will, are books that I've been holding for later publication because I extracted short stories out of them which were published in Perihelion Science Fiction and are still under contract. Sometime soon I'll be putting the final polish on them and will publish them as soon as I can. Magi will come first because it's more ready, with cover art and everything, and needs less polishing than The Will. Also I recently "heard" some dialogue between two elves, and I may turn that into a short story.
14. How can we keep up with you? Website? Facebook Page?
Yes, in addition to the above links, I'm also on these social media:
15. Where can we buy your books?
Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Here's a link to my Amazon Author Page, which lists all my books:
Interview with Author BrianaLawrence
Today, I bringyou another online interview. I interviewed Briana Lawrence, author of Treatme Kindly. As you may know, I was Brianas editor, and I loved this book. Asan editor, you know the book is good when you STOP editing and just startreading to see what happens. With this book, I had to force myself to edit,instead of just getting lost in the story. After I began reading Brianas book,I was shocked to learn that this was her first published novel, as she is one ofthe most talented authors with whom I have ever worked. With that being said, Iam thrilled to be able to present this interview on my blog. Being Brianaseditor, I had the privilege to get to know her a little, and she is outgoing,humble, and incredibly thoughtful. Ive told friends of mine to buy her book,add her on facebook, and send her an email because even though she is a newauthor now, Im pretty confident that she will be famous one day. She is thattalented. With that being said, heres my interview. I hope you enjoy it.
1. How long have you beenwriting?
I always tell people that Ive been writing since I wasnine years old. I have two clear memories about writing back. When I was infourth grade, we were told to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. Iwrote down WRITTER, and the class laughed at me because I couldnt spellwriter. The second memory I have is of creating pop-up books with farmanimals. I dont quite remember what the stories were about, but I remembermaking the pop-up books out of construction paper and crayons and glue. My dadprobably still has them. This is why I always say that Ive been writing since Iwas nine.
2. Whatinspires you to write?
Pretty much everything! I get all sorts of ideas from allsorts of places. It could be from driving around and eating ice cream whilelooking at fancy houses. Ill look at a house and say, Oh wow this is the kindof house that my character wouldve grew up in. Or, Ill see a person with acool haircut and be like, Oh wow see thats the haircut I want my character tohave. It comes from watching things on T.V., or playing a new video game, ortalking with family and friends. All sorts of things inspire me and make theirway into my stories.
The biggest inspiration, however, is my older brother whopassed away when I was thirteen. I looked up to him so much, and I always wantedto do well for him. I always wonder if hed be proud of what Im doing and Idlike to think that he is.
3. Describeyour writing process.
Theres a process? Im kidding. I know theres a process,but I just never seem to keep on track with mine. When I have a story idea, Ialways write up an outline. I map out chapters and character descriptions andthings, and have a clear picture as to what I want to happen in the story.However, my stories never seem to follow the outline! For example, I had anoutline for my book, Treat Me Kindly. Did I end up following the outline? Yesand no. In the beginning, Alex wasnt a detective at all! I changed it when hecame in during the second chapter. I also changed when he was introduced;originally, he was in the first chapter. So that differed from the outline.However, I always knew how I wanted Matthews relationship to be with hisfather, which stayed true to the outline.
Some strange quirks with my process: I cannot write in quiet. Im not surewhy. However, it cant be too noisy either. I cant go to a Panera or somethingand write, not unless if I have headphones so that Im in control of the noise.I write best to music or even to the T.V. being on, but it has to be somethingIve watched before because if its something new, I want to stop and payattention.
I also always have someone read over the story before Ieven think about submitting it somewhere. This usually ends up being my partneror my mother, who will make suggestions and edits. I swear, they are the bestmuses! They have the best ideas that always seem to take my stories to places Inever even considered going. My partner is the reason why the antagonist ofTreat Me Kindly formed in such a unique manner! That was her idea, and mymother is the reason why Alex is his age, and why hes somewhat sarcastic and isthe seasoned detective. After they read something Ive written, I always goback and reread it one more time before I send it off.
4. Do youthink that writing is an inherent talent- or is it a craft that can belearned?
I think its a mix of both. I think the creativity andthe imagination need to be there. However, I think there are plenty of thingsyou can learn in the classroom. My writing techniques have changed so much overthe years thanks to writing classes in college and professors who pushed me towrite in ways that were unique. They guided me in the right direction with allof those assignments and meetings in their offices. And the red pen. Oh, so muchred pen used on my works!
Sure, Ive always been a creative person, but the whole,Hook them with the first sentence, Showing versus telling, and things likethat came from writing classes. I can tell you the shirt Im wearing is striped,but thanks to those professors, I know how to show you the colors of thosestripes, and not just use red yellow green and brown, but maybe thecolor of freshly crushed cherries for the shade of red it is. Those classroomassignments helped hone my craft, and so did those hours of writing fan fiction.College was full of writing classes and fan fiction about Gundam Wing pilots. Ifound any excuse I could to write and used it as a way to practice.
5. What doyou do in your spare time?
Oh god I am such a nerd! I watch anime. I play videogames. I go to anime conventions. I cosplay. I woodburn. I paint. I collectfigurines of all sorts of characters, from comic book to video game to anime toDisney to fairies. I also collect stuffed animals. I have since I was a kid. Forsome reason, I always wanted a new stuffed puppy, kitty, or pandaor whateveranimal I thought was cute.
You can see this geekiness in my writing because therealways seems to be a geek in my stories. Ive been immersed in this geeky worldsince I was about six. At six, I discovered Super Mario Brothers. At 10, Idiscovered Vampire Hunter D and Dragonball. Seriously, my idea of a goodtime is ordering pizza, watching anime, or trying to level up in an RPG or beatthe crap out of someone in a fighting game.
6. Forreaders who are not familiar with your book, tell us a little aboutit.
"Treat Me Kindly" is a supernatural murder mystery thattakes place in current times. Mild mannered Matthew Sharpton is having the worstexistence possible. He lives in his parents' basement after his fiancée upgradedto a better man. To make his father happy, he goes to a charity auction hostedby the company for which the old man works. While there, he ends up bidding on abeautiful bird and taking it home. It's here that he discovers that this isn'tan ordinary bird. The bird has the ability to turn just as human as Matthewdoesminus the thinning hair. The woman is more than happy to belong to Matthewas long as he does one simple thing. "Treat Me Kindly," she says.
Meanwhile, Alex Sampson is a detective assigned to a casewhere Frank Marko, an ex-rock star, has been found dead in his home. The onlyevidence is a small butterfly that was found by the body. The strange thingabout the butterfly is that it's an extinct species. After some investigating,Alex discovers that the butterfly came from the same charity auction thatMatthew attended. The auction whispers promises of "rare" and "exotic" animalsunlike any other. Those words ring true in a deadly manner as more people in thecity are killed in bizarre ways.
Once Alex discovers the truth about the animals, hesstuck in a sort of moral dilemma. On the one hand, killing is absolutely wrong.On the other hand, the animals only kill if they arent treated well. Is itwrong to defend yourself if someone is mistreating you? The animals are morethan happy to belong to a person, but if theyre being hurt or abused, shouldntthey be able to fight back?
7. Animalsare a big part of your novel. Are you an animal lover? Do you have anypets?
I am a huge animal lover! Currently, I have three cats.The oldest is Puppet, who is about two years old, and my partner and I recentlytook in two kittens: Carter and Clayton. Weve always had cats, and beforePuppet and the two kittens, there was Isis and Loki. We tend to get pets fromthe Humane Society, except for Carter and Clayton, who we got from a friend whofound kitties in her yard. Fortunately, Puppet gets along with Carter andClayton and even bathes them. Someday, I would love to have a dog. I grew upwith themparticularly big ones (Great Danes and then later a Boxer). I need amuch bigger house for a dog, though. I would also love a red panda, ha ha!Theyre so cute! Im kidding. I wouldnt keep one as I pet, but theyre myfavorite animal at the zoo.
The funny part about the book is that I quickly discovered that there are animals that I dont like. Snakes creep me out so muchin real life. I also dont do well with insects, especially spiders. I amdefinitely the, Honey, theres a spiderkill it-kill it! wife.
8. For thoseof us who have read and loved the book, can you give us a little hint? Willthere be a sequel?
Definitely! Thanks to, again, my mother and partner forgiving me ideas. I have an outline written up for it already, so I know what Iwant to do with the plot. I know that I really want to go into the world wherethe animals originated. Treat Me Kindly currently teases at it, but I want togo deep into their world. I have really lush, beautiful images in my head. Atsome point, Id like to be well off enough that I could take trips to differentlocations for inspiration.
9. DamnationBooks published your book, which is a small publisher. Have you enjoyed theprocess with DB?
I have. They seemed to understand that I was new at thisand still learning the ropes, but they were patient and have a great team ofpeople. I feel like they really want this book to sell, that theyre in mycorner rooting for me. Were sort of here for each other, you know? Theywouldnt have picked up the book if they didnt think it was a good story, and Iwouldnt have gone with them if I didnt think that they had my best interestsin mind. Im learning a lot about the publishing world, about how the work isntover once the book is published. Now, its time to get it out there, and theyreworking hard for me, and Im working hard, too.
10. Whatadvice do you have for new, unpublishedwriters?
Never stop trying. Im not going to lie, and Im notgoing to sugarcoat it. Writing is hard. Those people who say things like itsnot a real job or all you have to do is this, this, and this, are completelywrong. The creative field is one of the hardest things you can plunge into, andits risky as all hell. Theres no guarantee that your book will sell, theresno guarantee that people will like it, and theres not even a guarantee thatitll be picked up right away. Its also hard to entertain people. Its hard togage what a crowd will like because peoples tastes are constantly changing.Its difficult, and it always will be. Despite all of this, I say to never stoptrying. When you have that story idea in your head, when you have thosecharacters and those universes swimming through your head, you absolutelyhave to get them out there, be it writing, art, or whatever. You dontwant them to stay trapped in your mind, you want everyone to enjoy them and lovethem as much as you do. So I say go for it!
I was scared to jump into this field despite my parentstelling me to do it, especially my mother. She believed in me so much, but I wasscared to do it. My father is an artist but ended up working at the Post Officefor most of his life, so he always tells me not to waste my talent. Instead oflistening to them, after college, I worked retail for six years and told myselfId be manager at GameStop and have my own store someday. However, towards theend of those years, I was so unhappy. But it was a guaranteed paycheck, aguaranteed way to pay my bills. People would say, You should be lucky you havea job, and I would agree. The economy is bad, right? It would be crazy to gointo such an unpredictable field. But writing makes me happy; it always has, soI had to try. And let me tell you, I didnt make it at first. I have therejection emails to prove it. I even had cases of almost making it, ofplaces that wanted to read more and then decided, No... Sorry. And itsfrustrating, and it hurts, because you put so much into your writing. This isyour work, your creativity. These are your characters, and youre attached tothem, so when someone says, No, its as if theyre putting down yourchildren.
Let yourself feel bad about it for a day. Feel sad orangry. Do NOT respond to the email on that first day, and dont send the storyout to other places on that first day. That first day of rejection is your sadday. Do something that makes you feel better. My fix was chicken nuggets fromMcDonalds and driving around with my partner. We would do that, and talk, andspend time together, and then I would go to bed feeling better then wake up witha clear head. Then, Id go at it again.
There is someone out there who will appreciate yourstory; you just have to find that person. You might not think that there is, butthere is. However, do NOT jump into the first place that says yes. Do yourresearch. Look them up. Make sure they have your best interests in mind. Thisgoes for big publishers, small ones, or self-publishers. Do your research onthem. Look before you leap. Writing itself is a big enough leap. The last thingyou want to do is to go with someone who is going to mistreat you and yourstory.
11. Whatuniversal messages would you like to convey with yourstories?
I actually didnt think I had any! The stories ratherended up having them on their own. When I finished writing it and looked at itagain, I had this moment of, Wow... theres some meaning here! Treat MeKindly is literally about that: treating people kindly, no matter what theirbackground is. Animal, human, male, femaletreat others with respect, andtheyll do the same for you. I think since I have such a diverse background, Ifeel that this message is extremely important. Race, Gender, Sexual Preference,Weight, the fact that I prefer video games to partying, I know Im differentfrom the norm in about five million and three ways. I just want to be treatedwith respect. Im not here to hurt anyone; Im just living my life. I just wantto be able to be with who I want to be with, and do what I want to do. I thinkthat makes its way into my stories somehow, even when I dont realize it.
Just because someone isnt the same as you doesnt meanyou get to treat them like crap. Also, even if you are above someone thatdoesnt give you the right to hurt them. In the book, just because these animalsbelong to these characters doesnt mean they should sit there and be hurt bythem. And these animals take a lot of crap, too, because, theyre my master,and I have to. But everyone has a breaking point, and if you do decide to pushtoo far, that thing youre hurting will bare fangshuman oranimal.
12. Iveasked about a sequel to Treat me Kindly, but are you working on any otherprojects?
Always! Lets see, currently my partner and I have ajoint story being published. We plan to make it a series. The overall series isThe Hunters, and the first book is, The Hunters: Seeking the Storyteller.Its being published by Alpha Wolf Publishing. This series isnt as dark asTreat Me Kindly, at least the first book isnt. Who knows whatll happen inthe future? In this series of books, there are a group of humans calledHunters who work to keep our world safe from demons. Demons come from anotherworld, think of those monsters our parents assure us arent hiding in ourcloset. Alix DeBenit is one of these Hunters, and he takes his job veryseriously because his family was killed by an inhuman fire years ago. However,when one of the demons he captures tells him about a creature called TheStoryteller, Alix starts changing his tune.
The Storyteller is a creature that is said to live in alarge library. Inside that library are books on every single being in our world,the demon world, and everything else that lies between. The Storyteller can readeach persons life like a book and change anyones story, even if the event hasalready happened. This can give Alix the chance to get back what he has lost.However, in order to even get close to the Storyteller, he has to learn how towork with the demon he has captured along with the others he ends up runninginto because of it. To top it all off, the Storyteller has been captured by anextremely powerful demon that has plans that could put both worlds indanger.
Another project I have going on is a book called DoubleHue. Its a gay romance novel with a supernatural murder mystery twist (thisseems to be a trend with my writing). It takes place in the modern day TwinCities of Minnesota. I dont have a publisher yet, but I have been sending itplaces. Im currently working to promote my current book so I havent sent thisone out as much as I should. Sadly, Ive gotten two rejections, but Im going tokeep pushing. I do plan to send it to Damnation Books romance line though; Ithink the occasional horror twist might fit with their site. In this story,Gable Peterson gets an unwelcome visit from detective Maurice Ashford. Mauricetells him that his boyfriend, Avery Blair, has been found dead. Gable falls intoa deep depression and goes to sleep, dreaming of a time when Avery was stillalive. Much to Gables surprise, when he wakes up, hes gone back to thebeginning of the week, and Avery is, in fact, stillalive.
As the story progresses, Gable has to try to getaccustomed to this strange ability. He has to go back in time while trying tostop Avery from being killed. Each time he goes back, he gets another piece ofthe puzzle, coming one-step closer to figuring out what it is that kills Avery.It turns out to be a serial kill that targets gay men, defacing their bodieswith derogatory words. The twist is that along with the bad words, there aresmall compliments written, as if the killer is apologizing for his actions.Gable has to try to outsmart a killer, but things take a turn when he ends upbeing the killers next target.
These are the two main projects I have, but I have awhite board filled with ideas. I also have half-written things that I may get tofinishing. The two things I just talked about, however, are actually finished. Ishould also mention that I had a short story featured in a gay romanceanthology. Dreamspinner Press had an anthology called, Make a Play, which wasall about gay romance and sports. My story, Press START to Play, focused onvideo games. I want to try to write more things for their anthologies, if I havetime.
13. How canwe keep up with you? Website? Facebook Page?
Theres a couple of differentways!
14. Wherecan we buy your book?
Again, theres a couple of different ways! These linksshould be for both physical and eBook copies of thebook.
Thank you for the interview:)
15. Asyou may know, 'civil rights' is my platform, and Im very passionate about it.You are a gay, black, woman, so that's a triple whammy, and let's face it, thereare some cruel people out there. Can you share with your readers your thoughtson discrimination and how you handle adversity regarding thisissue?
Thebest part about all of this is that my partner is a white girl, so I guess I'mall about making things difficult! I've discovered that no matter how hardthings seem to be, there's always someone on your side, especially these days.There are so many projects and groups that are here for us now, and that'swonderful. I've been one of those lucky people who hasn't been discriminatedagainst that much. There are things that come up that upset me, like the factthat it has taken so long to have the option to marry my partner, who I've beenwith for 11 years, but overall, no one has really messed with me. Sure I've hadthe dumb," Dur, girls don't play video games," or, "You don't look like alesbian," and things like that, but I haven't had a terribly hard life. I'mlucky to have parents that let me be who I wanted to be. I grew up differentfrom the kids around me. In high school, I was all about "Dragonball Z" and theinternet instead of school dances and things of that nature. Yet somehow, I hadfriends who were completely different from me but who still treated me withrespect. My best friend was the exact opposite of me (and still is, even now),but she and her family treated me like a sister. They didn't mind that I stayedup at their house playing "Resident Evil 2" or that my Saturday mornings werefor cartoons.
The sad thing I learned, however, is that there really isdiscrimination everywhere. I've been lucky, as I've said, but I've seen allsorts of discrimination that makes absolutely no sense to me. There'sdiscrimination in the geek community, which I always felt was a safe go-to placeto be yourself, but I've seen black girls get hate for dressing up as certaincharacters, or overweight girls being told not to dress as certain characterswhile skinny girls get called "attention whores" for wearing certain outfits.
Outside that circle, I've seen gay, black people getweird looks because, you know, how can you be both? Do they even exist unless ifthey're incredibly flamboyant? I've seen women hate on other women, or blackpeople hate on other black people, and it's just sad to me. I've also seengroups not welcome the majority. "You're whitewhat do you know about mystruggle? Yes, it's true, there are struggles for black people, gay people,women, and all sorts of people. But that doesn't mean that you should excludesomeone because you think they won't get it. In the end, EVERYONE has their ownstruggles. That white person you're shunning may have had a terrible life, for avariety of reasons. How can a group who is judged for being differentdiscriminate against someone for being different?
In the end, I learned that, as people, we all have ourbattles. I try not to focus on the hardships and focus on the good. It has takenseveral years to get to the point where I can consider marrying my partner. Wasit frustrating? Yes. But I didn't let it stop me from being happy with her. Westill have our house, our cats, our geeky things, our friends, our crafts, ourwriting, our familywe have so many good things that I don't have time to thinkabout the bad. I once told someone that I could be really bitter. I could be angryabout many things. But why? Why do that when I have so many positives right now?I've published a book. I've published a short story. I'm going to conventionsand crafting and having fun. I have a house and a car. I have cats. I have afamily that accepts me and great friends. I've gone to L.A., to Florida, toVegas, to London. I certainly haven't forgotten the struggles in my life, but Iwant to live the best life I can to show the meaning behind those struggles. Myancestors fought for me to have this happiness, and I'm going to enjoyit.
My advice on discrimination is that yes, it's there, andit's terrible, but try and find the positives in your life. If you don't haveany, then find a group, online or offline, be it a support group or even a groupthat likes the T.V. show you do. There is something out there for you, somethingpositive for you to turn to. Find it and have fun with it. The struggle andfight will always be there, has always been there, and it's important to standup for what you believe in, but it's equally important to enjoy the life youhave.
16.Thoughthere are gay characters in 'Treat me Kindly,' you don't target gay and lesbianreaders as your primary audience. In fact, it's a book that anyone would like.For example, you and I are completely different. You're black- I'm white. You'regay-I'm straight. You are a self-proclaimed nerd who watches anime, reads, comicbooks, etc. I wouldn't recognize an anime character if she slapped me in myface. Smile emoticon The point is, you appeal to a large audience, and yourwriting is so good that it is a stand-alone piece that surpasses culturalstereotypes. That's a very difficult task for an author to achieve. Can youspeak about that a little? Can you give advice to other authors who are tryingto appeal to a large audience- instead of targeting a small, individualisticgroup?
Ha ha ha! I wasn't even trying to do that. I was just writing. Mymind works really weird when I'm writing. Originally, there were more gaycharacters, even Alex was into guys in the beginning of writing this book. Then,as I wrote, I was like, "Alex is definitely straight, but he's comfortable withpicking on Nicholas. His sister, I see her as an older, pretty lesbian womanwho knows what she wants. There's also the fact that Alex has no romance in thisbook. At first he did, but then it felt too forced so I took it out with someeditorial guidance. He's the main character, but he hooks up with no one, whichI was a bit worried about, but then I realized that he has so much going on thatthe last thing he needs is romance.
Nicholas was gay right from the start. I wanted to have him andMyles, and I wanted them to have a good relationship. There's a fewrelationships in the book that aren't happy, but I wanted theirs to be happybecause I didn't want them to be some tragic gay couple. I've read a lot ofmanga (Japanese comic books) where the gay couple is tragic, or struggles, orhas this hardship. I didn't want that. I just wanted them to be normal andhappy. Not every gay couple you see has some terrible back-story, and not all ofus were discriminated against, or confused, nor are we all so extremelyflamboyant that you can tell by looking at us that we're gay.
Also, while I was writing, the black characters just kind of justappeared. Suddenly, Cassandra was black, and so were her masters. Suddenly,there was a black old cop towards the end of the book. Then I realized that Iwanted a diverse cast of characters, where, some of the black characters eventalk differently from one another. Actually, so does Frank Marko, and he'swhite. There's a small nod to something I do. Tamera goes from proper dialect tomore slangy dialect when she's around her husband. This is something I actuallydo in real life. Not intentionally, it just happens when I go back home toChicago sometimes or if I'm around certain family members. Suddenly, I'm dropping letters when I talk!
I always want to try to write something for everyone. The currentproject I have that I'm trying to get published, "Double Hue," is primarily gayromance, but it's also a supernatural murder mystery. It's a couple that I wanteveryone to relate to, even if they're gay. The situation they go through wouldbe hard for any couple, gay or straight. The labels don't matter. You want themto make it through the crap they're going through as you're reading (at leastthat's the feeling I hope I'm conveying) The joint story with my partnerhas a diverse cast, too. There's white characters, black characters, one of themain women is a lesbian. I just think it's more realistic like this. People aredifferent. Not everyone is white, or straight, or attractive. I mean some of thecharacters in my book are super attractive, but others aren't. Alex is a bitpudgy and out of shape because hes a detective. He has terrible hours and liveson cheap food and beer. He's not going to be super fit and gorgeous even if he'smy main character. Claude is good looking, but he's a jackass, so when Nicholassees him, he's not attracted to him anymore because he's a terrible person. Ithink we all know someone like that, right?
I think it's important to create realistic characters, people youwould see on a normal basis in your life. I think that reads better to anaudience. You might not read gay romance, but you read supernatural stories.Nicholas and Myles are a gay couple in my book, but the book isn't about theirgay romance. I wanted them to be seen as individuals, not just, "that gay couplein that book. I think that's important in a book. You want your characters tobe memorable because of who they are, not because they're in a relationship, orbecause "that's the black guy" "that one chick" "that gay dude" and whatnot. I'msure that'll still happen with Nicholas, but hopefully what goes along with itis, "that gay dude, the one who found out about the Tasmanian Tiger and had tofigure out how to explain it to Alex without sounding crazy. But you don't wantit to feel like you're putting in different characters for the sake of beingdifferent. You don't want it to feel like the horror movie stereotypes of "thejock" "the pretty girl" "the innocent girl," etc. ect. You want your charactersto feel real. How do you do that? Just write them, I'd say. Don't try to beclever about it, "Har har this is going to be my minority." Just write themnaturally. It doesn't need to be "THE BLACK GUY." It's just a guy who just sohappens to be black. Don't force him in your story if he doesn't belong. Don'tforce him in there because you're trying to bait a certain audience into yourbook. Let it come to you. There's all sorts of people in the world, and there'splenty of room for them in your book, but only if you let them come to you.Don't drag them in, just leave the door open, and see what happens.
ThePersona tarot is a craft example, it's woodburning Pac Man wall andPortal wall are part of a room my partner and I hand painted Geek Roomthings, Fighting games, and SMT collection are just examples of the geekycollections of things.
PrincessTiana, Princess Peach, and Flo and the General are cosplay examples. Mypartner makes all of our costumes. Puppet the cat and Clayton and Carter arecurrent cat pictures
I am thrilled to present my interview with Nikki Pannell, author of The Cottage. This book is fantastic! I, like other fans, have been anxiously awaiting a sequel to the book. So, of course, I asked her about a sequel in the interview. Read the interview to see if we can expect a sequel in the near future. And if you haven't read The Cottage, then you should really pick it up today.
1. Tell us about your book. (For those who have not read it). – The Cottage is a ghost story that takes place in England. The main character, Kiley Thompson, is a typical high school senior dealing with the stress of preparing for graduation and falling in love for the first time with her best friend. Unlike most high school students, Kiley has a major problem… ghosts. When her family buys a cottage in England, she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery. She will have to dig through bitter rivalries, love affairs and betrayals of the past to find the truth or she will be doomed to share the same fate as the ghosts who haunt her.
2. What inspires you to write? – Everything inspires me to write. I see a story in almost everything. I remember one time watching an ant climb up a pole. I remember thinking to myself… Wow, that pole must be an unbelievable sight to that ant… Then my mind immediately started thinking of a story in which the ant was on a mission to get to the top of the pole and the ant bed at the foot was full of his friends cheering him on. My mind will go off in a million different directions about the smallest little thing.
3. Describe your writing process. – I hate to break it to my English teachers, but I could never do the outline process. My mind doesn’t work that way. I usually will dream up a story or have a thought and I will write down the dream or jot down the thought. Then I just start writing. I can’t outline what I want the beginning, middle and end to be because I usually don’t know and I feel like that takes away from the creativity of writing as you go.
4. Your book has supernatural elements. Do you believe in ghosts? I definitely do. I believe in everything though. Maybe it isn’t so much a belief in ghosts than it is a desire for them to be real. I watch and read ghost stories and vampire stories etc and I can’t help thinking, man it would so cool if the world was really like that! But I do feel like I have had some experiences with ghosts so yes, I do believe.
5. What universal message would you like to leave for your audience, through your writing? To not always take life too seriously. To look around at a field of yellow flowers and imagine a magical kingdom with magical creatures. To always encourage your imagination. I think everyone should know that being imaginative and creative isn’t being silly or childish. It is a wonderful expression of yourself and the world around you.
6. Have you personally had any supernatural experiences? – I have had a couple run-ins with ghosts. I seriously believe I have a resident ghost at my house. Weird things happen, like lamps flickering and one time while standing in my bathroom mirror, I saw a woman walk behind me. When I turned around, she was gone.
7. If you could talk to a ‘ghost,’ who would you want to meet? – I have a few. I have actually thought about this question before. I would want to talk to King Henry VIII- Just to ask him if he thinks it was all worth it. I would like to talk to Ann Boleyn to let her set her story straight and I would want to talk to Queen Elizabeth 1 because she was just amazing. But probably if I had to pick one person, I would want to talk to my idol, Jane Austen. I would love to pick her brain!
8. What are your hobbies? – Well I wish I could list off a bunch for you but the truth is, now that I have a baby, I don’t have much time for anything other than work and him. I used to write all the time but now it is hard to find the time. But I do like to write stories and I collect skeleton keys. Anytime I can stop at an antique shop, I go on the hunt for them.
9. What advice do you have for new writers? My advice for new writers would be to write what they know and what they are interested in. For example, don’t write a vampire story just because vampires are hot right now. Also, and this is just my opinion, make sure you are up to date on the age group you are making your characters. So many people told me after reading The Cottage that they loved the dialogue between my characters. They would tell me that they didn’t get bored reading through the conversations. Well that is because I wrote the conversations the way people actually talk!
10. Your readers have been begging for another book. Is that something we can look forward to soon? – I have the sequel already written in my mind. The problem has been finding time in between my full time job as a Paralegal and my family. I am a first time mother. But it is definitely something I hope to do in the future.
The Cottage by Nikki Pannell is available ONLINE everywhere. It is also available for download on Nook and Kindle.
to pick up The Cottage at Amazon. You can also get The Cottage for your Kindle here
Today, my blog is featuring a written interview with author Carrie Barker. I’m honored to say that I acted as Carrie’s editor for her most recent book, Exodus, which will be released on November 1, 2012. I am really excited to post this interview for many reasons.
First, Carrie is likeable. Although that may sound strange, it is true. Many writers tend to have an elitist attitude, portraying an air of knowing special knowledge of which the rest of the world is unaware. This does not describe Carrie. She is witty, fun, and approachable, not to mention the fact that she is very humble in the midst of having phenomenal talent.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, Carrie is a talented writer. To me, what makes her so special is that she takes supernatural characters and makes them believable. sometimes I have a difficult time connecting with characters and plot lines in paranormal-type books. Carrie has a special talent for making her characters real and believable. Though they may have special ‘skills,’ they are much like you and me in the fact that they have dreams, fears, and even insecurities. Carrie has a great talent for drawing in her readers in a way that we, as readers care about the characters as if they are old friends we’ve known for a long time.
And last, but certainly not least, I am happy to present this interview because Carrie’s 3book in her series will be released on November 1. Because I amCarrie’s editor, I have already read the book, and I’m so excited to hear the feedback from her readers, as the book is filled with turns, surprises, and lots of clean and not-so-clean fun. Of course, if you have not read the first two books in the series, then I recommend you start with those, first. When I get the opportunity to read a book that strikes me, I am haunted by the duty to tell others about the book. There are a lot of choices out there, and sometimes finding a gem can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. This is a gem, folks.
Okay, without any more rambling, here’s my interview with Carrie Barker:
1. Can you tell us how you got started writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since I learned how to spell. The first book I read when I was 5 was Black Beauty(which no one believes but it’s true). That’s when I knew what I wanted to be.After all these years, it’s just a part of who I am.
2. What is your inspiration for writing?
I’m inspired by life,the universe and everything, including Douglas Adams, who inspired my first published novel, Fractious. Small things can trigger new and major ideas.People in general are pretty inspiring, too.
3. You are a published author, and you are published by a real publishing company, not a self-published press, nor a POD or Vanity Press. For many hopeful authors,this seems like an unattainable goal. Can you describe how you were published?
Funny story… when I wrote Fractious – my first published novel - I wrote it as a joke and did so really quickly. From start to finish, Fractious took a month. I’d been sending out stuff repeatedly for years with no luck and had a good laugh at myself when I started submitting Fractious. I thought it would be the last thing anyone would want to publish because it was just so corny. But I made sure to do my homework and, as it happens, I specifically had picked a press because they happened to be looking specifically for comedy. They loved it and it fit their desired genre at the time. From page one to acceptance of publication took twomonths’ time and I hadn’t really believed anyone would pick Fractious up.
4. What advice do you have for struggling writers?
Never quit, first off.Research the publisher, magazine, etc that you want to be publishing by or in.Cater to their wants and make sure you do everything to their specifications. I probably would still have Fractious sitting in a folder on my computer if Ihadn’t really hunted down a publisher looking for that exact type of novel. Having a Writer’s Market on hand can be helpful too. I still buy one of those every year.
5. Some of your books are a series. I edited the last book in the series, so I’m a little biased when I say that your writing is phenomenal. However, can you give us an overview of your books for those who have read none of the books in the series?
Well, first thanks for calling my writing phenomenal! Makes me giddy when you say that. It’s really an honor to have my editor think so highly of my writing. The series, which should probably have a series title of some kind but I have never been able to think of one, follows government experiment Christiana Fletcher as she, at first,tries to live like a normal person. She soon realizes that nearly everything she does puts those she loves at risk. After a car accident that took her father from her, she finds herself ‘adopted’ by a group of other experiments in the California desert. But death follows her there and pretty soon, due to her own actions, her new home is destroyed and almost everyone she loves is gone once again. Held together only by the love of her significant other, Jonas, she decides it’s time to take on the government that made her, in particular one single man, Arturo Holt, her creator. But Holt is elusive, clever and tormenting and just when he’s in reach, something happens to send Chris nearly back to the beginning again. Revelations began the journey with the second in the series, Genesis taking Chris and friends up to San Francisco, where she again is foiled by her creator. Still, she adds to her little family of experiments along the way. Exodus is Chris’s final attempt at striking down her enemy but Holt sends someone after her that she could never have fathomed.Connection, the fourth volume, is slated for release next year. New surprises are in store for Chris and Jonas but will Chris finally be able to take down the man who made her? Find out in February.
6. Your books have interesting characters with interesting skills. What drew you to the phenomenal aspect of the characters?
As the novels often mention, I like the X Files. I don’t care how dated it is now, but the show still holds merit. While the basis for these novels came long before the XFiles, that show really brought it home for me. I knew I had to finally writeChris’s story and quit goofing off. I wanted my characters to be believable and interesting. I wanted their powers to be unique to each one so I picked traits that interested me personally in hopes that those same traits would interest others, as well.
7. In your series of books, Chris embodies the symbolism of Christ, though she hates the allegory. Do you have any religious affiliations? If so, how do those affiliations (or the absence of those affiliations) affect your portrayal of Chris?
Any religious affiliations were actually driven out of me when I was a child. I won’t say how or who did what, but I drift more towards the older religions, like paganism,and modern ones like Wicca. I’m not really a pagan or a Wiccan or anything like that but I like aspects of those religions, as I like aspects of Christianity,among others. Chris, being who she is and doing what she does, seemed to be a logical atheist. Her beliefs were her own and not really based on mine.
8. Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?
My favorite author is Edna Ferber and her novels are perfection. Nobody seems to read her anymore but her characters embody their time periods and settings in a way no other author has been able to do. You live the lives with her characters and get such a sense of what is going on around them; it’s almost impossible to describe the feeling I get from reading her books. Of her novels, So Big is my favorite, but my favorite book of all time is The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas.My copy is literally held together by scotch tape. It is the ultimate perfect novel.
9. Writers are artists, so many readers are always curious about how an ‘artist’ spends his/her free time. What are your hobbies?
What is free time? I’venever heard that phrase before. J I have very little free time. My job, while fantastic, is pretty much 24/7. I hate telling people what I do because that leads to 2 hour discussions that usually end with, ‘So, how do I apply because I want your job?!’ When I have that fabled ‘free time,’ I write as much as I can . I see a lot of movies and love spending time with my husband, my dogs, and our friends.
10. Are you working on any future projects?
There’s always something floating around in my head besides dust motes. There might possibly be a moth in there too… Anyway, I never stop writing. Sometimes, while I’m at work, I have scenes playing in my head over and over again and they stay there until I write them out. I recently started trying out short stories again, one of which is featured in the October issue of FoliateOak
. There are also a couple novel ideas I’m working on, too.
11. How can we get your books?
Amazon.com is always a good place to go. Exodus will be released on November 1, through Eternal Press.You can also buy Christiana’s books at the publisher’s website
Then for a good,lighthearted laugh, there is always Fractious, from UncialPress
I am so excited to present this interview on my blog. Though I have lived in various states, I was born in Mississippi, and I ultimately returned to my home state. I love being a Mississippian. Mississippi is entrenched in history, and our citizens are some of the most loyal and compassionate people in the entire world.
Rick is a down-to-earth, self-proclaimed family man, and he is a true southerner.
Without further ado, let me present my interview with Rick Algood. Rick was born and reared in Mississippi, and his books are “must reads”for all southerners.
You can contact Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org to order book or you can order them directly from him at the following address:
Algood Publishing,Inc. PO Box 322 West Paducah, KY 42086-0322
They are $15.95 plus$3.00 when shipped via media mail.
For those readers who are not familiar with your background, can you give us an overview of you?
I was a child of the 50s and 60s when I grew up on a cotton farm just west of Louisville, Mississippi. I graduated from high school in 1970 and spent two years at The University of Southern Mississippi studying commercial art. When my parents became ill I moved home to take care of them and spent my third year of college at Mississippi State studying communication and journalism. While attending State I was commuting back and forth while holding down three jobs, plus trying to help out on the family farm. I came to the conclusion it was either work or school. I couldn’t do both. So at the end of my third year of college I quit and hit the road working for construction companies. After a few years, I fell in love and married the girl of my dreams in 1975. In 1978, we moved to Western Kentucky where I began my 34-year career in a paper mill.
I know that you’ve written multiple books. Can you briefly describe your books?
Actually, I’ve written six. One I have yet to publish. The first was titled Beyond the Cotton Fields. It was a book I wrote for my daughters to let them know more about my life growing up in Mississippi. I had over 200 copies printed and gave away nearly all of them to friends and relatives. The response was overwhelming. I received letters from all over the country encouraging me to keep writing. Thus began my fiction endear.
I had always wanted to write fiction. The 100th anniversary of a young lady’s murder gave me the idea for my first book, Where Angels Weep. I know of only two people that knew who the actual killer was, and both took the secret to their graves. One shared with me enough information that I thought it would make a great book. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the beginning of a series of books I have called The Angel Series.
Here is a brief synopsis of the four books in the series:
Where Angels Weep. This book was inspiredby a century old murder that happened near where I grew up in Winston County, Mississippi. The story is one of mystery, inspiration, and hope.Kentuckian, Michael Dawson, stumbles upon a clue from his late Mississippi uncle that reveals how to solve the murder of Jenny Martin. It is a tale that will hold you spellbound, make you laugh and inspire you as you discover people can rise above the chains that bind them.
Second in the series is An Angel With No Name. This book takes the reader in another direction as Michael Dawson follows the clues sent to him by his late uncle and tries to discover who killed Jenny Martin in 1918. It too is a story of mystery, love, and inspiration chronicling the lives of a Mississippi family you will love.
Third in the series: The Midnight Angel. This story makes you fall even further in love with the unusual decedents of the Bodel and McAlister families as one of their presumably dead relatives tries to flee from a mobster, Big Benny Fontina. Forgiveness, humor, and love can be found in the most unexpected places as this story unfolds.
Fourth in the series is The Christmas Angels. An older couple finds themselves with an orphaned boy and his dog. Young Bobby Barrtow’s distant relatives are dangerous and unsavory. Will Jim and Mary Ann McAlister be able to adopt the child they fall in love with? Are there such things as Christmas Angels? This Mississippi family and their neighbors who live on Whippoorwill Ridge will keep you turning the pages as you discover there really are angels among us.
What’s your inspiration for writing?
That is a tough question. I don’t begin a story knowing ho wit will unfold. It all happens when something inside of me compels me to sit at the keyboard and begin punching keys. I have a general idea what I am supposed to write about when I sit down, but the story unfolds and reveals itself on the screen in front of me. I’m as surprised as the readers are when the book is finished. As for inspiring, I’d have to say the area of the country where Grew up inspires me. History inspires me, Hope inspires me. The little man no one notices that goes to work every day, inking out a living for his family inspires me.
What’s your writing process like?
When I begin a story, I commit to writing at least five pages a day. If I’m on a roll I keep writing. Oftentimes I lose all track of time when I’m at the keyboard. My wife has to remind me when it is time to eat, take a break, or go to bed. I get lost in the story.
Do you think writing is an inherent or learned talent?
Both. First comes inherent. A writer must have a passion to share a story. Then one learns the mechanics of telling his story on paper in such a way the reader will enjoy it. It is a learning and growing experience.
What advice would you give to unpublished writers who want to publish a book or story?
I’m the wrong person to be asked that question. I have yet to contact a publisher, though I would like to. With all the brick and mortar stores going out of business these days, and my career in the paper industry, I’m committed to using paper. I like to hold a book in my hands. I became my own publisher so my books will be printed on paper. Maybe someday I will go the route of and agent or a traditional publisher. I don’t like the publishing part of the business. But my goal is to share my stories and I would be afraid a traditional publisher would take my work and sit on it. I’ve heard horror stories of folks who have worked long and hard on something, send it to a publisher and then it never sees the light of day.
The best advice I can offer is do something! Doing anything is better than just wishing something would happen. You have to stick your neck out once-in-a-while.
You grew up in Mississippi. Mississippi has traditionally earned a reputation for racism and discrimination. In Mississippi, we have made great strides to change this global impression. Do you think Mississippi’s reputation is improving? Can you tell us a little bit about how you think we are evolving as a state?
Mississippi is not the only state with a past. The past is what it is. Racism is a learned characteristic. It can only be held on to by those who let it dwell in their hearts.
When I read about old murder cases such as the three civil rights workers found buried in a dam, Medgar Evers and Emmett Till finding closure it gives me hope that old hatreds and prejudices are fading.Times have changed not only for the state I call home, but many others, too. I don’t think it will ever be a perfect world, but it is a whole lot better now than it was when I was younger. Only when men see each other with their hearts instead of their eyes will racism ever disappear.
You say in another interview that “It was a difficult book to write because I literally poured my soul out on paper.” I think that is true of most authors. As an author, how difficult is it to bear your soul? In the end, was it worth it? Did you find that it was cathartic? What do you say to other authors who are hesitant to pour their souls out on paper, in fear of criticism?
You are referring to Beyond the Cotton Fields, my memoir. There were moments of sheer joy and moments of deep sorrow writing that book. It was definitely and emotional experience putting some of the stories down on paper. Even when I reread passages from that book, it is hard not to get emotional.
I suspect other authors who write similar memoirs have those same feelings. Was it difficult, you ask? Not really. I am the kind of person that what you see is what I am. I don’t have any skeletons in my closet. If I hadn’t written that book the way it was written it would have been milk-toast, and my daughters wouldn’t have known any more about me or my past than they already did.
Was it worth it? Oh, yeah. When the three girls read it and said that they loved it because it was it was like I was sitting beside them telling them all those stories about myself, the times I grew up in and the people that touched my life, I knew I had succeeded in writing the book I wanted them to have.
Cathartic? Possibly, in the sense I had finally accomplished what I had set out to do. Personally, not so much. I am what I am. I accepted that a long, long time ago. We’re all unique, are we not?
Would I advise other writers to do the same? Absolutely! We’re all human. Most folks can empathize with what others have gone through. Sometimes it’s good to know you aren’t alone. I received a lot of mail from readers of that book thanking me for putting it all down for the next generations. Many of those letters came from folks who were not sent a copy of the book. A lot of people read it and passed it along to friends and relatives. I hesitate to guess how many letters I received from various states. It was overwhelming. I heard from people in their 20s and people over 100.
What is one of your favorite memories of growing up in Mississippi?
Just one! That’s not fair. If I’m limited to one, I’d have to say growing up on the farm and all the people who worked there. You asked a question earlier about racism. When I was little, I didn’t know what racism was. I loved playing, fishing, hunting, and working with the people on the farm.
Fall and cotton picking time sticks out most vividly in my mind. I loved it at the end of the day when the sun was setting low in the sky and the cotton wagon pulled into the field. Workers would gather around the scales at the end of a long, hard day and rejoice when they saw their labor pulling down on the cotton scale. There would be friendly banter and laughing as they climbed onto the wagon and emptied their sacks. We would all lie back in the freshly picked cotton and stare up, watching the stars come out one by one in the night sky overhead as the tractor pulled us back home.
Some would be talking about what they were going to cook for supper. Others were softly humming or singing, while still others lay back in silence, worn out from picking all day. It was back breaking work.
I’ll never forget the mixture of smells. Sweat combined with freshly picked cotton. I loved it, strange as it sounds. Every year about this time,I can sit quietly, close my eyes and go back to those moments. I cherish those memories, though I would hate to repeat them. It was a different time, a different place. Sometimes the memories of our past are better being just that.Memories.
What universal messages do you want to convey in your writing?
Everyone has a past. Everyone has a future. Get off your tail and do something! Life is only as good as you make it, no matter what situation you find yourself in.
You live in Kentucky now, which is still the South. Do you consider yourself a true Southerner? To you, what does it mean to be a Southerner?
Of course, I’m a Southerner! I don’t consider Kentucky as one of the Deep South states. –Not much cotton was grown here. But you can take someone out of the South and put them anywhere in the world, and they will still be a Southerner. It’s in our blood.
If opposites attract, my wife and I are a good example of that. She was born in New York. We’ve been married thirty-seven years, and there is no way you’ll ever convince her that I am not a Southerner. My daughters were born here in Kentucky, and I’m certain they consider themselves Southerners to a degree. But they never lived in the Deep South, so I would beg to differ.
Then again, I think true Southerners are a dying breed. What with all the new technology, Internet, cell phones, and Wi-Fi, regional borderlines are vanishing. If you think about it, I’m sure you will agree that in another generation or two we Southerners will be like the dinosaurs. We’llbe extinct.
Are you working on any new projects?
My wall is covered with posted notes at the moment. I have a couple ideas haunting me. When that little voice inside tells me to sit down at the keyboard, there will be another book. I think I’ve been hearing it trying to get my attention for a few weeks now. Perhaps it’s time to listen to it.
You can contact Rick at email@example.com to order book or you can order them directly from him at the following address:
Algood Publishing,Inc. PO Box 322 West Paducah, KY 42086-0322
They are $15.95 plus $3.00 when shipped via media mail.