This year I celebrate a decade of writing. It was not something my creative brain discovered until I came to Canada. Throughout my younger life art was my main creative outlet, whether it was painting, collage, pottery, sculpture, textiles, knitting, sewing, and many more. I would spend my lunch hours in the art room at school rather than in the playground, it was my happy place. From creating abstract art in a multiple of mediums to utilizing fabric remnants found at Liberty’s of London for summer tops, I indulged my creativity.
This changed as I began adult life and my creative outlets ceased as I entered the workforce and socialized with my peers and then had children. I dappled in rug design without success and although I was gifted an easel one Christmas and attended an art class for a short time, I just didn’t have the time or motivation. It was only when I came to Canada and there was an opportunity to find a creative outlet that I made the decision to find one. I stumbled across the writing group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/ ) by pure chance on a trip to the local library and decided to attend a meeting. From that point on I found my ‘place’ and began to learn a new skill, one which has given me not just a group of firm and supportive friends but also allowed me to discover my new country, as well as attend numerous events and a connection to many other writers from home and further afield.
Now I have eight published books and three work in progress manuscripts (and numerous ideas filed) and there is no slow down in sight for my writing passion. It has gripped me and I am so happy I ‘found’ my creative life again.
Not only have I written novels but also participated in National Novel Writing Month a total of ten times, attended numerous writing retreats and workshops, presented at workshops, started a freelance writing business (https://tailoredthemedtosuit.wordpress.com/ ) and became Secretary to my writers group. I am truly immersed in the writing life and am so glad I braved that first writing group meeting.
What inspired your latest novel? I had this idea—if the legends are real, why do they change so often? I started to imagine worlds where various legends were true. Werewolves, vampires, fairies. And what that world would look like, how it would have to be made up, in order for all these disparate legends to somehow be based on the real magic that underpins it all. I started with fairies, and how the stories about them change and are shaped, over time, by human invention. So I came up with an idea that fairies themselves are actually shaped by humans. By our dreams, by our collective stories. But once every thousand years or so, a human comes along who shapes the fairy world more drastically. The Phantasmer. And that’s where the story started.
How did you come up with the title? I always joke that titles are the bane of my existence! When I first started writing the book I called it Phantasmer. And one of my friends read it, and he told me, “That’s terrible, it sounds like it’s about a ghost or something. You have to change it!” So I thought I would try to find a lyric or a bit of poetry that I liked, and name it after that. At first I wanted to use a line from the poem by Emily Dickinson about fairies, there’s a beautiful line about, “Buy here! … Even for Death, a fairy medicine.” that I really loved, so I called it Even For Death, for awhile—death and ghosts! It sounded way too maudlin, not at all what the book was about, and if you didn’t know the quote it was even worse. So I was scanning through song lyrics, trying to find something, and then this line from “Sounds of Silence” just hit me, and it was just so perfect. What is Sylvia is not a dreamer, restless and wary? And “In Restless Dreams” was born. I don’t recommend choosing a song lyrics as your book title, though. I have that song stuck in my head constantly now!
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Life is beautiful and life is messy and life is precious, and it’s never too soon and never too late to go on the biggest adventure of your life. And it gets better.
How much of the book is realistic? It’s really important to me, both in my writing and in the books I read, that novels that are fantastical are even more rooted in the real and everyday than novels that are set on the real world. I hate how much young adult literature especially dives into magic and forgets all about the real consequences of being a teenager. Your parents, your friends, keeping up with school—none of those things vanish just because there’s something huge going on in your life. I think we’ve all experience that to a lesser degree, whether it’s having a huge fight with your best friend but you still have to write a math midterm, or your parents are getting a divorce but there’s a party on Friday night and everyone is going. Magic is a bit like that. It doesn’t make room in your life for itself, it just is.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? I’m inspired by the stories I read and the themes I find in the world around me, but I don’t usually base characters on specific people. My next novel that I’m working on has a character based on my best friend, though! She thinks it’s really weird to see her name in print.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I’m very active on Facebook, you can find me at facebook.com/wrenhandmanwriter, and I do have a blog on my personal website, www.wrenhandman.com/blog
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? I am forever writing the next book and working on the next idea, and I have quite a few finished projects waiting in the queue. We’ll see how it goes, but I would like to return to the story of In Restless Dreams. I don’t think Sylvia is done with her journey yet.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? Stranger is by far my favourite character. I love that he breaks that ‘mystery guy’ mold by being funny, by enjoying laughter and life and knowing his place in the world.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I dabble in a lot of different genres, but always speculative. I love the intersection of mystery and magic with the everyday, that’s where my passion is. So I write a lot of near-future science fiction, and a lot of paranormal fantasy. Things where we still recognize our lives and the world, but something has been added to it.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? Both! I think a combination is the key to a really great story. You need to have an idea of the shape of it, or it can get really meandery and lost. But if you stick too closely to an outline you had before you really knew your characters, they can feel stilted. So I like to write an outline that’s usually 4-5 pages for a full length novel, and then I let it grow and spread and change as it needs to over the course of writing.
What is your best marketing tip? I really like providing something fun for readers who follow me. So I talk a lot about my process, and I post quotes as I work on the book, things that might not even end up in the final draft.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? Yes! It’s so necessary and every author has to do it, but it can be a huge time suck. I recommend choosing your platform and concentrating there. I’m on Twitter and Instagram, but my real focus in Facebook, and that’s where I put the majority of my time.
What do you enjoy most about writing? When I’m not writing I grow restless, as if something I can’t quite define is missing. It’s that sense of building something you hope will last, those stories crawling up your throat that need to be told. It’s seeing a finished product and knowing it will mean something to someone one day, that it will take them away and erase the world, just for a little while.
What age did you start writing stories/poems? Since before I can remember I was telling stories, playing make-believe, inventing. I was always a child of great imagination. I wrote my first play when I was six years old, and got everyone in my class to star in it. I wrote my first novel in junior high, was sending it out to agents by the end of high school. It was rough, those early things I wrote. But I had a lot of support from family and friends, and that made all the difference.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same? It’s stayed pretty consistent, actually. It’s always been that sense of imagination and escape that’s appealed to me.
What genre are you currently reading? I read about 50 books a year, and most of them are either fantasy, science fiction, or paranormal, in both adult and fantasy. I like to be transported.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? For pleasure, though there isn’t anything that isn’t research in a certain sense. If you don’t like to read it, you have no business writing it. You need to know what’s already been done. It’s like when Oryx and Crake came out, and a bunch of reviewers said how groundbreaking it was, and the entire science fiction community was like… You’ve never read sci-fi before, have you? It was a well written book, don’t get me wrong! Of course it was, she’s a literary master. But it wasn’t new. It wasn’t saying anything that hadn’t been said before.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? My family is a bulwark I could not live without. My mother especially loves to read works in progress, and never has a single negative thing to say. My friend Hollis I call my cheerleader. I really don’t know if I would have come so far without her. I always knew I had someone to write for, that even if I was never published at least I was creating something for someone. That really got me through the long days before my first publishing success.
Do you see writing as a career? Yes, absolutely. Of course it’s a passion, and a vocation, and a calling. But I think people who fail to become “writers” fail because they don’t see it as a job, too. You have to put the time in. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. You have to do some boring stuff to make money while you work on your creative projects on the side. It takes discipline.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? I am a terrible snacker! Thankfully writing usually keeps me more distracting than my other work, so it’s almost a dieting aid.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? I’m all about the champagne. Finish a novel? Champagne! Get a writing contract? Champagne! Book release day? Champagne!
Wren Handman is a novelist, fiction writer, and screenwriter. She’s written three novels: Last Cut (Lorimer Ltd 2012) and Command the Tides (Omnific 2015), and In Restless Dreams, which was originally self-published and is now forthcoming from Parliament House Press. Check out The Switch, Wren’s TV comedy about trans life in Vancouver. Follow her blog at www.wrenhandman.com/blog, or on Twitter @wrenhandman.
I completed NaNoWriMo on 15th November 2019, which is the fastest I have ever managed to write the 50,000 words required. This left me with several options, one of which was to continue with this story, Seasons of an Affair and increase the word count to 70,000 plus to create a draft manuscript for future editing and revision.
However, a book I placed on order some time ago became available. This particular book is the story of a man, who escaped society and lived alone for 27 years. Known as the North Pond Hermit, Chris Knight existed in a make shift camp with no human contact for all that time. I initially read the newspaper reports when he was captured and it sparked an idea for a novel, along with two other strange news stories, this became my 2014 NaNo novel – The Giving Thief. After reading the book of his life (twice) I was plunged back into that story. Do I go back to it and complete it?
Then another on order book became available giving me my third option. This is a research book on steampunk, which is the genre of one of my 2018 NaNo projects. I used that NaNo challenge to write the sequel to The Rython Kingdom and launched Rython Legacy in 2019. However, the other ‘novella’ project for that year quickly expanded into a full length novel, The Commodore’s Gift, from a short story I’d written some time before. So I am tempted to revive this story line as well.
So which will I chose?
As a writer we all have multiple story ideas racing around our heads all the time. It is difficult to decide which story to choose when they all clamor for attention.
Walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, twice, once in the autumn, again a few years later in the spring, and I wanted to share the beauty.
2. How did you come up with the title?
A Photographer Walks the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, I wanted people to understand that this was a visual journey along the Camino route.
3. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
For those who have walked the Camino the book would serve as a reminder, for those planning their journey it would serve as an inspiration, and for many who cannot make the journey the book will be their virtual journey.
4. How much of the book is realistic?
The Camino I walked is the same one walked by hundreds of thousands every year, each of us have our own walk, we have our own journey, affected by our senses and sensibilities. Each walk during different seasons, different weather and even different times of days, each see and experiences, and stay in different places, travel with different people. But we all travel the same road, and the images and stories are realistic.
I have no other plans for another book at this time, we do want to walk another Camino to Santiago de Compostela, so another book is possible.
Please note this book is still in the process of being published. Links will be added at a later date.
7. What is your best marketing tip?
I’m new to marketing, so far, marketing has been about the photographs, as individual images, just recently I have started to work towards putting the images together as a series.
8. Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
For me social media has been tool to share and sell my photography, and sharing stories with family and friends, only recently have I started to make an effort to expand my social media reach, to make connections with others who.
9. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Writing has been a wonderful challenge, and it has been helpful in developing stories related to my travels.
10. What age did you start photography/writing?
I learned about photography, early in life, while in school, while I was traveling I started to write a blog, much before the days of Instagram, to share my photography and tell my travel stories, much later in life.
11. What genre are you currently reading?
I read fiction, at this time I have been reading World War ll fiction with women at the center of the story.
12. Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
I read for both pleasure and for research. Prior to my first Camino I read a lot about the history and architecture of the pilgrimage, and several autobiographical stories. I enjoy reading fiction with strong female characters.
13. Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
My husband is my biggest supporter, my sister-in-law has been helping with proof-reading, and several good friends have been very encouraging.
14. Where is your favorite creative space?
I work at my desk, processing images with the computer. I also have a laptop and can work from anywhere, I write wherever I can find a quiet space, but my favourite space is early in the morning, in bed, with a cup of coffee, before the day has begun.
15. If you could meet one favorite photographer, who would it be and why?
David Duchemin, a strong photographer, who uses his writing to explore and expand his photography, he is a motivational writer, and his work has inspired me to better work, and better storytelling with my photography.
16. If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
I love Calgary, this is my home, while I love to travel, and have a long list of places I want to spend a month or two, Calgary will always be my home.
17. How do you use writing?
Writing supplements my photography.
18. Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
I don’t often nibble while I write, but I do love my tea, Cream of Earl Grey or Chai are favourites.
19. What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
Completion followed by a long walk is my great reward.
I first learned the magic of photography while taking pictures for the high school yearbook, and developing images in the darkroom. Since then I have been commissioned for both personal and corporate projects include portraits, architecture, travel, and products.
Master Photographer International
In 2018 I applied for and was awarded a Master Photographer designation for my Travel images.
Alamy Stock Photography: Contributor since 2012
I was excited to have my image of “Getting Ready” exhibited in the world famous Calgary Exhibition Stampede Photo Gallery July 2017
Calgary Public Library – Camino slideshow and talk
Calgary Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrim – Camino Slideshow and talk
Camino 101, Leadership team, Calgary Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims.
Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Western Living, Art Auction
Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Western Photo Gallery Committees
Tell us why you participate in National Novel Writing Month
I find it a superb way to practice writing to a deadline, write without the worry of editing and letting my creativity flow with no constraints.
How/When did you first learn about NaNoWriMo?
My first NaNo was 2009 when I was persuaded by a new writing friend from my writing group to participate. At the time I’d only written very short stories (and I mean short). The idea of fifty thousand words made me refuse point blank but gradually she convinced me I could do it. That first NaNo’s project was edited and revised almost every year until I finally published it 2018.
How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo?
This will be my tenth NaNo – I only missed 2017 when I was working on two manuscripts that were published that year.
What is your NaNoWriMo project for this year?
The idea came late in October (almost November) it just popped into my head to write a young romance set within a university campus. The two main protagonists have evolved into fully rounded characters now.
If you were to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, what would you say?
I indulge my creativity in writing whether writing fiction or aiding clients within my freelance business and am a writing community advocate.
Do dreams inspire your writing ideas?
I have used several dream sequences within my works of fiction, they are always vivid and I quickly write them down. I always have a notebook on the bedside table.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Stephen King is my literary hero. He is the greatest story teller, creating characters with minimal description, grips your interest from the first page and never disappoints. My greatest possession is a personal letter I received from him. It is framed about my writing desk.
What is your preferred genre to write in?
I do not write to genre, I write the story an it chooses which genre it is as it unfolds.