In British history, we learn about Queen Boudicca, who ruled the Celtic clan, the Iceni tribe and united a number of other British tribes to revolt against the Roman occupying forces in 60 – 61 AD. She famously succeeded in defeating the Romans in three great battles but alas the war was won by the Romans. However, this does not deter from the fact that Queen Boudicca was a courageous queen, who fought for freedom from her oppressors.
Her rousing speech united the tribes and even today stirs the blood.
“We British are used to women commanders in war; I am descended from mighty men! But I am not fighting for my kingdom and wealth now. I am fighting as an ordinary person for my lost freedom, my bruised body, and my outraged daughters…. Consider how many of you are fighting — and why! Then you will win this battle, or perish. That is what I, a woman, plan to do!— let the men live in slavery if they will.”
Ancient Celtic women served as both warriors and rulers, and girls would be trained to fight with swords and other weapons, just like their male counterparts. As an adolescent, Boudicca would have been sent away to another aristocratic family to be trained in the history and customs of the tribe, as well as learning how to fight in battle. Celtic women were distinct in the ancient world for the liberty and rights they enjoyed and the position they held in society. Compared to their counterparts in Greek, Roman, and other ancient societies, they were allowed much more freedom of activity and protection under the law.
Owena Wintermute of The Commodore’s Gift
Owena has a unconventional upbringing within Victorian society. Motherless, she is brought up by her father and only sibling, an older brother, Benjamin. Feminine conventions are a mystery to both men and they welcome Owena’s tom-boy personality and actions. This leads to instruction in horseback riding astride the saddle instead of side-saddle and freedom to read whatever literature she wanted. Her attire is adapted to accommodate her other activities, such as instruction in swordplay, with the removal of corsets. Owena becomes proficient in this discipline. She also joined her brother as he played with toy soldiers and not only learnt battle formations and strategic planning but won against him.
Owena is certainly not a meek and mild woman but a warrior and worthy ally to the men of the rebel force. She joins them in their fight against the Buldrick Empire and ultimately gains their respect.
How important are the arts and your creativity to you?
Life is nothing without the arts. Think of what we do to relax: listen to music, watch movies, read books, go dancing. And yet, when it comes down to a budget crisis, these seem to be the things that are cut because they’re considered somehow “non-essential.” I beg to differ. They’re life-affirming and allow us to share the human experience through the eyes and imagination of others. You can’t put a price on that. As for my own creativity, it’s present in almost everything I do.
How did you come up with the idea of the title, Music from a Strange Planet?
The book title for my short story collection is from one of my stories. In that story, “Music from a Strange Planet,” a talented and precocious girl wins an award for her composition called “Music from a Strange Planet,” a contemporary orchestral piece based on the convergence of cricket choruses. I, too, was a little girl who loved insects and nature (still do). There’s an undercurrent of insect references in the collection and small references to music throughout, so I thought giving the book this title would convey a sense of wonder and suggest to readers that they’ll be entering the particular, idiosyncratic worlds of a variety of characters in a particular moment in their lives. The “strangeness,” to me, is not so much weirdness, but points to a sense of mystery.
What drew you to write short stories rather than longer narratives?
In writing, in both poetry and fiction, I’ve always been a minimalist. I like writing and reading works that are succinct, compressed and convey a distinct mood in a few words or pages. I do read novels, but because I’m so attuned to concision, I find them wordy, even if they aren’t! I’m a writer whose problem is not wordiness but a tendency toward spareness. That, however, is why I love to write and read short stories. They’re a leap into a crucial point in a character’s life. We usually meet the character at a turning point and sometimes at the end there’s a sense of closure or development and sometime there isn’t. Some readers dislike short stories for that reason. That’s why I love them.
Where do you find your inspiration?
In many art forms! When writing’s going slowly, or when I’m not writing, I turn to the writing, music, art, dance of others. Or I slip into the garden and merge with the plants. I read critical works or essays about writing, I pore through literary journals. I subscribe to art and décor magazines, and garden design magazines, so I get a dose of creative ideas and people from all angles. A lot of my friends are also musicians, poets and visual artists so they inspire me with their own creations.
What exactly is a short story?
First of all, I wish we had a different term for the short story. These two words sound a bit dismissive to me. Not that long ago, the short story was denigrated as the shorter, lesser cousin of the novel. But rather than saying what it isn’t, here’s my take on what a short story is. It’s compact, it implies, it suggests. It contains subtext that requires the reader to work a little harder to unlock its meaning. Every detail in the story works hard to point the reader to the underlying context: setting, back story, character history, tone, imagery. It’s brief and intense and often does not give the reader closure. A novel is expansive, its narrative, plot and cast ever-widening. A short story goes in the opposite direction: inward and compressed. It doesn’t explain. It allows the reader to experience an intense event in a character’s life which often ends in a moment of awareness.
Your stories and poems deal with deep inner perspectives and emotions – what draws you to these topics/themes?
It’s characters themselves who draw me toward their stories and so unknowingly to certain themes or emotions that are operating in my subconscious.
Does your music influence your writing or vice a versa (or is it a symbolic relationship)?
Yes, it does! I’ve written several flash and poetry pieces that were inspired by musical recordings. And I’m a musician (voice and piano).
With regard to poetry, music does subtly influence my writing. Lots of people have remarked that my poetry is “very musical,” but by that they don’t mean it’s “rhymey.” I simply have an inherent and ingrained sense of melody, rhythm, pacing, and it shows up when I write. In prose, for example, I’m very particular about how a sentence reads and sounds, how it unfolds, whether it needs to race ahead or proceed slowly, how it reflects the character’s voice or emotions. Every sentence, in that respect, is like a tiny musical score that can influence the reader.
You designed the cover of your book. How did this come about?
A few years ago a social media whiz friend of mine told me that as a writer I should be on Instagram. Since I don’t have a cute dog or a photogenic cat, I wondered what I could post about. Because Instagram’s mostly a visual medium, I came up with the idea of collaging my writing. Except that I didn’t know how to collage! So the self-imposed crash course began, and I really started to enjoy dealing with visuals for a change. It was fascinating to choose a very short excerpt from a poem, flash or short story and illustrate it in paper. I continue to challenge myself to try different approaches and now have a small following, which is both surprising and pretty delightful. When my Caitlin Press publisher Vici Johnstone learned about my collages, she asked me if I would be interested in collaging my own book cover! I said yes, and after five or six trials, arrived at the illustration of a woman transforming into a caribou, which seems to intrigue people. It’s also based on a character in one of my stories.
Where do you write?
When cafes were open before the pandemic, I often went for a coffee, took my teeny-tiny Moleskin writing journal with me and found inspiration among the hubbub of chatter and clatter. I always write first drafts by hand and never, ever, at a desk. I prefer to slump on my small sofa in the living room or go out to my back garden studio and write from a low-slung chair while the birds twitter outside.
Just how tiny is your writing journal and why?
There’s a story to this! A few years ago I attended the Disquiet International Literary Program in Lisbon. On the first day, we each got a gift bag from the organizers which contained, among other things, a very compact writing journal. At the time I always wrote in a lined 8 X 11-inch coiled workbook. I scoffed that I would never use such a tiny journal. Off I went that afternoon to a café to write, except that I had forgotten my usual workbook. I wrote in that tiny, unlined book. I loved it. I have now filled over 40 of the compact Moleskin journals. In fact, all the short stories in Music from a Strange Planet were composed in them!
A writer’s not a writer without readers. Thank you, readers, for making my book come to life in your own imagination. And many thanks for the interview, Mandy.
Barbara Black writes fiction, flash fiction and poetry. Her work has been published in Canadian and international magazines and anthologies including the 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Award anthology, The CincinnatiReview, The New Quarterly, CV2, Geist and Prairie Fire. She was recently a finalist in the 2020 National Magazine Awards, nominated for the 2019 Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize and won the 2017 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Fiction Award. She lives in Victoria, BC, Canada. http://www.barbarablack.ca, @barbarablackwriter and @bblackwrites.
We enjoyed warm temperatures and sunshine this weekend, so I took advantage on Sunday afternoon to not only clean out the old planters and pots ready to plant, but also to delve into my current read – Latitudes of Melt. It is a wonderful story of life in Newfoundland’s southern shore and a mystery of a foundling. Folklore, magic and mystery always draw me to a story.
When I finished The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers by Terry-Lynne DeFino, I messaged her asking if she would love to have such a place to live. This is her answer:
Terri-Lynne answered: I would 100% retire to the Pen if it existed. You don’t know how many times I’ve looked longingly through Zillow, at Bed and Breakfasts up in Maine, thinking, “If only…” Sister writers and I do take a beach house once a year; our own writer’s commune. Only a week! But a small slice of heaven. Thanks for writing! Terri-Lynne
It is always such a treat to connect to the author of a book you have loved reading. If you ever want to ask me anything please do through this blog’s contact page.
Have you ever contacted an author and received a reply?
I have a personal letter from Stephen King above my writing desk, it is very precious to me as you can imagine.
. You have written several different genres. Do you decide on the genre before writing or decide which one it fits after writing?
Both! For most of my books, I knew the genre going in. The Hidden Springs series – historical western romance. The Celebration series and Seasons of Love – contemporary romance. Tempted – erotic drama. But with Finn-agled, my cozy mystery, I’d intended to write a thriller. However, the moment Finn Bartusiak took shape, I knew her antics were way too humorous for anything other than a cozy.
What draws you to the genres you write?
I wish I had an easy answer to this one. For the historical westerns, it’s because I love that time period. The other stories just came about on their own. When I wrote By Dawn’s Early Light, the first in the Celebration series, I knew it would be contemporary romance for no other reason than I needed a break from historical.
Do you plot your series’ book by book or as a series arc?
To date, book by book. Usually, the storyline in one leads me to the next. The exception to this is the thriller series I’ve planned. I can’t go into details, but as it stands now, it’ll be a trilogy with the main character’s background as the series arc. Of course, that’s what I say today. By the time I get around to writing those books, I’ll have changed my mind a dozen times.
Do you decide on a theme/topic for your series before writing book one?
Only in the most general sense. I know how the story will begin – more specifically, the opening paragraph or two, a vague sense of the plotline, and how I want it to end, although it rarely happens the way I think it will. Once my characters take hold, they author their own destinies. I’m merely their transcriptionist.
How did you come up with the idea of your side stories?
Side Stories came about after a discussion with a guest on my podcast, Word Play with Kristine Raymond. Aside from writing books, he’s also a college professor and told me that he encourages his students to explore the stories that happen off the page. Between the chapters, so to speak. I thought it was an intriguing concept and added it as a feature on my website, though, to date, I’ve only written one.
When and why did you start your The Felonious Scribe podcast?
The Felonious Scribe was a collaboration with author Dawn Hosmer, who writes the most amazing psychological thrillers! We thought it would be fun to answer questions from readers pertaining to murder, mystery, and mayhem – eh em, on the page, of course.
We recorded five episodes of the show, which can be found on YouTube, and then moved on to different projects. Dawn currently hosts a podcast called Unravel the Binding with her daughter, Jesi, while I’m working on my next book.
Who has influenced your writing the most?
This will sound like a copout answer, but every book I’ve ever read has influenced my writing in some way. How an author tells a story – their voice – is the determining factor in whether or not I choose a particular book, and I believe that has a direct bearing on how I tell my stories.
Do you have an author hero?
All those who took the chance to send their stories out into the world for readers to enjoy – and critique. Because one doesn’t happen without the other, and criticism can be soul-crushing. And, that’s what authors’ stories are, including mine. A piece of our souls.
Where is your writing space? Can you describe it?
I have one room in our house that is furbaby-free (I type sardonically while looking at the cat who jumped over the baby gate before falling asleep in my lap). It’s a combo room – part office/part library/part craft room/part whatever else I can stuff in here. Personally, I think the hubs is afraid to step foot in it which is how it became my space. Lol.
My desktop sits atop a messy desk covered with scrawled notes, pens, and notebooks. It’s a wonder I can find my keyboard.
Where can readers find your books?
Links to all of my books can be found on my website – www.kristineraymond.com. They’re available on all major platforms (and a few minor ones, as well).
Do you have a current release? Can you share what it is about?
My most recent release is Finn-agled, the first book in the Finn’s Finds cozy mystery series.
Running an antique store in the fictional seaside town of Port New, Finn Bartusiak is quite happy with how her life is going – until both a coded message and her high school crush figuratively fall into her lap on the same day. With murder, intrigue, and pierogis – what’s not to love?
This was such a fun story to write, and I’m currently working on the second in the series, Finn-icky Eaters.
Is there anything you would like your readers to know?
Thanks to my readers, both new and existing, for taking a chance on my books. I hope you enjoy them. And thanks, Mandy, for hosting me today. This has been fun!
It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first novel. Over a dozen books in multiple genres later, there are a multitude of ideas floating around in her head thus assuring she’ll never be idle.
When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business. When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and furbabies (not necessarily in that order) at their home in south-central Kentucky, gardens, reads, or binge-watches Netflix.
Why did you make the decision to write about your life?
I decided to share my life journey so far to give hope and inspiration to others and let them know they are not alone.
What do you believe readers gain from your experience?
I believe by reading my story readers gain hope, inspiration, an honest birds eye view of New Zealand, a reminder never to give up, it makes one think and is informative, entertaining, a means to draw strength from and can even save lives.
Did you think The New Zealand Dream idea would grow into a series?
Originally I planned to release The New Zealand Dream as one book, I may still do this later. The idea of releasing the books as a series is a way for me to give my readers something to read while I am still completing the series.
How has your life experience impacted your writing?
Writing has been my therapist and brought me healing. My life experiences made me realize people need to hear my story, so many go through similar experiences isolated and alone, by sharing my story one can know they are not alone and you can heal and come through. I wanted to give readers the bare truth, no sugar coating, keeping it real and honest as this is what people need to hear, by doing my story is relatable.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
Somewhere quite, usually my lounge room or outside in amongst nature.
How do you juggle home life and writing?
When I was working as a nurse full time and bringing up two children, one with special needs. I would write in the evenings and early mornings. My health dictated I change careers, I know write fulltime, my books, short stories and my blog. I also help others to share and write their story and collaborate with other writers and authors. I am very blessed that I now have a loving husband who supports me in this.
What factors made you choose a pen name?
I chose a pen name and to use made up names for the characters and places in my book to protect myself from any law suits and respect the privacy of the characters who are real life people and some are still alive.
When writing fiction and non-fiction what differences in your demeanor occur?
When I write fiction my imagination really shines through and I can take the reader into another world. When I write non fiction I write simply and to the point as though I am sharing a lesson or revelation.
I offer one on one mentoring services where I can coach you through finishing your writing project. Sessions are done by email in hourly slots.
This is for anyone struggling with a writing project fiction or nonfiction or who would like to share their story and discover how writing can help you heal.
My name is Elise Brooke, I grew up in Hawkes Bay NZ. My parents moved to NZ from England and South Africa, to create their New Zealand Dream, this quickly turned into my New Zealand nightmare. Writing is a very powerful healing tool, sharing your story can save lives. I have written and published two autobiographies in my book series “The New Zealand Dream,” by Sheila my pen name, I wrote this book to inspire and give hope to others.
My passion is creative writing, I’ve been writing for 24 years in fiction and poetry and content. I have published many articles and guest post and conduct interviews on my website I built from scratch. I am a writing coach/mentor I mentor people who would like to write and share their own stories.