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.
Mandy Eve-Barnett is a multi-genre author writing children’s, young adult and adult books. Every story has a basis of love, magic, and mystery. Mandy currently lives in Alberta, Canada but is originally from England. Her background is diverse and gives her rich experience to utilize in her writing. She has been a nursing professional, a business owner, and a sort after administration expert. She has traveled throughout Europe, parts of America and Canada and was born in Africa.
Mandy joined a writers group about 10 years ago and has not looked back. She shares about reading her first piece of writing to the group “I thought okay, I have to write something. So I write this very short piece and it had a twist at the end. So, you know, I was really nervous, but I read it and the room went quiet. I’m thinking, “NO OH!?” I’m never coming back again, it was obviously dreadful and they absolutely hated it. Then everyone went, Wow! They just loved it and that was the hook for me to have a reaction to something I’d written just was absolutely thrilling. I’m just thinking I have to do it again.”
Mandy is passionate about writing to the point of obsession and she succeeded in becoming a published author in record time. With eight books published since 2011 and one more launching in September 2020, she indulges her Muse in creative as well as freelance writing. Her venture into freelance writing has been successful in creating projects as diverse as social media posts, promotional literature, and professional biographies, to ghostwriting a marketing book. She also regularly contributes to the Never Been Better page in the Sherwood Park newspaper, has been published in several anthologies and collaborated in creating a ‘how to begin writing your memoir’s’ guide book for seniors.
Mandy regularly blogs and she encourages support and networking of all writers as a writing community advocate. She is also prolific on social media in a multitude of platforms. As the current Secretary of The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County and past President of the Arts & Culture Council of Strathcona County, she lives her creative life to the fullest.
Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.
This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.
A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name. There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world. These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.
The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.
We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.
How do you set about building a character?
Do you write out a full description of your characters?
Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?
What inspired your latest novel? My father passed away when I was 27 years old, so none of my three children had ever met him. To keep his memory alive, I used to tell my kids true stories about my dad. He was an amazing fun loving, comical, adventurous person but he came from a very dysfunctional, heartbreaking back ground. One day (8 years ago) when I was telling my (then) 11-year-old son about how my father rode the rails when he was 13 years from Saskatchewan to BC, my son said, “Mom, I love your stories so much, you should write a book”. So, I did.
How did you come up with the title? The title of my book Looking for Normal, is a play on words. For a big part of my life I would often say, “I just want a normal family”. Therefore, I was always looking for normal. When, in the real world, there is no such thing as normal. I use a quote from Erma Bombeck, “normal is just a setting on your dryer” on the first page, chapter one.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? YES! I would very much like my readers to 1) feel inspired by my story 2) come to understand that mental illness and addiction can cause people to behave a certain way, but there is always hope and humour if you can get past the pain. Mental health issues are not uncommon.
How much of the book is realistic? My book is a true story about family, heartache, heartbreak, hope, and humor, it is all true and about my life. Some people have described my memoir to be unique and eclectic and I say, “aren’t we all?”
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Yes, the main characters in my book are my mother, father and myself. It weaves in and out with flash backs and stories throughout. I have been told that my book is very relatable, it could be many peoples story. It takes place between 1930 and 1978 and has historical facts, photos and events along the way.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I currently have (as of April 2019) 25 reviews on Good Reads. My book is available on amazon.ca amazon.com Indigo.ca chapters.ca barnesandnoble.ca I also love chatting with my followers on Instagram, I have approximately 8,000 @karenharmonn I post about writing, health, fitness and family. Twitter @karenharmonn
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? Yes! I am currently (as of April 2019) 50,000 words into my 2nd book which is a sequel. I should be finished by the time this blog comes out. I am very excited as this book takes place in the 80’s and 90’s. Parts of it have been fun to write because I was a disco queen during Vancouver’s disco era. And I started teaching fitness at the same time as Jane Fonda. HaHa! Other portions have been more difficult to write but very therapeutic to write because it deals with AA, and Alanon.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? Of my three main characters they are ALL my favourites and this is why…….. 1) my dad adored me, and I idolized him. He was funny and kind. He never repeated the cycle of abuse that he was raised under. 2) my mother wanted to be a private detective in the 1930’ & 1940’s which was completely unheard of for a woman, so she settled and became a mom & house wife. Plus, she had mental health issues and in those days that too was unheard of. 3) Me, my heart breaks for the little girl I once was. I really got to know little girl Karen during my telling of her childhood. I gained confidence from writing about who I once was and my beginnings. Therefore, all three of my characters are my favourite.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I favor non-fiction because writing about something I know to be real and true is easier. I gained my story telling ability from my father, he was animated and funny. I like to look at life that way, we are all characters on the stage of life.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? My first book was by the seat of my pants, sometimes it felt like verbal diarrhea. My second book has been more planned out and I feel way more organized.
What is your best marketing tip? Networking and asking questions. Find a facebook page with like minded individuals. That’s where I found you, and look, I get to be in your blog! Instagram and Twitter are important too.
Be professional, if you are having a book launch, a book read, or any kind of event make professional invitations and hand them out. At my book launch my friend made appetizers that were conventional in the 1960’s. I had old fashioned coke in glass bottles, and everyone was offered coffee or tea. My friend owns a coffee shop, so she gave me a great deal. It was super fun and prior to the launch the newspaper did a story on me.
Contact your local newspaper as they love personal interest stories about people in the community, you are helping them if they do a story on you. So, it is a win-win as it gives you exposure as well.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? I want to say a little bit of both. Through Instagram I have connected with some amazing, writers, bloggers and readers. Sending personal messages DM’s (direct messages) I have messaged at least 50 people I have admired. At least ten of those people have responded and we have had some amazing conversations. I have been given incredible advice from other authors. I have sent my book to instagrammers who read as a hobby and I they have given my book great reviews. Plus, its fun to post photos, make videos, network, and make connections. I find Twitter a bit more challenging as it is important to post something everyday, if not more. I enjoy following people who have odd perspectives on life. My challenge is coming up with something unique and fresh daily.
What do you enjoy most about writing? I enjoy thinking of someone reading my material and laughing or crying or becoming inspired. I visualize certain friends reading what I have written, and I can see them smile in my head.
What age did you start writing stories/poems? I have always liked to write stories, but my lack of self confidence and self esteem got in the way. I am way more confident now, so I have way less inhibitions.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same? So far it has stayed the same, but I do have a few ideas for a fiction book, based on real people.
What genre are you currently reading? I love true stories and memoirs, I just accidentally read, Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner. I say accidentally because I read it before, years ago but I forgot and read it again lol. My favourite book was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? Wow! I have a few. I have three author friends who have helped me and inspired me in different ways. Nadine Sands she wrote Hold On, Let Go, she told me these simple words, “not everyone likes memoirs, which does not mean that yours is not good”. As silly as that sounds, it was like an epiphany for me. Mary Edigar, she wrote Mennonite Girl, she said “just keep writing, do not worry about mistakes or punctuation that can be fixed later”. Colleen Friesen she is a Travel Writer and a Blogger, her inspiration is more about who she is and how she lives her life. Plus, she can be very frank in her writing but still manages to bring hope to the reader. She writes about travel, but she also writes about family, death and spirituality.
Where is your favorite writing space? Good question! I love, love, love, writing in my bed with my little dog Steven curled up next to me. I am either drinking a coffee (with extra cream) or a giant water. I live in a small home, but my bedroom is my sanctuary. My husband can have the TV and the living room lol.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? I have attended the North Shore Writers Association and I really like it. They bring in guest Authors and it feels great to be with like minded people.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be? Jeanette Walls and Whalley Lamb.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? I would live here in North Vancouver, but I would like someone to give me house too. OR if my three children and husband could come with me, I think Hawaii would be a great place to live.
Do you see writing as a career? I would love that, if I could make a living from it.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? I could never nibble while I write, but I do love coffee or tea while I am writing. AND Ice cream after a day of writing with my favourite Netflix show.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Rewards vary. A massage, a pedicure, ice cream and for example today when I finish answering all these questions, I will have a cold Corona with lime. But just one.
Local Vancouver writer Karen Harmon, writes passionately in her recent memoir Looking for Normal – which won the Rubery Book Excellence Award in the category of Women’s Health.
The book contains Karen’s recollections based on her parents meeting in 1945 at the Cave Super Club in Vancouver B.C. and her own personal experiences of growing up in the 1960’s. Taking the reader on a memorable journey throughout 1930 to 1978.
“With poverty, addiction, mental illness and family relationships being current topics of discussion, Karen Harmon has tapped into a story that everyone can relate to. I am looking forward to sharing her upbringing with my students”. Cathy Sieben, Secondary Teacher Gibson’s B.C.
Looking for Normal is a bitter-sweet memoir that covers historical events dating back to the depression era, the outcome of prohibition, the obsolete recognition of mental health issues and a family trying to succeed in amongst the trappings of society and current events in Western British Columbia, Canada.
As writers and authors, we are formidable in our ability to create narratives but we also have to learn how to market the ‘end product’ of those many months or even years of creativity. We become a book business.
The first avenue many authors take is social media, which can be seen as a ‘soft’ option. After all we are not up close and personal with the public but at arm’s length. However, due to the countless sites available just choosing the ‘right’ one or two can be overwhelming. Then there is the matter of maintaining our ‘presence’ on each platform. We need to research which avenues of promotion will work best not just for our genres but also our ability to sustain them. Do your research on similar authors in your genre and see what they use (and of course ‘follow’ them).
2. Following selected authors, genre based bloggers, book reviewers, and writing groups allows you to gain followers but also to learn about your particular genre and gain a reader base. When someone is interested in your genre they ‘search’ for more posts, articles, links and books within that specific field. While you are doing that follow 10 ‘friends’ of friends on Facebook and 100 people on Twitter – this can gain a wider audience. However, in light of these two platforms losing participants also follow people on Instagram. (We have to keep up with the ‘in’ thing!)
3. Improve your author bio on all platforms to entice and inform as many followers as possible on all sales sites, your blog and social media platforms. Ask yourself – does it reflect you as a writer as well as a person.
4. Use hashtags specific to writing, authors, books, genre and associated links – look at what other authors use.
5. Then there is the personal touch, which means organizing or being involved in author readings, attending book events and participating in Q&A panels. Search your local area for book related events, get to know your local bookstores, inquire at your library, join a local writing group, the wider your reach the easier it will be to find avenues of sale for your book.
6. Merchandise is another way of promoting your book. It can be as simple as custom bookmarks to T-shirts with the book cover/main character on the front. Make up a prize basket for a contest to be collected at an event (good photo opportunity to use on social media) or create an online contest for a free autographed copy of your book.
7. An easy promotion is to leave five of your author business cards in local businesses, at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, or anywhere you visit on a regular basis. Many places have community boards too so pin some cards or a poster of an event you are attending there too.
Do you have any promotion tips you would like to share?