Category Archives: life experience

Author Interview Eva Blaskovic


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  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Traditionally, it energizes me, but not because it’s easy. Transcribing from images and feelings to the right words takes blood and sweat, no matter how well I know my story.

I’ve worked under schedules that have exhausted me, though.

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

Kryptonite weakens Superman, brings him to his knees, makes him unable to go on. For me, that has always been my work hours, which have not only been odd, keeping me out of writing groups and events, but also long. Determined to find a way to improve my writing skills and become part of a writing community, I connected with writing instructors and industry experts through international online courses since 2006. It was a community I could interact with by leaving messages in the middle of the night when no sane local person was awake. It has taken superhuman effort to write my first novel during many upheavals in my life and three jobs at a time, but I was determined to do it.

The second Kryptonite would be my fiction writing speed, which is much slower than my non-fiction speed. Taking part in NaNoWriMo means committing several hours a day to make the 1,667-word daily quota, plus writing about 12 hours on Sunday. I ultimately “won” NaNoWriMo in 2014 with over 50,000 words in 30 days while working six days a week.

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I’ve looked into why some authors do it. Sometimes it’s because what they write conflicts with their job or image. Others simply want a name that sounds good and is more likely to sell than their real name. Still others want to cover their gender to prevent publisher or reader bias.

Using my real name just makes sense to me, even if it doesn’t have the eloquence and appeal of a best-selling author name. Or I could be Klára Dvořák.

  1. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

My first author connections were international, mostly from the US and UK. As a single mom, I was working through all the local author meetings and event times. I couldn’t be anywhere in person unless it was in the wee hours of the night. Thanks to the Internet, I had an extensive online community before I ever became involved locally. Even now, I miss all weeknight meetings, and I’m lucky if I can make a Saturday event. Fortunately, I know a small number of local authors (Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Morinville) with whom I meet in person several times a year. I wish I could meet with the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (WFSC) a lot more often.

More recently, my daughter, Leslie Hodgins, has published her first book, Rebel Destiny. It has been wonderful talking “shop” with her.

Author friends and instructors have helped with feedback on my writing, with knowledge of publishing, graphics, promotion, and events. But mostly, it just feels good to be in the company of other writers and be able to talk about writing or read their work. Special mentions go to Mandy Eve-Barnett and Linda J. Pedley.

  1. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Right now, I have a published novel that could stand alone, although I have started writing a companion novel/sequel to expand on some of the situations mentioned in the first book.

The two other books in progress are stand-alones.

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The absolute best money I ever spent was on writing courses in 2006 to 2012, which gave me access to professional critiques, editing, and communication with instructors who had worked as acquisition editors in publishing houses, instructed Fine Arts programs at universities, wrote for well-known magazines or publishers, and/or traditionally published their own books. These courses and individuals helped me hone my craft. After that, the best money I spent was to Dream Write Publishing.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When I was very young and said something stupid that couldn’t be taken back with an apology.

Later, in school, I couldn’t impress anyone with my writing or verbal presentations—neither teachers nor students. A few teachers gave me credit for my mechanics, though, especially in writing dialogue.

Only once ever, in the final year of high school when I answered a child development/perspective question during a discussion period, did the class, much to my amazement, clap. (I was a nobody in school, so that was kind of a big deal.) I guess that’s the one time I can actually say I had insight beyond my years and an ability to get into the developing brains of children and youth, and actually advocate for them. That ability later became the foundation to my job, my parenting, and my writing, but the credit for it goes to my mother.

  1. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I can’t even begin to say.

  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Interesting question. I never thought about it and can’t answer this question even after months of pondering it.

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Three fiction books and a parenting/educator handbook.

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

VJ Gage (January 2018) described it like this: “It would be that many thousands of people have read and enjoyed my books. I would want them to say they could not put my books down and that my plots are unique and clever, and that I have a great imagination.  Then I would like to make lots of money.”

Writing a book is a heck of a lot of work, and prepping it for publication is a heck of a lot of work on top of that. With that in mind, it would be nice if my book had some traction, both in terms of readership, literary credibility, and sales. That’s just the reality of life. Anyone can write for the joy of it, but to make a book and keep making them needs some form of return.

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It depends on what kind of book it is. For my first book, the events, relationships, interviews, and readings from my whole life, distilled, were my research. When I needed more, there was the Internet. I researched the psychology of grief in real life as well as through literature.

For my fantasy and supernatural books, the process was different, since the decision to write each was sudden. But I did research locations, clothing, tools, mineshafts, etc.

Research can be done at different stages: before writing, at the beginning of writing when you come across something you need to know, and toward the end to verify or adjust information.

With non-fiction, though, the brunt of the research and organization comes up front.

  1. How many hours a day/week do you write?

When I do get to write, it’s a marathon. I’ll write until it’s done (an article or short story), or until I drop. In the past, I had written for 17-20 hours a day for many days straight when writing novels. Unfortunately, this kind of time was rare and usually took long weekends and holidays.

I often can’t go near a novel (first draft or revision) unless I’m guaranteed an uninterrupted three to four hours at a stretch.

I do not get distracted by social media or anything else during these times. It’s very intense focus.

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

*Evil grin* I steal and collect names. I’ve had some sort of protagonist for as long as I can remember. He—yes, always he, though not the same one over my lifespan—often came with a family and a community of friends. These people needed names, so I was always writing down and saving names I liked. Nowadays, I search baby name lists as well.

It’s a little more difficult with last names. I have to be more careful.

  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

One of the oldest yet hardest scenes to write was the first climax in my published novel. I grappled with it for over five years. It has been rewritten more times than any other scene in the book.

Beyond the Precipice

  1. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

I’ve always written a form of reality fiction or literary fiction. My novel took on a psychological theme because I guess that’s what I know best.

As a child, I watched sci-fi, but I wrote adventures and was particularly interested in outdoor survival stories—for which I had no hands-on experience, and Internet research was still a good twenty years away. The nifty thing about living life is that you gain experience whether you want to or not. One day, I was finally in a position to write a book, but it was about a different kind of survival—more internal, more cerebral.

I wrote a fantasy adventure for NaNoWriMo 2014 because I could make that form of writing go much faster.

Each genre and book is so different that it’s hard to mix anything up because what belongs in one story doesn’t belong in another.

Random ideas for any story can be written down at any time. However, in order to complete a book properly and give it the best continuity of style, foreshadow, and character, it’s best for me to immerse myself in one book during the processes of revision and preparation for publication.

  1. How long have you been writing?

Since before I could form letters. Then, during my childhood and right through university. I took a hiatus after marriage and while the kids were small. Writing was difficult to justify because I couldn’t produce anything worthwhile. I was alone with my passion until the age of the Internet, when I could seek help from people outside of my immediate geographical location. In 2006, online writing courses made it possible for me to connect with writing experts who taught me how to write novels (and articles) properly. Over the next decade, I began to find books and articles with valuable information for the professional writer. I educated myself as much as I could, conferred with my writing mentors, and practiced, practiced, practiced.

  1. What inspires you?

Anything in life, real or fictional, can be an inspiration or become a part of a story. Authors see potential stories and character traits everywhere.

  1. How do you find or make time to write?

There has only ever been one way, and it is not healthy: sleep less.

  1. What projects are you working on at the present?

I began working on Beyond the Music (companion/sequel to Beyond the Precipice), Druyan (fantasy adventure), Ironclad (supernatural adventure), and a parenting/educator handbook. However, they are on hold indefinitely.

  1. What do your plans for future projects include?

I would have to finish the above projects first, unless I got an incredibly hot new idea that pretty much wrote itself.

  1. Share a link to your author website.

My website link is https://evablaskovic.com/.

Thank you, Mandy, for this interview.

Eva

 

 

 

Writing Prompt Wednesday


Zen Garden

The prompt today is to use this zen garden as your inspiration.

Here is my response:

Shoulders slumped, feet heavy on the glistening pavement, Jocelyn makes her way home in light rain, which gradually soaks through her jacket and trickles down her back. The grey drizzle matches her mood, yet another day stuck inside the call center, reading by rote the same sales pitch over and over again. This hadn’t been her dream, she had believed she could find a career designing and tending gardens but no-one would hire an inexperienced student so she had make do with the first job offered and there she had stayed. Even after paying rent and all her bills she had a surplus, which was reflected in her savings account but she had nowhere to spend it. Holidays alone did not appeal, a fancy car would stayed parked in the under ground garage most of the time as she could walk to work in less than ten minutes and she wasn’t into fashion. She had made her small apartment a Japanese inspired haven with rich colours and objects; this was where she was happy. Opening the door she placed her lunch bag on the kitchen counter and headed straight for the shower, the warm water soothed her, her silk kimono feeling luxurious against her skin. After a light supper, she sat redefining her Zen garden, comforted by the slow motion of the small wooden tools, watching the fine grains of sand move and the careful placing of the miniature stones.

The sudden ring of the phone breaks her peaceful meditation.

“Hello?”

“Is this Jocelyn Woo?”

“This is Jocelyn, who is calling?”

“Hello Jocelyn, my name is Harry Kyoto, I was given your number by George Ita at the Sumay Garden Center. He told me you were very talented at design when you worked with him in your summer holidays from college”.

“That was a while ago Mr. Kyoto but I do continue to design gardens in my spare time”.

“Yes, George has shown me some of your designs and that is why I am calling. I would like to offer you a job. Would you consider it?”

“Mr. Kyoto I would be absolutely delighted to accept. What position are you offering?”

“Well garden designer, of course, what else?”

Jocelyn felt dizzy with excitement, her heart was pounding – a dream come true when she had been at her lowest since moving to the city.

“When do you need me to start Mr. Kyoto? I only need to give two weeks notice”.

“That’s excellent news Jocelyn. So shall we say you will start on the sixteenth?”

“Thank you so much Mr. Kyoto, I’m really overwhelmed at your offer”.

“Well from the designs George showed me I think I am the lucky one, Jocelyn. Take care and I’ll see you soon”.

As she replaced the mouth piece, she couldn’t contain her excitement and let out a yell of pure joy – no more stuffy crowded tower block office with the constant gabble of voices saying the same thing over and over. She would be living her dream in two short weeks.

I would love to read your poem or short story inspired by this prompt – leave it in the comments.

 

Author Interview – Alison Neuman


Author-Interview-Button

Alison Neuman Picture

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing is one activity which energizes me. The process of creating characters and the stories in which they interact is an exercise for my imagination.

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

Editing is my Kryptonite because as much as I want to start reviewing the characters motivations and the grammar, giving in to the urge in the early stages of my writing process stifles the creativity and overall potential of the final product.

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yes I have considered writing under a pseudonym but as I write in the YA and nonfiction genres,  I didn’t feel a need to have distance or different identity, or anonymity associated between myself and my work.

Ice Rose Cover

  1. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

As I experience a disability, it was important that my books always have a character experiencing a disability in them. The disabled characters can be secondary characters but must not represent incorrect disability beliefs and stereotypes.

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The best money I have spent as a writer has been for any books or classes in which have helped me to build my writer’s skill toolkit. There are so many facets to the success of creating and marketing as a writer, that any money spent learning is returned with each completed project.

Searching for Normal A Memoir Cover

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I currently have one book in which I’m finish the third draft, two which are finished the first draft, one children’s picture book and one YA sequel which are waiting to be written.

Don't Eat Family Front Cover

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success for myself is when I receive reader feedback about how my books have affected them. While it would be wonderful to be on bestseller lists and be financially sustained from writing only, realistically if I have enough success to continue to write and publish books which find audiences, that is success to me.

On Ne Mange Pas La Famille Cover

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is a part of the writing process which I complete at the beginning, during and also when my manuscript is completed. In order to build realistic characters and circumstances in which they negotiate, it is important for me to construct a realistic world. That said, I am working on a science fiction book right now and so while the characters are moving around in the real world, human anatomy, ethics, energy and time are areas which need exploring. As much of the one character comes from the future and the mission needed to be completed to save humanity from their own extinction, as much as I can base the fictitious elements from reality should help build legitimacy for my readers.

  1. How many hours a day/week do you write?

The time I spend greatly varies but I am for an hour and a half a week editing and three hours writing or working on activities to grow the manuscript content.

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes I will hear a name that I really like but usually I look on baby name websites for the names and origins to see if they fit with my characters.

Help

  1. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

The genres in which I write are Young Adult, Memoir, and Plays. Usually my writing projects become the one in which draws me to write. I chose YA because I wanted to write the books I was searching for when I was the age of the audience. Memoir was because I had read several and found I had something I wanted to share that was the truth as I remember it. Plays are because I love theatre and found limited opportunities for persons experiencing a disability to act or have a voice in the theatre community. When in the creation process, the genre in which the story can best be told balances which area I write and work in. As for balance, the project which I am most eager and energized to write is the one I select.

  1. How long have you been writing?

I started writing poetry, lyrics and screen plays when I was in my teens. Writing manuscripts with the intention of publishing has been only in the past few years. I still consider myself as an emerging writer as I fell there is so much for me learning to be a lifelong experience.

  1. What inspires you?

Life is my inspiration. Sounds weird but being in the world and interacting with people provides me sparks of interest which act as a jumping board for creation of my stories and characters.

  1. How do you find or make time to write?
    Just like with most activities, I have to schedule in the time to write to ensure that there is a  space and time where I’m able to do so.

 

  1. What projects are you working on at the present?

In the draft stages of my sci-fi book.

  1. What do your plans for future projects include?

My future plans include brainstorming and writing the next children’s picture book in my friends and family series.

  1. Share a link to your author website.

www.alisonneuman.ca

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/alisonneuman.ca/

Twitter

https://twitter.com/crossingts

Bio

Alison Neuman lives in Alberta, Canada, where she works as a freelance writer. Her debut novel Ice Rose: A Young Adult Spy Novel, a YA book integrating her love of gadgetry with the broad imaginative license afforded by the secret agent genre, features a female protagonist in a wheelchair and was published in 2010 by Fireside Publications.

Alison’s work has appeared in MacEwan Today, Westword, and the Edmonton Journal, and on three tracks of the CD release, Outside the Window.

Alison was honoured in 2011 for her human rights work in advocating for the rights of persons experiencing disabilities and in 2013 she won the Glenrose Courage Award. One of her greatest achievements was the founding of Camp Mission Access, an integrative camp for children from all walks of life—both with and without disabilities. Her memoir, Searching for Normal, was released in 2013, and a musical of the same debuted in the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in 2014. Don’t Eat Family and Help From Friends, in her children’s Friends and Family series were published through Dream Write Publications.

Her play, The Sunset Syndrome was selected for Walterdale Theatre’s 2016 “From Cradle to Stage New Works Festival” and produced in the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in 2017. Don’t Eat Family and Help From Friends, in her children’s Friends and Family series were published through Dream Write Publishing.

Alison is currently working towards her Master of Arts in Integrated Studies through Athabasca University.

 

 

Writing Prompt Wednesday


As many people have fast forward to Christmas, today’s prompt is a snow globe.

I’m immersed in National Novel Writing Month so I have not written a response.

Have fun with it!

snow-globe-2

Author Interview – Karen Probert


karen probert

 

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both. It exhausts me when I’m working on something long or complex but also energizes me when I have an idea I want to explore.

    2. What is your writing Kryptonite?

Sometimes I get bogged down and want to quit writing that story, or that part of the story, because nothing is going right. I just have to wait, because the characters will work it out by themselves in my head and then I can go back to it.

3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I had 1 poem published under a pseudonym to protect a person who might have been offended by it. The publisher knew my real name and why I chose to do it this way. In all other cases I’ve used my real name.

Fragments

4. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I have many writer friends both inside the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County and outside of it. They inspire me to carry on by understanding the pitfalls and frustrations, by helping me improve my stories and by continuing to listen and share their expertise.

5. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Each of my 3 books, ‘Fragments of Lives’, ‘Colouring Our Lives’ and ‘Bloodlines’ stands alone. Even my contributions to magazines, periodicals, compilation books and even a workbook I co-authored are separate from all the others.

6. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Money well spent has gone for art work for covers, editing and publishing assistance. These are things I cannot do myself and finding the right person or people to do it for me was worth every penny.

Colouring Our Lives

7. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

As a child I was allowed to read whenever and wherever I was. And to read anything that took my fancy. The stories fed what my mother told me was my ‘overactive imagination’. I knew at a young age that words had power as the stories affected me.

8. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I have 2 spirit animals, neither of them specifically for me as a writer but both could be. The 2 diverse creatures are the she-wolf and the California Grey Whale. Both have tenacity, a lifelong affinity for protecting and caring for family and a gentleness within their peer group. When attacked or threatened they both can become aggressive in defending their family’s safety and their territorial boundaries. I have neither a mascot nor an avatar – both would be out of character for me.

9. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I am not working, at the moment, on any one story or book. I have hundreds of as yet unpublished stories but most of them will remain that way as they would require a great deal of work to come to fruition. Rather than take part in NaNoWriMo I’ve challenged myself the either start or complete a story each day in November. So far this is happening.

10. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success for me is to have my stories read and appreciated. I’d like to have more of my books in libraries and have an audience farther away from where I live.

Bloodlines

11. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

My latest book, ‘Bloodlines’ took a lot of research. I didn’t know that when I began it as I thought it was just going to be a short story. I started researching possible migration routes for the ancestors of the main female character, Hannah, and ran into a roadblock as I discovered that she could not be of gypsy origins as I had thought. That started a whole process of figuring out where her ancestors could have come from and led to several new characters needing to be introduced. By the time that story was ready to publish it was long enough to be a book on its own and I knew more about Chile, anthropology, bats, volcano cloud storms, old maps and other things than I ever intended to know. I did some of this research online and some using old maps. I enjoyed it but it took me thousands of hours during which I discarded most of what I learned as it was not applicable to this story.

12. How many hours a day/week do you write?

I have no set schedule but normally write early in the day while it is quiet and I am rested. I am easily distracted so need quiet and calmness to write.

13. How do you select the names of your characters?

The names of characters are really important. Quite often the first character’s name will just come into my head and I start with that. Names need to be evocative of the time period of the story, the age of the character, the geographical region they come from and somehow give the reader a sense of who they are as well as how they fit into the story. If a writer gets this wrong it upsets the balance of the story.

14. What was your hardest scene to write?

Endings are always hardest for me. It’s difficult to have set a tone of time, place and characters and then round it all up to complete what you’ve written about them. After reading my short stories people often ask “What happened next?” but I don’t know the answer as for me the story has ended.

15. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

I only write about people who could be real but aren’t. The settings are close to what most of us experience and the people who inhabit the spaces could be neighbours. Real life is fascinating and I enjoy portraying it in a new way, often with twist which is how real life usually happens.

16. How long have you been writing?

Many, many years – I think I took my first creative writing class about 25 years ago although I had attempted writing prior to that. Then I joined a small writers group, albeit one not really suited to me, before finding a group which were helpful and encouraging.

17. What inspires you?  

There is inspiration in many things, a beautiful view of mountains or the ocean, an overheard piece of random conversation, a news story, someone’s outfit, a dream I’ve had, and any number of other things in normal life.

18. How do you find or make time to write?

For me there is little problem with time. I’m retired from a day job so can plan my time to allow me to do most of the things I want to do. I can write both on a computer or by hand if I’m on a plane or a passenger in a car or alone in my home. I’m never without pen and paper.

19. What projects are you working on at the present?

Just trying to get a few small stories prepared for a monthly newsletter I submit things to as well as one to read at a writers Christmas party. Having just published ‘Bloodlines’ I have no deadline looming.

20. What do your plans for future projects include?

I’m in that space where I haven’t planned the next phase of my writing. I’m hoping that one or more of the stories I’m writing in November will be worth pursuing and turns into something I can share with others in the new year.

21. Share a link to your author website.

I don’t have a personal website but am part of the website of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (WFSC).