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Inspiration for Writers & Building A Community ©

Ask A Question Thursday

March 7, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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Today’s question is:

Have you ever changed the ending of a book based off the reaction of editors or beta-readers?

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Comments from last week’s question:

What do you think is the most unethical practice in the writing community? Is it plagiarism, ‘vanity’ publishing companies, copyright violations or something else?

I think plagiarism and copyright violations go hand-in-hand. As an artist who has found my work for sale on pirate websites, I can tell you that it really sucks when someone steals your work. Am I flattered that they find my work worthy of copying? No!

Gerri Bowen Piracy.
Ashley Cockerill I agree. Piracy.

Author Interview – Janet Wees

March 5, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

janet

What inspired your latest novel?

I visited The Hidden Village in 2005, 2007 and decided, after reading the history at the site, that children in North America had to know the story. The man I interviewed was the boy in the Village and he inspired me as well. 

How did you come up with the title?

My publisher chose the title and I liked it.     

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I want them to proclaim “Never Again” – that inhumanity and evil will not be repeated against anyone anymore, especially children!

How much of the book is realistic?

It is all realistic; most of it really happened, and the few fictionalized parts could have happened. It is not fantasy.

wwws_cover8 - front cover

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The characters are based on the boy and his family upon whose stories the novel is based. I met “Walter” when I interviewed him about his life in the Hidden Village.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

Readers can and have found me on Facebook. I am also on Twitter and I have a blog.

Blog – http://whenwewereshadowsbyjanetwees.wordpress.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pg/WhenWeWereShadows/posts/

Twitter – @JanetRWees

Email – powertutor1@hotmail.com

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

This novel is a stand alone book. I have no present plans for another novel, but I have written two children’s books that could be picture books, but I have to “finesse” them before I submit to publishers.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

My favourite is Walter of course. I met him as an adult and after listening to his stories, I could see the little boy he may have been – intelligent, precocious, sensitive and devoted to family. I heard his voice in my head as I wrote the book.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? 

This is my first book, so this genre is presently my favourite. But if I were to pick a genre, it would be books for children – historical or historical fiction.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

Sometimes I sit down and just write and forget to eat and pretty soon it’s dark. The next day I have to review what I wrote. I plan in my head, but I am more a seat of the pants author I would think. During this process, in my revisions, I would go back to previous chapters and add something I thought about. I was constantly re-reading and changing. But with this book, I did have a plan and it was somewhat sequential because it was based on real life. I don’t know what I would do if I had to write fiction. Not sure I could do fiction; I need some facts.

What is your best marketing tip? 

The best marketing items were the bookmarks from the publisher. I have handed out/mailed/presented over 1000 bookmarks since April. They have the title, author and contacts for ordering. For a “tip”, I would say to be consistent and approach bookstores in person to offer your time to do signings/readings. If this is your first book, lead with something that your publisher might have published in the past that would be known to a bookseller. They seem to worry about risking their time on a first-time, unknown author.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

My publisher wanted me to have Facebook and Twitter (both public) and a blog. What I find hindering is keeping up, and not overwhelming or underwhelming readers. I am not a fan of social media and I’ve resisted Instagram mainly because it involves photos and most of the exciting photos from the launches are old now. Not getting feedback from any social media posts is disconcerting; I get likes etc from friends, but nobody new has really seemed to read or respond. I did get messages from students in Belgium and The Netherlands. They were doing book reports on the book and wanted information about the author. They communicated through Facebook.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?  

Being an abstract random thinker, writing forces me to focus and let the ideas flow, blocking out any other distractions.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I was probably 9 years old. Poems came later – in university when I was in love; it just promoted poetry all over the place!

Has your genre changed or stayed the same? 

The first stories I wrote were based on pictures from magazines. It was fiction back then.

What genre are you currently reading?

Currently I am reading biography – In My Own Words (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)

Do you read for pleasure or research or both? 

Pleasure and escapism

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? 

Rona Altrows

Where is your favorite writing space? 

I only have one writing space – my den.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? 

Geraldine Brooks, because she wrote a book about penpals and I’d love to swap stories with her.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

Terschelling, an island in the North Sea, in Holland…or… Vancouver (if I could afford it).

Do you see writing as a career?

I am retired so no career for me.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? 

I actually forget to eat when I am in the throes of writing.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

I don’t set deadlines; being retired there are no deadlines. It took me from September 2008 until April 2018 to get the book written, edited, revised and published, in between substitute teaching part-time, traveling, volunteering, reading and daily living.

 Bio:

Born in Winnipeg, raised in a Saskatchewan village, with no running water or TV until she was 12, Janet Wees was a voracious reader. She borrowed books through the mail from the lending library in Regina to quench her curiosity about the world. Radio and Eaton’s Xmas catalogue were sources of entertainment. Being a precocious child, her mother sent her, at age 5, to grade 1 every Friday afternoon. In Grade 8 the principal would ask Janet to “sub” for a Grade 1 teacher who was late for school, occasionally. Thus began a passion for teaching and learning.

Janet attended the Universities of Saskatchewan, Calgary, and Oregon gaining her B.Ed in Special Education, and an M.Ed in Gifted and Talented Education. During her tenure she was involved in professional committees, was a volunteer for the Calgary Youth Science Fair and set up pen pal, environmental, Young Olympians, running, and debate clubs where she was a debate coach and a judge at local and international levels. In her off-times, Janet was a semi-professional photographer for the Calgary Sun, taking photos of Sunshine Boys. It was the 80’s!

In 1959 Janet began writing a pen pal in Holland. It was while on vacation in Holland, with the family, that she discovered The Hidden Villlage and the seed for her book took root.

Now retired, Janet lives in Calgary where her daughter also resides. She is a volunteer greeter at the Calgary Airport, and enjoys reading (favourites are Jhumpa Lahiri, Rona Altrows and Geraldine Brooks) writing letters (400 a year!), travel, snowshoeing, old movies, writing stories, and photography.

Book link:https://www.amazon.ca/When-Were-Shadows-Janet-Wees/dp/177260061X/ 

Ask A Question Thursday

February 28, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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What do you think is the most unethical practice in the writing community?

Is it plagiarism, ‘vanity’ publishing companies, copyright violations or something else?

What is your view or experience?

ethics3

Last weeks question:

Have any of your past loves inspired characters in your books? 

Did you tell them?

What aspect of the relationship did you use?

 

No. I don’t like to kiss and tell.

I’m sure you will join me in asking the obvious question of Pamela! Oh do tell….!

 

Please comment in the section below for today’s question. If you would like to contribute to another Thursday question please go to that blog post and comment there.

Thank you

Ask A Question Thursday

February 21, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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This weeks question is:  Have any of your past loves inspired characters in your books? 

Did you tell them?

What aspect of the relationship did you use?

 

 

Answers from last week’s question:

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Does a cover image play a vital role in attracting a reader? Should it reflect the genre and characters in the story?

Have you changed a cover? If so why? Was the new cover more successful?

I think a cover is extremely important and should reflect the mood/ genre of the book.

Verna McKinnonVery important. It can interest and draw in a reader. A bad cover can be doom.
Jennifer M Eaton

Covers are extremely important. If a cover does not speak to me, I will not stop to see what a book is about.

Feel free to put your reply in the comment section. Let’s get this conversation started.

Author Interview – Ellen Notbohm

February 19, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Ellen Notbohm 12 2017

What inspired your latest novel?

Through many years of genealogy work, I’ve learned that every family has that one person—the one nobody will talk about, the one with the aura of taboo around him or her. Three generations back, Analiese Rushton (not her real name) was that person in our family tree.

It took a lot of digging and a grain of luck to find out why—she faced recurring perinatal and postpartum psychosis at a time when neither medicine or society understood it. Given the intense social stigma of mental illness in Annie’s day, aggravated by stark gender bias in both courts of law and courts of public opinion, what we now know to be a bona fide and treatable medical condition threatened to cost Annie nearly everything that matters to most of us—family, home, health, safety, the right to self-determination. I also learned that maternal mental health was the rarest of subjects in historical fiction; it almost felt like publishing too was infected with that zipped-lips taboo. I wanted to tell Annie’s story in a way that would heal ills and injustices, and topple that taboo.

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How did you come up with the title?

That’s a fun chicken-egg question I can’t fully answer. When I started writing, I had a working title that I knew wouldn’t be the final title. One of the things I love about novels is that Aha! moment when you’re reading along and come upon the title of the book. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Color Purple are a couple of potent examples. So as I was writing, I had my “third ear” open, listening for possible titles. I considered several that didn’t feel quite right. Then up popped “The River by Starlight” and there it was. Readers will know from the first page of the book that it’s from a journal entry by Henry David Thoreau. But they have to read some chapters in to find out how it impacts the story and why it’s a thread that carries throughout the book.                                                                         

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Although The River by Starlight confronts loss and grief in many shape-shifting forms, it’s not a tale of depth-less terror and tragedy. I would not and could not have written a book like that. Edmonton historian Tony Cashman is a dear friend of mine, and in his testimonial, he described the book as “a story told with deep understanding of the human heart, which won’t abandon hope.” That refusal to abandon hope—Annie’s astonishing resilience and tenacity in the face of devastating events, is a tribute to the luminescence of the human spirit that lives in all of us. That’s why I wrote the book. I didn’t think she should be the one nobody talks about. I wanted her to be the one everybody talks about. 

How much of the book is realistic?

100%. I put in over a decade of research, including six trips to Montana, Edmonton, and North Dakota. Much of the book describes events that did take place, and most of what I made up was also based on that research. I consulted more than 40 libraries and archives, read more than 1,000 homestead accounts, close to 100 books, and several miles of microfilmed newspapers.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. I have two blogs on my website, for fiction and nonfiction. My Facebook page is a very interactive community of readers from more than 40 countries.

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

I’m percolating an idea based on another long-ago real person, whose early life was a dramatic brew of siblings lost to an epidemic, the Civil War, and historic upheaval within her faith community. She eventually landed in Dayton, Ohio, in the same neighborhood as an interesting pair of brothers who claimed to be building a flying machine. Once I start writing a bit, I’ll know if she wants to tell me her story.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

Like the children’s book, I Love You the Purplest, my mother impressed upon me that her children were so different from each other, it meant that each was her favorite in their own way. It’s just that way for my characters in The River by Starlight, many of whom I love, but in ways that defy comparison. Nor do I have a favorite villain, and at least one reader agreed, in what is a favorite comment: “The characters are real and pop off the page. I have empathy, sorrow, joy, and want to choke a number of them!”

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

As writers, we’re often told to write what we know, but also told to write what scares us, or write what we want to know. I’d written four nonfiction books and countless essays and advice columns when I decided to write a historical novel. I can’t say enough about how expansive it’s been, in every way, to stretch myself into uncharted territory as a writer. I’m eager to both continue on with what I’m good at, and to push my pencil into forms and genres I haven’t before considered.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

Pantser! I’ll start with a spark of an idea and see where the research takes me. When I start writing, the story will either bloom or fall flat. If it blooms, I go on, listening with my “third ear” and following the arc of the story as my research expands. It’s almost like a game where I’m given facts or leads or provocative questions, I work them into the story, then listen for how the characters are going to respond. I’m constantly judging the messages I’m portraying, whether I’m getting it right, and also gauging when it’s necessary for me to take literary license and depart from that.

What is your best marketing tip?

Find what you’re best at and focus on that. It’s good and appropriate to stretch yourself to do things that may be a bit beyond your comfort zone but none of us can be good at everything, let alone have the time or money to do it all. If you really hate, say, a particular social media platform or blogging or podcasts or live events or whatever, be unapologetic about saying no to it. I believe readers pick up on insincerity, so connect them with your best self.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

In all things, balance. It’s every author’s choice whether to invest time and effort in a social media presence, but to forego it entirely is to greatly limit your ability to connect with readers and potential readers. Readers expect an internet presence, and other less immediate sources may not come to mind. At the same time, neither is an author obligated to spend untold hours on social media. How much presence, how much effort an author wants to devote to her digital platform is entirely individual, and there’s no “right” amount. I know authors who are only on Facebook, or only on Twitter, and post only when they feel they have something to say. Writers have to prioritize the writing, ruminating, and revising that make us writers in the first place.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The magic of it. Watching words flow out of a pencil tip, watching words form sentences, sentences form paragraphs, paragraphs form whole stories. Sometimes it’s almost like I’m an observer.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

Genre is such a fluid thing to me. Though the writing of my fiction and nonfiction were vastly different experiences, there was enough crossover for me to loosen the boundaries in my mind of what “genre” means. My novel has been recognized with awards for historical fiction, regional fiction, literary fiction. My nonfiction books and historical articles have a strong storytelling element to them. I hope to cross a few more genre thresholds before I’m done.

What genre are you currently reading?

I’m usually reading several books at any given time; right now I’m reading a historical novel, a memoir, a creative nonfiction, and a classic.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

They’re inseparable, because research is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s entertaining, informational, emotionally and intellectually challenging. In a way, everything I read is research. It all lodges in my conscious or subconscious and finds its way into my writing in one way or another, either by what I include or what I choose not to include.

 

Where is your favorite writing space?

In my head, of course!

Do you see writing as a career?

Sure, because the definition of “career” is as broad as a writer’s mind allows it to be. I just internet-searched the definition, and the first one that came up was, “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” Notice it doesn’t mention earning money? I’ve been blessed to have been able to earn a living as a writer, but I know countless writers who’ve been writing and publishing gloriously for years without earning a living. Their work is no less worthy than mine of being called a career. If we read only “career writers” as defined in the conventional sense (money-makers), the breadth and depth of what we read would be far poorer indeed.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

When I’m “in the zone,” I have to remember to breathe, let alone eat. Although for a few blissful weeks in the summer, no day is complete until I’ve eaten my weight in blueberries.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

Making a deadline is its own reward. I’ve high-fived the wall more than a few times in my career.

BIO

An award-winning author in both nonfiction and fiction, Ellen Notbohm’s work has informed, inspired, and guided millions of readers in more than twenty languages. In addition to her acclaimed historical novel The River by Starlight and her globally renowned books on autism and, her articles and columns on such diverse subjects as history, genealogy, baseball, writing and community affairs have appeared in major publications and captured audiences on every continent.

The River by Starlight has been recognized with awards for historical, regional, and literary fiction. Its focus on maternal mental health and gender bias in the early 20th century explores a history rarely addressed in fiction.

Explore Ellen’s work and subscribe to her blogs and newsletter at http://www.ellennotbohm.com.

Connect through social media:

Facebook – Ellen Notbohm, Author

Twitter: @EllenNotbohm

Instagram: Ellen Notbohm

 

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