Writing both energizes and exhaust me, depending at what stage I am in the writing process. Coming up with cool plot lines and ideas, as well as character development is fun and energizing but about half way through the book, I bog down and get tired. A bit of writing ADHD?
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Chocolate. Laundry. Anything I can use to procrastinate!
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Absolutely! Still haven’t ruled it out in fact.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I didn’t have any writer friends until I decided to go on a writers retreat. It was there I learned I could call myself a writer even if I didn’t have a bestseller.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Both. Some will be connected, some absolutely not.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Time away; retreats, get-aways, whatever I need to do to focus.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I remember coming home from grade one, waving my reader. I was so excited, and so amazed at the world that was opened up to me through the words. I have never forgotten that feeling of awe and amazement.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I’m not sure it is under-appreciated but I loved The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I was hooked beginning with the first paragraph; such lyrical words and such a beautiful picture she painted.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Gosh, I really don’t know. Maybe the A&W Root Bear?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
What does literary success look like to you?
People like what they read and my writings make a difference in this world.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I don’t do much research, as the type of books I have written don’t really require it. I may research the odd thing as I go along, just to make sure I have a name right or something. Most of my writing is based in some way on real life.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
Very sporadic and not disciplined. It can be from 20 hours to zero, sometimes one week after the other.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I try them on with their character to see if there is a fit or not. Pure gut instinct.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
My first book just happened. I call it my accidental book. It is a collection of FB posts from the time I announced my son had taken his life until about a year later. The second was a children’s book. Coming up I have a novel that walks the line between romance and smut (lol!). I also have a collection of stories that all involved the same women going through different things in their lives.
There is no real balancing as I go with what I am in the mood for and tend to work on that one until I am finished.
How long have you been writing?
Since I learned to read. I don’t really remember not writing.
What inspires you?
If I can find a place of solitude and peace with little distractions, lots of sleep and nature, I find that is when my creativity flourishes.
How do you find or make time to write?
Honestly, I don’t find enough time. I fit it in for the most part.
What projects are you working on at the present?
Finishing a novel is my primary focus right now.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I have a few non-fiction ideas that I would like to work on when I have the time to do the necessary research and interviews. There just are not enough hours in the day!
Carla Howatt lives in Alberta, Canada where she helped raise four children, two husbands and a pug. She is a recovering politician and business owner. A communicator at heart, Carla is also a proud introvert, port inhaler, and dark chocolate hunter.
I have to admit I have been rather distracted from my own writing recently (the freelance project is going well however). My distraction came in the form of a Netflix series called Peaky Blinders. Set in 1920’s Birmingham, UK the characters, especially Tommy Shelby, are captivating, raw, beautifully portrayed and ‘binge’ worthy. The story lines are inspired and as a writer this is ‘research’ at its best. The costumes, accents, locations and plot twists make this series one that will be remembered and referred to again and again.
Attention to detail makes the series really great and that is what all writers want to accomplish in their work too. We want our readers to envisaged our characters and their setting in vivid imagery. This is accomplished with speech patterns, descriptions, mannerisms and reactions to certain situations.
What methods do you use to bring your characters to life?
The second novel in this trilogy certainly does not disappoint.
Writing Tips: Marketing Your Book
Market and promote your book locally, then gradually expand your efforts. Create advertisements, such as business cards, posters and fliers, that will catch your target audiences’ eye. As a general rule, promoting your book locally is your best bet – use local newspapers, libraries, open mic nights, local writing groups and book clubs, etc.
Create an “elevator pitch”. With this focused message, aimed at a particular person or group you summarize why they should be interested in your book. Your elevator pitch should be no longer than two or three sentences focusing on your book’s selling points—the ones that make it unique and special.
Our emotions and physical condition certainly influence our moods and in turn our writing. Strong emotions, such as anger or depression subdue our creativity while feelings of love and happiness enhance it. If we are suffering an illness, our mind is filled with pain, discomfort or tiredness. Our concentration is in short supply or our focus limited. To pour out these feelings in words can dispel some of them.
As writers, we learn to use these emotional insights to the benefit of our craft. It gives us an idea how our characters may react to a certain situation and thus breathes life into our stories. Of course when we are in the midst of these feelings they are possibly too raw to even contemplate using but as with all things time heals. Jot down how it felt to be angry, shocked, sad, joyful or happy.
Did your body feel different?
Was your mind erratic or focused?
When the feeling passed, what changes did you notice?
When you can look back at that emotion and look deeply into it, it is there we find inspiration – it will strengthen our writing – and also (hopefully) help resolve barriers in character development.For example, after feeling angry does your ‘action’ scene have more impact? Did you channel the forceful nature of your feelings into your characters? Or when relaxed and comfortable can you imagine a characters reflection on a certain subject better?
How do you find your emotional state affects your writing?
Have you used a personal emotion to good effect in your writing?
Before writing NOLA Gals, I was deeply moved by Hurricane Katrina. The constant media coverage engrained the tragedy in my mind. I wanted to share it with younger readers who would not know about it in years to come.
How did you come up with the title?
NOLA Gals seemed a natural to me. The city “NO”, state “LA” and a touch of the south, “Gals.” I made sure, however, that not far into the novel I explain it for those who might not figure it out.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?
This is my first published book although I have a draft of another earlier novel about a teen whose dad has cancer brought on by his military service in Vietnam.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want readers, particularly teens to realize the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, the disruption of the lives of those who survived, the racial prejudice encountered and the importance of reading a really good book. The NOLA Gals are helped by lessons of tolerance they read in To Kill a Mockingbird.
How much of the book is realistic?
The book is historical fiction from just ten years ago so I did extensive research. The Source List at the end of the novel contains every book, movie or music CD I used in the writing of the novel.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some are based on people I know, others are completely made up (the two main characters, Essence and Grace, for instance). George, the poodle is very real, my sister-in-law’s dog. His photo is at the end of the book.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
Good question. I think probably little Char. At five-years-old, she exemplifies the combined innocence and terror of a child in the midst of a terrible natural disaster. Her quest to honor her grandmother’s life with a ceremony for her ashes was very moving to write.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I tried to keep the book “clean” so it could be used in classrooms. I might have softened the relationship between Harold and Mama. Making her older when it began.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Keep reading. It is such a source of learning in life. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself by reading realistic books, even the classics. And never lose curiosity. That, to me, is the most important trait to get you through life. Never lose the wonder of discovery.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I have total power over the universe I create. I can tell when I’m onto a good passage of writing because I give myself chills as I write. Such chilling passages in NOLA Gals for me were the extended metaphors of both Hurricane Katrina and Rita. The impromptu jazz parade at the Superdome. The cocktail party/dance juxtapositions. Mimmi’s ashes. The To Kill a Mockingbird defense.
I also love working with kids in schools and meeting with adult groups, too. The kids love the book and want tips on writing, especially extended metaphors. I have photos, samples kids have written, and ideas for writing on my website, nolagals.com I have donated some of my royalties to schools in New Orleans and hope to visit there, too. Adult book clubs are fun. I just met with a group of twelve ladies who all loved the book. Several said they had read it in one night. When a sixth grader approaches you with tears in her eyes and asks for your autograph on her notebook, “cuz I’ve never met a real author before” those chills pop. Or when a 7th grade boy says in front of the whole class that, “I’ve never read a book that makes me feel so deeply,” you know your job is done, and done well as a writer.”
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I wrote at a young age. In fourth grade I was fortunate to have a teacher, Miss Downes who let me write and direct plays at school. Later I had a southern lady, Mrs. Hartwig for three years in junior high who assigned us weekly compositions. She would read a few aloud to the class every week, and I was always so proud when she read one of mine. She really instilled creativity in all of us that stuck. I wrote dreadful poetry in high school. Later as an adult, I wrote serious poetry and published some and won a few awards.
What is your favourite theme/genre to write?
I like writing for kids, especially historical fiction. I am writing a sequel now, for NOLA Gals as so many people have requested one. It is Essence’s memoir written ten years later, looking back on her struggle to survive during the rebuilding of New Orleans. I am in the research stage now, having soaked up so many ideas during the recent tenth anniversary commemorations for Hurricane Katrina.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Not a subject, but writing for kids I try not to get too negative. Some of the post-apocalyptic fiction kids read can be such a downer. I hope to give kids hope. The ending of NOLA Gals does that.
What book are you reading now? I just read “The Martian” by Andy Weir. I can’t wait for the movie. It was a great example of surviving by your wits.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? My current favorite is Hillary Mantel. Her British historical fiction is amazing. I’m awaiting the third book of her Wolf Hall trilogy about Henry the VIII. I tend to become obsessed with a writer and read all his/her works. I’m doing that now will Mantel. I love to go to London, England and see plays. And last time there I saw both of the adaptations of her two books in one day. I was thrilled that she was there signing programs, too. I’ve also watched the new BBC version of her books, too. Her memoir is also great.
A personal favorite is a memoir written by my friend, Anne-Marie Oomen. Love, Sex and 4-H is one of my favorite memoirs ever.
Do you see writing as a career?
No, I couldn’t live on my royalties. I’m retired with a pension. It’s still hard for me to accept money for my writing. I volunteer all my time in classrooms and for adult groups. Let’s face it: schools are mostly broke these days. I taught for over 30 years so I figure I’m giving back now to kids and adults.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
I don’t nibble while I write, but when I finish a session with my laptop, I seem to need a victory ride, so I hop in the car and head out for a delectable snack. Depending on the hour, it might be a trip to the Dairy Queen, for a tin-roof sundae, or a drive-thru shake somewhere. If it’s been a long writing session, I’ll grab a meal somewhere. A glass of wine doesn’t hurt either.
Do you have any odd habits or childhood stories?
I tend to be phobic about people talking during movies. I’ve been known to get up and move more than once when people around me talk. And don’t get me started on texting in theaters. Rudeness seems to be the new norm.
I grew up in a suburb of Detroit with a very British dad. I was the second of six kids, a big Catholic family. When I was in first grade I was part of the First Communion class at Saturday catechism classes. Every week we would recite our prayers, learn our saints (especially the martyred – so gloriously bloody), and receive the priest’s blessing, before we trotted off down the road to see a double feature at the local movie theater. It was the fifties when for a quarter you could eat a sloppy Joe and sip a root beer at the dime store counter before the movies for another fifteen cents. Then we’d settle in for two features of Martin & Lewis or Laurel & Hardy, lots of cartoons and even a newsreel. The audience was rowdy, but we loved it. Those were the days when kids could wander and parents didn’t worry. That Saturday morning however, catechism was scary, the reason to make me worry. Sister Bartholomew stood before us and peered down at us through her wire-rim glasses. “Girls and boys,” she said. “If the Russians came today…” We all stiffened in our seats at the mention of our evil enemies. “If the Russians,” she repeated, “came here and set up a pot of boiling oil right outside this window,” she pointed with her crooked finger, and rasped lowly,” if they lit that oil, and it began to bubble.” We began to shrink in our seats, our fear also bubbling. “If they then came up those stairs outside that door.” She swung around, the large crucifix hanging at the waist of her black habit swinging, “And they burst through that locked door, with loaded guns aimed at your hearts.” We sank even lower, terrified. “Now they walk up and down these rows and stop before each desk. They lean over and hiss in each face and ask you if you are Catholic. What would you answer if you knew…” Again she turned to the window, “What would you say if you knew a “yes” would deliver your small body to the boiling oil?” We were paralyzed, seeing ourselves bobbing in the oil. We all shouted we would say “yes,” of course. There was no other response to Sister.
“Class dismissed,” she said. And we ran out of the room. No horror movie we were about to see could ever equal this torture.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully alive. With at least one more published novel under my belt. I also have a memoir in me when time allows it. I’d also like to see NOLA Gals as a play or movie.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing comes easy for me. It always has. Publishing is another story. It took years to get someone to even look at the manuscript. I hate writing query letters and being at the mercy of agents and publishers who see dollar signs as the reason to give a work a chance. Thank goodness for the small presses of the world who will read a manuscript and take a risk.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? None, really. I’ve always been right on target with deadlines. I grew up in a family that was always way too early for every event and deadline. If we were going to a concert, we’d get there long before the doors opened, and the musicians arrived. Fifteen minutes early for others was late for us.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Looking back on things I wrote like early teen poetry, I see it as very bad, but I chalk that up to inexperience. I hate writing done for assignments written to a specific formula like the “five-paragraph theme.” They don’t really exist in nature, only in teachers’ minds.
What book do you wish you had written?
My all-time favorite is probably Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I first read it when I was in junior high and have never forgotten it. The eerie mood she sets of the old mansion Manderley on the Cornish coast of England still gives me chills. I’ve seen all the movie versions of it and will find myself up late at night watching Sir Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine combat the evil Mrs. Danvers until the wee hours even though I know I have all the movie versions in my collection. Just hooked forever on this mystery.
What is your best marketing tip?
Set a budget and stick to it. Don’t let vanity overrule your pocketbook. There are many people out there who want your money. Join all the writing groups on facebook that do free promotion. Use twitter and tumblr and other social media. If you want to enter contests, chose selectively and research past winners to see if your book fits in. Beware of goodreads and its reviewers. They can be abusive and face no recourse. Trolls can do in an author.
What genre is your next project? What is it about?
A sequel to NOLA Gals, at this time untitled. A memoir.
How do we find your books, blog and bio?NOLA Gals is available on Amazon. Website is: nolagals.com
What inspired you to write your first book?It was time, plain and simply. I had been putting together information for ages and it was just time to clear off my desk! I’ve always written but I think I had more time to really think it out and organize the information after I retired. How did you come up with the title?
When I write I often create the title first. This gives me a sense of grounding. The title of my first book is “A Country Gal in the City” and I am literally that gal. The book is a reminiscent collection of humorous stories and poems based on real life. I have lived in both city and country so the title is a natural. No matter how many other books I write, I’ll always be that country gal whose life bridges two worlds.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?
ACGITC is my first official book. I’m working on a second now. It’s called “Things Were Going Fine Till We Hit the Rapids”. For years I wrote columns in two specific magazines, “Our World+50” and “Cloverleaf Country”, and various newsletters, smaller publications. My work was also displayed as a museum exhibit for a year. I currently have my work published in 12 anthologies of Canadian writers. During my career years I did a lot of business and medical writing, so while I wasn’t published through traditional means, I have always been “a writ’n fool”! Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My books aren’t novels, but rather compilations true stories. I don’t write to give a message but if there is something in my writing, it would be to get out there and really live! Remember to be grateful for the good things in your life and more grateful for the harsh things. It’s during the tough times in life when we learn the most important lessons. How much of the book is realistic?
As above, it’s all based on real people and real life events. Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Yes very much so and they generally appear as themselves. In rare cases I change names and/or combine people or events to ensure privacy. One of the strongest characters is my late father, Ty Smith. He had a great sense of humor and was genuinely accident prone. The combination provided unlimited side-slapping situations. He always had a caper on the go. Really now, do you know anyone who could charm his wife into dangling him by the ankles out the upstairs window so he could patch cracks in the stucco?
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes, yes! I would change the format to make it read more easily and compliment the contents. In the next book I will include a table of contents, something which I totally forgot in the first. I’m satisfied with the artistic content but am considering a second edition that will just look and read better with a few more selections added in. Barring that, the next book will have a cleaner presentation. Publishing is an ongoing process so I’m guessing that you reach perfection after producing several hundred books! Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
My goal is for them to see the picture I’ve painted with words. If they come along on the ride through the story and have a good time, then I’ve succeeded. If they throw back their heads and belly laugh, even better. My work reflects everyday experiences (well in most cases) that most of us have had, and I write those from a humorous point of view. I hope the reader will see that there is humor and fun in almost every situation.
What is your favorite part/chapter of your book/project?
I’ve long suspected that I was born in the wrong century. I love the story about the cattle roundup. On one of those shindigs, you just work yourself down to a stump while having a ton of fun and laughs. It’s not for everyone and I’ve met some cows that would also like to skip the experience, but if you ever get the chance to participate … What is your favourite theme/genre to write?
Humor. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Mmmmm! That a tough one. I think I could tackle almost anything, especially if it was research related, however if it required a lot of cruelty, really bad language or depravity, I think I might struggle a bit. If it had a higher meaning, that is, to be used as a reference or is written for a specific special interest group, then perhaps it would make the experience more palatable. What book are you reading now?
I’m not reading anything right now. This is a somewhat vain attempt to keep focussed on my own writing. I’m not sure it’s working! However, when I want to escape I read mindless drivel that I can steam through in a day or so. There was a time when all I read was textbooks, even for enjoyment! I’m not so driven now, although I enjoy a good hematology text every now and then. I sound like a vampire!
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Not at this time. Do you see writing as a career?
I don’t think I’m disciplined enough to make a total career out of writing. I love it but I have a very busy life so I struggle with balancing all the things that I love to do. Now if someone gave me a huge publishing advance I’d strap myself to the desk and stay there until I finished the book or died trying. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Do you mean literally or figuratively? My husband and I have just moved to a village community in the country so I imagine we will still be here until they come to cart us off. Whether that’s in ten years, who knows. As for my writing, and I think that’s what you really wanted to know, I plan to have rounded out my technique and finished several books. I’m like a slow moving steam engine and I’m still building up that head of steam. Heaven help us when I reach warp speed! I’ve been incubating an idea for a children’s book series for years and I think I’d like to play with that next. However I also have an outline for a collaborative cookbook with my youngest daughter. There are lots of potential projects to keep me busy. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in you writing?
Discipline! To produce you have to sit there and write. I do a lot of fooling around – coffee, get comfortable, look outside (my window looks out on a green area where wild things pass by), sip coffee, get comfortable again, quick glance outside (was that a deer), check e-mail, call up writing files, sip coffee, think and key I some words and ideas, sip coffee, glance outside (yes it is and there’s another one), now it’s time to use the washroom……… Eventually I get some writing down, but it’s a struggle. It’s obvious that I need to throw out the coffee pot and move my office to the basement! Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Not hated. I just knew I could do better. I tried my hand at fiction one time and my writing group advised me to kill off the husband of the main character early in the story. I really let him have it in a very gory way and when I read it to the group there was literal wincing. I may have gone a little overboard! Actually I really like my writing. I may be the only one who does, but the important thing is that it gives me joy! What book do you wish you had written?
I love the writing of James A. Michener because he researched so well and was an excellent story teller. You can literally step into the story and stay there. I would be proud to say that I wrote “Centennial”. My friend, Sue Hyde, is writing a book about the old west and it’s fascinating. I love the characters and how she crafts the story. Every time she sends me pages, I can’t help being drawn into the story and it stays with me for a long time afterward. That’s the sign of a good author. I hope I can do that for my readers. What is your best marketing tip?
Be bold. Ask for the business. Go for it! I’ll sit on the sidelines and watch. I suck at marketing! What genre is your next project? What is it about?
The same genre. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Here’s the text from the book cover.
“Things Were Going Fine Till We Hit the Rapids” is a collection of short stories and embedded poems, all based on real life experiences. The title has a double meaning, because we can literally hit the rapids on a boat ride down a river and we can metaphorically hit the rapids on our journey down the river of life. Barbie-Jo writes with both sensitivity and hilarity, sharing stories from her life and introducing characters who whose antics and experiences will have you laughing out loud. How do we find your books, blog and bio?
Through my publisher, Dream Write Publishing http://www.dreamwrite.ca, or email@example.com or you can simply e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.