Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Interview – Karen Harmon

November 5, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Karen's Headshot.jpg

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?”

normal

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.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS 

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.

Bio:

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.

Capture

 

Writing Prompt Wednesday

February 14, 2018
mandyevebarnett


9781608636921

List a few phobias you have. When and how did you discover you had these?

rhino

My ‘phobia’s’ are rather bizarre to say the least. Firstly, as a child I had a recurring nightmare, which was so vivid I would wake with terrible stomach and back pain. The source was a rhino’s horn penetrating my body! In the dream I was at a fancy ‘garden’ party with marquees, waiters, lavish tables, musicians – the works. I was still young and attended with my parents. The setting was Africa on the boundary of the wilderness. (I was born in South Africa).

A rhino thundered towards the garden party scattering the guests in all directions, it also pierced through me as it exited the scene. I could feel the horn through my body and the jarring as the animal ran across the savanna. I could hear screams behind me as the guests realized my predicament. This is the moment I would wake up.

Many, many years later, when my daughter, a born animal whisper wanted to visit the rhino house at Longleat Safari Park, UK, I tried to get her to go on her own. Up to that point I couldn’t even look at a rhino photo images on the TV. She was insistent I went with her to stroke the animal. As we entered the rhino house my fear grew. My daughter went up to the rhino, who was leaning against the massive metal bars and patted it’s hide. She held my hand as I did the same. It’s hide is incredibly solid and rough and I was amazed at how it felt. This encounter lessened my childhood fear in a way I did not think possible. I can look at rhino’s now but still find I turn away when the images are of a charging bull rhino.

avalanche1

My second ‘phobia’ became apparent once I became a mother. The feelings of love and protection were (and are) so intense that I worry about my children’s safety and well-being. Even now when they are adult’s, I still worry about them (I am often teased because of it but the ‘cord’ is never cut – as we mother’s know only too well). Again I had recurring nightmares of this situation, which in a dreamscape is perfectly reasonable, of course. Bearing in mind at the time I was living in England and the situation was far from possible, the dreams were all too real to me.

Once again the dreams were vivid and I had the sensation of the bitter cold. Upon waking I would be shivering. The dream situated me with my two small children on a mountain side where an avalanche roared down towards us. I grabbed a child under each arm and ran to a rocky outcrop, where I held them tight under the overhang. As tonnes of snow poured over us I clung as tightly as I could to ensure each child was not ripped from my grasp.

Once the torrent ceased, we were buried in a capsule of snow and ice with a small pocket of space around us. As time passed, we became colder and colder and I understood I had to find a way to keep my children warm. (Now remember this is a dream and anything is possible in a dream!) I had the children put their feet and hands on my torso and that worked for a while but I could feel my extremities heat lessening. So the best way to keep the children warm was to put them ‘inside’ me where it was very warm. I cut my torso open and made the children crawl inside.

This is the moment I would wake up.

So now you have a glimpse at my psyche – how about you share too?

The Ghost Next Door…

June 27, 2016
mandyevebarnett


graveyard

Image: Upper Bucklebury graveyard (A favorite place for me – but that is another story!)

As promised I am sharing some personal encounters in regard to ghosts, reincarnation etc. This event happened when I was approximately 10 years old. We lived in a small village in England called Upper Bucklebury. There was only one store beside the gas station, it serviced the community and was a hub for meeting neighbors as well as providing essentials.

(***This village is now world famous due to Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge, once living here)

Like all of my friends at that time, we rode bicycles everywhere and the easiest way to find your child, as a parent, was to walk down the road and find the pile of bicycles on the lawn of a house. The housing estate was fairly new so the residents were mainly younger couples and their children and we became a firm community within the village as a whole. Clothing swaps, coffee mornings, and feeding and bathing whichever children were present at that time of day was usual. I’m sure now-a-days this practice would herald an immediate police presence! We did not think it strange to bathe with our friends in a row in the various baths and then go home for bedtime. Anyway I digress.

We had an elderly lady living in the older home beside our house. It was a run down property with a huge plot of land mainly filled with an old apple orchard and collapsing sheds at the back. The lady, Mrs. Vallece (unsure of the spelling) lived with a multitude of cats, her only companions. My mother would make extra food for our meals a couple of times a week and send myself or one of my siblings to deliver to her. We thought she mainly survived on cat food. She was a kindly lady and enjoyed the interaction with us. Her favorite spot was at the front window watching the world go by. So it was natural to wave to her if we rode past.

On this particular morning, my mother asked me to go to the store and buy something. I jumped onto my bicycle and set off. Mrs. Vallece was at her usual spot and I waved and she waved back. I did not think anything of this. With the item purchased I rode back home and glanced at the front window once again but Mrs. Vallece was not there. Again nothing unusual in that. Once in the kitchen I told my mother Mrs Vallece was waving and would we be taking a meal around for her. My mother looked at me with a strange look on her face.

“You waved to Mrs. Vallece? Are you sure?”

“Yes of course she was at the window like always.”

“Well, actually she couldn’t have been there sweetheart. She died five weeks ago.”

I cannot remember the rest of the conversation but I am sure my mother would have taken the time to explain what might have happened. To this day I am absolutely positive I saw Mrs. Vallece. Maybe it was her way of saying goodbye because I never saw her again.

Have you seen a ghost?

Did you see something that you cannot explain?

 

 

 

Where Did Imagination Go..?

December 15, 2014
mandyevebarnett


articles

As Christmas gets ever closer the advertising machine goes into overdrive. There are numerous adverts on the television and other outlets for an abundance of toys and gift ideas for all the family. As I do not watch much television, when I happen to catch a stream of adverts I am amazed at the toy choices given. Why, you may ask? Well it is the lack of toys that encourage a child to use their imagination. Everything is themed or a character figurine or a ‘set’ of some kind or other.

lego

I make the comparison with lego – when I was a child lego consisted of various shaped blocks with which you used your imagination to build a plethora of objects. Today lego blocks are in kits, which make a single themed toy. Where is the imagination element? How can a child conjure up fantastical creatures, futuristic vehicles and unique buildings when the blocks limit their creativity?

To be a ‘whole’ person, we need to explore our physical, spiritual and mental capacities, in essence to find what we love, what we are passionate about. If we are limited in that exploration we, and our future generations, will experience a imperfect life. 

Take a simple cardboard box at Christmas it is the focus of young children while their expensive gifts are discarded. Why does a simple box engage so? Well, because it can be ‘anything’ – a tunnel, a car, a house, and much more because their imagination makes it that way. It is limitless in its possibilities.

Let’s look at guarding our imagination and that of our children.

What is your view on imagination and creation?

cardboard box

Childhood Heroes To Be Immortalised in Film…

July 25, 2014
mandyevebarnett


For many of us Enid Blyton will be a reminder of our childhood. Reading the adventures of the Famous Five and imaging ourselves in those situations, caused delight and adventure at bedtime. I read today that there are plans to make a Famous Five movie. See link:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/25/enid-blyton-famous-five-big-screen-adventure

enid-blyton

It is a bold idea when most children nowadays are more interested in technological heroes, machines and violence. It will be interesting to see what sort of adaptation is produced. What are your thoughts on it?

Which childhood book (or books) would you enjoy watching as  a movie?

I love Stig of the Dump, as I can imagine a caveman trying to come to terms with modern day technology and how we ‘buy’ everything instead of making it or fashioning useful articles from whatever we can find.

FunDay

Today’s fun prompt is – How would you adapt your favorite childhood hero into a movie?

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