Mandy Eve-Barnett's Official Blog

Inspiration for Writers & Building A Community ©

Author Interview – Pauline Holyoak

February 26, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

pauline

What inspired your latest novel? – I have written a trilogy and two children’s books. My trilogy, Merryweather Lodge, was inspired by my own experiences in a remote and mysterious little cottage near Stonehenge. This cottage was called Scotland Lodge and belonged to my aunt and uncle. We would spend our summer holidays there when I was a child. It was my fairy tale kingdom but it had a sinister twist. The memories of my summers at Scotland Lodge stayed with me, as a sort of nagging unsolved mystery all my life. A few years ago I revisited my childhood wonderland and was led to concocting this story and writing this trilogy. This wonderland and my childhood fantasies were the catalyst for my writing career and the inspiration for my trilogy. My published children’s book, Melanie Gets A Nanny, comes from my experiences as a professional Nanny. My soon-to-be published, children’s book, Carly’s Incredible Dream, comes from my childhood fantasies.                                                                        

How did you come up with the title? The real name of the cottage in my trilogy was Scotland Lodge. I didn’t want to use that name so I changed it to Merryweather Lodge. I thought it sounded cozy and quaint and a tad mysterious.   

lodge    2011_silver                                         

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? My protagonist, Emily Fletcher, has a message. She is an attractive, strong-willed young woman, who struggles with her self-image, volatile temper and bad habits. She’s a vegetarian and a progressive thinker. Like me, she likes her own space and often wanders into the country to ponder and seek solace from Mother Nature. She has always dreamt of living a simple life, in her aunts enchanting little cottage, with her gorgeous prince charming. Slowly, she learns how to conquer her fears, get in touch with her intuition, overcome her struggles, tame her temper and enhance her self-esteem.

How much of the book is realistic? My books are fiction, with an element of truth.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? My characters are bits and pieces of the personalities and characteristics of myself, friends, relatives, acquaintances, the woman behind the counter, etc. And yes, they are based on events in my own life.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I do not have a blog anymore. Here is my website paulineholyoak.com You will find links to my social media sites on there.

merry

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a standalone? I am working on a standalone, paranormal, suspense novel. And, I have a middle grade book, Carly’s Incredible Dream, due to be released this spring.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? My reader’s favorite Merryweather Lodge character was my protagonist’s aunt, Auntie Em. She was, not only in her appearance but in her personality and idiosyncrasies, a mixture of my mother and grandmother. All their good parts blended into one.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? Actually, I write in a lot of different genres. My short stories range from, political lit to romance. My trilogy is paranormal suspense. I am now in the process of writing a paranormal romance. My children’s books cover a wide range of genres.

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

sacrfice

What is your best marketing tip? Keep a consistent online presence. And, hand out as many bookmarks, promo cards etc. as you can afford.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? I think the internet, is the most powerful tool an author has. There are literally hundreds of sites that will promote ones book, some are free and some are very costly.  I blog, tweet, do online interviews, reviews, facebook and try to keep a consistent online presence. It can be extremely time consuming but I know it’s an important element in establishing my writing career.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS 

What age did you start writing stories/poems? As far back as I can remember the pen and paper have been my faithful companions and story telling my forte. As a child I was shy and reclusive. I lived in my inner world of fantasy and make-believe, preferring the company of Mother Nature and my imaginary friend, than that of other children. Often, I would sneak away from the mundane adult world, find a private retreat (usually behind the garden shed) and imagine. There in my own little sanctuary with tools in hand, I’d conjure up all kinds of intriguing tales and colorful characters, then I’d read them to my imaginary friend. She was always ‘so’ attentive. LOL

Has your genre changed or stayed the same? I have always like to cover a wide range of genres.

What genre are you currently reading? Suspense.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Pleasure.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? My muse.

Where is your favorite writing space? My office. It is my private domain, my retreat, with my favorite quotes, family pics and art work, created by my granddaughters, on the walls. No one is allowed in there but me! LOL

melanie

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? No, but I’m thinking of starting one.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? Probably Steven King. I love his books and he always has such great advice. There are so many…

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? I would love to live part of the year in England. I was born and grew up there. I adore the English countryside. It is a smorgasbord for the artistically inclined.. I would have moved back there years ago, if it weren’t for my children and now, grandchildren.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? Oh yes. Dark chocolate and red wine. Yummy!!!

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Dark chocolate and red wine..LOL

Bio: 

About me – I grew in Southeast England, in a coal mining village lovingly nicknamed, “The place that time forgot.” Go to my website, click on ‘Articles’ and find out why.  I immigrated to Canada when I was 21 in search of adventure and a new life.  I currently live in Alberta with my adorable sheltie dog. I am the proud mother of two grown children and three adorable granddaughters’.

As far back as I can remember the pen and paper have been my faithful companions and story telling my forte. As a child I was shy and reclusive. I lived in my inner world of fantasy and make-believe, preferring the company of Mother Nature and my imaginary friend, than that of other children. Often, I would sneak away from the mundane adult world, find a private retreat (usually behind the garden shed) and imagine. There in my own little sanctuary with tools in hand, I’d conjure up all kinds of intriguing tales and colorful characters, then I’d read them to my imaginary friend. She was always ‘so’ attentive.  I remember writing a story in school; I must have been about 8 years old, at the time. It was about a rabbit and a hare, cousins I think, running away from home and getting into all kinds of mischief. I still remember my teacher’s reaction after she read it. She looked at me with a stern faced and asked, “Did you copy this?” “No, Miss Finn, I pleaded, “It just, came right out of my head.” “Hmmmm” she scoffed suspiciously. I was devastated but it never stopped me, I kept writing whatever, just, came out of my head. In my teen years my journal became my confident, revealing all my hidden secrets, private fantasies and wild, wild, notions within its pages. Later I started to write poems, articles and short stories, and pondered the thought of becoming a writer.

After I settled in Canada, I buried my dreams under layers of real life clutter. I chose a safe and practical career in child care, married and raised a family. But my creative spirit kept trying to dig its way out. I was asked to write articles and editorials for our local church. I taught a story time class at our local school, which lead me to writing a children’s book. I wrote an article about my husbands’ prestigious grandfather and sent it to our local newspaper. They printed it. I kept sending them articles, they kept printing them. I was surprised at the compliments I received from the editor and readers. It was evident to me then, that I had excavated my creative spirit.

I decided to take a comprehensive writing course to improve my technique. With help from a proficient and supportive tutor, who told me I had a gift, I began to cultivate my skill. My articles started to sell and I received an assignment from a major Canadian magazine. I have spent the past 25 years writing, articles, short stories and books. 

About my trilogy – Merryweather Lodge, was inspired by my own experiences in a remote and mysterious little cottage near Stonehenge. This cottage was called Scotland Lodge and belonged to my aunt and uncle. We would spend our summer holidays there when I was a child. It was my fairytale kingdom but it had a sinister twist. The memories of my summers at Scotland Lodge stayed with me, as a sort of nagging unsolved mystery all my life. A few years ago I revisited my childhood wonderland and was led to concocting this story and writing this trilogy. This wonderland and my childhood fantasies were the catalyst for my writing career and the inspiration for my trilogy.

The first book in my Merryweather Lodge trilogy Merryweather Lodge – Ancient Revenge, was the Readers Favorite 2011 Silver Award Winner for paranormal fiction. Book two, Merryweather Lodge – Malevolent Spirit, was a Readers Favorite finalist. My first children’s book, Melanie Gets A Nanny, is about a strong willed young girl with a wild and wacky imagination. It is published by, Wee Creek Press.  I have just sighed a publishing contract for my second children’s book, Carly’s Incredible Dream.. Yay! Twenty five of my articles have been published.

Come visit me at my website. Check out my articles, bio, videos and links. www.paulineholyoak.com

 

 

Ask A Question Thursday

January 17, 2019
mandyevebarnett


ask-a-question-logo-300x150

The initial question was: Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

(Look at the bottom of this post for the continuing query – Are genre formulas a myth?)

Last week’s responses:

I always have a vague idea of what the genre is going to be before I start a piece but if the inspiration takes me somewhere else then I don’t try and steer back because the characters lead the story.

Kristen Lamb 

Genre is essential for those who want to write professionally, for an income and for a living. For those who are having fun simply writing? No, doesn’t matter. For those who are new and learning? Not as huge of a deal but starting to be important. Those who want to be experimental and maybe want to win awards? Meh.

Yet, for anyone who want to be PAID for their books (code for product), genre is our lighthouse to keep us from smashing on the rocks.

The entire point of genre is so the author can locate and cultivate fans who will BUY his/her books…which they (readers) will also be able to locate because they will know where the book is shelved or what genre it’s listed under.

If no one has any idea WTH a book is, where to shelve it, or how to describe it? That’s bad.

If the book gets into a bookstore, then where do they put it? “General Fiction.” Okay. Sucky but okay.

But, since most people discover and buy books online, what keywords would you attach? Genre will matter BIG.

What other product/service/ business would be so indeterminate and hope to have any commercial success?

“You know, I am going to open a restaurant and just cook what I feel like and the ingredients just tell me what to do.” Um, have fun storming the castle. Rock on!

But marketing and advertising will now be a total nightmare. Good luck finding those who will eat a place no one can accurately describe.

Same with books.

Not impossible but adds a TON of unnecessary work when authors already have a ton to do as is.

I think a MAJOR misconception is genre somehow locks us into formulaic writing, which is patently false.

First of all, yes there are formulaic genres. Write a category sweet romance and there is a strict formula because these publishers know their readers and what they want.

And, since romance brings in BILLIONS and makes up over 70% of all books sold? Probably a good idea to listen to the guidelines.

Beyond that, genres can be melded and we (as writers) can get creative much like musicians who create fusions of sound, juxtaposing different types of music for a wholly unique sound (I.e. old gospel hymns influencing heavy metal).

Yet, the musicians KNOW music before playing around and reinventing new sounds.

Similarly, we should know and understand genre expectations. They exist for a reason.

Genres help us identify who is most likely to buy our book (which in the new paradigm we need to know no matter which way we publish).

Secondly, genres have rules and we break the rules at our own peril.

Breaking rules is fine. I do it all the time. But I know the rules BEFORE I break them.

For instance, there used to be a rule that one couldn’t mix POVs. If you began in first you had to stay there. If you began in third, you stayed there.

But WHY did the rule exist? Namely to stave off confusion. YET, Jefferson Parker (genius he is) wanted the audience to gain a closer psychic distance with the antagonist to make them more attached and thus more conflicted about him being apprehended/stopped.

So he wrote the antagonist in close first and the MC protagonist in third to make the reader psychologically struggle at a whole new level. Jeff knew genre, the rules, the constraints, THEN he bent them to do something never done.

Thirdly, genre is primarily for readers. It helps them find what they are looking for. When we don’t want to put a genre on our work because it ‘limits the muse’ or whatever, it is like asking our audience to go grocery shopping and buy canned goods with no labels and just trust it will be yummy.

Genres help readers have SOME idea of what they are getting. If we mislabel, there can be consequences.

Years ago, I had a client who believed she had a romance (but obviously hadn’t studied genre rules/expectations).

She self-published and got SLAYED in reviews, and panicked and sobbing, hired me to help. I took one look and knew the problem.

Yes, her writing was good and so was the story, but in her book…guy and gal didn’t end up together in the end.

In romance, (back then) you needed an HEA (Happily Ever After) which has loosened up to an HFN (Happily For Now) but the couple still has to end up together.

Without that? NOT a romance. She had a Women’s Fiction. She got a new cover, relaunched, slated in the correct genre and BOOM. Sales and great reviews.

In this instance, we had a case of completely different audience with different expectations.

When we slot a book in the wrong genre it’s like serving someone Tofurkey and trying to tell them it’s actually turkey. They are going to HATE it because the basis for comparison is TURKEY not vegan meat substitutes.

It’s like a bad bait-and-switch that ticks off readers.

Then, genre is going to give guideposts to word count. How LONG is the book roughly supposed to be?

Audiences in certain genres have preferences. Epic high fantasy readers give no figs about reading a 180,000 word book. Someone who likes cozy mysteries? No. Like 65K. Sure, feel free to write a 180,000 word cozy mystery but no one who loves that genre is likely to buy.

As far as considering genre ahead of time? I don’t understand how an author can’t do this, at least loosely. Stories are for the audience, not us. Unless we only want to sell a book to ourselves.

And this isn’t me saying “write for the market’ because that sort of “writing for the market” is when you, say, love writing Jane Austen historical romances and decide, instead, to write a techno-thriller because the genre is hot at the moment…and yet you can’t use your printer without tech support and are so bored by military fiction you want to kill yourself…but you write it because it is HOT.

Just no.

But beyond that, looking at genre is a FANTASTIC resource to understand our readers, who they are, what they want and not only give them what they want…but also slip in something they never knew they wanted until they read your book!

***This is why agents need to know genre. They have to have ammo to SELL our manuscript for the most BANK. If they can’t articulate what it IS, who is going to buy it? No one. Bye, Felicia.

Back to process. To me, failing to even roughly determine genre ahead of time is madness. I’ve done it (when I was a n00b) and it sucks and I have the scars to prove how dumb this was (for me).

My time is valuable. Without determining some broad strokes regarding genre, that is a formula for revision HELL. To be retro-fitting the Space Station for a hot tub.

It will make SEO and keywords a BEAST. Ultimately, it’s just a recipe for heavy drinking and ugly crying.

Just because we choose a genre in the beginning doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and blend or even veer at an angle toward a kissing-cousin genre (I.e. suspense can become a thriller).

In the end, writers can do whatever works for them and sells a lot of books. Yet—after fifteen years in this business professionally—I’ve found that, more often than not, writers who eschew genre rarely finish the book.

Or, if they do, revisions are like a trip to the fifth circle of hell which is why it takes FOREVER for them to ‘finish.’ Often, they can’t get traditionally published and so they self-pub and the books don’t sell (and there are reasons for that).

Look at authors making bank, traditionally and nontraditionally published. They KNOW their genre and audience and they WRITE FOR THEM…even the literary folks (*nod to Fredrik Backman*).

Anyway, long response but there ya go. My two cents…okay twenty bucks. Best of luck to everyone.

I’d say knowing at least a basic genre before you start writing is important. Maybe you know you want to write a romance, but figure out as you’re going along it’ll be an erotic romance. Okay, fine. But you can’t just start spewing words without knowing your characters, the plot, what genre, etc. You can’t sit down and just start typing without knowing some form of topic of what you’re writing. It’ll just turn into a mess that way.

over to you

So let’s look at this from a slightly different angle.

If you are writing in a particular genre do you ‘conform’ to the preconceived format of that genre? If romance – fall in love, difficulties arise, opposing feeling, loss of love, surprise event, and falling back into deep everlasting love? OR Sci-fi – the hero has to fight an enemy, the struggle is real and looks overwhelming, battles and fights, a glimpse of hope and the final defeat?

Do you want to conform to formula writing? Would you rather break the mold? Is it a myth that genres have formulas?

With a specific genre there is a better chance your book will be put into the genre bookshelf as opposed to a general fiction slot as Kristen mentioned.

Is this good marketing?

Does it restrict your creativity?

 

ASK A QUESTION THURSDAY

January 10, 2019
mandyevebarnett


ask-a-question-logo-300x150

Continuing the discussion for this month’s topic. See 3rd January for main post.

Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

Last week’s responses were:

Konn Lavery 

Genre tends to come second for my process. The genre of choice comes up naturally as the plot, characters and conflict unfold. Sometimes I’m not sure what the genre is, but did get a handy booklet called Genre A Short Reference Guide and Dictionary by R. L. Bennett that has descriptions for each genre.
Once the first draft is done I look up in the booklet, then research about the genre and revise the manuscript.

Karen Probert

I never consider genre at all. I’m not even sure there is a genre name for my style of writing – maybe ‘realism’ would fit as my characters act and speak as normal people and there are no situations in my stories that could not happen to real people or be a part of normal day-to-day living in our society.

Gerri Bowen

Many of my stories tend to be paranormal, but I go where the characters take me.

Lisa de Nikolas

My genre preference is noir suspense thriller murder mystery! But my writing is more literary than genre and that makes it problematic when it comes to sales and marketing because promotion departments and bookstores like to have a simple, clear-cut definition.

I’m often asked for current, similar examples in bookstores of my books, and that’s very hard to do! I’d love to reply: “I set out to write good story, something readers can sink their teeth into, it’s fiction, that’s what it is!” But booksellers want something less complicated. I’ve described my work as Little House on the Prairie meets Pulp Fiction and what genre would that be?.

I didn’t set out to write this way, in fact, I’ve tried really hard to write formulaic genre mystery but it’s just not my style. Sometimes you’ve got to go with what you’ve been given! Thanks Mandy!

Kathie Sutherland

Life writing is my genre. The forms vary: journal writing, personal essays, poems, short stories,and autobiographical narratives. These forms end up in collections. I want the pieces to be realistic. I find fiction difficult to write. I have a novel in first draft and autobiographical fiction pieces and even they are life writing. The writing comes first, and then the genre follows.

Mary Cooney-Glazer 

I write second chance love stories with the primary characters age 45 and over. I chose the main genre because I wanted to portray mid-life women as resilient, attractive, productive people still fully engaged in life and capable of enjoying romantic adventures. Their men treat them well and respect their talents. I do like to include a little goofiness on both sides when it comes to figuring out relationships. Although the main genre is romance, there are elements of women’s fiction and rom-com. So, I guess I do choose the overall genre first, but the blending elements appear as the characters and plot develops.

Mike Deregowski

I generally have some sort of idea of what genre I am writing in, I don’t pick it though, it all depends on what will fit the story that wants to be told. Same goes for style I use. I believe there are no bad writing ideas, just not the right format or style.

Mandy Eve-Barnett

I have always written free flow so never think what the genre might be as I write the narrative. That comes later once the story has completed the first draft and I read it through, making revisions and getting to know the theme of the narrative. Sometimes the characters define the genre and other times it is the story structure and theme.

 

over to you
So is this the general consensus regarding genre? Do you agree or disagree?
If we are writing without a clear genre in mind does this make the process easier or more difficult?
There are certain well known ‘formats’ for certain genre’s, complete with cheat sheets. Are these a great writer’s tool or apt to make one a ‘lazy’ writer?
Let’s see where this topic takes us shall we? Over to you and your thoughts. Please leave your comments in the section below.

ASK A QUESTION THURSDAY

January 3, 2019
mandyevebarnett


Hello,

Here is the first question for my new monthly blog topic for writers and authors. Please join in the discussion.

ask-a-question-logo-300x150

Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

We can ask, answer and give our opinions in the comments on this post or subsequent Thursdays in January. Let’s make it as interactive as possible.

What is your genre preference?

How do you decide on the genre?

Would picking the genre first make it more difficult to write the story or not?

Do you merge genres to match your story?

Now-a-days there are many merged genres so it is easy to combined a couple (or more) to make your narrative ‘fit’ but is that okay or not?

More discussion on Thursday 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st January. We may go off topic slightly, reveal writing styles, publishing house experiences, agent advice or …

Let each other know about you!

Experience

My experience:

I have always written free flow so never think what the genre might be as I write the narrative. That comes later once the story has completed the first draft and I read it through, making revisions and getting to know the theme of the narrative. Sometimes the characters define the genre and other times it is the story structure and theme.

I have children’s books, YA novellas and several adult novels, so am a multi-genre author. I am led by the story initially, which can be sparked from an overheard conversation, a life event, a prompt/photo or an experience on a road trip.

What about you?

 

 

Writing Prompt Wednesday

November 14, 2018
mandyevebarnett


Today’s prompt is this beautiful image. Let the image speak to you.

It drew me in and I wrote what it inspired in a stream of consciousness.

umbrella

 

Curtains of rain fall. Thundering upon the pavement. Running in every direction. Splashes soak coat hems and legs alike. Rivulets steadily flow together.  Along gutters and crevices. Cars drive past creating waves. Flooding shoes and boots. All heads are hooded and facing downward. Speech impossible.  Eagerness to be home the driving force.

A glance sees a girl. Standing as if a statue. Tattered umbrella sheltering her head. Fanning raindrops in a circle around her.  Thigh length boots below a flimsy dress. An opened coat. Not affected by the cold dampness. Gazing at trickles becoming a stream. Her skin deathly white. Radiates a glow. No sway of body. Or blink of eye. Ramrod posture.

Unable to bear the torrent. Turn away. Homeward bound. Unanswered question.

Blog at WordPress.com.