As we Albertan’s look forward to ‘proper’ Spring instead of ‘false Spring’, we look forward to embracing the warm weather to write outside and enjoy nature. It is not a pretty sight, with brown grass and slush but it will get better. Although, COVID still has us under restrictions, there are ways to enjoy the outdoors. We can drive to a lake or forest, even explore the Rocky Mountains. If you are like me and my friend, Linda, take the back roads and discover untouched parts of the province. Get away from the noise of the city or town, immerse yourself in the stillness and quiet. Here is where your writing Muse flourishes. It is a time when a new project or idea may come forth.
Indulge in people watching, notice how your mind and body react to the change of season. Learn to use emotional, social, and climatic insights and feelings to the benefit of your craft. It gives us an idea how weather can effect a character’s situation or show the passing of time.
How do the different seasons affect your writing?
In other news my ghost writing gig will start late April/early May so it gives me more time to complete the first book in my detective trilogy. I worked with my designer on the covers for the trilogy so that they are consistent and will ‘link’ together when all three books are laid down beside each other. It is always difficult not to share the cover of a new book, there is excitement and eagerness to show them off. I will have to curb that and keep them secret until launch days, apart from the normal teasers, of course.
When you are working on your book covers, how do you ensure your vision comes to life?
I have been very lucky to have access to several talented artists for my book covers through my writing group, Writers Foundation of Strathcona County and my publisher, Dream Write Publishing.
I have been taking advantage of our local Writer in Residence at my library with Zoom open mic meetings and special presentations. This is a great way to have an unbiased view of your current work, not only through the readings and subsequent feedback but also because you can send a sample of the manuscript to them for review. Each year the WIR’s are from different backgrounds and literary genre’s, but no matter what your genre (or theirs) this tool is well worth taking advantage of this free service then maybe you should.
What are you currently working on?
I have a presentation on blogging this Saturday. An Easter writing retreat to look forward to. And a ghost writing project lined up for late April/early May.
I attended the WinterFest event with Ethan Hawke on Sunday and was so impressed with his honesty, passion and openness to the interviewer’s questions. I count myself lucky that he answered one of my questions out of a multitude! He said that the media create illusions of celebrities and their lives. I totally agree. When you can see two magazines side by side on the rack at the check out and they have polar opposite stories of the same personality – you know it can’t be true. It is the same a click bait – they need you to pick up and buy the magazine regardless of the truthfulness of the story. It is a sad and damaging side to journalism (if you can call it that). People’s lives can be destroyed and they have no come back. Anyway, that is my rant for today. On to other things.
If you get a chance I would recommend you read this book, it is extremely good.
I took a couple of days off work last week, to do spring cleaning, relax, write, take a couple of drives out and get my paperwork together for the dreaded tax return. My current manuscript gained a sizable additional word count and revision and a surprising twist occurred.
We met in 2007 on an online writing group where you share short stories, poetry and life experiences. We became fast friends.
2. When did you begin writing?
Cristal- I began writing in grade school. In 1976, in second grade, I won a writing contest. The prize was three silver dollars. I was hooked. I also published multiple special interest stories in the local newspaper. I typically wrote in journals growing up and started a couple novels, but they were never published.
Andy- I have always had a love for books and a vivid imagination. It wasn’t until later in life that I decided to put my imagination to work.
3. Where did this quote come from? It’s not about tolerance, it’s about acceptance.
We were both bullied as children and always felt we were not accepted the way we were. Tolerance is only allowing someone to be themselves and not genuinely loving them and encouraging them to never change. We prefer the be accepted.
4. How did this quote bring about your book series?
We created imperfect, quirky characters that are relatable to everyone. We threw them together because each one is unique, different or weird. It allowed us to show you can form friendships with all types and if you do, magical transformations can happen. We wanted to make readers think about their preconceptions of the deaf kid, the geek or even the bully. We want to show that digging deeper can produce an understanding and lifelong friendships by just being kind.
5. What age range are your books aimed at?
We consider the books to be young adult/adult paranormal mystery genre. However, we have had ten-year-old advanced readers love them. There are some intense and scary moments plus a little gore that could affect younger readers, so we ask parents to use their own discretion.
6. Can you give the readers an idea of the messages within Secret 8 and The Wandering?
We have found that our readers all relate differently to the books. What might resonate with one person may not with another. It might be easier if I give you key words to describe what our readers have experienced and relayed to us. Secret of 8- adventure, self-discovery, confidence, trust, courage and inclusion. The Wandering- grief, guilt, first love, teamwork, closure, second chances.
7. How many books will be in the series?
We are currently working on the third book in the series, “Freaks to the Left” which is to be released in the Fall 2021. We have plans for at least eight books.
8. What is the fundamental message you wish your books to convey?
Whether you are being bullied, went along with it so as not to be bullied yourself, or maybe you ARE the bully, there is always a choice to change that behavior. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. You have a choice to look at the behavior and get to the root of why. By simply being kind, you can influence others to do the same.
9 What are the subjects you will cover in your books?
Our books hit on many aspects of growing up. Awkwardness, low self- esteem, love, loss, social class, racism, disabilities, sexuality, prejudice and addiction to name a few. So many books for young adults only skim over sensitive subjects. Our books approach them head on but tactfully and through the eyes of our character’s first-hand knowledge.
10. Has your own background contributed to the stories?
Yes, very much so. We both have life experiences that are sensitive and meaningful. By including these in our books, it makes our characters more realistic. They say to write about what you know. If you have never experienced it, how would you explain it? How would you capture the emotions? Sure, you can research it, but will it come off as authentic?
11. Where do you prefer to write?
We wrote the first book entirely through email. Andy lived in Pittsburgh and I lived in Erie. Once we married in 2016, we published the first book and built an office in our home. The office has shelves filled with everything that inspires us. Andy likes to write on the laptop there, but I tend to write chapters in paper notebooks whenever the urge hits.
12. Do you feel a writing group is an important tool for writers?
Absolutely! Chatting with fellow writers, reading their works, asking questions and encouraging one another is the best kind of support. Writers are unique in that they do not compete; they are fully supportive and celebrate with you.
13. What is your writing process – punster or planner?
We have never used outlines with our books. They have evolved as we wrote. We often wondered where it all comes from, but it seems to flow freely and eventually make sense in the end. The last chapter takes the longest though, as we tie up loose ends and make sure the climax is exciting.
14. Can you share your social media and book links
Bio: Cristal Underwood: Born and Raised in Erie Pennsylvania, She is the mother of one Daughter Megan Grace, and an extra Mom to Andy’s for children. She has always had a passion for writing and has been writing stories and poems since elementary school. Writing books that encourage inclusion, anti-bullying and acceptance is her life long goal. She enjoy’s baking custom decorated cakes and delicious cupcakes.
Andrew Underwood was born in Salem Utah, he is the father of four wonderful kids, and newly became a grandpa this last week. He is an avid paranormal investigator, loves to read, build things in his woodshop and daydream. He has always had an active imagination and a love for the outdoors. He always considered himself a geek and a little different which fits in well with his message in the books they write.
We have all felt disheartened as writers. It can manifest itself in a variety of forms. Lack of impetus, illness, stress, unrealistic comparisons, self expectations or stumbling over a particular section in a writing project. Some call it writers block. In truth it is just life.
Firstly, don’t beat yourself up, you are not alone. Every writer, whether novice or any of the top 100 authors, have doubts about what they are writing. We question ourselves – is it good enough, over and over. This can only spiral us downward into self-doubt. There are ways to give yourself a pick you up. I hope these help.
1. Focus on enjoying telling your stories. Do it to the best of your ability.
2. Remember you are building an inventory of your writing but also learning your craft.
3. Lessen your expectations, don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, we all want a certain quality to our work, but with patience it will come. There is no quick fix.
4. Don’t compare another writer’s finished work against your in process drafts. You have no idea how many changes they made.
5. Remember you get to rule over your own creative process. You choose, shape, mold, and create whatever you want.
6, Your words will, in time, sway minds, move hearts, and touch the lives of dozens of people you will never meet in person.
7. Your words, your stories are your legacy.
8. Do not take rejection personally. Think of it as a learning tool.
9. Take a long-term view of your writing career – no-one is ever an overnight success.
10. Participate in supportive writer groups. Share your work with encouraging friends.
What have you found works for you when you are feeling disheartened?