Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Interview – Jaclyn Dawn

December 24, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Jaclyn Dawn

What inspired your latest novel?

  • The idea for The Inquirer came to me in line at the grocery store where the tabloids and gossip magazines are on display. I wondered what the featured celebrities thought of the headlines. What would my neighbors and I think if our local newspaper was publishing sensationalized articles about our love lives, blunders, and appearances? In The Inquirer, a mysterious tabloid starts airing the dirty laundry of a small town here in Alberta, and Amiah Williams becomes an unsuspecting feature.

How did you come up with the title?                       

The Inquirer struck me as the perfect title. It brings to mind the National Enquirer, which is the type of newspaper I want readers to imagine. And it represents Amiah, the protagonist, who is forced to dig into the twisted truth behind the tabloid and her past.

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

I hope The Inquirer entertains readers. On a deeper level, it explores different types and levels of stereotyping and gossip. Perhaps some readers will question what happens behind closed doors or think twice about when to speak up and when best to be quiet.

The Inquirer - cover.jpg

How much of the book is realistic?

It hasn’t happened, but it could, if that’s what you mean. I was surprised by how often I would come up with what I thought was an outrageous headline for the fictional tabloid and then something similar would happen in real life! Most often, I would then change the headline for fear that people would think it was based on them.

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

The Inquirer is fiction, but I feel like the characters are familiar and I have had readers say they have known similar sets of characters in their lives.

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

Readers can connect with me on Twitter (@readjaclyndawn), on Facebook (@authorjaclyndawn), and at jaclyndawn.com.

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

I recently started putting on paper an idea for another stand-alone, fiction novel that has been percolating for some time. I don’t have an elevator speech quite ready yet, though.

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

I really like Ray Williams, Amiah’s dad in The Inquirer. He doesn’t fit his stereotype, buy into stereotypes, or give stereotypes all that much thought. I has a quirky sense of humour, and I wish I could feel as comfortable in my own skin as he does his.

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

I dabble in many genres as a writer and a reader. NeWest has called The Inquirer genre-bending but primarily markets it as literary fiction; it is located in the general fiction section of the library. I enjoy writing children’s stories, but so far that has been reserved for entertaining my son.   

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

My story ideas have to percolate for a while. If I try to write or discuss them too early, the ideas fall flat. I have a general idea of what will happen before I start writing and will jot down notes I don’t want to forget, but the characters tend to take over and connect the dots from there. 

What is your best marketing tip?

Embrace the digital age, including finding social media that suits you and your readers, connecting with fellow writers online, and participating in blog interviews like this! 

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

Social media can help you reach a lot of potential readers and connect with fellow writers, but it can also be distracting and disheartening.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

For me, writing is cathartic and entertaining. It is a way to explore topics. I find myself asking the same two questions in most of my writing: Why do people do what they do? And, what if?

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember, and telling them even longer according to my parents. You would probably be rich if you got paid a dollar for every time you’ve gotten a variation of that answer!

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

I consider myself lucky that this is a difficult question to answer. However, to keep it brief, I will just mention the two I live with: my husband and son. Logan makes sure when I get too grounded that I get my head back in the clouds and write. And Seth’s teachers and coaches knew about The Inquirer before the publisher’s catalogue even came out.

Where is your favorite writing space?

The space in our house that the previous owners called a dining room is my library, with shelves of books and memorabilia that has more personal than monetary value and the writing desk my husband refinished for me for one of my birthdays. I call this my writing hub because I come and go with my notebooks, scraps of paper used when inspiration hits at inopportune times, and laptop. I find myself writing for snippets of time everywhere I go. If I was limited to a traditional work space, my creativity, efficiency, health (migraines), and – I admit it – mood would all suffer.

Do you see writing as a career?

With a Bachelor of Applied Communications from MacEwan University and a Master of Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University, I have made a career of a combination of writing. I taught at MacEwan and NAIT, work with my Scriptorium team, and am now also fulfilling my childhood dream of seeing a book of my own in the bookstore and library.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

The Inquirer was originally my MA dissertation, and involved being part of a writing group. Otherwise, I am not part of a formal group but have a growing and much appreciated network of fellow writers.

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

My writing times and locations vary, but I will never turn down popcorn.

Bio:

Jaclyn Dawn grew up in a tabloid-free small town in Alberta. With a communications degree and creative writing masters, she works as a freelance writer and instructor. She now lives somewhere between city and country outside Edmonton with her husband and son. The Inquirer is her debut novel.

The Hub of Your Narrative – Characters

November 19, 2019
mandyevebarnett


Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.

character-development

This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

Character Cube

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.

How do you set about building a character?

Do you write out a full description of your characters?

Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?

 

 

 

 

Preparation for NaNoWriMo 2019

October 31, 2019
mandyevebarnett


naono2019

It took some time to decide whether I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have participated ten times in all and each time have created novel or novella length manuscripts. Most have been revised and edited over the following year or so to become published books. Some quicker than others it must be said. My very first NaNo in 2009 resulted in a work not published until last September! Yep 9 years. This was due to it being my first full length manuscript, my novice writing and self doubt that it was worthy of publishing. I revised and edited almost every year until I took the plunge, finally satisfied it was finalized.

However, in regard to this year’s NaNo, my first stumbling block was the two draft novels I have pending, which are previous year’s NaNoWriMo manuscripts. Again I know they need revisions and editing prior to submission to a publisher. My struggle was should I work on these manuscripts rather than create another one?

Secondly, I have several events to attend during November, which will take me away from the vital writing time needed for NaNo. As we all know every minute counts during November. Will I have enough time to succeed?

Thirdly, although I browsed the multitude of saved short stories in my laptop folders, I was not convinced any of them were novel length material. Or maybe it was my Muse not being excited enough about them – who knows? So I pondered what ‘new’ story I could write. Nothing I thought of seemed the elusive ‘it’ until just as I was drifting off to sleep an idea burst into my mind. It gave me a rough timeline, one character and the inkling of a plot. Knowing that relying on memory is a writer’s mistake when ideas pop up, I got up and wrote it all down. Subsequently, I have managed to decide on my two main characters, their location, some backstory and a timeline.

So I am as ready as I can be for 1st November. If you would like to connect on the NaNoWriMo site I’m MandyB.

How about you?

Do you have a rough outline?

Where did you idea come from?

 

Author Interview – Bryan L Beerling

October 29, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Bryan

What inspired your latest novel?

Much like the story beginning, I was intrigued with one dirt road leading off a highway I travelled often and wondered what was over the hill. I still don’t know what is really there.                                                                                    

How did you come up with the title?                 

I think the title, DIRT ROAD, was self explanatory

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

I hope people will see through more than the romance part, that, when needed, people rise to the occasion, such as the son that did not seem to have any gumption finally took over or the mother when away from the family was totally different.

How much of the book is realistic?

I think like all novels, bits and pieces are realistic. The dirt road in question is in Southern Alberta but the farm over the hill is in Central Alberta and the coffee shop is in Northern Montana but in the story they are all within miles of each other.

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

No, the actual story is a figment of my imagination, but I feel the characteristics of the individuals are composites of various people I know.

dirt road

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

I am on Facebook only.

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

My next novel or any forthcoming work are all stand alone works. I have two completed novels and working on another. Time will tell if I publish them.

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

I like Gary. He is patterned after my grandson with a little embellishment.

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

I like to say I write about life, but romance seems to sneak in as well.

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

Strictly seat of the pants. I love my writing club the nights they give three or four prompts and give us an hour to come up with a short story about one of them.

What is your best marketing tip?

Find someone you can trust to lead you along the way.

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

Social Media is a great help. I post my short stories on there and judge form the feedback.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

It takes me into a different world, not necessarily better but different.

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I think before I was a teenager I would ride my bicycle up on a hill overlooking the entry to my city and study the vehicles and write stories about what I thought they were doing in the city or where they were going when leaving.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

I think it has remained the same.

What genre are you currently reading?

That is one of my hindrances as a writer, I read very little.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

When I do read it is for pleasure.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

I would have to say the members of my writing club give me the boost I need.

Where is your favorite writing space?

Tim Hortons. As I dabble on the laptop I watch the people around me and incorporate characteristics I see.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

I belong to River Bottom Writing Club in Lethbridge

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

Sorry, no favorite.

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

Right where I live. My grandchildren are only a few miles away but also the people of Lethbridge are so diverse it gives me lots of content for my stories.

Do you see writing as a career?

Well, at 70 years old I think my career stage is over. However, I did work for several years as a newspaper journalist but found that type of writing not to my liking.

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

Tim Horton coffee and a Boston Cream donut. At home it is Coke and Werthers Candies.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

I hate deadlines. I just like to see a finished copy, if there is any such thing as a finished copy.

Bio:

Bryan L. Beerling lives in Lethbridge, AB with his wife. He is a member of the local writer’s group, River Bottom Writers. Dirt Road is his first full-length novel.

 

Author Interview – Krysta MacDonald

October 22, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

author photo

What inspired your latest novel?

One of the most defining and yet complicated relationships women have is with their mothers; this was true, at least, of Danielle, the protagonist of my first book. But parents – and especially mothers – seem to lose their identities except as “mom”. I wanted to explore who Danielle’s mother was before she was a mother; her identity, her past. Her secrets. Why is she the way she is, which has such an effect on Danielle? And then, I’m always interested in women’s issues, and the 1960s was such a turbulent time for that, so it all played in to the inspiration.                                                                             

How did you come up with the title?

To Air the Laundry… the whole premise follows Sharon deciding to tell her secret or not. She spends so much of her day doing her husband’s laundry, and as she does this, she thinks and wonders and remembers, and struggles with whether to air the laundry of her own, so to speak.

to air the laundry                                                                             

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

It’s okay. Sometimes it is what it is and it might be hard, but we do the best with what we can and deal with what happens afterward and all of that is okay, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. I also want people to remember that each person has her own story; everyone has thoughts, experiences, secrets, a full identity, and we usually catch only glimpses of the whole story. 

How much of the book is realistic?

It’s realistic fiction, so pretty much all of it. In a note from me at the end of the book, I say that this is not the story of any one person I know, but it is one story that could have belonged to any one of hundreds or thousands of young women over the years and generations. 

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

No, not really. As a teacher I see a lot, and I know a lot of women who struggle with the career vs family decisions, even now, so in the 1960s it was even more pronounced.

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

You bet!

https://krystamacdonald.wixsite.com/website

www.facebook.com/krystamac.writer

https://twitter.com/KrystaMacWrites

www.goodreads.com/krystamacdonald

www.instagram.com/krysta.macdonald
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

Yes, I do; I’ve started my third book, and while it is a stand-alone, as are my first two, there is tie-in. It actually centers on a minor character from my first book, Allison. I really like exploring different styles of storytelling, and this is something completely different from anything I’ve tried before, so I’m really taking my time with it, but I’m having a lot of fun with it, too.

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

Hmm. This is a tricky one. I have to say it’s pretty tied between Mark, the husband from The Girl with the Empty Suitcase, who I feel is wonderfully flawed and human, and Melinda, who makes a brief appearance in The Girl with the Empty Suitcase, but is more present in To Air the Laundry. Melinda is sassy and strong and fiercely fun-loving and brash and independent, and I just think she’s fabulous. Maybe she’ll show up in future stories; I don’t know, but I hope so.

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

I write women’s literature, which is usually realistic fiction, but there is a lot of overlap. To Air the Laundry, since it takes place in the 1960s, overlaps with historical fiction. My new book actually overlaps a bit with magical realism, and I’m toying with a new idea for the future that overlaps with science fiction. They all are firmly in women’s literature though, in whatever other form they may also take.

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

I’m in the middle; I’m a “plantser”. I do outlines and have a rough plan or idea for my stories, but the details get worked out as it all develops. 

What is your best marketing tip?

Just keep at it. I’m learning every day, and it’s hard, but just keep trying.

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

Though it does get to be a distraction, I actually generally find it a very useful tool. I connect with other writers and readers and use it for marketing, but also to “nerd out” over books and writing in general, which I love and find so important.

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

About 5 years old. I remember laying on my stomach on a bed, writing and illustrating stories with crayons. I attempted a novel at age 12; it was awful. My brother accidentally deleted it right around 100 pages, and he probably did the world a solid favour, but I kept the title for use for a future story – it was the best part of it all. When I was in upper elementary or junior high I started telling people I wanted to right a book, and I once recorded all the old family stories and anecdotes and put them together and gave them to my dad for a gift once. When it came time to share talents, I never knew what to do, so I’d always just tell people a story; so I’ve always been writing.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

Growing up I didn’t realize how much genres overlapped each other; science fiction can also be women’s lit! So while I always primarily write realistic fiction/women’s lit, I am a lot more playful in combining genres.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

Both. Reading for pleasure is also research! I usually have two or three books on the go at one time, outside of work, where I typically have another three. I learn a lot and am made of the pages I read.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My husband. One hundred percent. He reads everything I write, even though it’s not his genre at all. He encourages; he sets up tables and displays, he shares on social media, he sets up orders at his work, he sells books for me at my launches, he insists I take days where I do nothing but read or write, even when I’m complaining about my to-do list… he is the best support ever. I’m very fortunate to have a great support system – friends, family. My mother-in-law does my cover art and frequently helps me sell at markets. The community and my students are also really supportive.

Where is your favorite writing space?

At home, on my couch, with at least one of my dogs curled across me and at least one cat continuously trying to walk across the keys of my laptop. Add a giant cup of tea and that’s pretty heavenly.

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

Margaret Atwood. She is an incredible storyteller who is able to weave an incredible plot while still focusing on character. She is also concerned with women’s stories, and so important to Canada, not just in the literary world. Plus, I think she just seems like an awesome human being.

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

I always say Venice, Italy, but I think maybe I’d just live there part time. Part time on a beach somewhere. And part time here in the Crowsnest Pass. When I was very young – again maybe 5 – I told my mother I was going to marry a man home by 5 every night, and we were going to live in a small town in the mountains where I was going to write and teach kids about reading and writing. And we would have a lot of animals. That’s what I’m living right now, and it’s pretty fantastic.

Do you see writing as a career?

Absolutely. I’m not doing it now, as I’m a high school English teacher, but for others, most definitely. Maybe one day, as I get older, get a few more books out, it will be for me, but for right now I also love being in the classroom. The people I know who make writing their full-time career; I’m both happy and a little envious of them.

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

Sometimes, yes. I like salty snacks, like crackers or popcorn, or occasionally something small and sweet, but most often I’m drinking coffee or tea or occasionally a glass of wine when I’m writing.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

More time reading and writing!

Bio:

Krysta MacDonald writes about realistic characters confronting the moments and details that make up lives and identities.

She lives in a small Canadian town in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and veritable zoo of pets. She has a B.A. in English and a B.Ed. in English Language Arts Education, and spends most of her time teaching, prepping, marking, and extolling the virtues of Shakespeare. When she isn’t doing that, she’s writing, and when she isn’t doing that, she’s reading.

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