With the first draft of the second book in my crime fiction trilogy off to beta readers, I can rest easy for a minute. Of course, the plan is to begin the third and final book during National Novel Writing Month but… as we all know something shiny and new can always draw us away from the ‘should do’s’ and entice us in other directions.
In common with many writers, I have a stack of manuscripts in various stages of completion. A western romance, a suspense novel, and a YA romance. These manuscripts have been dwelling in digital folders for some time, and I keep reminding myself that they should be revised and edited and then set out into the world. Alas, a new shiny project always seems to take precedence and steers me away.
However, the one shining brightly at the moment is none of these. Rather, it is a prequel to my Rython saga. It will tell the story of how the vengeful witch, Malgraf became such a malignant force. I have mental images of locations, the young Malgraf and her childhood experiences manifesting into story and it is so enticing. I am even thinking which colour I should use for the book cover! As you can see I have a gorgeous blue and green for the other editions, but need a darker feel for the story of the witch, for obvious reasons. A cover always tells its own story and sets the mood for the reader.
So, how do we avoid a new idea? Well, there are several predisposing conditions.
A publishing deadline.
To continue the flow of a series.
Keeping the characters front and center to ensure continuity.
These can help drag you away from a new and shiny idea – but not always. It all comes down to your self control and if you are under a contract. For me, I will explore my new story, jotting down scenes etc. and possibly use part of NaNoWriMo to write it. It will be a novella, in line with the other two editions, so will leave me ‘space’ in November to start the final book in the trilogy. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!
How do you avoid a new story idea? Or do you succumb to the excitement?
In this episode, we get a rare glimpse into the mind of a very diverse writer Mandy Eve-Barnett. We got the chance to talk with her about to of her very interesting novellas The Rython Kingdom and the Rython Legacy. Both stories take place in a wonderful reality of myth and magic and we got the chance to explore with Mandy where this originated as well as how her life and travels gave her inspiration for this as well as her other works. Paying homage and respect to legend and myth while world building her own, the world of Rython is both complex and compelling and Mandy gave insight as to its inception and development.
This year I celebrate a decade of writing. It was not something my creative brain discovered until I came to Canada. Throughout my younger life art was my main creative outlet, whether it was painting, collage, pottery, sculpture, textiles, knitting, sewing, and many more. I would spend my lunch hours in the art room at school rather than in the playground, it was my happy place. From creating abstract art in a multiple of mediums to utilizing fabric remnants found at Liberty’s of London for summer tops, I indulged my creativity.
This changed as I began adult life and my creative outlets ceased as I entered the workforce and socialized with my peers and then had children. I dappled in rug design without success and although I was gifted an easel one Christmas and attended an art class for a short time, I just didn’t have the time or motivation. It was only when I came to Canada and there was an opportunity to find a creative outlet that I made the decision to find one. I stumbled across the writing group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/ ) by pure chance on a trip to the local library and decided to attend a meeting. From that point on I found my ‘place’ and began to learn a new skill, one which has given me not just a group of firm and supportive friends but also allowed me to discover my new country, as well as attend numerous events and a connection to many other writers from home and further afield.
Now I have eight published books and three work in progress manuscripts (and numerous ideas filed) and there is no slow down in sight for my writing passion. It has gripped me and I am so happy I ‘found’ my creative life again.
Not only have I written novels but also participated in National Novel Writing Month a total of ten times, attended numerous writing retreats and workshops, presented at workshops, started a freelance writing business (https://tailoredthemedtosuit.wordpress.com/ ) and became Secretary to my writers group. I am truly immersed in the writing life and am so glad I braved that first writing group meeting.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Writing is an energy that lives within me and when I cannot do enough of my own creative work, it exhausts me. It sometimes becomes a vicious cycle of building up and letting go. It makes it all worth it in the end – it would just be nice to be in that place that would allow me to go evenly into that good write…
2. What is your writing Kryptonite? Although it’s a strength in my line of work as a publisher, time spent on others’ work is a weakness toward mine – it always comes second if there is a deadline for someone else.
3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Nope. I guess I just figure if you are going to make something of your writing life, what good is it if no one knows it’s you? It would go against my belief of being true to who you really are, and, besides, I like my name. If I write something that I consider might be better under a secret identity, well… should I be writing it at all?
4. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I am so fortunate to have close friends who are authors and an encompassing community of acquaintances who are passionate about words. Everyone contributes to your writing journey in their own way and in different ways – we must be open to learning from our associations and relationships; bringing them closer when it works and letting them go when they don’t. Can’t drop big names here that you might have heard of, but you should know the people I do know – they are fantastic.
5. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? I like to be able to try everything and although I do have related books, like a novella series, I am not trying to connect everything by theme or genre. As long as it is a reflection of who I am and true to my creativity, then it is a part of me and what I am trying to say as an author.
6. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Any of the retreats I have been on. It is nice to focus on your writing even for a weekend and having others around who respect why you are there is priceless. You don’t have to go far, and it doesn’t have to be 5-star, but I’ve been on some nice trips: Humber College in Toronto for a summer writing week; Jasper or Hinton holed up in a nice hotel with a writing friend; Strawberry Creek with a group of writing friends spoiled by awesome meal service; and so on. All worthy.
7. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? Early? Can’t think of one… Maybe when I talked back to my parents about going on a vacation with a friend when I was 18? Perhaps, when my daughter said her first words when I was 30? When I was asked to read one of my poems to a group during Volunteer Week when I was 50? When I accepted an award from my community for my contribution to Arts, Culture & Heritage when I was 55? Or when I gave the eulogy at my mother’s funeral that same year? Language has power in all its derivatives. It expresses emotion. It makes a stand. It says a lot about who we are and even who we were.
8. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? If it was my favorite, then it was appreciated in some way. We all cannot expect to find appreciation by the masses.
9. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? I go under Wildhorse for many things including email, blog, twitter handle, etc. The wild horse is the epitome of strength and endurance with a wild and free spirit no matter what happens around them. The horse head logo I use is a drawing I did some time ago and, in 2005, I had it tattooed on my left shoulder. Just a little thing, but it means a lot to me.
10. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Not too many unfinished as I managed to clean up a couple I had sitting for a few years. I guess I have about 3 or 4 books of poetry waiting to be put together in some nice way, but that will be ongoing. Definitely unfinished and on the to-do list.
11. What does literary success look like to you? Many equate success with monetary outcome. I equate success with being a leader, a good friend, and a creative mentor. Seeing others succeed along your own journey is not only inspiring – it feels right – and moving forward together is success to me.
12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? I like to make sure details in my work are factual and have some basis in reality. But that really depends on the work. Articles require more research than fictional short stories and poetry; my novels require a ton of research especially if they are set in another time / era, or a foreign country.
13. How many hours a day/week do you write? I cannot put a time on it as I could put in 10 minutes one day and 10 hours another. I write for work for a good portion of my job, so it is possible to write many hours a week although it’s not really creative in the same way we write our fiction. It allows me to stay connected and my pen stays fluid.
14. How do you select the names of your characters? I base it on the story and when it takes place – names are important and have to fit the character, as well as, the time and place of the story. I have researched names and selected them based on what they mean in the country of origin. My novella series is set in Turkey and I used the meaning of names to set them apart. They may be used in other work; they may not be popular; they may sound odd. It is whatever works for my character and my story.
15. What was your hardest scene to write? Not sure any were hard to write. This question could mean hard as in difficult, or hard as in gut-wrenching or tear-jerking or taboo. I guess when it comes to the latter, I don’t write scenes that put me in this dilemma. The former is just based on time and effort; learning how to put something across in the best way possible.
16. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? There are certain books or short stories or poetry I have written because of the theme or topic or setting. For example, I love Shakespeare so writing a book with a series of poetry simulating the sonnets just fits and An Elizabethan Affair was a long process of fused research and imagination. I like to try all types of writing – if the idea is there and the time is right, I work on whatever the project involves: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s or young adult stories, blog posts, government or industry papers, or merely content for newsletters and web sites. It depends on what’s needed.
17. How long have you been writing? For many years, but seriously focused on funneling all my efforts in the creative writing direction in 2000. I have collections of poetry from the 1980s. I wrote and designed advertising many years for several employers. It’s always been a goal of mine to write a novel. I wrote short verses when I was in elementary school; I wrote longer descriptive short stories in my teens.
18. What inspires you? A word. A feeling. Nature. Sunshine. My love for creativity. My inner muse. My best friend. My daughter. Memories of my mother and father.
19. How do you find or make time to write? There is always time to do it if you put your mind to it… oh, how poetic :O But, really, you just have to make time if you want to write something. I do make notes and write on scraps of paper or in my notebook. I actually have taken time to sit and write during one of my many solitude-seeking drives to Elk Island Park this summer – I think I have a couple of poems out of that effort. You just make the time.
20. What projects are you working on at the present? At the time this gets posted, I have come off two months of intense concentration on a number of books (12?) being released at a month-end event for authors I publish under my company banner. I am contemplating participating in National Novel Writing Month in November so that will focus at least 50K words on something of my own – I still have to determine what. I have many projects that could be pulled from the archives including several volumes on poetry I have written over the years and a collection of short stories, also written over the past few years.
21. What do your plans for future projects include? I am thinking of writing a sequel to my novella series set in Turkey and changing it from the young adult genre to adult fiction for the follow-up story. The characters age from their teens in the first 3 books, so I can see a definite growth in their story and maturity in the sequel. I would also like to write another story with the old English / Elizabethan / Shakespeare theme – 1590-1600ish.
Linda writes from her heart and shares words on the page in order to connect with others who have similar stories to share. A lifetime of poetry and other writing has culminated in a collection of published works, including: An Elizabethan Affair, Power Struggle, A Journey of Brothers, A Journey of Truth, and A Journey of Desires (3 book novella series), co-writer of Your Lifetime of Stories workbook for the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, and others. She set up her own publishing company in 2010 to help authors live their dream of seeing their own work published. You can follow her on Twitter @wildhorse33 and find her on Facebook. She blogs – when she has time – at wildhorse33.wordpress.com
When I write it is effortless and energizes me so much, I can write for hours at a time. I have always thought out my plot for months before I write, so when I do, it just rushes to my fingers and onto the paper. I do not edit when I write, I get the story written as fast as I can, and then I go back once it is complete.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I am not sure what you mean, but Kryptonite-weakened Superman. The only thing that could slow me down was trying to write something without hours of thought. I would have to think about something for hours, days, weeks or a month or so before I begin writing. Then once I get going, I am a force to be reckoned with, and little will stop me.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I am writing all of my novels under my maiden name. VJ Gage for the Chicago Heat series and Vaunda Lynn Gage for the kid’s books. The adult books are explicit, and I did not want to confuse the reader by using the same name.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have not stepped out into the world to know many other authors, but this year will be different. I need the support of others and to find out what has or has not worked for them. I am just starting on marketing etc. and now is a great time to meet other authors.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Yes, I have a seven book series called Chicago Heat. I have published two with a third out this March. The children’s book is seven novella’s about seven cousins who have adventures with mythical creatures in the Okanagan Valley. I am working on a second series.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Linda at Dream Write Publishing, she has been great, and she has helped to make my children’s book educational as well as a fun read. Her art for the book has been exactly as I imagined and she was priced right, and we met our deadline.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
As a child, I never slept much, so I began to read early. By the time I was ten or twelve, I could write a book report “likity split,” and, I could write several in a very short time. So I began to sell extra book reports for those who did not read.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Anything that was written by Janet Coldwell.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My first thought is an Eagle, it sores high and has a great view of its landscape. But in thinking further, I am more like a busy beaver. When I get an Idea, I will go to work on it until I have completed my task, or I have figured out it is not worth my time. I can be deadly when I get an idea into my head.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have four in my “Chicago Heat” series. One romance, and two for my children’s series.
What does literary success look like to you?
It would be that many thousands of people have read and enjoyed my books. I would want them to say they could not put my books down and that my plots are unique and clever, and that I have a great imagination. Then I would like to make lots of money.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
What would we do without the internet? When I am writing, I have my tablet close by, and I can look up any information I may need. When I need some information, it is close at hand.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
I may not be able to write for days or weeks at a time. I still have a full-time job, and I took care of my mother and dad full time for the past ten years. Both have passed and now my time is open to many more hours to write.
How do you select the names of your characters?
My main characters in my “Chicago Heat” series are based on the personalities of my own family. Dennis Kortovich is a profile of my husband. Veronica, his wacky wife, is a profile of me. Many other characters are based on the personalities of my family or friends. The children’s novels are based on real children and adults.
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?
I found out I am great at killing and that I have a unique ability to be in the mind of the killer. I like exploring both sides of the crime. I don’t like a soft “Who Done It” I think fast and hit hard.
17. How long have you been writing?
I started in earnest when I was fifty.
18. What inspires you?
Writers, like Dan Brown.
19. How do you find or make time to write?
I may not write every day or sometimes not for weeks. When I do sit down to write, I can go at it for several hours, and I have done up to twelve thousand words in one season.
20. What projects are you working on at present?
I just finished the final edit of The Bible Killings, and this novel should be out by March. I am trying to figure out how to market my books at this point, and I am putting most of my time and effort into this for the next while.
21. What do your plans for future projects include?
To edit and publish at least one more book next year. They are all written, but I need to edit the other four. I will also putter away at the children’s novel. I am writing a second on for Mysteries at the Lake.
Visiting family at the lake during the summer is a wonderful tradition for Canadian cousins: Wyatt, Kadence, Nyomi, Jack, Sophie, Cash, and Cruz. Join them as they share their vacation with you. Discover the secret of Lake Okanagan. Hike the trails and spend time in the amazing forests and cliffs as the seven cousins make friends and solve mysteries with mythical and magical neighbors.
Ride the waters and take in the sun—whatever story they share around the evening’s campfire with hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows, it’s sure to be a memorable one!
V.J. Gage has been writing for over three decades. “Celebrity Lunch,” her weekly column in the Sherwood Park News, featured mini biographies about members of her community. Her column “As I See It” commented on contemporary social issues. A successful businesswoman, with many diverse interests, Vaun is also a recording artist, an emcee, and a stand-up comic, all of which serves to fuel the fast-paced, action-packed, serpentine plots of the “Chicago Heat” series. Vaun has lived in Sherwood Park since 1956. My father was the first fire chief for the county and my mother was one of the first women real estate agents. I have owned a business in Sherwood Park for over forty years. I now have a home based salon and I work there with my daughter. At one point I owned five salons, a clothing store, restaurant, I recorded with R. Harlen Smith and did Stand-up-Comedy and was an emcee for hundreds of events. I was also the first in Alberta to have my own Karaoke show. I went home-based almost twenty years ago.
Vaun is currently working on a series of seven novellas, featuring seven cousins, who have adventures with some of the most fantastic, creatures to ever catch the imaginations of children and adults alike.
Thank you Vaun for an enlightening glimpse of your writing life and it’s inspiration.