5 of 5….Once again the King delivers a story that grips you from the start and pulls you into a situation that could be only too real…secret government establishments and projects, the harnessing of powers from the most vulnerable and the enormity of trying to overcome it.
What are you reading? What was the last book you reviewed?
I’m asked where my inspiration comes from, so I am happy to share this piece, which is the result of my walking to the store along an icy sidewalk. As I walked, it occurred to me how careful I was with my steps as opposed to a couple of young boys, who passed me without a care, in regard to the condition of the surface they walked on. Inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources, and like this piece can emerge seamlessly.
The Fear of Falling
As children, falling is as commonplace as eating and breathing, there is no fear. We transition from crawling on all fours to the tottering and grasping of objects or parental hands to standing upright. The falling is a learning process on how to balance upright, adapting our bodies to counteract the instability of standing. Once standing has been achieved, we learn the motion of walking and eventually running. As we grow older, we engage in other activities that result in falls, such as bike riding, engaging on playground equipment, sports and the inevitable school recess antics. It is an expected result of such endeavours and bruises, cuts and scrapes are a part of everyone’s childhood. Skinned knees are the badge of childhood.
In our teen years and early twenties, our falling can be of a more serious nature as our activities involve more extreme modes of transport and sports. Snowboarding and skiing, for instance, are often accompanied by falls, which hopefully have softer landings but not always. Unfortunately, motor bikes and cars do not have a soft landing to our falling. For example, I suffered severe bruising from coming off a motorbike on an ice covered road and hitting the curb with my rear! I couldn’t sit properly for weeks. Injuries are more severe and falling has more dire consequences. This is the start of a fear of falling for some of us.
As we mature, play recedes into the background as we immerse ourselves into work and other commitments. Some of us continue with sporting activities, of course, but we minimize the risks of falling as much as is possible. Our body weight, as opposed to a baby or toddler is greater and therefore so is the impact of a fall. Falling becomes a distant memory for the most part and is a rare occurrence (hopefully). We may see the fear of falling in our elders and try to understand their way of thinking as we have not reached that stage of our life yet.
Eventually, as our body ages and its ability to bounce back declines, our fear of falling increases as does the impact, literally. A steep hill, an icy pathway, slippery rocks by the ocean and a vast number of other obstacles increase our apprehension. The mere thought of falling is anxiety inducing. We understand the fragility of our aging bodies and the possible outcomes of a fall. We read statistics that give us more anxiety, such as 800,000 patients a year are admitted to hospital due to fall injuries, usually hip or head fractures but also strained muscles, dislocations and open wounds. We understand falls are caused by balance problems, muscle weakness, poor vision, low blood pressure or even dementia. In other words getting old isn’t for the faint hearted and certainly falling isn’t on a ‘to do list’!
One of the additional skills, writers need is public speaking. This can be a nerve wracking thought let alone practice for the ‘new’ author. There will be author readings and interviews as you promote your book, so knowing how to read from the narrative and talk about the story is important.
Here are a few tips that can help make reading your novel in public easier, once you have the booking.
Visit the venue (if possible) to become familiar with the layout. Ask staff where the reading will take place and if you will have a podium or a chair and table.
When choosing what to read chose a short section with dialogue and action. The opening line should be a hook that says something about the book and hopefully intrigues the audience. Choose excerpts of varying lengths and with varying appeal.
Practice in front of a mirror, ask a friend to sit and listen or video yourself. Notice where you hesitate and read the passage over and over until you know it well.
Once you are confident in the piece practice looking up to engage with the audience instead of having your head down buried in the pages.
As you practice the segment use inflection to elevate the language and avoid a monotone speech.
Practice your reading aiming to be shorter than the time allowed. Using a timer will help keep you on track.
On the day of the reading, arrive early so you can relax and arrange your books for sale in a display.
Ask someone to tweet and record your reading for later promotions.
Once you have read your piece thank everyone for attending and mention your books are available for sale.
There are several options for interviews, prerecorded, live and via social media. Preparation is important so ask as many questions as possible from the host prior to the interview. If possible have a list of the questions they will ask, this is not always possible but they should be able to furnish you with a framework for the interview.
Make sure you are dressed appropriately, smart but casual.
Have your book(s) with you and memorize the blurb.
Know the back story, the protagonist’s motivations, and the genre of the book. This may sound irrelevant but refreshing your knowledge will make the interview more polished. You don’t want to be stumbling with your answers.
Prior to the interview relax with some deep breathing and curb your nerves.
Keep eye contact with your host but also the camera (if relevant) so you are engaging the audience.
Here are some interviews I have done to give you an idea.
TV Interview on Arts Talk – 7th December 2011 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtIz3amV_HI Go to 8.22 on the time bar.
TV Interview n Arts Talk: Talking about Clickety Click and my other books on Arts Talk TV show – go to 11.04 on the timeline. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNl7Db_jGaQ&feature=youtube
At the last writing group’s sharing meeting, we were given these words to create a poem or short story in 10 minutes. bird, scrape, clock, envy, whistle, sunset
I am sharing my story with you.
Gerald scraped the ice from the car windshield, his breathe making clouds in the still cold air. The sunset made the glass a mirror of the orange and burgundy. With the screen clear, he whistled in relief and quickly got into the heated vehicle., relishing the warmth. The digital clock in the dashboard flickered it’s red LED lights at 9:02 pm. He looked back at the large impressive house, where his car was parked, unable to deter the feeling of envy. If only, I could be as clever as my cousin, Jake and get a job that paid that well. I would buy a mansion over looking the bay and hold great parties every weekend.
He put the car into gear and pulled away, unaware of the bird nestling in the engine bay, relishing the warmth. It wasn’t until Gerald drew up outside his apartment block on the other side of town, that he noticed the odd noise. As he got out he could hear fluttering and chirps from under the hood. Carefully, he opened the hood and fell backwards as a flurry of wings brushed past his face. He stood for several moments in shock but then relief that the bird had not been burnt alive. You’re lucky, he called as he watched the bird perch on a low branch lit by the street light.
These writing exercises help generate imagination and having a set time ensures we write without thinking in too much detail.
I have an event coming up on 22nd January, which is an interview with a local arts TV channel – Arts Talk. I have had the pleasure of being interviewed by the host before – twice in fact – for my books but this particular interview is to promote and inform the local community of my local writers group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. It is something I have done before as Secretary of the society but in a different setting. (photo)
As an author, I had to become ‘comfortable’ with public speaking for events, such as interviews and author readings. It was nerve racking when I first started but I have found the more I do the easier it gets. Like anything ‘practice makes perfect’ but it still doesn’t curb the nerves completely.
I plan to video a copy of readings this year so stay tuned. If you have a request for a particular segment of one of my books, please let me know.
Do you have any questions for me on my writing life? I would love to hear from you.
We all have specific tastes in literature, which equates to the genres we mainly read, but there is another reason that a book can catch our interest – something that fascinates us. Obviously, the list is vast and always changing as we grow older, gain life experiences and even move location, whether to a new town or country. These underlining interests can even stem from childhood. For instance, I was taught about the natural world around me and the globe from an early age and I enjoy books that encompass that. My children’s book, Ockleberries to the Rescue is set in a forest, where magical sprites help their woodland animal friends.
I also became intrigued with reincarnation and life after death after experiencing several incidences while nursing. My favorite novel uses this topic as it’s basis. Ferney by James Long is a book, I reread regularly not just because of the reincarnation element but also because it is beautifully written and I love the characters.
I recently found two books, with this topic. Past Presence by Nicole Bross and River of Destiny by Babara Erskine. They are spellbinding stories and well written.
I also used reincarnation in my own novel, The Twesome Loop where four characters meet their past souls in modern day. It is a romance that begins in England but culminates in a beautiful Italian villa.
What guides you to specific genres?
Do you seek out books that use a certain topic or theme?
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.