Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Interview – Nina Munteanu

October 10, 2020
mandyevebarnett


  1. When did you first start writing?

Not until I was a teenager when I wrote my first complete novel (“Caged-In World”—which later served as a very rough draft for my first published novel, “Darwin’s Paradox”). My first published work was my non-fiction article “Environmental Citizenship” which appeared in Shared Vision Magazine in 1995. My first fiction work was a short story entitled “Arc of Time”, which was published in Armchair Aesthete in 2002. However, I told stories long before I wrote them and long before any of them was published. I told stories in the form of cartoons. Since I was a small child, I wanted to be a cartoonist and write graphic novels (back then I knew them as comics). I created several strips with crazy characters that I drew, blending my love for drawing with my love for storytelling.

  • What made you decide on science fiction as a genre?

That goes back to my love for comics. I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid. While my older brother and sister devoured The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, I secreted myself in the back corner of Williams General store and read Superman and Superboy, Supergirl, Batman, The Fantastic Four, Flash, Magnus Robot Fighter and Green Lantern. I was obviously enamoured with the fantastic. When I earnestly started to read things other than comics, I came across the SF classics: Huxley, Orwell, Heinlein, Clarke, Silverberg and Asimov to name a few. Bradbury sent me over the moon and his “Martian Chronicles” made me cry. I wanted to write like him and move readers like he’d done with me.

The reason I continue to write in this genre is because of its ability to encompass the creative imagination and application of metaphor to story. Given its wide range of possibilities in creating a believable reality of the fantastic, science fiction provides a compelling platform for metaphoric storytelling. Possibilities for powerful archetypes abound. Where else can you make water an actual character?   

  • Was the ecological aspect of your stories a gradual realization or your primary objective?

My primary objective was always to tell a compelling and meaningful story and hopefully to move readers. The ecological aspects slid in unannounced like a shadow character. It made sense: the environment and how we treat it (and ourselves by extension) has always been something important to me since I was a child. So, while I was writing science fiction, it was also eco-fiction. When the brand became more known, I realised that this was the kind of science fiction I was writing most of the time. 

  • Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?

I love writing both forms. Each form challenges in a different way and each lends itself to a different kind of story. Since I was a child, I had wanted to write novels. But as I got older and became familiar with the publishing industry, I learned that one of the best ways to get exposure and credentials to successfully publish a first novel was to get known as a published short story writer. So, I started writing short stories. I didn’t write them very well at first; they read like novel-wannabies. And that’s exactly the feedback I got from the magazines I submitted to. Then I figured it all out and I started to sell my short stories. Lots of them. And reprints too. They’ve even won some awards! When I published my first novel in 2007, I didn’t stop writing short. While my love for the novel drives my writing (I have published nine novels so far), I love the short form for its challenges and need for discipline and its powerful platform of “short.”  I am particularly proud of my two latest shorts: “Alien Landscape” in The Group of Seven Reimagined (2019); and “Out of the Silence” in subTerrain Magazine, Issue 85 (2020).

  • Does your teaching aid your writing or the other way around?

Both. I teach writing skills to scientists, medical students and engineers. I also teach creatives who are learning to write long and short fiction. What I find is that my writing and publishing experiences—both the successes and the failures—help me share more practical lessons with my students. Experiences with my students also help my writing. In fact, my latest non-fiction book—the third book of my Alien Guidebook Series on place as character (“The Ecology of Story: World as Character”)—came largely from my experiences with my students.

  • Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?

I love both forms for different reasons. If I had to pick one from passion, I’d pick fiction and its expression of my imagination; if I had to pick one from utility and general satisfaction, I’d pick non-fiction for how it responds to and communicates reality. Having said that, they are more like each other than many readers realize. Both tell stories. Both use compelling narrative with a tease or hook and final conclusion. Both require research. Both must create a believable “reality” and both dispense truth—in non-fiction truth is literal and in fiction it is metaphoric. But then there are hybrids out there such as creative non-fiction and diaries or journals. And finally my latest piece of fiction—“A Diary in the Age of Water”—that reports on real events and real people.

  • Can you tell us about your newest book “A Diary in the Age of Water”?

The book is essentially a journey of four generations of women, who have a unique relationship with water, during climate change and water shortage. The book spans over forty years (from the 2020s to the 2060s) and into the far future, mostly through the diary of a limnologist (someone who studies freshwater), which is found by a future water-being. During the diarist’s lifetime, all things to do with water are overseen and controlled by the international giant water utility CanadaCorp—with powers to arrest and detain anyone. This is a world in which China owns America and America, in turn, owns Canada. The limnologist witnesses and suffers through severe water taxes and imposed restrictions, dark intrigue through neighbourhood water betrayals, corporate spying and espionage, and repression of her scientific freedoms. Some people die. Others disappear…

  • How did you come up with the concept for the book?

It started with a short story I was invited to write in 2015 about water and politics in Canada.  I had long been thinking of potential ironies in Canada’s water-rich heritage. The premise I wanted to explore was the irony of people in a water-rich nation experiencing water scarcity: living under a government-imposed daily water quota of 5 litres as water bottling and utility companies took it all. I named the story “The Way of Water.” It was about a young woman (Hilda) in near-future Toronto who has run out of water credits for the public wTap; by this time houses no longer have potable water and their water taps have been cemented shut; the only way to get water is through the public wTaps—at great cost. She’s standing two metres from water—in a line of people waiting to use the tap—and dying of thirst.

The Way of Water” captures a vision that explores the nuances of corporate and government corruption and deceit together with global resource warfare. In this near-future, Canada is mined of all its water by thirsty Chinese and US multinationals—leaving nothing for the Canadians. Rain has not fallen on Canadian soil in years due to advances in geoengineering and weather manipulation that prevent rain clouds from going anywhere north of the Canada-US border. If you’re wondering if this is possible, it’s already happening in China and surrounding countries.

  • Is there anything else you would like to mention or advise your readers?

I’m often also asked why I chose to write the fiction book as mostly a diary. I was writing about both the far and the near future and much of it was based—like Margaret Atwood and her books—on real events and even real people. I wanted personal relevance to what was going on, particularly with climate change. I also wanted to achieve a gritty realism of “the mundane” and a diary felt right. Lynna—the diarist—is also a reclusive inexpressive character, so I thought a personal diary would help bring out her thoughts and feelings more. There’s nothing like eves-dropping to make the mundane exciting. The diary-aspect of the book characterizes it as “mundane science fiction” by presenting an “ordinary” setting for characters to play out. The tension arises more from insidious cumulative events and circumstances that slowly grow into something incendiary. 

  1. Where can readers find your work?

In the usual places: in the local libraries or book stores, on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and through the publisher. You can also go to my writing / coaching website www.ninamunteanu.me where I keep an updated publication list and a bookstore window to other bookselling outlets. Most of my books are available in several formats: print, ebook, audiobook.

Bio:

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and award-winning novelist and short story writer. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina’s non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. “A Diary in the Age of Water” is her thirteenth book.

Find Nina’s books here: http://www.ninamunteanu.ca/bookstore/

Website:http://www.ninamunteanu.me

Find Nina on FacebookTwitterLinkedInTumblr and Pinterest

https://www.amazon.ca/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3ANina+Munteanu&s=relevancerank&text=Nina+Munteanu&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1

Author Interview – Sherile Reilly

September 3, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

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What inspired your latest novel?

I’m retired now, but my first career was as an elementary school teacher.

One year I had a boy placed in my class who didn’t like me and unfortunately, the feeling was mutual.

Believing the boy would be much happier with a different teacher, I suggested to administration that they place him in a different class. The Assistant Principal informed me that I’d be good for the boy and left him in my class.

As the year progressed, we grew to like each other very much.

In June, when all the other kids had left for summer holidays, the boy stayed at his desk and he said point blank, “I didn’t like you at the beginning of the year”.

(Don’t you love how kids get right to the point? I love their honesty.)

I thought a moment and decided to be honest with him too. I shared that he wasn’t my favorite student at the beginning of the year, either.

We both accepted the idea that we could change our minds. We had a newfound mutual respect and appreciation.

Over the years, I never forgot that boy. I decided I needed to write a story about a woman who didn’t want a particular child. I wanted to show the love, understanding and self-confidence that grew in both characters as they got to know and love each other.

How did you come up with the title?

The title for the trilogy is Bringing Jamie Home. I got this idea when the ten-year-old boy gets lost in Jamie’s Choice, the first book in the trilogy. The hero tells the heroine that they will find the child and bring him home. There! I had it—the title for the book.

At this time, I didn’t know that the one book would lead into a trilogy.

When I finished book one, I knew that one character appeared to be a “piece of work”, as one reviewer called him. I had to figure out why the character was so cynical. This lead to a mystery that had to be solved in the second and third books. All three books work with the idea of “Bringing Jamie Home”.           

JamieTrilogy2018-3covers        

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

As I mentioned above, I wanted to show the love, understanding and self-confidence that grew in both characters as they got to know and love each other.

How much of the book is realistic?

When I describe the mountains and the snow storm in Jamie’s Choice, I’ve actually been on slippery roads and in snow storms in the mountains. I know how quickly the weather can change.

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

See above

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

I don’t have a blog, but I’d love people to visit me at my website: SherileReilly.com

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

The Bringing Jamie Home books are a trilogy. After them, I wrote a Victorian Paranormal Romance called The Curse of the Lord of Darkness. It’s a stand-alone book. I’m now working on a series which will also be Victorian Paranormal Romances. My books are currently available in print and as eBooks from  Amazon.com.

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

My favorite characters are always in the story I’m working on. I’m deeply involved with the characters—just like when I’m reading a book.

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

I write Clean, Contemporary Romance and Victorian, Paranormal Romance.

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

I love planning my stories. I get ideas and I jot them down on paper. At this point I’m just gathering ideas. I have lots of pieces of info about the characters and the plot.

Next, I think about the order of the scenes. I like to see the story laid out in front of me, so I put the ideas on cards or post-it-notes and arrange them on a two by five foot board. From here, I’m able to see what the general layout of my story will be. Of course there are many changes to this outline, but I really like knowing where the story is going and if the characters are changing and growing.

 

 

What is your best marketing tip?

I don’t know about a marketing tip, but I think authors always have to keep learning the craft–listen to podcasts, read blogs and educate yourself. Join a writing group if there is one in your area. Write the best book that you can and then get it edited by a professional.

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

Social media is a very big topic and I’m learning what might work best for me.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love planning and putting in lots of conflict. Creating characters is exciting. In my Victorian stories I’m always learning more about that time in history. My Victorian stories are set in the United States and it’s interesting to learn about the social restrictions on women in that era.

What genre are you currently reading?

I read across a wide variety of genres. I recently finished a detective novel. Before that I read a Victorian mystery/romance.  I can’t keep up with all the books I’d like to read.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

I read for both.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

I’ve had tremendous support from my husband who drives me to locations so I get a feeling for the setting.

When she was alive, I also had tremendous support from my mother. She’d have been so pleased with the publication of the Bringing Jamie Home Trilogy.

My sister patiently listens to all my new ideas and offers suggestions.

My friends have helped me so much with my technology problems, blurbs, plots and many other facets of the whole writing process. I also belong to two writing groups that offer excellent workshops.

Best of all, my writer friends are fun and great to hang around with!

Where is your favorite writing space?

Lots of people think they’d like to write on a balcony with a beautiful view of the ocean and the sound of the waves. Rather than encouraging me to write, I’d find this a huge distraction. I’d want to be walking along the beach or visiting the local tourist sights.

I’m quite happy being in a room in the basement, surrounded by books and other writing materials that I need.

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

I belong to the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association and also the Calgary Chapter of the Romance Writers of America.  The groups are called ARWA and CaRWA. Both are terrific for teaching people about writing and industry. Of course, there’s a fantastic group of fellow writers.

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

I love living right where I am. I love the four seasons and the wonderful changes that each brings.

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

When I’m writing, I don’t nibble. If I brought food into the computer room, I’d constantly keep eating and get nothing done. However, I do nibble while I watch TV!

Bio:

Author, artist, and retired teacher, Sherile Reilly has jet boated in New Zealand, climbed the Temple of a Thousand Columns at Chichen Itza, ballooned over the table lands of Northern Australia, and poised for a photographer among the columns of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

As a teacher, she read to children and as a world traveler, she collected stories and soon began to create her own, first for her students, and then for adults.

Not tied to any one genre, Sherile writes Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction and Paranormal Romance. Most recently, she published a trilogy, Bringing Jamie Home, and The Curse of the Lord of Darkness.

Do You Abide by the Rules..?

May 29, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Abide – definition: 1) to remain; continue; stay 2) to put up with; tolerate 3) to accept without opposition or question.

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We all know there are ‘rules’ to writing, whether it is fiction, non-fiction or other modes of the written word. I had an interesting conversation last night at my novel workshop regarding how we are taught writing in school. One participant in our group is a teacher and she is in the midst of editing her first manuscript. During the discussions she told us that the writing style taught to students is very different to that of creative writing. She is re-learning how to write!

Unfortunately, there is no distinction made between the different styles of writing in schools. So an essay, an article and a story will all be written in the same way. As we know this isn’t correct and thereby lies the problem. A young writer may happily write story after story thinking they have the correct structure but it isn’t until their work is reviewed, that they learn the error.

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Is this a fault of the system? Or is it a matter of ‘one fits all’? Is it a matter of available classroom time to teach all the styles ? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I follow Kristin King – http://kristinkingauthor.wordpress.com/ and she has several writing rules posts that I am sharing here:

http://kristinkingauthor.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/writing-rules-we-could-do-without/

http://kristinkingauthor.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/george-orwells-rules-for-writing/

http://kristinkingauthor.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/rules-of-writing-elmore-leonard/

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