An Interview with Mir Tamim Ansary

March 20, 2016

 

 Bloggers Note: Tamim Ansary will be speaking on the topic of  Why Do We Write? at the April 9th 2016 meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club.  The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.  Cost is $25 members and $30 for guests. Paypal and credit card requires additional fees.  Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required.  RSVP to Robin at cwcrobin.gigoux@yahoo.com.

  1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Games Without Rules

Games Without Rules is a narrative history of Afghanistan, the story of a hodgepodge of people trying to coalesce as a country, despite interruptions by global powers who have invaded the country five times in the last two centuries. In the standard narrative, Afghanistan is a static land filled with intractable bearded fanatics who are hard to conquer. Games Without Rules delivers a more nuanced view, the one from the inside looking out. In this version, a country that began to form at just about the same time as the United States, has an epic, tragic, and yes sometimes humorous story of its own, peopled by characters that Dickens would have been proud to invent—a story that has, however, been interrupted every 40 to 50 years by a Great Power invasion, which has—curiously enough—failed in exactly the same way every time.

2. Describe your most memorable moment as an author.

I’ve been writing all my life but in the wake of the events of 9/11, I was suddenly redefined as “an author.” Why? Because I was an articulate English-speaker from Afghanistan and because, on 9/12 I wrote an email setting forth my view of what had just happened. I sent it to about 20 of my friends, who sent it to their friends who sent it to their friends, and it went viral. It was the first viral phenomenon on the Internet. Within two days it had spread around the world and been read by tens of millions of people. I was getting phone calls from strangers in Argentina and South Africa and from people I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Within three days, I was on TV in conversation with Bill Moyer while my agent was trying to reach me by phone to tell me I should forget about the novel she was peddling for me and propose a nonfiction book instead—“anything,” she pleaded. “Just write one page. Anything!” It was the oddest thing that every happened to me—but maybe not the most “memorable”, now that I think about it, because those few months were so crowded and crazy I hardly remember a thing about them.

  1. What authors have most influenced your writing?

I really have no idea what authors have most influenced my writing (in which I dare say I’m pretty much like every author) because when I write I’m not conscious of trying to write like someone else, or even “like myself.” I’m only conscious of straining to net with words that elusive thing out there, that vague shape I see, that meaning that, goddamn it, I can’t seem to quite articulate, that story I can almost taste, almost feel, almost see but which–when I try to turn it solid with words—disperses like a school of minnows. Who’s influenced me? Damned if I know. I can tell you who I’ve liked: Yann Martell for his musings; Romain Rolland and Dostoevsky early on; Celine for Death on the Installment Plan, Michael Connolly ‘cuz he’s so solid, Michael Faber because who else could get away with writing a thousand-page novel entirely in the second person, and because I couldn’t shake The Book of Strange New Things out of my head—and there are others. Vikram Seth, especially Golden Gate. Peter Pan. I give up. There are too many.

  1. Describe your path to publication.

Long. Random. Arbitrary. Along the way it was hard to tell if I was published at each particular point. At the Scribe, a weekly newspaper in Portland, where everyone was a volunteer, no one was paid, and where I could write anything I pleased, no editor between me and my readers—was that publishing? Well, I had readers: five or six thousand people a week read what I wrote. Later, when I was a freelance writer in San Francisco, selling things like a profile of the 14-year-old girl who won the Grand Ole Opry, and the story of a drug bust for Stone Age Quarterly—did those things count? Was I published? The publication I cherished most was my first piece of fiction, “Crimes of Passion.” It was published in Prim International, a Canadian lit-mag. Did anyone read it, though? I don’t know. Later when I was a columnist for Encarta, they told me I was getting 80,000 hits each time I posted a new column. But it was a column. On the Internet. Did that count? Well, whatever. One way or another, I’ve got some fifty books out there, most of them nonfiction for children, all of which, as far as I know, are still in print.

  1. Did you find it difficult to write from a women’s point of view in your book, The Widow’s Husband?

Yes and no. I grew up among women. That’s how it was in Afghanistan. Everyone grows up among women and then the boys go out and become men. I didn’t go out and become an Afghan man, because at a crucial period in my life, my family moved to Laskhkargah, a town heavily populated with Americans, and then I moved to America. But I when I created Khadija, the widow of The Widow’s Husband, I didn’t take Western media reports as my point of departure, I started from my memories of the women in my family, the women in our village, the women I knew and knew about over there when I was growing up. I have to say, I don’t think anyone else writing fiction about Afghanistan has followed in my footsteps.

  1. Which of your books has been the most difficult book to write?

My three best-known books—West of Kabul; East of New York, Destiny Disrupted, and Games Without Rules were not hard to write at all. They just fell out. They were waiting to be written, I showed up and they seized control of my fingers and used me to get themselves into the public. The Widow’s Husband slipped right out too, but then I started editing it, and that took years. Two other books, a memoir called Road Trips and the novel Dreaming in Dari, have also taken years, and the real sign of that is: I’m not done with either of them yet.

  1. What do you think your life would look like if you hadn’t come to America in 1964?

I would have been drafted into the Afghan army just when the Communists seized power and the war started. I would have been in their army, following their orders to fight the Mujahedeen, and I doubt I would have survived. If I had not come to the United States in ’64, the chances are pretty good I’d be dead.

  1. Who is your idol?

To that extent I am a good Muslim. I have no idols.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Mir Tamim Ansary. To learn more, visit his website: www.mirtamimansary.com . Also, take a look at his blog, www.memoirpool.com , a site devoted to the art of telling the real life story.

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An Interview with Jordan Rosenfeld

February 20, 2015

1. Can you give us some highlights from your book: Making a Scene?

I consider the scene the “essential DNA” of any good story—if you learn how to balance and wield the ingredients of a scene, you have the most fundamental pieces of story. My forthcoming book with Martha Alderson, Writing Deep Scenes” will go further and show you how to stack your scenes, and what kinds, to build a strong plot.

2. What do you think is the best technique to create tension?

The greatest technique may be uncertainty; creating a“push-pull” energy in every scene. That means nothing comes easy—dialogue is never flat or simple, the reader is always wondering what is coming next. You never “give” the reader exactly what s/he wants, but keep something up in the air, keep yearning alive. This also means paying attention to your language.

3. What authors have most influenced your writing?

I just wrote a piece about the “awkward female heroines” of my youth for DAME [http://bit.ly/1KSsPoD] and I’d have to say that I was strongly influenced as a child by writers like Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatly Snyder, Louisa May Alcott, and when I grew up I gravitated to Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Donna Tartt. I like strong female writers with a propensity toward darkness.

4. Describe your path to publication.

I often call it my “stumble and bumble” path to success. I have a BA in Liberal Arts and an MFA in Creative Writing—not exactly highly employable degrees. I’ve always just thrown myself in the path of what I loved. Did a lot of volunteer gigs that put me close to writers: led a literary salon, hosted and recorded a literary radio show (in which I got to interview some of my literary heroes like Louise Erdrich and TC Boyle). I tend to ignore advice that says “you should” or “you can’t” and go my own way. When I sold Make a Scene to Writer’s Digest Books, I had no platform, not much name for myself and no agent. If I listened to the advice I should not have been able to do that. My motto is “practice, polish, persist.” And also: “Say yes to new opportunities even if they scare you.”

5. What are the biggest mistakes you see in the manuscripts that you edit?

Lack of craft. People rush their stories out and don’t take the time to care about their sentences, their character development, grounding a reader in a scene, working on dialogue. To me, this is the one downside of the speed by which self-publishing moves—people have begun to sacrifice the work needed to revise and get feedback.

6. Do you think a social media presence is necessary to get a book deal?

In this day and age, it certainly helps. I don’t know if it’s necessary as much for fiction, but for non-fiction, yes.

7. If you were to describe yourself as a breed of cat what would it be?

Siamese. Because they are alternately graceful and annoying. They are the “snobs” of the cat world, but when you actually get to know them, they’re quite cuddly.

8. What is your greatest writing weakness?

Over-writing. I have to work on my own wordiness, over-use of adjectives, and imagery.

9. In this changing industry, do you think self-publication is a good career path for an author?

If by “career” you mean is self-publishing a good way to make money, the answer is: sometimes. But I can’t, in good faith say: quit your day job. Amazon, which is in many ways the overlord of self-publishing, no matter what service you use, since they do everything better, faster and cheaper, and ultimately control the price points, and the search algorithms, is making it harder for self-publishers to make as much money as they did when it all blew up several years ago. But like any aspect of publishing, if you find a niche and you’re good at it, sure, you can make some income off of it.

10. How do you handle rejection and what advice do you have for authors facing their 10th, 20th, 50th rejection?

The very basis of my forthcoming book A Writer’s Guide to Persistence is that you must find the joy and the meaning in your work so that you can weather the rejection and discouragement. It has to matter to you beyond approval, publication and praise or you will fall prey to discouragement. I also say that if you’re facing more rejection than anything else, it’s probably a good idea to revisit the work and go deeper into it. Otherwise, maybe look at the places you’re choosing to submit, and rethink them, as well. I’ve been pursuing a writing career for twenty years and most of my biggest success has come in the last year. There has been plenty of small success along the way, but this year, something shifted. So, above all: persist!

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Jordan Rosenfeld. To learn more visit her website): http://jordanrosenfeld.net/publications/


An Interview with Mystery Writer Susan Shea

February 7, 2015

1. In one paragraph, summarize your book, The King’s Jar.

When an anthropologist she had just met in San Francisco is killed in his lab and a priceless artifact he was studying is stolen, Dani O’Rourke is drawn into the hunt for the thief and killer. She is the chief fundraiser for the museum that was about to receive the King’s Jar, and an exhibit and black tie dinner in Manhattan to honor the billionaire donor are up in the air. As she juggles imperious donors, flustered volunteers, a charismatic TV host, a nervous boss, and her impulsive ex-husband who seems to show up everywhere, she edges closer – too close – to identifying the real villain.

2. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

It’s the same advice we all get, but that doesn’t make it less important: Keep writing. Don’t give up the first time it doesn’t come easy or the first time you get feedback that says you have further to go. We all start at the beginning – all of us. It’s the ones who grit their teeth, chain themselves to the chair, and gut it through to “The End” who learn and grow into really good writers.

3. Who inspired your character Dani O’Rourke?

Dani’s a combination of real women I know or read about, with something of me in her voice, and a lot of the professional skills I have admired in my colleagues over the years. One big difference between me and Dani is her failed marriage to a charming but highly impulsive man with $450 million, two Porsches, and a pied a terre in Paris!

4. What has been the biggest challenge on your path to publication?

The first one was finding the time, energy, and focus to finish a full length novel while holding down a demanding job that also required writing. The second was finding a publisher (I got lucky and found a great agent early on) in the dark days of 2008 after the market crash, when a lot of imprints were temporarily suspending their buying.

5. How did you find your agent?

Kimberley Cameron was on the faculty at the Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference – a first-rate program, by the way – and was among the faculty willing to read our first 20 pages. By that time, Murder in the Abstract had gone through lots of revisions and a writing group’s crits, so it was pretty polished. She signed me on the spot. I was speechless!

6. What authors have most influenced your writing?

Start with Jane Austen, whose character portraits, romantic tensions, and funny bits delight me again and again. Anthony Trollope’s wicked satire, Agatha Christie’s devilish plots, Janet Evanovitch’s breezy first person prose, Sue Grafton’s modern woman… the list goes on and on.

7. If you were to describe yourself as a character in a murder mystery (e.g., sleuth, police investigator, etc.) who would that be?

Well, I guess it would be what I did with the series: I’d be a fundraiser who works with the uber rich (entitled), artists (also entitled) and fascinating, creative people, but whose slightly cynical interior commentary is best kept to herself.

8. What is your greatest writing weakness?

The discipline to do rewriting and to work every day even when the garden beckons.

9. What is your writing routine?

See above. Sketchy at best. I’m not a morning person, so the best time is usually from about 2 p.m. until 7 or 7:30. My study gets messier and messier until things begin slipping onto the floor when one of my cats marches across the desk, and then I have to set aside a day to get rid of paper.

10. What drew you to writing crime fiction?

I like crime fiction. I love series. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series delighted me and gave me an idea that I could at least try it. Mysteries have a format, a structure on which to build, and for me coming into fiction after a long career writing other kinds of prose, it was a real help and confidence builder.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Susan Shea. To learn more visit her website ( http://www.susancshea.com or follow her on Criminal Minds (http://7criminalminds.blogspot.com). Her print and e-books and the Audible version of The King’s Jar are available on Amazon and at some indie bookstores.


An Interview with Andrew Benzie of Andrew Benzie Books

November 28, 2014

1. How did you get involved in the self publishing business? Did you take classes? Was there a part of your educational background that helped you pursue this career?

My art degree from UC Santa Cruz combined with 25 years’ experience in the design/print industry has prepared me well for the self publishing revolution. I first became involved in self publishing when I designed, published and marketed my father’s first novel The Elusive Immigrant in 2008—since then I have published over 20 books for local Bay Area authors.

2. Have you written a book? If not, what would you write about if you had all the time in the world to do so?

I have written bits and pieces here and there, but haven’t managed to complete a book just yet. If I had unlimited time, I might explore creating an interactive animated children’s ebook.

3. What is the most common problem you’ve encountered with manuscripts submitted to you, i.e. formatting? What do your clients do that makes Andrew nuts?

After I enter a client’s manuscript into one of my templates, I always go through the text and check for things like the number of spaces between sentences, indents instead of tabs, make sure the use of em and en dashes is consistent, do a final spell check, etc., so I really don’t run across anything that drives me nuts formatting wise. I tell my clients not to worry about the formatting—that’s my job, just focus on the writing.

4. What is your favorite color and why? How many walls in your home are painted your favorite color? Is your car that color?

Blue, because my wife’s eyes are blue. Yes, she told me to say that. Sorry, I have no blue walls or cars.

5. Who is your favorite author?

That’s a tough one, it changes all the time I suppose . . . but I recently enjoyed plowing through Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.

6. Other than Curious George, what is your favorite book? How many times have you read it? (Not Curious George but your favorite book.)

I have probably read the Lord of the Rings trilogy more than any other book as it was the first book I really enjoyed reading as a child. And that was way before the movies came out!

7. You play the drums. Which rock star would you like to be?

There are a lot of drummers out there who I admire, but I think I’ll just stick with being me. Even if that means I still have to lug my own drums around. One of these days I’ll hire a roadie.

8. What is your favorite food?

Pizza. It’s the whole food pyramid served in the shape of a food pyramid.

9. What advice would you give someone who is considering self publishing, other than seeking the expert services of Andrew Benzie?

I would suggest anyone considering self-publishing do as much research as they can about the many options available to them, and to learn as much as they can from others who have been through the process before. And don’t forget to have fun, it can be a very rewarding process!

10. From your point of view, what is the most challenging or difficult thing about self-publishing?

Often its the marketing side that’s most challenging for my clients. To offer assistance, I offer marketing consultation services to help authors find ways to promote and market their books.

To learn more about Andrew Benzie Books, visit http://www.andrewbenziebooks.com/Home.html.


An Interview with Alfred J. Garrotto

November 9, 2014

 

Blogger’s Note:  Please join Al Garrotto at the December 12, 2015 Mt. Diablo California Writer’s Club Holiday meeting.  Al will be speaking on the Perfection aspect of the Three Ps of Publishing.  We have a seated meal for this event and you can choose from: pasta primavera, salmon, chicken parmesan, or NY steak.  Costs are $20 members and $25 nonmembers. Reservations required, contact Robin Gigoux at ragig@aol.com , leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: Click “buy now” on the Mt. Diablo website, http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program/ . Add the $2 transaction fee.  In all cases, please let Robin know your meal choice so the restaurant can plan. Sign-in starts at 11:15 am. Luncheon 12 – 12:45 pm. Speakers 1- 2 pm at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant: 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. $25 members, $30 guests Reservation deadline: noon, Wednesday, December 9th.  If you need to cancel, you must do so before noon on Friday, Dec 11 to avoid forfeiting the cost of the meeting.

  1. In one paragraph, summarize your book: There’s More . . . : a Novella of Life and Afterlife

Relief pitcher Jack Thorne stares at his catcher’s target. His single focus is to get this batter out. If he does, a coveted World Series ring will be his. But, will this pitch be his last? The Universe might have a different plan for this Catholic priest-turned-ballplayer. There’s More is a creative imagining of the ultimate human mysteries—death and Afterlife. This story invites readers to expand their existing concepts and consider broader cosmic possibilities in answer to the universal question, “What’s next?”

  1. What was the inspiration behind writing this book?

There are two sources of inspiration for There’s More . . . 
First, I am a passionate baseball fan and student of the game. I’ve always wanted to write a baseball story. This particular tale was inspired by a friend I knew well, who gave up a career in baseball to become a Catholic priest. His name was John Thom. At the age of 32, he was murdered “in the line of duty.” My main character, Jack Thorne, is a lot like my priest-friend.

My second source of inspiration came from the catalyst character in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Bishop Charles Francois Myriel. For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a novel based on him. Jack Thorne and Bishop Myriel first met, when I began writing There’s More. They immediately liked each other, and the story took off from there.

  1. Who are your favorite authors? 

I’ll try to keep my list as short as possible by focusing on fiction writers. Number one is Victor Hugo, primarily as author of Les Miserables, the most amazing novel I’ve ever read and the one that has had the greatest influence my life. I also admire Ann Patchett, and I’ve often said that Bel Canto is a novel I wish I had written myself. (She beat me to it.) I like Ken Follett for being able to write in epic style, which I cannot. My stories are small and tight. I greatly admired his novel, Pillars of the Earth. I have read the first two volumes of his 20th Century Trilogy and found them to be great models of telling an epic story from the point of view of an international cast of ordinary people with real lives and passions. Other favorite novelists include Jussi Adler-Olson and Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

  1. What has been the biggest challenge on your path to publication? 

Although my earlier novels were published by commercial houses, they were always off the mark from what the current market was looking for. My biggest obstacle to commercial success may have been my inability to write for the “hot market.” I’ve chosen, instead, to write the stories that were in my heart and send them out into the universe.

  1. Was this book easier to write than your previous novel, The Saint of Florenville: A Love Story?

Yes, but only in the sense that I already had a lot of the material that ended up in There’s More. Let me explain. I was writing a baseball novel that just wasn’t going anywhere. At the same time, I was gathering material for a novel about Bishop Myriel of Les Miserables fame. And that wasn’t going anywhere. Reluctant to give up on these two projects, I got the idea to put the two stories together and . . . voila! It worked. The odd couple of Jack Thorne and Bishop Myriel melded quite well, and I’m very happy with the result. I think they are too.

  1. What advice would you give to new writers?

Let me speak to first-time novelists. (Nonfiction is a different animal, usually rising out of an area of the author’s unique experience and expertise.) Often, writers must make a choice—write what’s in your heart, chase what is currently hot, or try to “divine” what might be the next “hot thing,” by the time you finish writing your book. Make whatever choice you wish, then give it everything you’ve got. Set your imagination free and sit your bottom in a chair. Work as long as it takes to get the book written, edited, proofed, and published. Most of all enjoy the process of story building. Have fun watching your characters blossom and grow.

  1. If you were to describe yourself as a character in There’s More . . . , who would that be?

I’d be Bishop Myriel. In a way, I’m a lot like Victor Hugo in that respect. His personal life was far different from the lives of his two heroic figures, Jean Valjean and Bishop Myriel. I’ve always thought that Hugo saw in these two characters the best self he truly wanted to be—spiritual, compassionate, forgiving, faithful. Like me, the real Hugo could not bring himself to maintain these desired qualities in his personal life.

  1. What are your writing strengths?

The first is perseverance, the ability to see a project through, from concept to publication. As a novelist, I create characters who act and talk like real people. The best compliment I ever received was from a reader of one of my early novels. She was present at a book signing at a local Barnes & Noble store. She commented that my writing “read like poetry.” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do think my writing has a comfortable flow to it.

  1. What do you see as the challenges in adapting a novel to a screenplay?

So far, I’ve adapted one of my novels, The Saint of Florenville, to a screenplay. It has garnered a lot of interest, but so far no option. I will soon begin adaptation of There’s More for the big screen. The challenge is to think visually. In a novel, you can rummage around inside a character’s head—for a long time. Film is visual storytelling and demands that the adapter be able to create memorable images on the page that will later translate to the screen. Learning the technical aspects of screenwriting are not all that difficult, but it helps to have someone “in the business” to offer advice. My advisor is my friend, the Italian director Max Leonida, whose career as a filmmaker in the U.S. is heating up.

    10. How do you balance writing with a full-time job?

Although I’ve passed retirement age, I still work full time. There are weeks when I do not touch my manuscript. Even so, characters and plot are always present and active somewhere in my imagination. Then, at other times I feel so compelled to write that I find cracks in my schedule where I can do that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Alfred J. Garrotto.

To learn more, visit his website http://www.alfredjgarrotto.com.

He blogs at wisdomoflesmiserables.blogspot.com (e-mail him at algarrotto@comcast.net).

There’s More . . . is his seventh novel and eleventh book. They are available on Amazon.com at (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred%20j.%20garrotto) and other online booksellers.


An Interview with Susanne (C.S.) Lakin

October 25, 2014

Bloggers Note:  This interview originally appeared about a year ago.  The Mount Diablo CWC is pleased to have Susanne come back to give a full three hour workshop on the topic of the Twelve Fatal Flaws of Fiction on March 12th.  Sign-in begins at 8:30 am at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Luncheon after the workshop at 12:00. Workshop from 9:00 to 12:00. $40 members, $50 guests. Reservation Required.  Reservation deadline: noon, Wednesday, March 9th Contact Robin at ragig@aol.com  or cwcrobin.gigoux@yahoo.com or leave a message at: 925-933-9670 for reservations.

  1. Including your nonfiction, you’ve written 18 books. Do you sleep? But seriously, how long did it take you to write your first book, and how long did it take for your last?

I don’t sleep all that much! I suppose I’m a bit neurotic. I am mindful of how short life is and how many things I still want to do with my creativity and imagination. In the time I have left on this Earth, I want to use every minute in a deliberate way. That also means living a balanced life—exercise, rest, recreation. I’ve tried to streamline my activities to waste the least amount of time. Which ties in with your question about my writing. Like most new authors, my first novel took a bit of time, probably a year, to write. But I really didn’t know what I was doing (and that book will never be published). It was a really good exercise in discipline and experimentation, but after spending years not only writing fiction but studying writing craft books and taking workshops, I learned novel structure and trained myself to write quickly and efficiently. I am now writing my sixteenth novel and it’s hard to say how long it’s talking since I only write a couple of days a week, but best guess is I write about 800-1,000 words an hour and although I started this novel in September, I plan a pub date of Dec 1.

  1. Can you give us some highlights from your book: Writing the Heart of Your Story: The Secret to Crafting an Unforgettable Novel?

There are a lot of writing craft books published that teach novel writing, but I’ve never seen one that teaches writers how to truly get to the heart of what they are writing, which is a lot about the writer herself. At the core of a great novel is a passion the writer has for the premise and themes and characters. In my book, I teach ways that writers can get to the heart of their story and create a novel that is infused with rich characters that are driven by their core need and the things they long for and believe in. This book explores ways writers can infuse meaning into all the components in a novel, including the setting and all the secondary characters.

  1. What authors have most influenced your writing?

For my fantasy, mostly Patricia A. McKillip, who, I feel, is the consummate fairy tale writer. She is unmatched. Also, Elizabeth George has greatly influenced my contemporary fiction. She is the queen of deep POV and characters. I have a lot of favorite authors, mostly contemporary.

  1. You’ve grown quite a following on Twitter (https://twitter.com/livewritethrive). What is your secret to success?

I don’t know if it’s success or not. My blog is the hub of my work and presence online. I use social media to direct people to the free content I provide via my blog, which is extensive advice and writing instruction for both fiction and nonfiction writers (www.livewritethrive.com). I promote my posts and encourage discussion on writing-related topics, and I guest blog on top writing blogs. I love helping writers, and my editing clients are all over the world.

  1. How important do you think endorsements are?

I am sure a great endorsement by a super famous writer would help book sales. Experts say having a lot of great reviews on Amazon or other sites does help sales, and I imagine having some wonderful endorsements by professionals in one’s field can only help. That doesn’t negate the need, though, to write a terrific book. Better to have the terrific book and no endorsements than a lot of endorsements and a lousy book.

  1. In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes new writers make?

They don’t take the time to really learn the craft, whether novel writing or memoir writing or nonfiction. It’s good to “just write” and get in the habit of putting thoughts down. But many writers think if they just keep writing, eventually they’ll turn out a masterpiece. Kind of like the evolutionary claim that if you put a hundred monkeys behind typewriters, eventually they would accidently write the Bible, or something like that. Learning the craft of writing should be a very deliberate study, just like learning to become a doctor. New writers should subscribe to writing blogs, attend workshops, study books, and then apply what they learn. And the best way to learn to write is to tear apart the books of great writers and see how they construct them.

The other big mistake new writers make is they don’t get professional help in assessing their writing. Hiring an editor and/or writing coach can save them years of flailing about without knowing what they are doing wrong or need to work on. They often rush to publish without getting this help, and the result is problematic, because once they put out awful books, their reputation will be difficult to repair.

  1. If you were to describe yourself as a character in a fairy tale, what or who would it be?

I have no clue. I am in all my fairy tales in one form or another. I’d probably like to be a unicorn or some magical creature.

  1. What is your greatest writing weakness?

I don’t know. The hardest part about writing novels for me is getting the climax right. Not so much a weakness but the biggest challenge. Sometimes I feel I nail it and it’s perfect. But in some of my novels I really struggled, and I feel I could have done better.

  1. What inspired you to write fantasy/fairy tales?

I’ve read fantasy all my life and was greatly influenced by Ray Bradbury’s stories growing up. I always wanted to write in that genre. However, after writing some psychological mysteries, I came across G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, and he has a chapter in that book all about fairy tales. That is when I got excited about writing fairy tales specifically, because they have such incredible power through use of metaphor and archetype to reach readers’ hearts. 

  10.  Are you a fan of the Game of Thrones series?

I’ve read the first three books in the series. Martin is a master at scene structure, and I encourage any writer who wants to really see what great scenes are to study his books. I could teach my entire scene-writing workshop using his scenes as examples.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about C.S. Lakin. To learn more visit her website/twitter (www.cslakin.com/ https://twitter.com/cslakin). You can find her books at http://www.cslakin.com/store.php.


Life in Sweats

January 3, 2014

You’d think that I would have a lot of time to write, considering I have been “retired” since 2008.  I spend most of my days indoors either in sweats (winter) or jammy pants (spring-fall).  When summertime settles in, I am comfortable in whatever the spirit decrees.

Maybe that is what blocks my creative juices – I am just too damn comfortable.  I should rise at 4 AM, work out for two hours, dress in too-tight, starchy jeans, then get to work writing the next personal tragedy to top the charts.  Are you angst-ridden?  Perhaps you can share some of it with me?

I have news for you, fellow writer.  As this is the New Year, my resolution is to write more!  If you are a writer yourself, you may be familiar yourself with this proclamation.  But this time, for me as I cannot speak for you, this is real.  I absolutely, positively will write more.  And, I hope write better.  I’ll just throw out the garbage, and through attrition will succeed in preserving more quality sentences.  It’s simple if you follow the formula.

The problem is that I do not write mysteries, suspense thrillers, pot boilers, or bodice rippers.  There is no easy-to-follow formula to follow for what I write.  And there is probably no easy formula for you either.  Your writing is creative and unique, as is mine – I pray.  Formulaic romances or memoirs or mysteries is just not my thing.  Never enjoyed reading them and I can’t imaging why I would enjoy writing them.

Which brings me back to wearing my comfortable sweats and enjoying every moment as it comes along as if it were my last.  I suppose I am in good company with other celebrated writers who enjoyed every moment – does Oscar Wilde come to mind?  Like him, I can overcome this hardship of comfort and excess to write enduring works.  I will strap my belt too tight, sit in my straight-back chair, and plunk away on my IBM Selectric (well, it’s really a MacBook Air) for eight straight hours each day until my great American novel is complete.

Uh, good luck to you with that.  I just don’t have time…