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Interview with Olivia Hawker, Author (conclusion)

Q. What makes a great writer?

OH. Greatness is so subjective, I don’t even know how to begin answering that question! But it is a question worth asking.
For me, I think a writer is great—as in powerful—when they are fearless. It can be really hard to expose our true emotions and our true thoughts. Most humans fear too much criticism; we fear being shamed and we fear doing things that run counter to our culture’s expectations. So it can be really intimidating for a writer to expose an unpopular opinion or even just to write in a really emotive, vulnerable manner.
It’s so much safer and therefore more comfortable to tell stories that don’t challenge the status quo. You’ll never be shamed for going along with what’s expected of you. In fact, you’ll usually be celebrated for it. I certainly don’t think less of any writer who chooses to stick to what feels safe and comfortable, and there are a whole lot of wonderful, beloved, and frankly lucrative stories in that safe/comfortable zone; a writer can make an entire career, and be wildly successful, by being safe.
But in my opinion, you can’t achieve greatness by being safe or by serving the status quo. And certainly, when we continue to uphold the status quo, we’re directly creating a culture that upholds all the things that go along with it—hierarchies, oppressions, homogenization, the stifling of some wise and brilliant voices.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

OH. Sitting at my desk every day and putting in the work! Those initial days when I know I’ve hit on a shiny new idea and I’m so excited about it—they don’t last forever. With almost all my books, ennui sets in and I start to think of that book as a total drag. I still get it done. I’ve got a mortgage to pay; this is my only source of income and, with my lack of a degree, it’s certainly the only well-paying job I’ll ever be able to get. Better get that book done if I want to keep a roof over my head… and then I’d better move on to the next book as quickly as possible.

View from my desk

When you’re a baby writer dreaming about what it’ll be like to write full-time someday, you never imagine that vast swaths of this profession are just you glaring at your manuscript and thinking, “Ugh, I hate this piece of junk so much.” Much of the time, writing is a job like any other, with the same deadlines and grinds and frustrations and outrages. But as I said before, my worst day writing still beats the hell out of my best day doing accounts payable!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

At my desk

OH. Oh my gosh, how have they not? For me, for my writing process (and, I suppose, the process of my inspiration, all the pre-actual-writing stuff) I can’t separate my life experiences at all. Which is kind of funny, because I never write about myself directly. This book I’m working on for Lake Union right now is the closest I’ve ever come to writing about myself, and it’s still not very close to actually writing about myself. I don’t do that thing where I make certain characters avatars for Libbie (aka Olivia)—that’s just not how my brain works. Yet I can so clearly identify exactly which bits of this character or that character are parts of me. And there is a part of me—usually a big part—in every single character I write, even the awful ones.
Really, though, I think that’s true for most authors, though some may not be fully aware of it. We may not have direct experience with the specific situations our characters are in, but we have felt all the same emotions they feel.
 I think the writers whose work really resonates with readers—the writers who become memorable instead of forgettable—are always influenced by their life experiences. How else can you write about life if you won’t allow your own life to influence your work—all of your life, the beautiful moments and the terrible ones?

Q. What’s your down time look like?

OH. I love my garden. I’m always working to expand it and I’m always tinkering with it—adding features, moving plants, improving the setup so it’s more resilient. I spend a lot of time outside with my plants and the bugs and the little garter snakes and the voles who live in my grapevine. I’m sure that answer won’t surprise anyone who has read One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.

My garden

When weather won’t permit me to frolic among the plants (like right now—it’s snowing and it’s miserable outside) I spin yarn and occasionally I get around to knitting or weaving with the yarn I’ve spun.
I live in a pretty isolated place—my island is at least an hour from the mainland by fast boat, and sometimes the trip takes longer; even then, it’s still a couple hours’ drive to the nearest sizable city, which is Seattle. Way out here, you have to make your own fun, so I do a lot of quiet, introspective things—but I really enjoy the isolation and the solitude. Occasionally the isolation does get to me; I’m only human. Writers need those things at least as much as we need garter snakes and flowers.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

OH. Trust your gut. Go where your instincts lead you. There is no one else on the planet like you; only you can tell your story and tell it the way it wants to be told. Listen to the story when it speaks to you. Honor its desire to come forth. Be a brave and confident midwife: Bring your story into this world, and damn what anybody else thinks of it.

Did you miss the beginning? Click here.
Review of One for the Blackbird…
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

Interview with Author of ‘One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow’

TS. We continue here with part 3 of this fascinating look into Olivia Hawker’s writing process. 

Q. You mentioned, in your bio, that your novels were inspired by ‘true stories from your family tree.’ Can you tell us about that?

OH. I love genealogy (a holdover from my Mormon days) and I’ve gone down some wild rabbit holes while doing genealogical research. You can find the most fascinating stories in old journals and typewritten versions of families’ oral histories. And if you know how to read between the lines of certain kinds of genealogical records, you can uncover a lot of “silent” stories, too—information your family members probably wanted to keep hidden. For example, I’d read during some of my research for a forthcoming novel that there were a few women among the early Mormons who had multiple husbands (men having multiple wives is a well-documented and well-known fact.) By reading between the lines of some interesting church marriage records, I was able to figure out that one of my own ancestors was a woman who was married to four different men at the same time. Get it, girl!
But the two books I’m referencing in particular are The Ragged Edge of Night and One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow. Ragged Edge is about my husband’s grandfather, who was a former Franciscan friar and a music teacher living in a tiny village in rural Germany during World War II. He got involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler… as one does. His real story made for some pretty gripping fiction, so I didn’t have to change much in order to write an interesting book.
Blackbird is much more loosely based on fact, but I did find the core of that story in a family tale of adultery, death, and the forced cooperation of two women who really, really hated each other’s guts, but had no choice but to work together if they wanted to survive out on the Wyoming frontier. I changed a lot to make Blackbird what it is.
It just goes to show that you can write fiction that cleaves very firmly to facts or you can get more creative and free-wheeling with it—there’s room for either approach in the market.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

OH. I typically discover titles before anything else. I’ll just be going about my day, minding my own business, and sometimes a title for a new book will explode into my head and demand my all attention. I keep a little notebook with me at all times, and I jot down all these title ideas in that notebook. Over months or years, one of my many titles will sort of step out of that general fog and say to me, “I’m your next book. Me. This one. It’s my time now to come into the world, so you’d better get to work and start making me.”
After the title tells me it’s ready to become a book, it starts telling me what it wants to be about, thematically—what message it wants to convey to the world. Once I understand the theme and overall tone (or atmosphere or mood) of a book, then I can create characters who will serve the theme and the tone. My characters are all little handmaids and man servants to the story. I make them be whatever I need them to be, in order to carry the book’s message effectively to readers and present it in a way they’ll understand.

My garden

So for example, I’d known for years about this family story of adultery on the Wyoming frontier, and the two women who hated each other but were forced to live together anyway. I didn’t start writing One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow until that title (which had been lurking in my notebook since about 2014) told me it wanted to be about death—how death is a natural and necessary part of life, and how, by disconnecting ourselves from and denying death, humans have made themselves strangers to nature, and that separation from nature has damaged our psyches and sickened our societies. We can only heal ourselves and our world by accepting that our rightful, humble place is within nature, not set apart from it as a conquering and domineering force. And we can’t accept our place within nature until we accept the realities of death.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

OH. Watership Down. I’ve always liked rabbits, so my dear sweet dad—blundering goofball that he was—thought it would be a great idea to show me the film adaptation when I was a little kid. A really little kid. I don’t know how old I was exactly when I first saw it; I must have been about five years old. That’s probably way too young for a kid to be exposed to that film. 

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

OH. I’m not sure. Maybe. I think it depends on what “getting lost” means. I certainly enjoy writing very much. There’s almost nothing I’d rather do on any given day than write, but sadly, I have maybe three or four good hours in me per day before my brain just vapor-locks and everything goes downhill. I usually revel in those few hours, though, and enjoy them. I get very emotionally invested in my work while I’m actively writing it. I cry A LOT while I write. I cry so much; it’s kind of embarrassing. But I figure that’s a good thing, you know? 

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

OH. I’m always working on something! I just wrapped up my longest, most complex historical novel to date. I’d been working on it off and on for seven years, but only recently did that book jump up and tell me to focus on it exclusively until it was finished. Now it’s off to my agent; we’re hoping to sell that book to a major publisher this spring. It’s set in the Burned-Over District of the Northeast United States during the 1830s and 1840s—a fascinating time in American history, both from a political and a cultural perspective, but it’s a setting I don’t see explored often in fiction. And I’m finishing up my next novel for Lake Union Publishing. It’s set in rural Idaho during the 1970s. On the surface, it’s about a family of artists who are struggling to manage their tricky relationships while also struggling to carve out careers, but since I always write to serve an underpinning theme, it’s really about the intense and unique love creative people feel for those who inspire their work. 

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

OH. No; I think paper books will continue to be produced for a long time yet to come. But they have already begun to occupy a new place in the market. I think of them as being analogous to vinyl records now.

Q. What makes a writer great?

Join us next week for the conclusion of this great Interview!
Did you miss the beginning? Click here.
Review of One for the Blackbird…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

 

Interview with Author, Olivia Hawker (part 2)

TS. ‘Many years ago I began receiving INTERVIEWS with other authors, famous and not so famous. My goal, at the time, was to discover what processes other authors were using when writing. When I started posting these interviews I had no idea the range of methods I would discover. I wanted my interviews to be intimate; to uncover not only the author’s practices but to hopefully have the author share confidences with us. Olivia Hawker is one such author. Not in my wildest dreams would I have believed that the authors would be so generous with me and my readers.’

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

OH. Oh my goodness, that’s a fraught question for me. I won’t tell you why. I’ll just primly state that yes, I do have special rituals for my writing.
Some of the rituals I’ll tell you about include making play lists that suit the mood of whichever book I’m working on. But I can’t listen to any music while I’m writing—that weird sound-processing issue again—so instead I listen before I sit down to write for the day. Sometimes I’ll go for a drive around the island listening to my playlist, and then head back home and go up into the loft and start writing before the day gets away from me.
Another ritual I’m comfortable sharing is to check in frequently with my instincts and then TRUST THEM. I take intentional pauses in my work to really deeply inquire of myself whether this piece feels like it’s headed in the right direction, whether it’s doing the job I want it to do and sharing the specific message I want to share with the world. And whenever I get the slightest idea that this aspect or that isn’t quite right, or when I feel like something needs to be added—even if I don’t know WHY just yet—I trust that instinct and I do what my gut dictates. I don’t use beta readers. In my opinion, they aren’t really necessary for any author—though beta readers certainly can help you learn how to improve your work faster than you might learn on your own, and that’s tremendously valuable. Betas can also teach you how to take a critique and how to apply criticism to your writing: Also an extremely valuable skill. But I’ve seen too many fellow authors get so hung up on their own insecurities that they can’t do anything without the approval of a beta or two. They become so dependent on external feedback that they never learn how to listen to internal feedback—and then, I believe, there’s a real danger of losing that author’s unique, individual voice. So that’s why I trust my gut, why listening to my instincts and trusting myself are actually parts of my writing rituals.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

 OH.  I could tell you just about anything and it would be something people don’t know! I’m not a well-known author yet, though I’m successful in my profession.

 I’m comfortably mid-listing at the moment, about as far as you can get from being the kind of author about whom things are known.  But I’m very happy with that; it’s absolute bliss to get to write full-time and share my stories with the world. I suppose I can tell you that I really love spinning wool and weaving—it’s such a meditative hobby, great for chilling out—so fiber prep, spinning, and weaving usually sneak into my writing one way or another. I also love collecting antique pottery and china, and those are also things that tip-toe into many of my stories. I’m learning how to throw pottery on a wheel at present. I’m not very good at it yet!

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

OH. Most days, I write from about 7 – 11 am. Those are the hours when my brain seems to work best. But when I’m under a tight deadline, anything goes. I’ve pulled 14-hour days in the past. I don’t recommend it.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

View from my desk

OH. Stop procrastinating! Okay, serious answer: Remind yourself that your book isn’t going to write itself. It doesn’t do you any good to sit around dreaming up every single detail of your plot and all the action and every line of dialogue. You’ll forget most of what you dream up, anyway, unless you write it down, and if you’re going to write down notes, you might as well just write the damn story.

And the advice to interview your character or to make lengthy dossiers that include everything about your character’s past and present and future… Bah! It drives me nuts when I see people recommending such things to struggling writers. It won’t help, because most of what you cook up during exercises like these are irrelevant details that will have no bearing whatsoever on the actual story you’re trying to tell. You’re only wasting your time, and odds are good that you don’t have a lot of time to waste—you probably work a day job and/or have kids or other relatives to care for, or myriad other obligations. It’s hard to carve out time to write. Don’t squander it on something that won’t make you a better writer. Ultimately, at the end of all these various procrastinations, you’re still going to be looking at a blank screen. Fill the screen with words. Don’t be afraid of your own words. They’re yours; you’re in control. Usually writers stall this way because they know, either consciously or subconsciously, that what they’re going to write isn’t going to live up to the vision they have in their heads. Their stab at a scene or a chapter or an entire book is going to fall woefully short of what they’re picturing the final product will be. And whatever they produce will certainly not be as good as all the writing out there that they admire so much—the published works they’ve read, written by their favorite authors.
Well, of course your writing is going to suck! That’s fine! If you could see the unfinished works and the rough drafts your most-admired authors produce, you’d faint from shock; they’re terrible. The final products we see when we hold a print book in our hands, or when we open a favorite book on our e-readers or listen to a favorite audio book… those are FINAL products. They have been refined considerably by several rounds of edits with professional editors. There was probably also a whole swath of time where the author didn’t look at that book at all for weeks or months or years, and then came back to it with fresh eyes so they could see where to make improvements. I promise you, the first version is always awful… for everybody. And even if some other author’s first version of a manuscript is, like, ten thousand times better than what you can write at present, I guarantee you, that author looks at their first draft and says, “Yikes. Well… it’s good enough for now.”
My best-selling book so far, The Ragged Edge of Night, hit a couple of bestseller lists and was optioned for film and nominated for a few important awards and has been praised by many generous and lovely readers as a fine piece of writing. If you could have seen the first version I turned into my publisher…! The final two chapters were real pieces of poo, and I knew it. I actually included a little note to my acquisitions editor that said, “Listen, I know the last two chapters are just flat-out terrible. But at least you can see the broad strokes of how the story ends. We can fix those last two chapters in dev edits.”
So believe me, O Ye Procrastinating Writer, what you’re going to write is going to suck, and WELCOME… welcome to the brotherhood/sisterhood of Real Writers. Maybe you think Real Writers never struggle or doubt themselves, and definitely never say “Fudge it” and turn in total garbage. But we do all of those things, all the time. It’s okay that your work isn’t perfect yet. It’s okay that it might take a while and lots more practice for your work to get a little bit closer to perfect. The only way to start moving in that direction is to practice, so type one terrible sentence and then type another terrible sentence, and just keep going until the terrible recedes and you can start to see some good stuff emerging. It will emerge, if you put words on the screen. But it can’t emerge until you actually do the work and WRITE.

Q. You mentioned, in your bio, that your novels were inspired by ‘true stories from your family tree.’ Can you tell us about that?

Don’t miss Olivia’s answer in Part 3 of this insightful interview March 13th.
Read my review of “One for the Blackbird…”.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

Interview with Author, Olivia Hawker

TS. I always ask for a  brief biography by the author as a warm up to my interview. Operative word ‘brief‘. If what I get is too long or contains boring credentials, I can then edit/shorten it. Following is Olivia Hawker’s bio, untouched by me. It reads more like a friendly letter to her fans and her readers. I hope you, my readers, enjoy it as much as I did. 

OH. I live in the Pacific Northwest, in the San Juan Islands, but I grew up partly in the Seattle area and partly in eastern Idaho. After my parents divorced, I spent the school years in Seattle with my mom and the summers out in the middle of nowhere with my dad. Childhood ties to the Rocky Mountain region persist in me, and I often write about the West. It’s one of my favorite and most often-recurring subjects.
My dad’s side of the family is Mormon, and I was raised in the Mormon religion—another theme that comes up frequently in my writing, even though I am no longer Mormon (or religious at all.)
I knew from the time I was a tiny kid that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Both of my parents encouraged my enthusiasm for the arts, and I was never told I had to have a “backup plan” because a writing career was “impractical.” My dad and my grandpa were both professional artists (painters), so I got to see successful careers in creative fields modeled for me from the time I was a baby. I think I’m incredibly fortunate in that. So many people are told that writing (or any other creative profession) is too impractical to pursue, so they give up before they’ve even begun, or at least they start out with a lot of self-doubt and too much caution. It makes me shudder to think of all the great talents and brilliant voices we’ve missed out on because these creative people were told by their families to pursue something “practical” instead of the art forms that called to their spirits. How many CPAs and dentists out there should have been writers or painters or dancers or musicians instead? Of course, those not-so-creative jobs are critical and important, too, but our culture and our world are hurting right now for understanding and expression. We need more artists, not fewer—and I feel so much gratitude that I was never discouraged in my choice of career, and that I saw with my own eyes that creative fields can lead to stable careers. That empowered me to go for it and pursue my dream of becoming a full-time writer for as long as it took to make it happen… which, as it turned out, was a very long time!
I didn’t go to college for writing or for anything else. I wanted to go very badly, because I value education and knowledge so highly. But my family couldn’t afford to pay for it, and I didn’t think it was wise to take on a lot of student debt just for an MFA or an undergrad degree in creative writing or English lit. I suspected that those degrees wouldn’t get me closer to my goal in any practical sense. Again, I had the benefit of my father’s art career as an example. He was self-taught, so I reasoned that I could become a successful self-taught author, too. I think I made the right decision, given the economic and social options available to me at the time, but now I’m a big advocate for tuition-free college so that no young person will ever have to make the heartbreaking decision to forego that dream ever again.
I always like to make it clear to people that I didn’t go to college and I am self-taught, because I think the arts (writing included) are one of the few professional arenas where those who’ve had the privilege of higher education and those who have been denied that opportunity can truly stand on a level playing field and be real peers. I have built a strong, robust, resilient profession for myself, and I earn a good living from my writing. I think it’s important for young people (and older people!) who are struggling with these difficult financial and educational dilemmas to know that it really is possible to be successful and respected in your field, and to love your life wildly, even if you can’t manage college.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

OH. A. Nowadays I’m fortunate enough to own a lovely little house with a cool loft over the garage. My office is in that loft. It’s narrow as all heck, but I love working there! My writing desk is right in front of a window that looks out on an incredible view of local meadows with lots of wildlife, Griffin Bay, Lopez and Orcas Islands, and Mt. Baker. I’m really inspired and soothed by nature, so it’s such a benefit to my work, to be able to look up from a screen and see all that incredible natural beauty spread out in front of me. My view really has it all: water, islands, trees, fields, one of the most majestic mountains in North America, and critters passing by. I love to watch the light and weather change over that incredible landscape while I’m working. (More)

Don’t miss Part 2 on March 6th.
Did you see my review of One for the Blackbird…?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Interview with Author, David Poyer (part 2)

with wife, Lenore

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DP. Oh sure. ‘What planet am I on?” Hours will go by and I am just not there at all in the chair. The same experience I hope my readers will savor!

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

DP. Always! An article for SHIPMATE magazine on students called to the battlefield from the classroom . . . the new literary review . . . a creepy short story for the next NIGHT BAZAAR anthology . . . a new Dan Lenson novel for next year . . . consulting and assisting my students in their novels. And of course, doing promotion for the latest book, OVERTHROW, the concluding volume of my War with China series. There’s no shortage of work! But it’s all fascinating and I really enjoy what I do. Especially helping younger writers. I only started teaching ten years ago, and am surprised how much satisfaction there is in helping someone else succeed.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DP. In 1976, beginning with short stories.

Q. How long after that were you published?

DP. not that long . . . maybe a year. But it took four years to publish my first novel. That was WHITE CONTINENT, an adventure story that today might be called a techno thriller.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

DP. I sure don’t. The sales numbers on those are going up again after a decline in recent years. EBook sales are down. Audio book sales are up. But no, we will not see paper books go away.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DP. So many things! Sympathy, deep craft, huge intelligence, deep feeling, an ear for language . . . I could go on and on. World building. The ability to truly see. The ability to truly care. The passions . . . rage, regret, vengeance, love. Jonathan Swift’s “burning indignation.” We’re not going to see any of those from AIs anytime soon!

Q. and the all-important:What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

DP. Like a long sea voyage, with lots of planning followed by setting sail; then changes of the wind, challenges along the way, port calls, near-disasters, interspersed with periods of calm sailing. Occasional mutinies by the characters. Menaces from pirates. Then the channel to the final destination opens ahead, and there’s a welcoming crowd waiting on the pier . . . my longtime fans, who sometimes take me to task, but who more often cheer me on and make me feel I’m doing some good in the world. I owe them a lot, and they know who they are!

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

DP. I would think that’s pretty obvious!

Q. What’s your down time look like?

DP. Sailing, coaching, reading, doing errands on my motorcycle . . . I live in a quiet rural seaside county in Virginia. Also, I travel. This last year we journeyed through seven countries by plane, bus, and rail, both for research, personal reasons, and to accompany Lenore to and from a writing residency in Schwandorf, Bavaria. I don’t think we’ll schedule that many at once again for a while! But we might try for Morocco later this year. Maybe.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

DP. So far I’ve written historicals, eco-thrillers, science fiction, sea novels, military fiction and nonfiction, lots of nonfiction biography and travel, and the occasional screenplay. I’d like to try a memoir one day, but not soon!

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

DP. Be mindful, be here for each day, and tell those you love how much you love them. None of it will last forever! Which should make it all the sweeter, no?

Did you miss Part I of our Interview? Click here
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Available now!

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Naval Captain, turned Author, David Poyer

Naval Captain DAVID POYER grew up in Pennsylvania and attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. His naval service included duty in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, Caribbean, and ports around the world. His nearly fifty published books include THE DEAD OF WINTER, WINTER IN THE HEART, AS THE WOLF LOVES WINTER, and THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN. His latest is OVERTHROW . His work has been translated into Japanese, Dutch, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croatian.

Poyer holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and has taught or lectured at Annapolis, Flagler College, and other institutions around the country. He has been a visiting writer/writer in residence at Flagler and Annapolis. His fiction has been required reading in the U.S. Naval Academy.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

DP. I’ve written just about everywhere . . . aboard ship, in bars, in offices, on residencies abroad . . . anywhere with a pen or a keyboard. These days I usually write in my custom-built office, which has large windows with a view out over the Chesapeake Bay. And lots of reference books!

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DP. Uh, not really . . . not superstitious about that, no. I check the email, look over the news, and set to work!

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

DP. One wall of my office is covered with typewriters. Manual typewriters, from all countries, that I’ve collected over the years. I came back from a research trip to Europe last year with five typewriters in a duffel bag…which interested the customs officials no end when they saw them on the X-rays!

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

DP. First thing in the morning works for me, when it’s quiet and not too much else has impinged on my day. I try to get at least a thousand words down, and then the rest of the day is mine to answer email, do research, or have fun!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DP. Here’s what I emphasize to my creative writing students: I think procrastination or “block” is usually just the result of a failure to properly prepare. I go through a long process of imagining my characters, daydreaming about their scenes. Eventually, I generate a detailed chapter outline that extends all the way to the end of the novel. (Things change, natch, and the outline is fluid to accommodate gifts; but having the outline there in the morning in place of a blank page removes all my stress.) When I know what will probably happen next, there’s no reason at all not to be able to do my thousand words that day. And usually more!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DP. They stem from various sources . . . some from people I knew . .. others are patterned after earlier fictional characters, especially in WHITENESS OF THE WHALE . . . and some spring fully born onto the page, like W. T. Halvorsen, who was a walk-on in DEAD OF WINTER but who took me through the next three books in the Hemlock County series. My wife says she’s often puzzled when I talk about my characters as if they’re people she should know! But then, she’s a novelist too, so she understands….

Q. What first inspired you to write?

DP. I tell my students at Wilkes, “One becomes a writer, not because one can, but because one must.” I realized very early, around age four, that writing was what I was sent here to do. And no matter what I did in between childhood and becoming a fulltime writer, that was preparation, rather than the main event.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DP. Well, sometimes one, at other times the other. My continuing characters, such as Halvorsen, Dan Lenson, Tiller Galloway, usually find themselves confronted by ‘The Situation’, as you put it. Then they are called upon to react. Typically, things then get very dark. I mope around, trying to think of a way they can possibly escape. Eventually, I (or really, they) figure it out! Then all I have to do is craft the prose. Which is absorbing, too, in its way. The style of each of these series seems to differ. That, I think, is half organic and half from what my mentor Frank Green called a “felt knowledge.”

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Join us for Part 2 of this griping interview next week
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Part 3, Interview with Australian Author, Dervla McTirnan

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

DM. It has been different with every book, honestly, and I expect (hope!) that this will continue. For the last few books the first draft has been fast and it is getting faster. I think about a book for months before I start writing so I have a pretty good understanding of the key characters and situation before I start. And I always outline. But as I become more experienced I am also trusting my instincts much more, making decisions faster and leaning on my emotional responses to things. I think (hope!) that that is making for stronger books. Then my book goes off to my editors and I get very detailed structural editorial notes back. I really like to go to town with a structural edit. I take at least two months, sometimes three, to take a book apart, down into the sum of its parts, and rebuild it into something stronger. It’s ferociously hard sometimes, but very worth it. Sometimes a book doesn’t need that much work, of course. With The Good Turn only one storyline needed a significant rewrite, but I can always find something to do to make the story stronger. I try to put as much effort and energy and creativity into the edit as I did into the early drafts. It takes staying power, honestly, because the more you work a book the harder it gets…but it’s worth it.

My tiny desk

After that we have copy-editing, which is much easier, and then a proof-read. I keep tweaking right up to final pages, and I always do one final read-through where I read the book out loud, trying to work on the rhythm of the lines. When it’s finally done I never want to see the book as long as I live! And then I see the cover and I remember why I loved it in the first place.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

DM. In every possible way. I’ve drawn on elements of my life for every single book I’ve written.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

DM. Down time for me is mostly not really down time! The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you have maximum flexibility. But I’ve written at least a book a year over the past few years, sometimes a book and a novella, and that’s really a full time job if you want to produce quality books. Until a year ago I had a part-time day job too. And I have primary school aged kids. So I choose to arrange my writing day around the children – I write when they are at school, but I also have to do the usually household tasks during that time, which cuts into precious writing time. I spend most of my afternoons with the kids (and believe me, I know how lucky I am that I have that choice!) but it does mean that I usually still have work to do when then are asleep. For a long time I started my day at 6 am and finished work for the day at around 10 p.m. These days I usually get at least three nights off a week and I love to curl up on the couch with my husband and catch up on TV. This year’s favourites so far – Chernobyl, Morning Wars and His Dark Materials. TV is so extraordinarily good right now and the writing is very inspirational.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

DM. I have a couple of long running stories that I write for the kids when I have time, and I would love to try my hand at properly writing a middle grade fiction some time. I do have a story in mind. But there are so many other stories I want to write first that I never seem to get around to it. Not that there’s any guarantee that I would be any good at it…but I’d really like to try!

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

DM. There have been so many. But the need for balance, maybe, has been the hardest lesson to learn and the most rewarding. When I was younger I saw hard work as the answer to every problem. That worked for a while…until I hit a few walls that were tougher than I was and paid the price. Now instead of throwing myself up against things in mad bursts of energy and effort, I try to do smaller things but very, very consistently. I rely on routine, I try to go easier on myself and take some time for relaxation and honestly, I am more productive and far happier.

Did you miss Part 1 or 2 of this wonderful interview? Click here

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan ~~ January: David Poyer  
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Available now!

Interview with author, Dervla McTiernan, Part 2

Continuing with my Interview with Irish-born author, Dervla McTiernan

Q. What first inspired you to write?

DM. I’ve been an obsessive reader since I was three years old, and at a certain point reading became less satisfying to me, which was awful. I still read constantly, but it felt like something was missing. It took me a long time to realise what was missing was writing my own stories. As soon as a realized that I could experience the same joy and pain, the same highs and lows in writing my own stories I was utterly hooked and I knew I would never stop, whether or not I was ever published.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DM. Character first usually, then situation.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DM. Yes. Absolutely. Usually when I am deep into a first draft – maybe after the forty/fifty thousand word mark. Characters come alive and the story really takes off and I just want to stay in it all of the time.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

Musha

DM. Yes…but I’m not allowed to talk about it! Which is a pain because I am VERY excited about this story.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DM. 2014. That was when I gave myself permission to really take it seriously. I had been playing with the idea of doing an MBA, because I wasn’t particularly happy in my job. An MBA would have taken five years part-time, and when I really thought about it I realized I had absolutely no urge to go back and study again, nor had I any real interest in studying business. What I had always wanted to do, and never ever thought I could do, was write. Given the massive changes we’d already made in our lives (moving to Australia from Ireland in 2011) committing myself to writing didn’t seem all that crazy! So I kept working part-time, and when the kids were in bed I would write for two hours, every night, except Thursdays (wine-night – very important).

Q. How long after that were you published?

DM. I signed my contract with Harper Collins in October 2016, and The Ruin was published in Australia in February 2018, and shortly after that in the US (Penguin) and the UK/Ireland (Little Brown) and then a few other territories followed. Then The Scholar came out in 2019, and The Good Turn will be out in 2020.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

DM. No, genuinely, no. I think with the absolute ubiquity of smart phones, we’ll continue to see growth in audiobooks. People still love story; they’re just so time pinched that they have to try to fit them around everyday life. But for me personally, there’s something that switches off in my brain on those occasions when I get to lie down on the couch with a paper book in my hand, screens and phones off or away from me. It’s such a release from the constant connectedness of my daily life. I think there’s a reason that the growth in ebooks has pretty much stopped and paperback sales are stable. We all want that release. That moment of indulgence.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DM. To me it is a writer is great if they can create characters who feel genuinely real to me. Characters I care deeply about.

Musha

Characters I want to spend time with. Everything is secondary to character for me. I absolutely love the Robert Galbraith crime novels, which are just getting better and better I think (Lethal White was awesome) because I love Cormoran and Robin and I want to be in their world. I love to disappear into a book the same way I used to when I was a kid, and that happens so rarely now but it’s no less intensely joyful when it does.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

To find out, don’t miss Part 3 of this fascinating Interview ~~ January 27th 
Did you miss Part I? Click here

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan ~~ January: David Poyer  
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

Interview with ‘DownUnder’ author, Dervla McTiernan

Darvla was born and raised Irish. But moved to Perth, Western Australia in 2011 with her husband, their two-year-old little girl …and was 36 weeks pregnant the day they landed. She was a lawyer in Ireland but very burned out by the time they emigrated, and says she was, “keen never to practice law again”. When she went back to work, it was part-time, and eventually she started writing. Her first book, The Ruin, was published in 2018, with The Scholar following in 2019. My third book, The Good Turn, is out next year.

New study

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

DM. I have a tiny study off the kitchen of our home, and most of the time that’s where I write. It’s small, but to me, just perfect and we just did a mini-renovation and now I really love it! Writing so close to where the kids spend a lot of their time is probably not ideal, but I have some excellent noise blocking headphones that take care of that!
When I started out we were living in a very small rental home with dodgy electrics – we couldn’t have the oven and the air con on at the same time or the whole system would trip. I used to write at a tidy corner of the kitchen table when the kids were in bed. The house was way too small for us so the detritus of the day inevitably surrounded me. I just had to learn to close my eyes to it all!

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DM. I am ridiculously picky about notebooks. I go through different phases but at the moment I like the A4 sized Clairefontaine notebooks and gel pens– I change colour when I start a new book. I usually write free hand for at least half an hour before I move to my computer. I write notes about the scene I’m planning on  writing that day. Thoughts about the characters and setting. What the characters know going into the scene, their mind-set, snippets of dialogue, all of that kind of thing. By the time I get started properly with fingers on the keyboard I usually have a pretty clear idea of where I’m going, which leaves me free to think about how I want to get there.

Before…

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

DM. Hmm. Tricky one! There are lots of things but it’s hard to think of something people might be interested in! I have a golden retriever, who lies outside my bedroom door every morning to guilt me into take her for a walk. She loves a good walk because she is ridiculously social and wants to chat with every human in the park and be generally admired. What she does not like to do is run. I’ve started running again for the first time in years (for running read *gentle stagger*) and she objects by lying down or dawdling along two hundred metres behind me. If I put her on the lead I have to tow her around like a little tow truck, and everyone in the park looks at me like I am cruelly punishing her. Then I let her off the lead and she spots a dog she likes and she’s off running like a crazy thing. It’s all very frustrating.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

DM. I used to have a very strict routine – 8pm to 10pm every night, because I was working around kids and a day job. Now that I’m writing full time I generally write between 9.30am and 2 pm, and then again at night from 8pm for an hour or two. Not all of that will be active writing time. I have emails to deal with, of course, and the usual admin stuff that somehow manages to creep into my day despite my best efforts! And household tasks. But I will try to get a minimum of two hours active writing time a day and ideally that will be closer to four or five.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DM. Respect the story and respect your instincts. If it feels wrong then maybe it’s time to backtrack and see if you lost the organic thread of the story somewhere. Or if your story is fine and your procrastination is just coming from that fear/avoidance place we all have, I think it can be useful to trick yourself into it. Make a really nice cup of tea, find some chocolate, sit down and tell yourself you’re just going to have fun for a while. Write in a notebook rather than on your computer. Write some random scene from later in your book. Do an exercise where you write your character first person if your book is usually third. Basically anything at all that feels more interesting than scary. Usually I find that within half an hour the fear is in my rearview mirror and I am writing again.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DM. Everywhere and anywhere! Only one character ever came to me fully formed, and that was Maude Blake from my first book, The Ruin. I had this very clear picture in my head – two children, sitting on a stairs in a crumbling Georgian mansion deep in the Irish countryside. Maude was fifteen, and Jack only five. They were holding hands. The house is very, very cold, all the lights are off, and it’s getting dark outside. I knew that they were afraid. I knew that Maude loved her brother so much, that she had protected him from the moment he was born and that now she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to protect him from what was coming next. And that was it. I knew Maude from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet but I didn’t know anything else, not what had brought them to that place nor where they would go next. I had to write the story to find out.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Join us for Part 2 of this interview with Australian author, Dervla McTiernan
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan ~~ January: David Poyer  
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Available now!

 

                                                   

 

Interview with Author, Kristina McMorris (part 2)

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

KM. Oh, goodness, yes. Usually, as luck would have it, right before school hours are over. 

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

KM. I’m working on another WWII novel that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet but can’t wait until it’s time to spill!

Q. How long after were you published?

KM. I started writing my first novel in 2007, sold it in 2009, and was over the moon to see it published by a large NY house then appear on actual store shelves in 2011!

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

KM. Not if I have any say in that! For me (even more so because I work on a computer all day), I undoubtedly prefer a printed book when reading fun. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. At least I hope?

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

KM. Once I have the general gist of a premise and main characters established in my mind, and enough research completed to know what’s possible, I essentially picture the story rolling out like a movie in my head. At that point, I create a basic plotting board using mini Post-its, and off I go!

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

KM. Since I literally grew up in the film industry, cinematic forms of storytelling continue to have the strongest influence on my writing. And of course, bits and pieces of myself and people I’ve met throughout my life inevitably sprinkle my stories—both the heroes and the villains!

Q. What’s your down time look like?

KM. Spending time with family and friends and catching up on life (which, after a tight deadline, largely includes laundry, bills, and much-needed sleep)!

Kristina with her family

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre?

KM. If I were to choose another genre, it would have to be psych thrillers, since that’s another type of story I thoroughly enjoy reading.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

KM. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
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Click here for Part I of the Interview

Review of Sold on a Monday
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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