Interview with J.A. Wright, Author of Eat & Get Gas (part 2)

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

JW. They just pop into my head. Some I ignore, though, because they’re too weird or too mean.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JW. Desperation.
When I first got sober, an older sober woman took me to lunch and told me I could write my way into a new way of thinking. I thought she was crazy, but I did it anyway because I didn’t have a better idea. It turned out that she was right.

Max

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

JW. The voice.

Q. Would you please elaborate?

JW. I walk/hike almost daily, occasionally hearing my inner self say something useful, such as the opening line of Eat and Get Gas, ‘I was six and Adam was thirteen when our brother Teddy was born.’ Yesterday, I clearly heard…’ he was never very good at reading the room.’ I messaged the line to myself (as I often do) and might use it in a short story.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JW. I can’t count the number of times my husband arrived home from work to find me in the same spot I was when he left that morning.

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

JW. I knew very little about genres when I finished my first novel and was surprised when my editor said it was literary fiction.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

JW. I’ve made a lot of notes lately, and maybe they’re the makings of a novel. I’m not sure yet.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JW. When I turned forty (over twenty years ago).

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

JW. Perhaps. I was a paperback reader until covid. This past year, I’ve purchased more audio and e-books than paperbacks. I know others who’ve done the same.

Q. What makes a writer great?

JAW with Frank McCourt

JW. I asked Frank McCourt his exact question when he came to NZ to promote Angela’s Ashes. In the greenroom, when he finished his story about never having to wear Florsheim shoes again, he said, ‘Great writers write what they know, be it awful or grand.’ I don’t know if it’s the truth for everyone, but he inspired me to write what I know or think I know.

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

Lucy, the hen

JW. Huge exhale!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

JW. It’s all connected to my past or present.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

My walking trail

JW. I walk (hike) several times weekly while listening to audiobooks or music (jazz, classical and sometimes the Allman Brothers).

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

JW. Probably not …unless ‘faction’ becomes a legitimate genre 

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

JW. I can be a good example or a great reminder.
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Interview with author, J.T. Wright

JTW. I’m the second of four daughters born to Lois and Walt. My father’s family were (are) enrolled members of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Indians. My mother’s family was in the logging business and lived close to Gifford Pinchot State Park. I grew up in Tacoma, Washington.
In 1988, I met and married a Kiwi polo player, and we moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, where I have worked in the arts and events industry, creating and producing events and festivals ever since. For my services to the arts, the King appointed me an Officer of the N Z Merit of Honor.
I discovered the soothing effects of writing in 1985, the same year I got sober, after someone suggested I write my thoughts in a journal. I journaled for a couple of years before deciding to write a novel. How to Grow an Addict, was published in 2015. My second novel, Eat and Get Gas, was released on June 6, 2023, and has been optioned for TV/Film by Producer Leanne Moore (GLOW and The Lincoln Lawyer for Netflix).

Writing in my office

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, or special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room,

closet, barn, or houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ workspace.

JTW. I taught myself to tune out the world and focus on writing, and for years I was happy to write almost anywhere. Lately though, in this covid era, I write at home, where it’s quiet. I use my laptop and often move from desk to couch to chair.

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

JTW. I eat a lot of toast when I’m in a writing groove (avocado, strawberry jam with too much butter, and occasionally a smashed banana), and I often turn off my phone and lock the front door. I have a pen collection and many notebooks filled with ideas and comments.

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

JTW. I cringe when I read or hear the word ‘moist.’

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

JTW. I write on Post-it notes, in a notebook, on my phone, and my laptop.

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names.

JTW. We have four polo ponies (Roxy, Rudy, Allie, and Pearl), two cats (Max and Gracie), and nine chickens (Lucy, Gothe, Little Lavie, Big Lavie, Grey Stumpy, Black Stumpy, White Stumpy, Hooty one and

Hooty1 and Hooty2

Hooty two).

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

JTW. I’ve been trying to write a decent short story for months. It’s harder than I thought it would be.

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

JTW. I don’t have advice because it’s an issue for me, too, but I’ve learned that suffering is optional, and it’s best if I give into the thing that yells at me to be written.

 

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

Join us for part 2 of our Interview next week.
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Interview with Tracy Sumner (part 2)

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?  If yes, tell us about it.

TS. I enjoy writing shorter romance (novellas) a lot! I think I’m pretty good at capturing a full story in shorter form.

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

TS. The only time I’ve had any success in this business was when I just pushed aside everything else and WROTE. Write, keep writing, network with other writers or at least, subscribe to their newsletter and see what they’re doing. Reach out to readers. Be accessible. Enjoy the process! And don’t try to do someone’s else process – yours is great!

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

TS. I have the hero in mind, always, before I start. But characters surprise you on the page. I truly find them while writing.

Tudor Dress up

Q. What first inspired you to write?

TS. Reading “The Outsiders” was a big inspiration for me. Stephen King for sure, although I don’t write in that genre. Then, I stumbled upon Vows, by LyVyrle Spencer, and I was done!

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

TS. CHARACTERS!

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

TS. Yes, I think I do, if things are really rolling. But some days, it’s hard. Generally, writing is hard work. I love my pages, I hate my pages. LOL

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

TS. That first romance I read in college, that was it for me. I ended up reading about 1,000 romances, then figured, I can write one of these. I was a journalism major, and I started writing in high school, so…

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

TS. I have a new release coming in May, THREE SINS AND A SCOUNDREL. It’s the final (#6 full length book) in the Duchess Society series. It’s been a really great series for me and readers seem to love the heroes!

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

TS. I was first published in 2002 with Kensington Publishing. But I also had a career in marketing, so I dallied. Then, in 2017 following a breast cancer diagnosis, I figured I should start writing in earnest. And here we are!

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

TS. No, I really don’t. I still love reading print. However, one great thing about Kindle is the backlighting. When your vision gets wonky after 40, backlighting is awesome! But I still love holding a book in my hand #1 above everything. And I still sell print copies – of course, nothing compared to ebooks.

Q. What makes a writer great?

TS. Be courageous enough to be themselves – which allows their voice to shine.

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

TS. The daily grind. Butt to chair. It’s not sexy and it’s not easy. As I said before, some days I hate the pages. Then the next day, they seem not so bad. Day after day, then somewhere along the way, we have a book!

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

TS. I like to read (of course!) and I love yoga. My son is 16, so my days are filled with mom things, too. I walk a lot in the city, too. I love museums and movies, although since Covid, I haven’t been to the theatre as much.

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

TS. I have written a contemporary series and someday soon may publish those. I’m really all about the characters, not the time period. (I think.)

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

TS. I asked Nora Roberts this once at a conference and she said: PATIENCE. I didn’t get what she meant then, but I do now. Take your time, exhale, breath in love, breath out love. And write. Or read! I think reading is the best, actually.

Did you miss Part 1?
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Interview with Author, Tracy Sumner

USA Today Bestselling author Tracy Sumner’s storytelling career began when she picked up a historical romance on a college beach trip, and she fondly blames LaVyrle Spencer for her obsession with the genre. When she’s not writing sizzling love stories about feisty heroines and their temperamental-but-entirely-lovable heroes, Tracy enjoys reading, snowboarding, college football (Go Tigers!), yoga, and travel.

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

TS. I write wherever I can. In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he has thoughts about not setting yourself into a habit where you can only write in one, perfect place. Or when you feel like the muse is sitting on your shoulder. 🙂 That said, I have a writing area in my bedroom. LOL, I live in NYC and we don’t have extra space to give for offices typically. It’s cute, though, and has my writing awards and personal thing, books and swag! My dream would, of course, be to have a room that looked like a Regency library! With shelves and shelves of books!

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

TS. I like to write with gentle music on, no lyrics. I can’t have television or anything distracting on. I usually read the first two pages (or so) of the previous day’s work to get into the rhythm. I also edit these pages at this time, so in the end, working this way, my manuscripts are fairly clean.

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

TS. I’ve lived in Europe and Asia – and my son is adopted from Vietnam! I live in NYC, but I’m a native South Carolinian and still have a place in Beaufort, SC, too that I’ll retire to.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

TS. I’m a right to keyboard writer! 😉

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names. 

TS. Before Covid, I fostered kittens a lot (harder to do in NYC due to space limitations) and I adopted one of my fosters, Banksy. He’s about 8 now and is a love bug! You’ll see he has one eye. He was spray-painted as a kitten by a homeless man and rescued by the police. It damaged his eye, which was removed, and I named him Banksy, after the graffiti artist!

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

Join us next Friday for part 2 of this Interview
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A New 10-Minute Play

                                              Eyes on the Road, Girlie is my latest offering.  Just written a few days ago and now, of course, in rewrites. 

Truth is funnier (and stranger) than fiction. 

My housekeeper relayed this story in passing the other day.  Her client is a 90-year-old woman who no longer drives but still loves her outings.  So she has hired a caregiver, not to help with her meds, clean her house, help her shower, or fix her meals.  No. She has hired Diana to drive her around three days a week.  Sometimes they are random drives, sometimes to the nearby ocean beach, or a historic site, or to beautiful downtown Savannah with all of her charming squares.  Her choices are never premeditated; always picked spontaneously on the morning of the outing.  But!  two things are absolute:  Breakfast biscuits at McDonald’s and luncheon at Chik-Fil-A.  

When I heard this story told in real time, my imagination sprung to life: this would make a charming, perhaps funny, (I never know when my writing will turn up funny) short play.  And so, as often is the case, dialogue began running in my head until I was forced to write it down.  

Fellow writers: Life and the people around you will supply you with all you need if you but look and listen. 
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Eat And Get Gas ~ Book Review

                              4 out of 5 stars  ~~  Book Review

A story of the tangled threads of a family.  Complex in its strife but always with familial love.  Like any other family, the threads are co-dependency, love outside of wedlock, unrequited love, addiction, illegitimate kids, and secrets.  Do you know a family without secrets?  I don’t. 

The only real villain in this story is the Vietnam War.  When young men or old boys (depending upon how you look at that war) were sent to their deaths or returned, alive but damaged beyond repair.  PTSD wasn’t a thing yet and was pretty much left untreated.   

Despite the sometimes heavy subjects, J.A. Wright’s writing is superb.  Easy-going, light, a delight to read.  I highly recommend this book to my readers. 
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From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’? What does it look like?

Recently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?  I asked other authors to answer that question in my monthly author interviews.  Having also completed 16 novels  I’d like to add my two cents:

I sometimes used my play script (by the same name) as my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well. It took me a year and four months to write and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do,authors, writers, publishers, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days… although I preach that you should write something every day.  But if you hit a dry spell, you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper (computer). I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book and then they published.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations or building a cabin in the 1920’s).   I had 8 pages of a new play about Winston Churchill written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.  .  This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

Book 1 in series

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is for me and how it works.

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Poetry.com Honors My Poetry

Dear Trisha,

Congratulations, this is just a quick notice to let you know that your poem Twenty-Five is one of the poems being featured on the PoetrySoup home page this week. 

Thanks again and congratulations.

Sincerely,
PoetrySoup

Twenty-five  by poet, Trisha Sugarek

25 seconds: the time it
takes to fall in love….

25 minutes: into rehearsal
we have our first kiss….

25 hours: I am dreaming of
you….

25 days: I know it is just the
beginning….

25 weeks: we are having
“make up” sex….

25 months: stranded in
Tucson, I’m sling’in hash
and you’re ropin’ steers….

25 years: Best friends, still in
love, comfortable in our
own skins, at ease and
amused by each other’s
quirks.…

….shoring up each other’s
desires, choices, and
judgments, good or bad….

sustaining each other no
matter what…
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Do You Doubt Yourself…your writing?

  famous authors, writers,    I ran across a description of one of my enemies….DOUBT!  And it got me to thinking. Author, Jacqueline Winspear wrote: “Doubt. Was it an emotion? A sense? Or was it just a short stubby word to describe a response that could diminish a person in a finger snap?”

I wrote earlier about my being in good company.  Regardless if we writers are obscure or famous, we all doubt ourselves and our work.  What if Henry Charles Bukowski, or Ernest Hemingway, or John Steinbeck had let DOUBT win?  Put away their pen, dumped their scribbles into a shoe box and made a trip to the attic, got a day job and never wrote another word?   It doesn’t bear thinking about.

famous authors, writers, famous quotesJ. Michael Straczynski:  “When in ‘doubt’, blow something up.”

 

 

F.Scott Fitzgerald:   “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

Image result for f. scott fitzgerald

 

 

 

famous authors, famous quotesE.M. Forster:  “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

 

 

Tapani Bagge:  “Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  auithors, famous quotes, writersAnd later on you can use it in some story.”

 

 
Maya Angelou:  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

authors, famous quotes, writersElinor Lipman:  “Critics have been described as people who go into the street after battle and shoot the wounded.”

 

writers, authors, famous quotes

 

Leo Rosten:  “The only reason for being a professional writer is that  you just can’t help it.”

 

Let’s see …..when were my worst moments?  DOUBT clawing at me, whispering in my ear, crawling up my spine.  Telling me that I’ll never make it, I’ll never finish a whole novel, that I don’t know the first thing about writing poetry.  Writing play scripts was relatively easy for me. After all I had been in theatre reading scripts for over thirty years.  And the stories simply fell out of the sky and into my brain when writing a script.

But other genre? 

When I could no longer resist the urgency of writing about the women who wait outside prison walls, I researched the length of the average novel; number of pages and words.  Yikes!  Over 300 pages and 70,000 words.  DOUBT was screaming in my ear: ‘you’ll never be able to write that many pages.’  ‘you’re a playwright; not a novelist’, ‘who do you think you’re kidding?’  But I had a true story (several of them, in fact) and all I needed to do was flesh those stories out.  Write one page at a time…or even one word.
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Book Review ~ The Physics of Relationships

 

2 out of 5 stars  ~~  Book Review

Even though this narration was supposed to be from the Mom, the author’s masculine voice frequently leaked through.    I can’t quite put my finger on the whys or hows but there is a definite masculinity to her/his ‘dry’, analytical tone. And  I never discovered her name.  

The narrator is the Mom figure in the story. Unfortunately, she is just that. A talking head. Her deeper feelings aren’t explored. The narrator talks at the reader with conclusions rather than a true exploration.  Is Chas guilty of ‘man-splaining’?  

Early on the family unit fell into being a clique.  Two husbands, one divorce, 1 male child, 1 female child, 1 best friend. 

Speaking of the BFF. Amy  moves in with Mom for awhile. She also is having troubles in her marriage.   They end up sharing the same bedroom and bed and eventually Amy makes tentative sexual ovatures to her good friend.  (This is an 8  on the ‘ick’ scale.) First of all, middle-aged BFFs would not share a bed. Except at a hotel, on holiday, and there was only one room/1 bed available and they were desperate for lodging.  (Guilty!)
Why do most men think that if two women are very close friends, they must have lesbian tendencies just under the surface of the friendship? 

This might have been a better book if the author had written in his own voice (as narrator) and told the story from the three men’s point of view. Greg, Lawrence, and Phil.
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