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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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 – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s latest book

 

5 out of 5 stars

One of the most delightful things about this author is the reader NEVER  knows where she is going with her story-line.  And A Different Kind of  Gone is no exception.  
Catherine Ryan Hyde starts us off with a  search and rescue for a missing girl.  And ends us…..well…….I’m not known for my ‘spoiler alerts’, am I?
This was my favorite.” Wait! I say that every time I set one of her books down, finished.   Until the next one comes out (grin).

I can’t  give my readers  even a short synopsis because no matter what  I write, it would give something away.  But the story has everything!  Norma, Jill and Wanda are incredibly brave. The horses and dogs (two of my favorite things) swirl through the story and add such color and flavor. 

I recommend all books by Catherine Ryan Hyde but my top three favorites are this one and Allie and Bea and  Have You Seen Luis Velez?           

Did you miss my interview with this author?
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News Flash! Writer Goes to Prison

From stage play to novel was an incredible journey for me as a playwright turned novelist. In playwriting, you must tell your story in 100 pages or less, definitely in less than two hours and everything you want to relate to the audience must be conveyed through the dialogue.  In the theatre world, there’s a term: “method acting” which means you get as close to your character as you can.  If the character you are going to portray is a prostitute, you follow and talk to whores. (been there, done that. Honolulu, 1992 ) If your character is a woman who’s husband has been in prison for the past 13 years, you get inside her head or better yet visit him in prison.

I’m a ‘method’ writer, (every chance I get.)

In 1999 I had reason to visit a men’s DOC facility. (prison).  I was visiting a confessed murderer as research for one of my earlier scripts.  My writing has taken me to some unexpected places to say the least.  On a Sunday morning I found myself sitting in the reception area with three dozen other women.  Wives, sisters, mothers, daughters of convicted felons.  As I waited, I wondered how long they had been coming to visit; how long would a woman wait for her man behind bars; and what a terrible impact this must have on the children, visiting their fathers in this place.  Sitting there I was suddenly compelled to write their stories.  I tried to interview as many women as I could and this was no easy task.

Their closed society is cloaked in guilt and shame. But they finally let me in and I discovered, for the most part, incredibly brave and strong women.  They would tell their friends and neighbors, “my husband travels with his work” to explain the man’s absence.  Always appearing cheerful and strong while visiting their men, the women I spoke with, had a pull off down the highway where they would congregate (after leaving the prison) where they could cry, scream, and moan and be comforted.  Where they could share, with other women who understood, what their lives were really like outside the walls.  Away from the eyes of their men and the prison officials.

For someone who was so comfortable writing in the genre of ‘scripts’ this was a scary prospect. Yikes! I thought, a novel was at the very least 70,000 words and over 300 pages long. What could I possibly have to say?  One year and four months later I had a 335 page novel in my hands. Evidently my characters had plenty to say!  At times I was surprised and delighted with my women and their stories. At other times appalled. As many writers will tell you, at some point, the characters sort’a….no…they definitely take over and you become simply the typist.

I am hoping that my readers enjoy this journey and find some empathy for those women doing hard time outside the walls.
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Book Review ~ October in the Earth by Olivia Hawker

 

5 out of 5 stars

My favorite book of all time was Hawker’s One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.   Until now.

Little did I know this author has more to write and stories to tell. The writing is exquisite in October in the Earth.  The characters are compelling and easy to love.  While I have never ridden the rails, myself, I was completely empathetic to the two lone women out in a cruel and mean world, during an era that suppressed women and crushed dreams and aspirations.  

As a rule, I skim ‘acknowledgments’ and ‘author’s notes’ but I wanted to know what Hawker was thinking when writing this great American novel.  So I read on…to discover that she started rewriting it (for the sixth time) just a few days after she had sworn off writing forever.  That’s how close we all came to never seeing this masterpiece. How close we came to losing this brilliant author.   Lucky for us she was compelled to return and write a little more. 

The Great Depression hit the 30’s of the last century with a devastating effect on the nation. Whole families take to the rails because, while dangerous, it is free transportation to maybe a better life…a life where they can, at least, feed their children. Fate or life…or whatever you want to call it…has driven Del and Louisa away from a relatively safe home life to riding the boxcars looking for any menial job. Sustenance for one more day.  Following the harvest, crisscrossing the nation by rail.  They meet by accident and forge a bond that nothing can break…maybe. 

Olivia Hawker writes compelling page-turners and usually, the ending is a surprise. In my humble opinion, this book replaces The Grapes of Wrath, by John  Steinbeck as the classic story of the nation’s struggles during the Great Depression. 

 

Did you miss my interview with Olivia?

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A Good Writer is a Good Observer

A good writer is always observing and watching other people and their interpersonal relationships with others. Relationships are complex and rarely resemble yours. And of course…listening.  Everyone speaks differently, with a different word choice and a varied cadence to their speech.  This can translate to your writing and add another layer of ‘flavor’ to your dialogue.  

I also recommend watching movies or series to learn dialogue writing.  But, not just the ‘bad’ movies, poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted.  Watch the good ones too…ones you liked. 

I recently was binge-watching an older series, “Six Feet Under“.  One which I had loved when it was new and couldn’t wait for each episode to air.  I began watching for the simple pleasure of re-watching it.  But three or four episodes in, I began to critique it.  Especially the character of Ruth; the mother of the Fisher family.  She had a hot temper and I am certain that was ‘written’ in for the character.  However, the actor, (Frances Conroy) went from 0 to 10 when the script called for  temper.  There was no layering.  At first I blamed the writing…then the director.  My final analysis was that the

 writing (without seeing the script) was hardly at fault. Or maybe a little bit not having enough blocking written in. Don’t forget, emotion can be written as part of the blocking. 

Then I laid some blame at the director’s feet for not noticing that his actor had only two levels; calm and yelling. And the yelling came out of the blue and was all the same.  Why didn’t the director catch this?  Well, he did have a huge cast to direct and watch over. So mostly the responsibility lay with the lazy actor. An actor who wants to get as much as possible out of a part would look for those layers, subtle though they may be. Ed O’Ross (Nikolai, the fiery Russian florist) was excellent at layering his character’s emotions.  

No script or production is perfect. You can watch ANYTHING and learn from it.  Same with reading. I’ll give you an example; when I noticed a couple of authors using the same word or phase over and over in their work of fiction, I realized I might suffer from the same curse. My nemeses is the word ‘just‘.  My guard dog is the feature (in any word processing platform) ‘find’ or ‘replace’ and I use it to root out the 300 times I used ‘just’. (hahaha)

If you’re a screen writer, visuals are more important than diaglogue.  Your blocking can include the silent dialogue. Write in the non-verbal speech of an actor.  In ‘Six Feet Under‘, actor, Lauren Ambrose (Claire) and Jeremy Sisto (Billy) were superb with their non-verbal dialogue, using facial and eye expressions and body language. This credit I give to the director and the excellent actors.  

When writing stage plays the playwright should keep ‘action’ simple. Write some emotional blocking in but always remember the director is going to have their own thoughts about how the scene should go.  Be careful not to do the director’s job for them.  It won’t be appreciated.  

If you are a screenwriter or writing fiction you probably think you have no interest in theatre.  One of your best sourses to learn about writing dialogue is the theatre.  Live stage plays are the Mecca of good or bad dialogue.  Go there, observe and learn! 

Another link on the subject of over-usage of words.
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