Meet Author Kenna McKinnon!!

Who’s your favorite author?

I have so many, but I would say that John Steinbeck, the American author of Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, is one of my favorites. I also love Alice Munro, the Canadian author – her book of short stories, A Bird in the House, was one of my high school required reading texts. Margaret Laurence may be my favorite author. My son once gave me a set of her books. The Prophet’s Camel Bell, nonfiction, and written during her stay in Africa with her engineer husband, is another of my favorites. Margaret Atwood also is excellent. Her prophetic book, The Handmaid’s Tale, has been made into a movie as well, I believe, but The Edible Woman is another I enjoyed, as well as Penelope, a modern retelling of the Odysseus story.

Which book or books have most informed you as a writer?

As a writer, I have been influenced by female literary writers and poets as well as the science fiction greats such as Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and so on. My father read these books and I was exposed to them at a young age. My son also liked the same sort of traditional science fiction. Greg Bear’s book Eon and William Gibson as an author also informed me as a writer, I believe. That doesn’t really answer your question, but the most influential book as a writer may have been a little known and short book I read about 40 years ago called Journey to Arcturus. The Anne of Green Gables books also influenced me as a young girl, and Emily of New Moon. So many.

When did you realize you wanted to write?

Ever since I can remember. I was able to print little poems and stories when I was about five and started then, and before that, I’d entertain my brothers and sister with stories I’d tell them before bedtime or on the way to school. All I ever wanted to be was a writer as a young girl, and thought that a journalist would be a worthy occupation. However, I didn’t follow that career path and wasn’t published until fairly recently.

What was your last completed project?

A paranormal/fantasy book called Den of Dark Angels. It’s a collection of three novellas now published by Creativia.

What are you working on now?

My WIP is an adult fantasy called Engaging the Dragon. A sort of an adult fairytale, set on an alien planet, complete with dragons and a princess, and a handsome prince.

What is your writing “process” typically like?

I am very unorganized in my writing and often write for long hours late at night, or go for several weeks or even months without writing. I write at a PC, not a laptop, by a window where I have my desk set up. Sometimes I listen to music. I’m quite a fast typist but will write out scenes in longhand on yellow lined paper if I’m stuck for a scene or something that comes to me quickly, for example, in the night, and I want to get it down. I’ve begun to make outlines though I don’t usually write the synopsis until the book or story is finished. I make notes and do research on line or sometimes glean from real life what I want to describe, but I use my imagination more than facts as I often write fantasy or SF, though a reader gave SpaceHive 2 stars at one time because of factual errors. I’ll sit down with a cup of tea and don’t set aside any specific length of time to write. I write from an outline now more than I used to. Sometimes I’m quite prolific.

How do you combat writer’s block?

I seldom have writer’s block but when I do, I simply write nonsense or a lot of swear words to get me going, and make sure it’s all typed down and then it sort of automatically goes into writing mode and I can break the writer’s block. But writer’s block doesn’t happen often, I suppose because I don’t have concrete times to write. If I don’t feel like writing I often don’t. I’ll go out for walks, too, listen to music, or a really good method is to read someone else’s book in the same or a different genre.

Where do your ideas come from?

My head and my life experience, reading, talking to people, I don’t think any authors have a dearth of ideas. They are always there.

What’s your greatest challenge as a writer?

Making time to market my books and stories. I just am a complete suck at promotion, though I’m making a real effort lately to get in the game.

And what has been your greatest triumph (so far)?

Being accepted by a small press after working with the publisher on an idea for my first novel, SpaceHive, which was originally written after a friend was stung by wasps in her garden. I began to wonder, what if they were huge alien wasps out to conquer Earth, and someone was immune to the stings, and the book evolved from there. I approached the publisher with the draft and she had had a dream the night before about bees, so was more interested in my concept, I think, because of the dream and it was coincidental that it should happen then. That was the first book I’d had accepted, and it was while I was still in my sixties or late fifties. It has since been republished by Creativia. I initially called it The Jive Hive. My original publisher suggested a name change.

 

Thanks Kenna!!!

How Fan-Fiction Saved My Writing

For years I tried to make a dent in the fickle and derivative indie lit scene. My mistake was trying to write stories that hadn't been written before, and mostly using pre-created characters, celebrities, and myths. It was a weird dichotomy. I wrote about sports stars, Big Bird, Cobra Commander, Dolph Lundgren movies, Transformers having sex with each other, and crack-addicted homosexual video game characters. 

Nobody cared. I was trying to do something new, but in the scene's defense, my stories weren't very good.  I wrote perhaps twenty bad stories, and finally gave up. I went back to novels for a while. Even now, I have a problem writing something less than 80 pages or so - I like the middle-sized form of novels and novellas rather than big books or shorts. 

I couldn't find myself as a writer. I had definite ideas, but I didn't know how to realize them. Most of all, I didn't know how to write my stuff because I didn't know how to be me, or what that meant. 

But around 2013 I had a breakthrough. I was thinking about Batman a lot, and lo and behold, a strange idea came into my head: Batman as time traveller, sent back to rescue King Arthur. It's a totally nutso idea, and I loved it immediately.

Not only could I write about a character I was obsessed with, without having to say anything "literary", but I was also able to research the Arthurian myth to do so, and I LOVE research. I must have read five or six King Arthur books to write that 80 page story. 

Ultimately, I spun my own version of Batman, and my own version of King Arthur, a potent combination that still thrills me. 

But most importantly, I found who I really am as a writer. I don't know how - but for some reason, this story marked a new level in my writing. It is so pure, intense writing, absent of the desire to impress anyone but myself. That was a big milestone. 

The story is called "Paladin of Gotham," and I have since reconfigured it so it doesn't use the "Batman" name or accoutrements, and now has a character named "Night Shepherd" instead. Now it is truly mine. 

But I found myself through fan fiction, whether it was with those earlier, terrible stories, or finally with "Paladin of Gotham," that's how I taught myself how to be... me.  

Meet Author Susan-Alia Terry!!!

Who’s your favorite author?

I like a lot of authors, but Stephen King is probably my favorite, with Clive Barker a close second.

Which book or books have most informed you as a writer?

Probably The Books of Blood, The Great and Secret Show, and Imajica by Clive Barker. His ability to walk through different worlds is so amazing to me.

When did you realize you wanted to write?

After I completed my first National Writing Month. I did it on a whim and it was such a rush! Writing still is a rush!

What was your last completed project?

Coming Darkness (http://mybook.to/ComingDarkness) is my most recent release.

What are you working on now?

The follow-up to Coming Darkness. The plan is to complete the initial story and then branch out with stories within the universe.

What is your writing “process” typically like?

I start with an idea that expands as I begin to write. For instance in Coming Darkness the initial idea was of a Lucifer that had never been to hell. What does that look like? Who is he? Then it spirals out from there. Why hadn’t he been to hell? How did we humans learn a story about him that isn’t true? All the little components then attach themselves like pieces of a jigsaw. And like jigsaw pieces there’s bunches that seems to have no connections – those either fit into the current story or coalesce into another one.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Do not pass Go! Do not collect $200! Seriously, the best thing to do is redirect. For me that’s watch a movie, take a nap, play a video game, take a walk, etc. Anything that occupies my active, conscious mind and allows the story to simmer quietly in my subconscious. Forcing it never works. Either I write what I don’t want and have to delete, or I manage to write a paragraph of questionable usefulness while beating myself up the entire time. Redirecting is healthier and ultimately more productive.

Where do your ideas come from?

The ‘woo-woo’ answer is the Great Subconscious – the Great Collective. Every thought ever thought and yet to be thought. The material, practical answer I suppose could be my ability to ask fantastical questions, especially of things we already think we know the answers to.

What’s your greatest challenge as a writer?

To stop comparing myself to other writers, especially those whose talent I admire, but also those who are more successful than I am.

And what has been your greatest triumph (so far)?

Releasing my first book! Holding a physical copy of my first book – the culmination of years of effort  - has been the most amazing thing. I doubt I will ever get used to how wonderful that feels.

 

 

Thank you, Susan!!!

The Quest for Perfection

I was just reminded of a great quote: "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  

This is by Antoine de saint-Exupery, writer of the favorite little book, "The Little Prince," among other things. 

I think this is the quote I would try to teach most if I taught writing.  In the end, it's easy to add more and more to a novel. The writer's mind is always coming up with more stuff.  But when you're editing, and rewriting, the key comes to cutting stuff that's superfluous, and this is hard.  As Antoine says, the moment you achieve perfection is when you can no longer take anything out no matter what it is. 

Obviously, not all writers and all books need to follow this example. Bloated books like Stephen King's "It" and Melville's "Moby Dick" are among my favorite novels. But for myself, this mantra, of cutting, helps me realize what I want to realize without losing my goddamned mind. 

Let's Talk about Sex

Let's talk about sex. "The Year I Slept" is overflowing with sexuality and eroticism. For some people, this is not gonna work. But I stand by my decision to include it. I just felt when I was writing it I had to contrast all the death and despair and sorrow with happy, loving sex, to kind of keep things balanced.  Honestly, I can't imagine the novel without this eroticism. It just wouldn't make sense to me at this point. 

In comparison to a book like "50 Shades of Gray," the difference is obvious - the sex between Rowan and Emerson has a foundation of love, where "50 Shades" is not. The characters in "50 Shades" only care about what the other can give them, whether it's expensive gifts, or sexual domination. That Lin's relationship with Tim is kind of like "50 Shades" is no accident. And while I believe BDSM can be great between loving partners, it can also be horrendous for partners who don't love each other. 

Tim abuses Lin. Period. She might like it sometimes, but overall she is just so submissive and weak-willed that she lets Tim do whatever he wants with her, just so she can get out of her own head for a while. And while Tim never truly conquers Lin, he does leave her in a terrible state when they are done, and she is practically ruined. 

True love exists. This is the point of the novel. I'm reminded of a line from Bulgakov's masterpiece, "The Master and Margarita,": 

"Whoever told you true, everlasting love does not exist! May the despicable liar have his tongue cut out! Come with me dear reader, and only me, and I will show you that kind of love!"

Secondly, there is another quote, from Philip Glass's "Einstein on the Beach,":

"Everything must have an ending except for my love for you."

These quotes explain "The Year I Slept" in a way nothing else can. They are it's inspiration, its foundation, and its truth.  

 

Rowan and Lin

A friend of mine asked me why I chose to depict the character of Rowan on the cover of "The Year I Slept," rather than the character of Lin, who truly owns the book. Well, that wasn't always the idea. In fact, in my original imagining, I planned to depict Lin, and I even had the idea of somehow doing them both. But finally, it occurred to me that it would be best to depict Rowan by herself after all.  

Why? I think because, while the book mostly tells Lin's story, Rowan symbolizes the hope and anticipation for the future that I'm ultimately trying to convey through the book. Lin however symbolizes a lost past, while Rowan stands for a hopeful future. And that's what I thought was most important. 

I guess the cover could have been a lot of things, and conveyed a lot of things. But I am completely happy with the direction I went with, because Rowan, again, symbolizes the future, and love, and optimism, while depicting Lin, while it is her book, would have been a little less optimistic I think.  

So that's why I did it, basically.  

Create. Don't Imitate.

My advice for young (and old) writers is the same I'd give to anybody trying to do anything - be yourself. Don't try to imitate. No one will ever be the next _______. Write a book, or create something that only you, and no one else can create.  It's a great big sea of the same old shit out there, and the way to stand out is to be uniquely you - in a way no one else can be. 

What does this entail? First, sticking to your own sensibilities. Obviously, people might disagree with your artistic choices, and even your editor might fight with you on this or that - but never let go of the things your gut tells you not to let go. Be yourself. Write your story, and no one else's. And by that I'm not saying to do something biographical. I mean to write characters the way YOU would write them, not how other people would write them. 

Second, write books that you yourself would read. This is always how I have been when I compose music. I've alway sought to write/produce the music I wasn't hearing anywhere else, but wanted to hear, somewhere. Don't make what you think people would like, or try to be somebody else. Make what YOU like, and if you do it right, people will come along in time. 

We all have greatness inside us. Sometimes we just don't know how to get it out or what to do with it. Again, you gotta be yourself. Whether you want to be a trackstar or a writer, you have to completely focus on that dream and WORK HARD. You can't play at things if you want to create something truly great. 

Over the years I've seen a lot of artists abandon their work, as they grow up or have kids, or whatnot. And I realize while thinking back, few of them ever really worked at it anyway - they just played at art, and while some of them were quite talented, they didn't have that drive to really blow the roof off. 

You have to care about what you're doing. I wouldn't describe my mother as your typical artist, but she is, in her own way.  Her art is her garden, and she waters and prunes it and takes care of it every day. It is a wonderful site and experience to behold. But she doesn't play at it. She works at it, and that's how she makes something beautiful.  

Anyway, I just wanted to give everyone a pep talk (me included).  

The First 2,000 Words of "The Year I Slept"....

 

Chapter One

            The funeral is on a hot summer afternoon. Flies buzz, cicadas sing, and the wind blows. The sun feels like an assault, with the blinding, burning sphere stabbing through the blue sky releasing an oppressive heat. Cars pass by. Birds chirp. Time ticks. The world continues along, unfazed by her suicide.

            I feel a cloud passing overhead, cooling and quieting the world for a moment. 

            “Is it her?” I ask myself.

            I imagine her family inside…mourning. Her mother weeping, her father gritting his teeth while clenching his fists, her brother cursing to the heavens, and her devoted sister barely able to lift her eyes off the floor. Cousins and uncles will fidget, uncomfortable in their funeral suits.

            I am guessing her few friends are inside, stunned by the loss. I see children running about, unaware of the strange somberness. 

            Here I sit outside, waiting in my car, smoking a cigarette, my back wet with sweat, pressed against my seat. I am nauseous, pallid…. a disaster. No one knows I'm here. No one knows who I am. 

            This is impossible, I think. It can't be. My hands are shaking.

            The congregation start to file out of the church, my heart races in my chest. I can’t catch my breath. I have to get out of here. I turn the key of the old Buick's engine and drive away. 

            How can she be dead? 

 

            After high tailing it out of there, I don't want to go home and be alone. I eat lunch at a crowded diner.

When will she be cremated? I ask, as if someone is actually listening. I choke back water imagining her body being shoved unceremoniously into an incinerator.

            Surrounded by the noise of people, I suddenly feel ill. Darkness rises from the pit of my stomach, heat creeps up my neck and makes my body sweat. I spew a foul smelling vomit across the table; half-digested club sandwich and fries like a wreckage upon the tabletop. The waitress and other diners look at me with utter disgust. I scramble to stand and make my way to the bathroom. Once inside, I curl around a toilet, continuing to puke, convulsing in pain through my ribs.

No! I tell myself. She had not forgotten about me! She couldn't have! How could she do this … how could she do this to me?

            After the heaving subsides, I hide in the bathroom for a few minutes, trying to pull myself together. I return to the table to find a busboy cleaning up my mess with a large gray rag. He pushes the thick, vile liquid back and forth across the table, leaving a putrid smear across the Formica.

     I throw down a twenty, as if to apologize for the filth, struggling my way out the doorway. 

 

*

I was too late; I tell myself as I drive recklessly home. 

            She must have thought of me! I was on her mind; it was me she called looking for help… but I was too late!

            Of course I had known the whole time that she was capable of this. I saw signs right from the beginning, promising myself that I would do something when the time came. How could I have missed it? I promised to help, a promise I did not keep!

I was too late.

When I get home I pull off my vomit-stained clothes and collapse into bed. For four days I sleep as if I were dead, only getting out of bed to shower and use the bathroom. I find solace in my bed. Sleep…  I fall… it catches me. 

     On day five, I force myself to get out of the cocoon I made for myself. I can’t take any more time off work or I will be fired. 

This morning I force myself to take a shower, hoping to wash off the grime of the past week.   I wipe the steam from the bathroom mirror, shocked at my haggard reflection. My beard is patchy, my flesh is sallow, even my skin seems sunken and grey. What shocks me the most are my eyes. They are completely bloodshot, as well as completely empty. No life stares back at me in the mirror. I touch my reflection trying to believe if it is actually me.

     I splash cold water on my face in an effort to stir the engines of my body. I am glad I remember the routine of the morning, or else I am unsure I would make it out the door. Habits drilled into me from my childhood come flooding back. I dress, brush my teeth, pull my pants on one leg at a time. After the monotony of getting dressed, I ride the train to work. 

At work, I complete my mundane tasks with careless efficiency. No one is aware of my change in mood. No one sees the dark cloud over my head, or the massive weight of depression sitting heavily on my shoulders. I sit at my desk and type aimlessly at my computer, talk on the phone to clients, engage with coworkers, trying to fit into the buzz of the office.

Part of me just isn’t there. I’m still in bed, dreaming. I continue to fake my way through work, anxious to get home so I can go back to asleep.

*

For two weeks this continues. I drag myself up, go to work, come back and sleep. It is like I am caught in a continuous loop. I slip into myself. I start chain smoking again, picking up the habit I quit years ago. I forget to eat, to drink, to call back friends or family. I lose ten pounds. I constantly throw myself into a cold shower trying to wake myself up from this hell I am living. Nothing. All I can do is sleep. It’s my only escape.

You have to understand – sleep is the only place I feel safe. The daylight hours are ripe with despair. I don’t want to see anybody. I don’t want to do anything. I am hanging on by a thread, I am going to snap at any minute.

*

            Today as I’m walking home from the train station, I feel a jolt run through my body. It brings me back into the world. For the first time since she died, I do not want to rush home and get into my bed and escape into my dreams.

             I feel a sudden presence behind me. I turn, there is no one there. I cannot put my finger on it, but I feel I am not alone. I turn once more, but still nothing. A nervous laugh slips out of my throat as I realize I must actually be going mad.

            I hurry home and try forget about the fact that I clearly might be insane. 

            After a mediocre dinner, I sit outside on my building’s front steps and lift a cigarette up to my lips. I may as well face it; I am definitely a smoker again. 

            If I wasn’t in a state of depression this would be my favorite time of the day, almost night. Cars that have been zooming up and down the street all day finally get to their destinations. The traffic thins out and the street falls silent. I seem to be the only person in the world.

            I feel the presence again. Funny thing is I am not concerned this time. I don’t for a minute question my sanity. I know instantly that it’s her. I can actually feel her sitting next to me. I look, she is not physically there. Still, her presence is strong. A wave of warmth washes over me and heat radiates from my head to my toes.

            I start to laugh. It is a sound so foreign to my ears.

            Through my laughter I hear a voice.

            “Hi, babe.” Shock overwhelms me. It must be inside my head. I reach out in front of me only to grasp air.

            The voice is real, more real even than my own voice. This voice has a breathy cadence to it, completely different to my husky baritone voice. I can’t help but respond.

            “Hi?” I ask timidly into the night air, still not 100% convinced I am not losing my mind.  I wait a beat before whispering the next question.

            “Is that you?”

            Seconds pass as I hold my breath, scared that even the slightest disruption to the air may break the spell.

            “Yes.”

            I exhale all the air stored up in my lungs, allowing myself to breathe.

            “I can’t see you,” I say quickly. Even though I cannot see her, and I know that this defies logic, I feel the wisps of her long black hair, I can almost feel the warmth of her skin. I can tell she is wearing a sleeveless white blouse and a short school-girl’s skirt exactly like the one she wore on our first date. She is sitting next to me. Sure as the air I am breathing, she is sitting next to me.

            I am ecstatic.

            As soon as I accept in my heart she is there, she is gone. I can’t feel her anymore.  There’s only emptiness next to me. The darkness stirs in me again, leaving me alone with my desires.

            Perhaps I imagined her. My mind maybe is broken. Is this what mental illness feels like?  I put out my cigarette on the step and start to stand up, feeling her again. My legs can’t hold my weight and I fall back. I turn to the street, feeling her presence there, doing a cartwheel across the pavement, laughing. She is carefree and giddy with excitement. A smile creeps across my face.  A pleasant burning grows in my belly. I am able to stand.

            She reappears next to me. I still can’t see her, but the feeling of her is so strong, I know she is there. 

            “I can’t see you,” I say to her, hoping this declaration will make her magically appear before my eyes. 

            “There’s nothing to see silly,” her singsong voice says in my head, amidst clouds of emotions and imaginary words. “But I’m here.” She teases, begging me to find her.

            “I can’t touch you,” I whisper.

            “Yes, you can,” she coos. “I can feel you the way you feel me.”

            “That’s not enough,” I confess.

            “It will have to do,” she laughs. 

            I must be crazy. How can this be real? She is dead… Isn't she?

            The gentle evening wind carries strands of her hair into my line of sight, invisible. I have never been so happy. I am giddy. 

            “I love you!” I blurt out.

            She says nothing. The silence is deafening. I turn to her invisible form, and can feel her brown eyes knifing into me. I feel her with every ounce of my being. She has to be here. I’m not crazy!

            “I love you too….in my way,” she says. “Just not how you want.”

            My emotions twist around. Anger starts to dominate. I remember all the times she hurt me with those exact words. 

            “What do you want from me?” I hiss as the memories wash over me.

            “We have unfinished business, you and I. ”Her silky voice is calm and warm, there is a sexiness to it. It soaks into my brain and relaxes my muscles. The timber of her voice was always what allowed her to work her way around me after her meanness wounded me to my soul.

            “We do?” I say. I have no idea what she is talking about, but the thought of not having to say goodbye lifts me up and out. 

            “Why did you come back?" I ask. 

            “Oh, I never really left, so technically I am not back.” she says. “I could have gone, they wanted me to go, but I chose to stay for a while.  I have things to do.” 

            I light another cigarette. I blow smoke vengefully into the night around me. “I miss you! This hurts.”

            “I’m right here. You have to understand: I am closer to you now than we ever were in life."

            What she says feels right. I take a long drag off my cig and think.

             “I still want you,” I blurt out. "You were the one.” I exhale, dejected.

            "I know," she says. “I’m sorry.”

            The sadness that had me in its grasp for the last few weeks starts to wrap its icy fingers around my throat cutting off my air supply.

"Why did you come?" I ask trying to save a tiny shred of my self-respect.

            "What do you want me to say?" she snaps back. "That I shouldn’t have done it? That I made a mistake? Maybe I did, okay. I don't know!"

            "But why me? Why are you here? You never cared about me! If you did, you wouldn’t have done it and left me like this.”

            She pauses. "That's not true. I was just...too late. I always... came back to you in my head. When we met -- I wasn't looking for someone to love me. I didn't want to be loved. I hated the thought. It disgusted me. But you never let me go, you were always there, and in the end..."
            "I don't believe it."

            "It's true."

            “So was it my fault? I did fail you. When you reached out … and I wasn't there?” The weight of my guilt crushes me.

            The silence is so thick.

            Finally, she whispers, “We both made mistakes."

            "Do you forgive me for mine?" I ask.

            "Do you forgive me?" she counters.

            I think about it, but cannot answer.

"Do you remember me telling you I loved you, the last time we talked?"

            “Yes.” The word gets stuck in her throat

            "Did it mean anything to you?"

            "It made me sad," she says. “It made me realize it was over."

            "It never even began!"  I accuse her.

            "There is such thing as real, true, everlasting love, “she says.

            "I was prepared to give you my love.” I am trying to handle my anger.

            "You have given it to me. And I'm here to finally accept it. I'm grateful, I really am."

            "Then … now what?"

            "Yes... now what … indeed."

The Year I Slept
By Matt Snee

Meet Author Jen Selinksy!

Who’s your favorite author?

I have too many which I could list, but the first one who comes to mind is Victor Hugo.  Even though I’ve only read Les Misérables twice, I’d say that was a bit of an accomplishment since it was the unabridged version.  My paperback copy fell apart after only two reads, so I downloaded it to my Kindle.

To see what other authors I like, please visit my Goodreads page.

Which book or books have most informed you as a writer?

There are so many books which teach and inform me.  That’s another list which is far too long for this interview, but one of my favorites is How I Write by Janet Evanovich.  I had the privilege of corresponding with her a few years back, and it really meant a lot to me when she wished me good luck with my writing!

When did you realize you wanted to write?

I started writing a little when I was twelve, but I didn’t fully realize that I was a writer until I was fifteen.  Sadly, very few of my childhood works remain.

What was your last completed project?

My last completed project was my first children’s book, Bunny’s Song, which can be found on Amazon, Pen It! Publications, and Buy Me Books Now.  The last of the three sites offers signed copies of authors’ books shipped to the buyer’s house!

What are you working on now?

I am working on too many things to list here!  Two of my upcoming projects include an entrée cookbook and a second adult coloring book.

What is your writing “process” typically like?

I get ideas in my head, and I try to record them before they are lost completely! 

 

How do you combat writer’s block?

I try to read and listen to my favorite music.  Music is often a great source of inspiration to me.  When I do suffer from writer’s block, it’s usually very short-lived, then the ideas come back with a vengeance!

Where do your ideas come from?

Lots of my ideas often come to me at random.  Many of my ideas can come from happenings in everyday life, as well as things I often fantasize or dream about. 

What’s your greatest challenge as a writer?

One of my biggest challenges as a writer is marketing to make book sales.  It seems as if marketing is a full-time job for which I work on commission, so to speak.  But marketing is necessary in order to make important connections.

And what has been your greatest triumph (so far)?

One of my greatest recent accomplishments was having Pen It! Publications pick up my children’s books.  I am very excited to have some of my newest work published by a traditional company!

 

 

Thanks Jen!!!!!

Is Simplicity Best?

There's a Depeche Mode song I was listening to lately where the singer asks "Is simplicity best? Or just the easiest?" Well, it's not the easiest. In fact, simplicity is quite hard. I was looking at the page count for "The Year I Slept" - 146 pages. You know how much it work to do that, and get it down to less than 150 pages?  At one point the book was about 225 pages.  I cut a lot. And while I miss some of that stuff, I realize now it wasn't necessary, and I much prefer the book as a super simple, easy to read little non-commitment for readers.  It's the kind of book you can read in one sitting, if you wanted, and I like that. It's some intense stuff, and I like that it can be digested all at once. 

I'm sitting out in the backyard here in Arizona, where it is 70 degrees, and working on revising my new poetry book, "Evil Land - Act One."  I'm on page 15 of about 60.  This too is trying to be simple and easy to digest, perhaps even to a more insane degree. But I'm also adding a little. My editor, Clare, is good at pointing out words that are unnecessary, and I take them out as I can. But I want to add a bit more imagery here and there to sort of decorate the poem further. 

Simplicity is NOT the easiest, in fact sometimes it's the HARDEST. Shaving down your text until it's as smooth as a jet plane isn't for everybody either, but it is for me at this point. I like streamlined prose. I like no-fat. That's just me. 

I've been reading some books on poetry, and some poetry as well, including the 2016 Best American Poetry. Some good stuff in there. I've been impressed, and I'm trying to expand my horizons. After reading so much stuff, I looked at my poem and was like, "Boy, it needs work!"  But after getting back the revision from my editor and sitting down today with it, I'm doing it. 

Simplicity IS best.  For me, anyway.  :)

Meet Author Matthew J. Hall!

Who’s your favorite author?

It's hard to commit to one author. My favourite memoirist is the late British playwright, Simon Gray. The Smoking Diaries, a set of four memoirs known collectively by the first book's title, are the most engaging and beautifully written books I've ever read.

David Foster Wallace isn't my favourite author, but in terms of fiction, Infinite Jest is the book that's had the greatest impact on me. It's not an easy book, in any sense, but it's worth the work. It's the book which, more so than any other, has helped me make sense of life's more troubling aspects.

I'm a white, working-class man in my late thirties who's interested in the small press, so naturally I'm a Bukowski fan. I'm not a diehard, though. In a way, reading Bukowski has become a bit like slipping into a comfy pair of slippers, which means that for me, his work is no longer daring, compelling or unique.

My favourite authors who are publishing now in the small presses are Wayne F. Burke and Karina Bush. They are polar opposites in terms of style; Burke's poetry is executed with a straightforward narrative, whereas Bush leans toward metaphor and symbolism. Karina published her first collection of poems, Maiden, last year through 48th Street Press. Of all the small-press poetry books I've read, and I've read a lot, this one stood out above all the others. A truly disturbing book which I highly recommend. I reviewed it, along with three of Wayne's books at www.screamingwithbrevity.com.

 

When did you realize you wanted to write?

I have always enjoyed writing things down, it's cathartic, like playing guitar or screaming in an otherwise silent room. I've been writing with publication in mind for five or six years. When I first started it was all about getting something published and the poems and stories reflected that. As a reader I have found the most compelling writers are those whose work has a purpose beyond their own publishing ambitions. That's where my desire lies now, I want to produce work that provokes empathy, starts conversation and gives voice to the voiceless. I think that's what art is for. I don't know if I'll ever come close to achieving any of that, but it seems like a worthy pursuit.

 

What was your last completed project?

My poetry collection, published by Bareback Press, The Human Condition is a Terminal Illness, which is available through Amazon. I'm really proud of this book. I'm also really proud to have the book published by Bareback Press as they are a press I've followed enthusiastically for a few years.

 

What are you working on now?

I'm writing small-press book reviews for my website www.screamingwithbrevity.com

 

What is your writing “process” typically like?

I don't really have one. Solitude helps. I smoke a lot of cigarettes when I write, but I smoke when I'm not writing so it's not really related.

 

How do you combat writer’s block?

I just do something else. Read, watch TV, bet the horses, play guitar, listen to the radio or whatever. I used to try and force it but I ended up writing a lot of shit.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

Conversation. I get all my best ideas from the exchange of opinion.

 

What’s your greatest challenge as a writer?

My greatest challenge is trying to decide whether a piece of writing is worth while or not. I don't want to contribute to the literary clutter. In order to write something beautiful, you have to make a lot of sacrifices, it takes a lot of time and work; I'd like to have a clearer perspective on whether my output justifies the work and the sacrifice.

 

And what has been your greatest triumph (so far)?

My chapbook, Pigeons and Peace Doves, which is available through Blood Pudding Press, and my full poetry collection, The Human Condition is a Terminal Illness, are dreams realised. My hope is that some of the poems, through shared experience, will bring some comfort to the uncomfortable; that would be the greatest triumph of all.

 

 

 

You can find Matthew's book on Amazon here.

 

And a little piece about it here with further links:

http://www.screamingwithbrevity.com/collections-matthew-j-hall-available-now/

 

The Final Trick

My new book, "The Year I Slept", is semi-autobiographical, but I also made up a lot of stuff too. I think the thing is, people who read it will wonder what is real, and what is not, and by kind of reeling them in like this, it lets me pull off a big surprise in the end. 

I remember the last line in Michael Chabon's "Wonder Boys" is about people reading books and looking for "what sounds real". I think even when we read fiction, we struggle to identify things that really happened, and framed in fiction, they almost have more meaning than when they do in non-fiction. That's just the impression I get anyway. 

Sometimes when I read Steinbeck's "East of Eden" or Hemingway books, I wonder what really happened and what did not, and like I said, the framing of these events in fiction, for me, makes them more powerful. When you're in a fictional world, even if it's sprinkled with nonfictional events, there's a sort of intimacy that is not present in more journalistic writings. 

There are numerous conceits in "The Year I Slept" that are obviously NOT real, but with so much that IS REAL, it kind of brews this concoction that, I think, it quite intoxicating. Like I said, people will wonder, and in this wonder, leave themselves open for my final trick. 

I can't wait for them to read it.  :)

One Performance

Today I was recalling something the modern composer Meredith Monk once said, about a recording just being "one performance" - but one you're stuck with for the rest of your life. I think about my forthcoming novel, "The Year I Slept" in that way. I've been meditating on what it is, and what got cut out, and the parts of it people will never see. There's always multiple versions of books, but this one stings a bit for me, because I'm always feeling like I need to add to it. Things were forgotten, things were cut, and other things were never considered. Maybe someday someone will go through these drafts and see what I finally cut, and they'll think and write upon it. For now, it's just between me and my editor. 

Either way, like a Meredith Monk recording, I'm stuck with it for life.  There's only going to be one version of this book, and I've finally decided upon it.  While I'm considering digging up my first book, "The Cardboard Spaceship" and making some changes, I have no inclination to do that with "The Year I Slept", which I am certain, is DONE. 

As I wait to hear back from my first readers and reviewers, I wonder how it will be received. Either way, I did my best, and I'm convinced the artistic choices I made were the right ones.  

Meet Author J.W. Goodwin!

Who’s your favorite author?

J.K. Rowling since she wrote the first book series I loved from start to finish. Harry Potter were the only books I could sink my teeth into as a teenager and it was rare for me to find something I liked. I was devastated when my dad lost my copy of The Philosopher’s Stone, thank goodness I found a suitable replacement.

Which book or books have most informed you as a writer?

J.K. Rowling has probably been a good influence on me but beyond her I’m not sure. I’ve more stumbled my way along the writing path as a way to share my ideas and imagination. It may not be the best way to learn but it started me along this strange adventure.

When did you realize you wanted to write?

When I was a teenager and sharing fanfiction with a once good friend of mine. It was fun and, since I’m from a small town, it kept me out of trouble. I loved how I could engage people when I told them stories. I had to start writing them down or else I would get lost on what had happened. It was also entertaining to read them after. Now it’s kind of embarrassing and I wonder what I was on to write them, wouldn’t trade it for the world though.

What was your last completed project?

Is the writing project ever truly completed? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself since I published “By The Light of A Darkened Forest” January 11th 2016. Every time I turn around I find myself wanting to tweak this part or add more to it. Guess you never really let go of a story even when it’s out there. I just have to remember that I’m not through with Evelyn yet.

What are you working on now?

I’m tossing between two projects. First is the sequel to “By The Light of A Darkened Forest” which I’ve named “The Legend of Engardona” which is in its second draft. It’s an exploration on why the Engardonians migrated to Doolkfae and each time I read it I’m mixed with emotions. The other project is in the first draft phase and is the third book in that series that I’ve named “Mutant Wars” for now and I’ll keep how it relates a secret. Don’t want to give everything away.

What is your writing “process” typically like?

Is a chaotic mess a process? If it is it’s what I do. It starts with a dream that I’ve written notes on, I flush out the main characters and even draw them, and then I get down to writing, doing the research as I go. Most of the time I don’t start with definite plotline, just stuff that needs to happen. I’ve discovered that writing is a very odd process of making something from nothing. If that isn’t a superpower then I don’t know what is.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Very painfully and sometimes without success. I was on hiatus for 6 months or more because every time I’d sit down to write I’d have no words and nothing to put down. It was torture. Normally though if I’m having a rough go of it I’ll turn to drawing or focus on a side project.

Where do your ideas come from?

The weird, fantastic dreams I have when I sleep. They are some of the most bizarre movies I’ve ever seen and I write down the most interesting ones I can remember when I wake up. If it wasn’t for those I don’t think I would have ever continued writing.

What’s your greatest challenge as a writer?

Sentence length and variation. More of the technical stuff since I didn’t have much training on how to write a story. Most of what I know I learned on my own and high school can only teach you so much about the fundamentals. When I went to college it was more about report writing which is all facts and keeping it short and to the point. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s my issue because I was good at it.

And what has been your greatest triumph (so far)?

Putting the words The End on “By The Light of A Darkened Forest”, my first finished story. It was the first time I had finished anything and I was so proud of it. I wouldn’t have finished it though if it wasn’t for my friend Sherry reading each chapter as I wrote it. Having someone to push you to get that next chapter out is great. So really it is a shared victory. The next was publishing this novel for the world can read it.

 

 

Thanks, Jessica!!!

The Stars of Our Stories

I read China Mieville's "The Scar" perhaps ten years ago and love it. I don't remember it perfectly except for a few moments that really stuck with me. But I was reacquainted with it sometime last year when I was reading "The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy" and there was an essay that related that the key to this novel is that the heroine, Bellis, isn't really the star of the story, even though she thinks she is. She dreams of rescue, of some sort of resolution that redeems and saves her, but instead she's really just a passenger.

We are often the stars of our own stories, but seldom the stars of THE story, whatever that is. Even in THE story, stars are seldom stars for long - for instance, our very own President Trump is a dominant figure right now in the world, but someday people will hear his name and it will mean nothing to them.  In the world's story, no one is the star for long. 

Is there anything wrong with the fact that this is an ensemble piece, and not a heroic journey like we like to imagine? I don't think so. Fiction is fiction, and reality is, well, reality. 

I seldom think we are placed on Earth to DO something, and are rather here to LEARN or experience something.  Sure, it was important that Einstein developed E=MC2, and that J wrote the Genesis section of the Bible. But had they not been here, would someone else have done their jobs?

I'd like to think so. 

In our society, we often value one life over another. A great inventor, we might say, is important, or a great Titan of industry who moved the world. But what about their mother's and father's, without whom they would never have existed? Or their friends or mentors who formed them? And on and on. 

I believe all lives have value, not just American lives, or Christian lives, or even lives that affect other lives in some way. Every single life is important, and cannot be judged by humans. We just can't do it. If there is a God, that is his or her job. I refuse to make judgments on whose life has value, and whose does not. 

My point is that even though we might not be a big part of THE story, our stories still matter, even if sometimes they seem to only to matter to us, and our loved ones. Everything matters, everything is connected, and while we might no be able to read the meaning of this tapestry, that doesn't mean it says nothing.  

 

Rhythm and Melody...

Today is the 80th birthday of Philip Glass, the most famous, influential, and revered modern American composer, perhaps the most notable living composer in the world. I've been listening to his music since midnight during a marathon played by a radio station I like, and contemplating him in all of his many forms. 

If you didn't know, I compose music as well, and also toured around for a while in a band back in my stupid days. I still toy with music now and again... it's really so different from writing, and such a welcome relief sometimes. 

Before Philip Glass and the rise of minimalism, I feel a lot of music wasn't sure where to go, and was often unnecessarily complex. Glass distilled his thoughts into simple rhythms and melodies that pulses in waves, and most of the time, when listening to one of his pieces, it's obvious it's his. 

I've been writing a lot of poetry lately, and I would like to say it's a lot more like composing music than prose is. Here, it's also about rhythm and melody. 

You know, I didn't write poetry for many years, except for a brief burst when I wrote a poem about my friend in grief, "Evil Summer", which can be found on Amazon. Then I took a break again. But about a year ago I guess I started recording myself reading those poems, and that just kind of avalanched in writing poems again. 

Sometimes I find it easier to write poetry. 

Glass set out to make music that was impossible simple, where melody was obvious. I suppose I try to do the same thing in my poetry. Sure, I admit I can get a bit obscure and clustered in some of my metaphors, but I don't sustain that kind of density, and most of the time, I keep things simple. 

There's a poetry contest I'm aiming for right now, The Emily Dickinson Award, which is not annual but more kind of random, for $10k, and publishing, etc. I'm trying to finish my latest epic poem for this project. The only problem, really, is I anticipate the poem being about 150 pages, where their limit is 88 pages. I'm hoping they'l forgive me when encountering the quality of the poem, and the necessity of its subject matter. 

Or not.