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Archive for the ‘Fellow Author Feature’ Category

I am very pleased today to interview a long-time friend and local business owner, Daniel Bushman. Most of my interviewees are fiction writers, but we’re going to change that up a bit today. Daniel and his wife, Kim, own and operate two local newspapers, so writing is what Dan does every day. Fast-paced, deadline-driven. Let’s see what he has to say about writing from a newspaper perspective…

JANICE: How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

DANIEL: I have been writing on a consistent basis for almost nine years. After being a reporter in the radio world for a few years, my wife, Kim, and I decided to make a move back to small town Saskatchewan in August, 2008. We packed our bags and moved from Saskatoon to Watrous, where I am originally from. Back home, I began my new role as a reporter for The Watrous Manitou, a weekly newspaper out of Watrous, SK. Kim and I eventually purchased the paper in 2014 and then we bought the Lanigan Advisor in December, 2015. I continue to write articles, but with the added titles of publisher and editor.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

DANIEL: That is a good question. My two strongest subjects in school were History and English so I suppose I always liked writing. My mom always said I had a knack for writing and I got it from my dad. My heart and mind were always set on doing radio broadcasting so I didn’t really think about writing until later on in my life. Actually, when I graduated from high school and attended college, writing lengthy term papers was something I didn’t enjoy doing. I think it was because I preferred spending time with friends, but coming to work now and being able to share people’s stories through words has been an enjoyable and often rewarding experience.

JANICE: I ask authors what their preferred genre is. How would you answer this question?

DANIEL: Being a reporter, I write a variety of articles ranging from hard news stories to sports, entertainment and feature type stories. I am a sports fan so when I get the chance to write about an athlete’s experience, I would say that would be my preferred genre. I also really enjoy listening to people’s stories and getting to know them through that, so feature type articles on people are also ones I enjoy writing.

JANICE: Why do you write?

DANIEL: I write because it’s my job 🙂 I will be honest though, it doesn’t feel like a job. I am always learning how to refine my craft, and every so often I get one of those “lightbulb” moments where I am able to pen a story that flows really nicely and I feel really good about it when I am done. I have been blessed to have won some awards for my stories at the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association‘s annual awards night where weekly papers and writers from across the province are recognized for their work.

JANICE: Congratulations, Daniel. For the readers’ interest, here is a list of the first place awards won for The Watrous Manitou:

  • 2012 best colour photo
  • 2013 best black and white photo
  • 2013 best post-secondary story
  • 2014 best tourism story
  • 2016 best Sask. arts or cultural story
  • 2016 best black and white photo

Some very prestigious awards, Daniel.

So tell me how and where you write. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

DANIEL: I write from my office in Watrous, plunking away on my keyboard. There are times where sitting on my couch with a hockey or football game on in the background would be nice but the office works just fine. I would be a pantser for the majority of my stories because every day brings different stories to my desk. For some of the articles though, like a feature article on a person, I would be more of a plotter, scheming of how to approach the story while gathering background facts. For the most part though, I just take what each day throws my way.

JANICE: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

DANIEL: I get my ideas from what is taking place in and around our community. Sometimes story ideas come via email, phone or by word-of-mouth, but for the most part, it is me just keeping an eye on what is happening in our area or even watching social media. In recent years, I have found social media like Facebook and Twitter can be a help instead of a hindrance as people will post things or events that they are involved in, which leads me to contacting them to see if they are interested in sharing their story with the newspaper.

People inspire me. Being able to share their stories through our paper in Watrous and more recently our paper in Lanigan is something I enjoy. I really think that providing positive people stories in our papers not only provides inspiration for me but also for our readers as they learn about what positive impacts are being made by others.

JANICE: I’m always amazed at how you pick up on the many local happenings. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

DANIEL: I do a lot of my research online. I find a lot of relevant and factual information there that I use when compiling articles. I also use resources like history books for historical articles. I try to interview official people or those within an organization, like a chairperson, committee chair, mayor, government official or someone that is trusted or in a position to speak on behalf of a business, community or organization.

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

DANIEL: The thing I like most about writing is being able to paint a picture with words. I like to tell people’s stories and try and weave an intricate web of details. I try my utmost to make my stories positive but of course in today’s day and age, sometimes stories don’t always have a positive spin to them. But I do what I can to make them positive.

The thing I least like about writing are the stories with conflict or negativity. I know that there are issues that are supposed to “sell papers,” but for me, I try to approach my line of work in a different light. I do my best to be positive through my writing, and when there are sensitive issues that arise, as they do on occasion in the news world, I take my time and look at them from every angle possible. Do I always get it right? No, but I try my best.

JANICE: What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

DANIEL: I guess it would be through the newspaper each and every week. People continue to subscribe to our papers. I can’t express enough how grateful I am for that. I know that everyone has an opinion on what should be included and not included in a newspaper, but I try my best to insert a variety of articles and features each week. “Local” for me is integral, so my focus is always on having local content in the paper before expanding to provincial and national items. Because we are a weekly paper, a lot of that provincial and national news has come and gone by the time we publish so unless it has some local tie, I usually don’t include those types of articles. People want to know what is happening in their community not necessarily halfway across the globe, especially when that news has already been told days earlier.

JANICE: Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

DANIEL: I find people like Facebook so I try and run our Facebook pages as news feeds. We have a website for both papers (www.twmnews.com and www.laniganadvisor.com) where I do similar things and include an online subscription-based paper but it would be Facebook and Twitter – both those sites can reach a larger audience at the press of a button.

JANICE: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

DANIEL: Family is extremely important to my wife and m. We have two kids turning six and three in May, with another one on the way in July and so we are kept busy. Owning two papers has also kept us really busy and since I am the only reporter/photographer/editor/publisher for both, even more so. Since we are relatively new owners (three years with Watrous and just over one with Lanigan) that balance has been tilted more towards the newspapers at times. With weekly deadlines it can make it tough to be home when I’d like, and I will be the first to admit I don’t like being away from my kids and my wife. Kim has been a tremendous person in how patient and loving she’s been as we get things rolling forward with our two businesses. Right from the beginning we felt God’s calling to use the papers as a ministry opportunity and we are certainly trying to do that. Owning your own business can be challenging, like spending more time at the office than at home at times, but it can also be rewarding, being able to be at our kids sporting events, programs and other activities.

JANICE: Do you have any time for recreational reading? What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

DANIEL: With a lot of my time spent at the newspapers, I have currently been reading my stories – proofing them after I type them. I have to say that one of my greatest fears is publishing two papers only to have spelling and grammar mistakes in them. We proofread a story probably three or four times, but there is always that one mistake that can fall through the cracks. I am not perfect, neither is my writing or grammar, but I just try to do the best I can. I enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies and have a stack of them on my desk at home waiting to be read. I just haven’t quite got there yet. As far as digital or print, I am old-school and enjoy physically picking up a book or newspaper and reading it that way.

JANICE: What are some of your favourite things? What makes you unique?

DANIEL: Some of my favourite things would be my family first and foremost. I love sports and being outside taking pictures of nature and wildlife. Some of my most enjoyable times outdoors are with a camera. I guess I would be unique in the fact that I own two weekly newspapers and purchased them in my early 30s. Many people say newspapers are dying but there will always be a need for news, especially local news. I love what I am able to do, and try and do it differently than some of the other papers that are just out to create headlines no matter the issue. I try to be sensitive towards my subject and take a compassionate view of each story I write. So perhaps while a news reporter can be tough and ruthless, I try to go against the grain.

JANICE: What keeps you going in your writing career?

DANIEL: Being able to put food on the table 🙂 In all seriousness though I do this job because I enjoy it. I don’t think I could do something different, at least not right now. Being in the media world has brought me some pretty cool experiences, and God has truly blessed us during our time at the paper in Watrous. We try to take his leading each day and hope that we are making the right decision in whatever we do.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

DANIEL: When we were first approached about buying the newspaper in Watrous, we really felt that it was a ministry opportunity. When I write stories, I try and take a positive and compassionate approach. When more sensitive or sticky stories come up, I rely on my faith to know what to do or how to write it. Sometimes I don’t include a very sensitive article that would otherwise be in a paper elsewhere. Yes, there are “newsworthy” stories but there are also people affected by those stories, so it is a real fine line for me at times as to what to do. I have lost a lot of hours of sleep when some of these instances come up but I trust that God will help me come to the right decision.

JANICE: What are some things you have learned from your own writing?

DANIEL: One thing I learned right off the bat, coming from radio to print, was that I had to write more. In radio we are taught to have a short introduction, get to the audio clip, then get out of the story. In print, there is no audio as such so the stories have to be lengthier to help paint a picture. My first week as a newspaper reporter my stories were only a few paragraphs long. I didn’t know how I would ever be able to write longer pieces. Now almost nine years later, sometimes I find myself typing and typing and typing until it becomes more like a novel than a news story.

JANICE: What is your ultimate writing goal?

DANIEL: I’m not sure if I have an ultimate writing goal other than to produce enough stories each week to print two newspapers. I thought it would be cool to one day attempt to write a book, but I don’t know that I would have the patience to do it. I like to sit down and type a story until it’s done. Stopping and starting would be tougher for me but then again I have lived with deadlines since my radio days, so if I had more time to think and plot it might be different.

JANICE: Do you have any advice for beginning writer…

DANIEL: If you love writing, give it a try and let your imagination take you for a ride. Don’t be afraid of failure. I still learn new things every day and if something doesn’t sound right or fit, grab another cup of coffee or eat a piece of candy and give your brain a bit of a break. Sometimes I will be writing late at night and just can’t go on. Then the next morning I come in and think, how did I ever come up with that? That is awful. Then a few minutes later a new lead is written, much better than the one I had painstakingly come up with the night before.

Thank you for the opportunity to let me share a bit about my story and journey.

JANICE: Thanks so much, Daniel, for sharing your story with us. We wish you all the best with your newspapers and your daily writing.

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Today my author interviewee is Tracy Krauss. Besides writing, Tracy teaches high school in British Columbia, Canada.

tracy-krauss-author-photoJANICE: Tracy, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

TRACY: I started writing seriously back in 1985 right after I had my first child. I composed a lot of stories in my mind before that time, but I used visual art as my main creative outlet. We lived in a very small house and, as most new mothers can tell you, “free” time was at a premium. During my daughter’s precious naptime, it became frustrating to get all my art supplies out only to have to clean up again. Instead, I borrowed my mother’s old typewriter and started putting some of those stories that were in my head onto paper. I was hooked. Thirty-two years later, I’m still tapping away.

JANICE: We know that writers love to read. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

TRACY: I’ve currently become enamored with two authors: April Gardner and Dana Pratola. Both write in the “edgy” style that I aspire to myself, yet still have a very strong Christian message. Plus, their stories are just plain spellbinding. I actually do most of my reading digitally these days. I like the way I can make the font as large as needed, I can buy and download books instantly, and it is just so easy to have an entire library at my fingertips! Sometimes with non-fiction, I will buy the print copy after I’ve already read the digital version so that I can go back and highlight it.

JANICE: Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some of your favorite things?

TRACY: Art Galleries really do it for me. It’s probably because drawing was my first love and I actually majored in visual art at university. Going to a gallery exhibit fills me with such a sense of euphoria – even when the subject matter isn’t necessarily pretty. I also have a large collection of handmade pottery mugs and I genuinely take pleasure in having my morning coffee in a different mug every day. Oh, and shoes. Yup. I’m a shoe person.

JANICE: I’ve seen some of your amazing shoes at writing conferences, so I can attest to the shoe fetish! What keeps you going in your writing career?

TRACY: There’s always another story to tell. It certainly isn’t the money, fame, or prestige since none of those things have materialized. I’ll admit that sometimes I hear that voice of discouragement in my head telling me to just give in – “Stop it already because you’re spending a lot of time and effort on something that isn’t having any real impact!” Then I get a nice email from a reader, or see a positive review and I think, “Don’t listen to that voice.” I genuinely feel called to write, so I guess it’s about obedience to the call, without caring what other people think. (Or what the negative ‘voice’ in my head says.)

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

TRACY: My novels and short stories usually have a pretty blatant Christian theme or message although I try very hard not to preach. I did not come to Christ until I was an adult, so I think my work is “edgier” than a lot of Christian fiction, but I certainly don’t intend to offend anyone. One of the recurring themes in my work is the redemptive power of Christ, and my characters often have serious flaws that they need to work through. My NEIGHBOURS series is not quite as faith forward, but many of the characters are Christians and the sequel, KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS, ends with a stronger redemptive theme. I also write stage plays which are totally secular in nature. Most are parodies of classics like Shakespeare or fairy tales.  sallys-promo-copy

JANICE: What are some things you learned from your own writing?

TRACY: I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn! I’ve come a long way in thirty years, but still haven’t arrived. When I look at my first published books, for instance, I see so many things I’d like to change – things like too many adjectives, to name just one. It’s one advantage of today’s publishing world. Since I’ve gotten the rights back to my first three books I plan to republish them, fixing all the things that irritate me. However, it’s not as straightforward as that since there is always new material in my head that needs to get out and finding the time is an issue.

JANICE: I can understand the wish to change things in my first books. We live and learn. What is your ultimate writing goal?

TRACY: I suppose my ultimate goal is to be able to write full time. At this stage in my life that goal is not too far off since I hope to retire from teaching in the next five to six years anyway.

JANICE: Do you have some advice for beginning writers?

TRACY: Set goals for yourself but don’t have unrealistic expectations. Humility goes a long way in this business. Learn what you can from those that have gone before. Be a life-long learner and never stop pushing yourself to get better.

JANICE: Thanks, Tracy, for taking the time to visit with us today. Keep up the great work.

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Today, Heather Day Gilbert is my interviewee. Welcome, Heather.

JANICE: Heather, who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

HEATHER: My parents played a huge role, from encouraging my reading at an early age to embracing my poetry writing as a young girl/teen. They always celebrated my writing successes, as did my grandparents. Then I married my husband, and while he understood I wasn’t ready to take on writing as a career when my three children were young (at one point they were age three and under, all in diapers!), he totally supported me when I blocked off a month to write my first book for NaNoWriMo, then when I decided to pursue the author dream. Having a strong support system is so critical to writing. Nowadays, post-publication, I’m also bolstered by my readers and my critique partner. I am truly blessed!

JANICE: What do you consider to be some of the best methods of promoting your work?

HEATHER: To date, I’ve tried nearly every promo method available (Facebook and Goodreads ads, giveaways, giving books to reviewers, you name it). By far, the most effective way to move large quantities of books has been:

1) going permafree (permanently free) with my first mystery across vendor platforms

2) paying for Bookbub ads. Going permafree, coupled with a Bookbub ad, doubled my monthly income.

JANICE: What are your favorite / most effective social media?

HEATHER: I just started up on Instagram, and that is quite a fun and easy platform. I’m also fond of Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and each one really has its own uses and reaches a slightly different audience. I remember having so many people repinning my Viking pins before I published my first Viking historical—that’s how I knew there was a reader audience hungry for that niche.

JANICE: We know that writers need to read, so what are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

HEATHER: I’m reading The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron and I’m really enjoying the historical element of the story. As you know, my Viking novels are also based on real people, so I appreciate the amount of research that goes into these things! And I have kind of reverted to enjoying print books, but by far, I read more books on my Kindle—I use my library’s Overdrive system (no overdue fines! YAY!), and I do a lot of early-reading for my author friends.

JANICE: Tell us a little about yourself. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

HEATHER: I found out pretty fast that I was kind of unique because I still enjoy playing video games. Of course, now my son can beat me at any game I play, but I love it as a way of blowing off steam and just unplugging from my thoughts and worries! I also love flower gardening, but haven’t been able to do it as much this year due to some significant family changes.

JANICE: Do have any advice for beginning writers?

HEATHER: My best advice would be to be your own biggest fan. I know that sounds lame, but if you want to get your book published (either with a publisher or indie publishing), you have to believe in your book more than anyone else. More than an agent, more than your early readers…enough to know this book is worth getting out there. If you believe that, you will be willing to invest in and sacrifice for that book. And trust me, it’ll be an investment—of time, of edits, of marketing efforts, and the list goes on. You have to be utterly committed to the idea that this book is worth getting out into the world. And then you don’t stop until it is.

JANICE: Thanks, Heather, for taking time with us today. Blessings as you continue in your writing career.

heather-day-gilbert

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational storytelling runs in her blood. You can find Heather’s Viking historicals and West Virginia mystery/suspense novels here. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.”

You can find Heather online here:

Website: http://heatherdaygilbert.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/heatherdaygilbert

Twitter: @heatherdgilbert

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/heatherdgilbert/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7232683.Heather_Day_Gilbert

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heatherdaygilbert/

E-Mail: heatherdaygilbert@gmail.com

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I’m pleased to share an interview today with Amelia Legend, an author of Adult and Young Adult fiction.

Amelia Legend

Amelia Legend

JANICE: Amelia, thanks for taking the time for this interview. How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

AMELIA: I first started creative writing as a teenager. I originally only wrote poetry as a way of processing my thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I sat down and wrote my first book. I suppose, in a way, I was always a writer; I just hadn’t found my story yet.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

AMELIA: My daughter. It wasn’t until I had my first child that I was able to sit down and write my first manuscript. Considering how exhausting it is when you first become a parent, how much you struggle with how to handle this enormous change in your life, and time management normally writing would be the last thing a mother would spend her free time doing! Yet somehow, having my daughter gave me a voice to write my fears and my struggles down in a work of fiction in a way I hadn’t been able to before. I owe it all to Lily.

JANICE: Very sweet. What’s your preferred genre?

AMELIA: Young Adult or Adult fiction will most likely be my foundational genre, but I do hope to try a little mystery or fantasy at some point!

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JANICE: Why do you write?

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AMELIA: I write because I’m a writer. Some people are born as teachers, as pastors, as farmers, maybe even born to be stay-at-home mothers. Some people are born with an uncontrollable need to create, and I am undoubtedly one of those people who cannot go through life without writing or reading something! It’s simply who God made me to be.

JANICE: How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

AMELIA: I write in my office at home. I have to be alone and in a quiet space where I can experience the story without distractions (when my daughter is napping or asleep for the night). When I see a story form I always see images and characters in snapshots. I have to create the points between but I feel as if the story is already there, I just have to find it. So no, I’m not a plotter because the story evolves as the characters grow; nevertheless, I do know what the outcome of the book will be before I start the manuscript.

JANICE: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

AMELIA: LIFE!

JANICE: Ah, yes! How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

AMELIA: Every book is different, therefore your research will reflect that need. I would suggest checking credentials and references if you need in depth research to support your story line.

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

AMELIA: I love the emotional evolution of a character. How a character grows and changes throughout the story. Sometimes the story changes and it surprises the writer as much as the reader. I love that about writing! Otherwise I really really hate social media promotion! I’m not great at the promotional aspects of writing!

JANICE: You’re definitely not alone there! What do you find are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

AMELIA: Book reviews are essential to a writer’s legitimacy in the writing world. Having another author or a professional book review company is crucial! Having your readers write reviews is even more important to the growth and promotion of any book.

JANICE: What are your favourite / most effective social media?

AMELIA: I’m really only on Facebook and my personal blog at the moment, but I have definitely been considering broadening my social media scope to Twitter, Instagram and other forums because of their notable effectiveness.

JANICE: You are a wife, mom, student, as well as an author. How do you balance professional time with personal time?

AMELIA: Time management is a constant struggle for every writer; all you can do is set goals and work as hard as you can, when you can.

JANICE: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

AMELIA: I’m in the middle of King’s Crown by Victoria Avenyard. It’s a wonderful series and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it! I like both digital and print. It comes down to which is more convenient at the time, if I’m travelling, or whether or not I have been able to go to the bookstore or library. Sometimes it’s easier to get a new release on my Kindle because I live in the countryside.

JANICE: Yes, it’s so instant and convenient. Let’s switch gears a bit here. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

AMELIA: Well, I’m not really sure I can be objective about what makes me unique, I truly believe we are all unique in our own ways and the best way of finding out how is by getting to know someone. I suppose what makes me an “odd duck” is my adaptability. I accept change better than most and it has allowed me to have freedom in ways few people ever experience. Before moving to Canada I lived in California, before California I lived in Alaska, before that I lived and worked in Haiti, and so on and so forth. Some of the best decisions I’ve made, and definitely some of my favourite things, are traveling and trying new things! I like the peace and quiet I’ve found in Saskatchewan but I will always enjoy change and travel.

JANICE: Very interesting. What keeps you going in your writing career?

AMELIA: Every writer has their bad days. Recently I have felt that I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to work on my projects and I feel it’s normal to be discouraged, but what it comes down to is never giving up. Not on your love of writing, not on the gift God has given you, and not on yourself. A writer has to continue to believe that what makes them writers is not recognition, but passion.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

AMELIA: This one is a difficult question because I don’t write within the “Christian” genre; therefore, some might say my books lack an obvious faith. What I do know is that every time I sit down to write I pray that God helps me write TRUTH. Not a great Christian story with a happy ending or a gospel theology, but a story that reflects the struggle between the good and evil we experience in life. I write stories that show the ugly reality of what that looks like and feels like to experience as a Christian or as a non- believer struggling to see God. God is always in the stories I write simply because He is in our everyday lives, but not always in an obvious ways because that’s the truth of life: Sometimes it isn’t obvious when He is present, but that doesn’t mean He’s not. Sometimes He can feel far and sometimes He can sound like silence, but that doesn’t mean we are alone.

JANICE: I think you articulated that very well. It’s not an easy question. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

AMELIA: I’m trying to learn patience! Creativity takes time, consistency, and a whole lot of patience to write something worthwhile. I feel that is what I’m learning the most right now from my writing.

JANICE: What is your ultimate writing goal?

AMELIA: My ultimate writing goal is to find the right publisher. As an indie writer it is difficult to navigate the world of writing. With the right team, guidance, and goals, I hope to become the best writer I can possibly be. It’s a struggle working in this industry “on your own” and the goal is to find the right people to work with you!

JANICE: Advice for beginning writer?

AMELIA: FINISH YOUR MANUSCRIPT! The best advice is to STOP making excuses as to why you CAN’T or WONT finish your book. If you work at it everyday (or most days) and it takes five years, that’s okay! If you constantly procrastinate you’re only cheating yourself out of your own opportunities and that is NOT okay! So finish your manuscript. Find the right editor. Re-write, re-write, and re-write again. Just don’t make excuses because we always make time in life for what’s important, so stop watching Netflix, stop holding yourself back, stop making excuses, and write.

JANICE: Thanks again for your time and for sharing yourself with me and my readers.

 

If you want to know more about Amelia Legend, check out her blogsite or her Facebook page.

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I’m pleased to welcome Alberta author, Eleanor Bertin, to my site today.Eleanor Bertin, author

JANICE: Eleanor, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

ELEANOR: My sister was the first to plant in my head the idea that I could write. In a Grade 3 school assignment, she marveled that I had used the phrase, “Mother’s voice trailed away.” What can I say? I was an avid reader with a particular giftedness in plagiarism. Fear of unoriginality still plagues me.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

ELEANOR: My high school English teachers offered encouraging comments on my writing. For example, one essay was returned with a good grade and the comment, “Is this your own work?” (By that time, it truly was.) My college profs were a little more positive in their appraisals.

JANICE: That kind of early encouragement can make such a difference in our confidence. What’s your preferred genre?

ELEANOR: A quick survey of my work forces me to answer “fiction.” My first novel, Lifelines, came out last April and I am at work on two others. But I recently completed a non-fiction book, Pall of Silence, and sent it off to a contest. It’s a memoir about our late son Paul who was killed four years ago in a hit-and-run incident at the age of eighteen.Lifelines, by Eleanor Bertin

JANICE: I’m so sorry for your loss. That is traumatic. It partially answers my next question—why do you write?

ELEANOR: 1) I write to untangle my thought threads, making them coherent and cohesive. 2) I write to forthtell truth.

JANICE: How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

ELEANOR: I’ve evolved to the point of composing on a keyboard. Much of my first novel was written longhand as I waited at the swimming pool or shared a guest room with my special needs son while visiting my daughter in Texas. I used to find the blinking of the cursor on a blank white screen as stressful as my husband tapping his foot while I browsed in a fabric store. But I’m getting over that.

I am growing to become more of a plotter. I see the value of organizing the flow of a fictional narrative from the outset, rather than doing all the re-arranging of chapters that I did with my first. I expect it to eliminate the problem of missing information or repetition.

JANICE: I agree that it’s an evolving process. Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

ELEANOR: I find people and their stories endlessly fascinating. Truth, indeed, is stranger than fiction! But I write fiction to protect the guilty (or innocent, as the case may be). It’s been a special satisfaction to me when readers say they like my characters.

JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

ELEANOR: I can’t get over how wonderful it is to have the biggest library in the world – the Internet—at my fingertips! In college, my recurring nightmare was having a tight deadline and the libraries all being closed. The issue of trust is a concern for everyone, not just writers. In fact, there’s a clash in my book between a scientist and a conspiracy theorist. The best I can say is, read a variety of sources, from differing points of view, and pray for discernment.

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

ELEANOR: I get a surge of adrenaline when I finish a scene or chapter and just know that I’ve nailed it. The dialogue rings true, the tension or conflict is right, the word choice works, the characterization is spot on. The thing I least like is planning and researching. But it is worth it! I’m also not keen on writing from a point of view that is foreign to me. When I began Lifelines I planned for the main character to not only be a man but also to be a rabid proponent of a worldview hostile to Christianity. But it was too hard to write him that way. Not far into it, I transferred the hostility to a lesser character and made my professor more uncertain and conflicted.

JANICE: We definitely learn by doing. Let’s switch from writing to promotion. What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

ELEANOR: I wish I knew! 🙂 So far, I’d have to say: Rhonda! Every writer should have a sister-in-law who is a church librarian, town librarian and has a broad base of acquaintances that fit my target audience. I did learn that small town libraries are very willing to host author talks, but the turnout is small. But I did get one review through that avenue.

JANICE: That’s a great suggestion. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

ELEANOR: I enjoy blogging and I’m always surprised at who might read it. I’m only learning twitter, trying to expand my use of my author page on Facebook, and I gained a wonderful friend and super-helpful critique partner, Janell Butler Wojtowicz, through LinkedIn. In fact, her book, Embracing Hope, just came out last fall.

JANICE: I believe that writers must also be readers. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

ELEANOR: Books on my nightstand:

Handling the Truth; on the writing of memoir by Beth Kephart

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (Giller prize)

What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James White

The Great Exchange by Jerry Bridges

— and just finished The Eye of the Storm by Janice Dick (loved it, by the way)

— Margaret’s Peace by Linda Hall

I prefer an actual book, but sure do love the convenience and light weight of my Kindle for travel.

JANICE: (Thanks for the plug!) Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some of your favourite things? What makes you unique?

ELEANOR: My favourite things are people! My husband Mike, our five sons and their wives, our daughter, her husband and our four (soon five!) grandchildren, my mother, my sister (who is an invaluable sounding board for my writing) and many other family and friends.

I also like pretty things, flowers, fabric, sewing, quilts, home decorating, books, Jane Austen movies, thinking deep thoughts.

JANICE: Wish we lived closer. Would be nice to watch Jane Austen and talk about our deep thoughts! (But I’d skip the quilting.) What keeps you going in your writing career?

ELEANOR: Moments of discouragement or tasks that seem insurmountable instantly dissolve when I see a new favourable review, or someone tells me they were helped, encouraged or changed in some way by something I’ve written.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

ELEANOR: While my faith is scrawny and limp, beset by doubts and fears, the One I trust is powerful and sure. I would have no words to offer if it weren’t for The Word, both the Person and the written scripture. But what’s important to me to convey is the intersect between a character’s day-to-day life and their relationship with the living God. Which is why, in my novel, there are no scenes taking place in a church service – the main character is an irreligious man but God is at work on him.                                                                                                        

JANICE: Beautifully said. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

ELEANOR: It’s odd that a writer would learn from her own writing, isn’t it? But that’s exactly what happened with my recently completed memoir. By the time I finished, I realized I’d found healing because it changed the way I viewed our late son. Writing about him allowed me to take a panoramic view of his life, ridding me of bitterness and shame and freeing me to enjoy who he was.

JANICE: I’m so glad it proved therapeutic for you. What is your ultimate writing goal?

ELEANOR: The Heidelberg catechism defines Providence, in part, as all things coming to us, not by chance, but from God’s fatherly hand. My goal is to embed a biblical worldview into stories of ordinary people so that readers will see that Providence in their own lives.

JANICE: Do you have any advice for a beginning writer?

ELEANOR: Start! Set goals! Finish something! Be humble about people’s critiques. Don’t be afraid to submit something for critique, and be willing to make changes. Your first piece (article, poem, book) will not be your best — you will grow! Take advantage of all the wonderful websites and blogs that offer writer advice. There’s a huge readership out there that is voracious for the written word and there’s room for an infinite variety of writers.

JANICE: Thanks again, Eleanor, for spending time with us this morning. May you receive God’s rich blessings on your writing as you reach out to your readers.

For more information about Eleanor Bertin, see her website. Her book, Lifelines, is available in Kindle and paperback formats. You can also see Eleanor on her LinkedIn page.

 

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Today it’s my pleasure to welcome author Carolyne Aarsen to my blog. Carolyne is a fellow Canadian, so we’ll include a hooray for Canada!

JANICE: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me, Carolyne. I’m excited for the readers of my blog to meet you.head-shot-copy

To start, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

CAROLYNE: I’ve been writing since 1991 after I took a writing course and went on to publish a weekly column in our local paper. That paid for another writing course, which helped me craft my first romance novel. I sold that in April of 1997 – almost twenty years ago!! – and I’ve been going strong since. I’ve always loved reading and, as many writers, I came to a point where I figured I could write easily as good as the author whose book I just read.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

CAROLYNE: I loved reading books by Mary Stewart and I knew I wanted to create the same world she did. I was also encouraged by a children’s author who had come for a library visit — I wish I could remember her name — she was the one who gave me the push when I told her, somewhat apologetically, that I wanted to write Christian romance. She said to me, “Well, why not? Of course you can write this.” So I did. Sigmund Brouwer was also an inspiration as was Linda Hall, who also came from a small town and had been published.

JANICE: That’s a great example of determination and courage. What’s your preferred genre?

CAROLYNE: I love writing romance but love reading murder mysteries and women’s fiction.

JANICE: Why do you write? What’s your motivation?

CAROLYNE: It’s my identity. Who I am. What gets me out of bed in the morning. I sometimes think I would love to quit but then try to imagine what my day would look like. Oh sure, I would probably goof off on the internet the first couple weeks or so, go visiting, do some shopping and then I would start thinking about characters or something I would read would make me wonder and soon I would be coming up with a story. May as well skip the goofing off and keep writing.

JANICE: That’s exactly how I feel too. So how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

CAROLYNE: I write in my office mostly. Sometimes outside on my laptop if it’s a nice day and words won’t flow. Sometimes on my couch for the same reason but mostly in my office. And I am a plotter to the n’th degree. I’m too distractable to write by the seat of my pants. I would run madly off in all directions. I do all the brainstorming and playing around in the outlining stage but then, once that’s done, it’s off to work and following the outline.

JANICE: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

CAROLYNE: Ideas are always floating around. Sometimes it’s a picture, a song, a movie, something in a television show that gets me thinking and wondering. Inspiration? Deadlines. Truly.

JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

CAROLYNE: I do a lot of ranch stories so I have a base of knowledge that I work from, plus my husband is a great resource. I know what I don’t know and try to fill in the gaps by talking to other people. I found out from one fellow that stopped by our house that he used to be a saddle bronc rider and so I quizzed him about all kinds of stuff. We go to horse shows and training events and I’m always asking questions.

JANICE: Sounds like the coming together of life and work. What do you like most / least about writing?

CAROLYNE: The least? The relentlessness of it. Deadlines. Having to work every day in order to produce. The most? That fun buzz I get when my book is done and I can send it off to my editor. That other buzz when my editor gets back to me and tells me that she LOVES my book.

JANICE: We all know that books don’t usually sell themselves. What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

CAROLYNE: Harlequin does so much promo for me that I couldn’t begin to replicate but I do my small part with Twitter blasts (though I don’t spend as much time there lately) Facebook and my blog (which I’ve neglected). Lately I’ve been getting into building my mailing list so that’s been one. I’ve also branched into indie publishing on the side so e-mail lists are crucial. I do contests on my site and that seems to help with the list. With the indie publishing, I’m slowly working my way into that. I’ve done some paid promo, which has done well.

JANICE: What are your favorite / most effective social media?

CAROLYNE: I like Facebook. It’s fun and easy and I get it. I don’t have a ton of followers so I don’t know how effective it is.

JANICE: Here’s a big question I wrestle with: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

CAROLYNE: Hard to find a balance sometimes but I do hold to a work schedule. I start at 9:00 in the morning and work until 4:30 or 5:00 depending on whether leftovers are on the menu for supper or I have to start from scratch.

JANICE: Ah yes, that incessant need for meals.

I believe that reading is extremely important for a writer. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

CAROLYNE: I am reading two books. One on my Kindle called Red by Joy Ohagwu, and one print book called Ordinary Grace. This is the second time I’m reading Ordinary Grace and it’s as lovely as the first time.

JANICE: What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

CAROLYNE: I like dolls and making doll clothes. Also love making cards and paper crafts. I like my camera and taking pictures and fooling around with them, though I don’t spend as much time on it as I’d like. Unique? I don’t know. I’ve been me so long this is what ordinary feels like. I talk a lot when I’m out and about but that’s not unique, that’s rather boring at times. For the listener I’m thinking. I procrastinate, but that’s not unique. I guess I’m just me.

JANICE: “Just me” is good! What keeps you going in your writing career?

CAROLYNE: I love being able to produce a book that gives someone else some joy and some moments of happiness. Sometimes though it’s just the basic reality of needing to make a living.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

CAROLYNE: I always like to make my characters deal with things I struggle with. Forgiveness. Joy. Contentment. As I read my Bible, listen to other Christians talk about their faith life, listen to sermons, I’m always thinking that this could be something my characters could deal with. If I struggle with it, I know my characters would.

JANICE: What are some things you’ve learned from your own writing?

CAROLYNE: Persistence. Stick to the work and fight resistance. Do what’s in front of you and don’t look too far ahead.

JANICE: What is your ultimate writing goal?

CAROLYNE: To write a book that so connects with readers that they tell everyone else “you have to read this book” and then everyone else does.

JANICE: I love that!

Do you have any advice for beginning writer?

CAROLYNE: Read. Study the genre you want to write in. Treat it with respect. Take courses. There are so many online there’s really no excuse not to. Study the good writers and try to figure out what about their stories makes you want to keep reading. Listen to criticism and don’t take it personally. Write. Write. Write.

JANICE: Thank you so much, Carolyne, for spending time with us today and for giving us a glimpse into your life and your writing. Blessings as you continue to create good Christian romance.

Here is one of Carolyne’s books: For her extensive list of others, click HERE or google her name: Carolyne Aarsen.51kaigmjbwl-_sy346_

 

 

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lorena-lake2dsc00179I am pleased and honored today to share my interview with author Lorena McCourtney. Her cozy mystery books, the Ivy Malone series, with her LOL (little old lady) heroine, have entertained and inspired me. She has also written two other mystery series: the Andi McConnell Mysteries and the Cate Kinkaid Files, as well as many stand-alone novels.

JANICE: Welcome to my website, Lorena. I’m interested to know how long you’ve been writing and how you came to it.

LORENA: I’ve been writing most of my life but doing it professionally since I was in my 20s. I started with juvenile short stories, mostly for the little Sunday School publications. (Are those even in existence anymore?) I went on to short stories for women and eventually got into novel-length romances for the secular market. When I finally decided that wasn’t for me (and the Lord gave me some serious nudges), I switched to Christian romances and then Christian mysteries.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

LORENA: That would be my mother, who wrote quite a few non-fiction articles. Because of her I knew how to submit short stories to magazine editors. (Which, unimpressed with my youthful “talent,” they quickly sent right back.)

JANICE: Haha! But it was a start. What’s your preferred genre?

LORENA: My preferred genre is what I’m doing now, Christian mysteries – with a touch of romance. I’ve done a few of the serious/intense type mystery, but I prefer more lighthearted stories. My Ivy Malone Mysteries, the Andi McConnell Mysteries, the Cate Kinkaid Files, and now my new Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries are all lighthearted, with a touch of humor and fun.

JANICE: What’s your motivation? Why do you write?

LORENA: Writing is my one and only talent! It’s my way to serve the Lord.

JANICE: Not sure I believe that, but I’m very glad you are using your writing. Tell me, how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

LORENA: I’ve always considered writing my job, a full-time job. I have a room set aside as an office in our home, and I do all my writing there. I know some writers like a busy coffee house or other place where people are around to write, but I need quiet and alone-ness.

I used to be a plotter. I’d have a short story or novel figured out from beginning to end before I started writing. But in recent years I’ve become much more of a pantser. I have a vague idea of where the story is going, but it’s definitely flexible. I’ve been known to change killers in the middle of a mystery!

JANICE: The pantser idea intrigues me, but at this point I feel I have to stick to plotting, especially with historical fiction (can’t change too much history!). Lorena, where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

LORENA: Ideas are everywhere. I keep an “Ideas” file folder and jot down anything that happens to come into my mind. If I get more ideas about a particular story idea, I give it a file of its own and keep adding to it. I’ve never waited for “inspiration” to write. As a job, I go to my computer and work on whatever the current project is. Sometimes I don’t get much done. I’ve never had daily word count goals. Some days all I do is rewrite – or delete – what I’ve done before. If I waited for inspiration or to be in the “mood” to write, I’d never get anything done.

JANICE: I completely agree that we can’t wait for inspiration to write, or the books would never happen. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

LORENA: I usually do research on a “need to know” basis rather than doing a lot of beforehand research, though I may do some research on a setting before I get started. Also, except for two books in the Great Depression era, I’ve always done contemporaries. I think historical might need considerably more advance research than I do. For my writing, I’ll come to a hole in my story and then research that particular point. Such as with my latest book, “Something Buried, Something Blue,” I needed to know about windmills, armored car robberies, and the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, and I researched each one as I came to it. I usually do research on the internet – checking more than one source to see if they agree. But with a setting I really like to go there and see it in person. (Also a great reason to travel!)

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

LORENA: What do I like most about writing? Well, basically, I can’t imagine life without writing. It’s just what I do. Least liked – it used to be deadlines. But now that I’ve gone from traditional publishing to Indie, I don’t have to worry about deadlines. In all honesty, this means I don’t get as much done as I used to. (Actually, I consider myself kind of semi-retired now.) But I keep plugging along and eventually get something done.

JANICE: I didn’t realize you had gone Indie. The best part of that, in my opinion, is compiling all you need and pushing the publish button. No waiting for months and years for things to happen. But with independent publishing comes responsibility for self-promotion. How do you handle this? What have you found to be the best methods of promoting your work?

LORENA: After many years of being a writer, I’m still trying to figure out promotion!

JANICE: Hmm. It is a challenge. Do you use social media?

LORENA: All I’m using at this time is Facebook. And thinking I should do more, of course.

JANICE: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

LORENA: As I said before I’ve always considered writing a job, so it’s never been something I squeeze in around other things. However, since I am in this “semi-retired” status I’m more willing to take time off for other things.

JANICE: I personally think reading is critical for a writer. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

LORENA: I’m currently reading a couple of mysteries on my Kindle, although I read a wide variety of materials. Anything that happens to catch my interest. I now much prefer reading on my Kindle to reading print. I like being able to carry around a lot of books to read, so if I lose interest in one I can just hit delete and go to something else. I used to feel that if I started a book, I was obliged to finish it. No more! I also like being able to increase the font size to what is comfortable for me, which I can do with my Kindle. I’m more interested in the contents of a book than in the physical way those words come to me.

JANICE: Oh yes, I love having dozens of books available to me on my Kindle. And I’ve also released myself from the obligation of finishing every book I start. On a personal note, what are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

LORENA: My favorite things are so ordinary, not at all unique. Reading. Eating. Taking a walk, especially on the beach. Travel. My husband watches a lot of TV, but it’s more background noise than actual watching for me. I collect old pocket knives and spurs, but I do it in kind of a lackadaisical way.

JANICE: Your collections are certainly unique. What keeps you going in your writing career?

LORENA: I’ve been writing so long that, even though I’ve slowed down considerably in my “semi-retirement,” I can’t really imagine not writing. Which isn’t to say I haven’t had a lot of discouraging times over the years. But you just groan and grumble for a while and then move on.

JANICE: Yes, because it’s what you do, same as with any “job.” How is your faith reflected in your writing?

LORENA: Earlier in my Christian writing, I often wrote about characters who had a problem or crisis in their faith. But these days I tend to prefer a main character who is secure in her faith, and her faith is simply reflected in how she faces situations or tackles problems in her life. My Ivy Malone character is a good example of that.

JANICE: A more mature angle. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

LORENA: That it’s way too easy to let writing assume too great an importance in your life. Well, it certainly is important. But there’s a big world outside the writing world, and a bad review or poor sales, or whatever other difficulty you’re encountering at the time, isn’t as important in the big scheme of life – and eternity – as it might seem at the moment. So is success.

JANICE: Thank you for those words. That’s a recurring theme that’s been popping up in my life lately. What are you working on now?

LORENA: The first book in my Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries series, “Something Buried, Something Blue,” something-buried_smallis now out in both e-book and paperback, and I’m trying to get started on the next book in the series. I’ve had some 48 books published in my writing career, but it doesn’t get any easier!

JANICE: So I’ve heard! I’d like to encourage you to continue to face that challenge, because I’m anticipating more of Mac & Ivy. What is your ultimate writing goal?

LORENA: To keep doing the best writing I can for as long as I can. Although I can say I’m pleased that I’ve won a few awards along the way and did hit a New York Times bestseller list with one book.

 

JANICE: Ooh! Which book was that?

LORENA: It was the first book in the Cate Kinkaid Files series: Dying to Read. It made both the Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers list.

JANICE: Congratulations on that. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

LORENA: In the long run, I think that persistence, a general stick-to-it-iveness, is probably more important than talent. Of course talent never hurts! But I’ve encountered more than a few would-be writers with talent who make a great start with a book – but never finish it.

JANICE: Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions, Lorena. It helps us to get a glimpse into your life and writing.

To purchase some of Lorena’s books—I’d highly recommend them, especially the Ivy Malone series—go to Amazon. You can also see her books in order HERE.

 

INSERT PHOTO, BOOK IMAGE. And links.

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