Hello Lisette. Thank you for inviting me to your chateau. I hope something I contribute will be of help to someone on his or her journey down the writing road.
You’re welcome, Judy! Delighted to have you here. Let’s chat.
ImagiNation Unveiled: The Hidden Realm and its supplement contain eighteen character descriptions and additional sketches. That’s quite an undertaking. Where did you get the inspiration and motivation for this book?
I answer that question best in the video embedded in my e-book, which you can also find here.
Here, I will share that it was at 10,000 feet plus, during a trip to New York that I decided to write an adventure fantasy novel. One problem was that I wasn’t a published author in the traditional sense. I’ve long been a reader and a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S Lewis, J.K Rowling, and Rick Riordan. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty was the first story to capture my young imagination. As an adult, I like to delve into history books and anything by National Geographic. But, until I began writing my most recent book, I’d only written a few children’s short stories and they lie undisturbed in a drawer. So, my decision to write a novel was probably a simple lack of oxygen to the brain at high altitude, right?! No, I think it was more than that.
You see, as a second-grader, I witnessed NASA and the rest of America send a man to the moon. The synergy was unforgettable and the impact impressionable. At the same time, I attended public school at a time when music and drama departments flourished. Both of my parents worked hard, sometimes multiple jobs, to provide me with the means to participate in curricular programs during and after school in an attempt to unlock my proclivity for shyness. They accomplished that and much more.
Somewhere between rehearsals, marching band competitions, orchestra pit performances, and stage curtain calls, I came in contact with dedicated teachers who taught me more than how to play a few instruments, twirl a baton, and dance. They taught me teamwork, sweat, sacrifice, community pride, and persistence. They also ingrained a rock solid belief in the power of the imagination and appreciation for the arts in me that endures to this day. I believe those extracurricular programs made me a more focused student on all levels. But, more than that, the friendships I encountered and the struggles I endured in those art programs equipped me with things you don’t learn while studying English, history, or math. They equipped me for life. Sometimes, I wonder if there might be a correlation between fading art programs, plummeting scholastic scores, and general student apathy in today’s world.
My children are adults now, but my passion for the arts remains and at 10,000 feet plus, I heard the call to create stronger than ever before. Through ImagiNation Unveiled: The Hidden Realm, I hope to spark the members of our young generation’s imaginations. They are whizzes at modern technology and I suspect there is no limit to the discoveries they can make and the places they can take us – but that’s only possibly if they have the confidence and willingness to explore their imaginations.
They say one must lead by example, so rather than just spout words from the past, I decided to climb my own mountain by learning to write. I hope my journey and the stories crafted along the way can inspire others. One is never too old to learn something new and there’s no time like the present to embark on an adventure.
I began writing ideas on the back of grocery receipts. I quickly graduated to notebooks, then a laptop, which I promptly typed the letters off of while burning the midnight oil. People who read my story while it was being developed encouraged me to continue pushing forward. Writers on Twitter wished me well. Down the writing road, I met Matt Langan, writer, editor, entrepreneur, and technological wizard, who liked the story and supports my efforts to produce an exciting quality series. The project gained momentum and awesome folks including @ElicabeDesign (cover), @harkinsart (sketch artist), @BeyondGraphics, and my local Minuteman Press branch joined the venture.
What motivates you?
Several things. Positive comments and heartfelt messages from readers have touched me on a personal level that is hard to describe. Achieving my goal to write a novel was one thing; hearing how the story touched someone else’s life is… well, I’m sure you can imagine. Five-star reviews on Amazon are encouraging. Recently, I received fantastic literary reviews from MuggleNet.com, the #1 Harry Potter fan site, and NarniaFans.com, which fueled the fires to write the second book of the series. I have a two-year-old grandson and a six-year-old granddaughter who love dragons. And so, I write.
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I like to write scenes in order. However, if I think the story will benefit, I will back up and replace an existing scene with a new one.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I like to take one step forward and two back. When I write a new chapter, I like to re-read the previous two chapters and make sure everything fits together. This seems to save time in the long run and I find it to be an effective way to stay focused and even stumble across new ideas.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?
Yes, I had to tap into my dark side to create Vahdeema, an evil sorceress, and Stonedish II, her accomplice. It was great fun and an awesome way to vent normal, everyday frustrations.
Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?
I understand the huge volume of stories created in our modern world necessitates a way to relate the essence of a story in an abbreviated form. I also understand the stress such a task generates for the author. I think the trouble with a synopsis is that they might not appropriately communicate the quality or the excitement of the story they describe. They can be cold, calculated, hyped up general outlines of the story at worst. To appreciate the true spirit of the story, I think one benefit from reading several excerpts or a few chapters from the book. My website imaginationunveiled.com offers six free chapters of reading and a few pages of free character descriptions from the supplement.
Maybe the following exaggerations will help demonstrate my point:
I wonder how Michelangelo would have reacted if someone asked him to reduce his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel to a stamp-sized sample? Along the same vein, I wonder if a written description of any classic overture can accurately explain how the audible crescendos and fortes of the musical piece makes listeners feel?
I think a dedicated author weaves together words with the same diligence and care a seamstress exhibits when they hand-weave a complex quilt. The author knows his or her book is best understood and enjoyed in its entirety – or at least in excess of a handful of paragraphs.
Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?
I am an early bird and a night owl! I keep my iPad and my notebook and pen on my nightstand, ready to jot down any new ideas that pop into my head as I awake or before I go to sleep. No matter how hard I try to manipulate my writing time into regular hours during the day, my creative muse works on her own clock. So, I am willing to write anywhere and at anytime. Typing in the passenger seat is a lot easier on roads without potholes.
My writing must haves are my beats, books, unsalted popcorn, and the occasional bits of chocolate. Most mornings, I crank on the tunes and start with a workout to jumpstart the brain. Often, I listen to music to inspire my mood or the character I’m developing. In general I like the energy that movie soundtracks generate. I did listen to a lot of country music while writing because my protagonist is from Alabama.
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
In the competitive world of writing, I’ve learned that reviews are paramount. We live in a social media driven society. People constantly check their electronic devices and count on other peoples’ reviews. Reviews are the go-to shortcut for readers to find their way through all of the available lists of books.
Before e-books, people bought published books from their bookstore, which was in indirect way of communicating that the book was worth their attention. Now, with the prevalence of self-published e-books, quality varies substantially. Reviews allow readers to gauge if a book is worth their time and money. Positive reviews drive sales, it’s a fact and one that should not be taken for granted if you’re an author.
I think some people find the process of writing a review uncomfortable and time consuming. But, anyone who thinks book reviews don’t matter needs to be brought up to speed. A reader’s review is the author’s lifeline to the rest of the world. Their future in the realm of writing depends on each and every review, especially indie writers who have limited means of promotion. Besides, positive or negative, reviews help the writer grow.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?
Writer’s block is the dreaded twilight zone between the speed bump and the dead end. It can last minutes, hours, days, or longer. Yes, I’ve gone a few rounds with the invisible monster that threatens to suck the life out of my creative muse like one of Harry Potter’s Death Eaters. Panic is the first reaction, but that only makes things worse. Then self-doubt sets in and grinds down on the writer’s confidence. It’s not pretty.
My solution? Many writers stare at the empty page on their computers, hoping to force the stubborn block away. Through trial and error, I’ve found that method generates tension and tightens the block. Instead, I’ve discovered that I work best when my mind is relaxed. A quiet stroll, a hard workout, a drive through the country, or taking a break to do something fun usually unlocks my mind. In fact, I’m often surprised at the great ideas I get when I least expect it. Many times I’ve rushed out of the shower or pulled off the road to jot a new idea down. That’s the fun of creating fantasy. It can and does happen anywhere.
Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?
I didn’t think I would, but I do. After spending so much time with them and being immersed in their day-to-day drama, they sort of became a second family. Putting the last period at the end of the last sentence of the first book in my series felt wonderful and sad at the same time. It was like saying goodbye to a close friend after a long visit. That’s what’s great about writing a series. It prolongs the goodbyes.
How would you define your style of writing?
Eclectic. I blend realism with fantasy, southern tradition with futuristic invention, nature with technology. Many locations in the book are inspired by real places I’ve visited while others are complete fabrications.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
A lot of research went into writing the book. I studied online articles, books, and brochures about various locations and endangered species. I read National Geographic articles and recorded notebooks full of what I learned through my own experiences and travels. I studied pictures and additional information about some of the most interesting places on Earth and in space.
One particular interesting technique that I used to help me write the football game in the book was listening to a radio announcer call a football game while I was traveling from Alabama to Kentucky. I’ve attended many football games in my area, but listening to the radio really forced me to focus and visualize the game in my own mind. I think listening to the game on the radio strengthened my understanding of the game. I also picked up a few colorful football phrases.
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