Zuu’s Intervuus… with Fellow Authors

In support of indie authors everywhere! 

 

An Interview With… 

IAN STEVENTON

 

A big welcome goes to Ian Steventon, author of several novels, novellas and short stories. I’m glad to have met Ian on Twitter. Because, besides me enjoying his short stories, Ian has made me realize many things about life, creativity, gratitude, passion, family and health. He is an inspiration to me, and many others too, I’m sure. Ian suffers from debilitating illnesses, but still manages to make the most of what he can, while sharing his wonderful stories with his readers.  And Ian is also a painter!

 

 

Your Writing Process

Can you describe your average writing day to us, Ian?

My health always dictates it, but on a good day I try to spend at least an hour on my writing before anyone else is up in the morning, and then I will add to that throughout the day if I get the chance. Because of arthritis, I find typing slow and painful. I now use voice recognition software for most of my work. Once I got used to it, I found that telling the story came more naturally, and my dialogue improved!! Although I still love to keep notes and physically write in notebooks, just not so often.

About how long does it take you to write your book/short story from start to finish (excluding research)?

Most of my books are novellas, which are between 30,000 to 40,000 words. I would say from first draft to editing and completion takes between 4 to 5 months on average. I’m not a fast writer, but I try to average around 700 words a day on a first draft.

Which part of the writing process do you love, or hate most?

Strangely enough, I love editing and rewriting. It really is a form of sculpting, and watching a fully formed story emerge from that chaotic first draft is so rewarding to see.

I don’t truly hate any part of the process, but plotting is the most laborious part for me. I’m not a pantser, I like to know where my story is going. I do like to have a roadmap to follow, so I take my time to allow the story to develop from the kernel of an idea to something fully formed. Saying that, I always leave enough room for my characters to grow and tell me where they are going. They always surprise me somehow. 

Of all the craft guidelines online, which works best for you (and which not)?

The best crafting advice I ever read was “Save the Cat Writes a Novel” by Jessica Brody. I found her beat sheet online and fell in love. I always start with her beat sheet template. It offers a perfect roadmap for the story, and they set it up as a series of prompts so the story unfolds organically, and if you follow the beat sheet, the story is also well structured, which means less rewriting. It is my story Bible and prompt sheet.

What do you feel you need to focus on to improve your writing even more?

I think I need to focus more on my descriptive writing. I love dialogue and it always seems to come naturally, but describing things, not so. I think I tend to avoid going into too much detail on describing a character’s appearance. I’m not good at it. I prefer to let the reader form their own impression.

Have you tried writing all genres, or do you only focus on one or two? Why?

I have written urban fantasy, horror, murder mystery, and romance, so quite an eclectic mix. I am now focusing on a new murder mystery series, and contemplating writing more romance. I originally wanted to focus on urban fantasy and horror, but subconsciously my writing always veered more towards humour and had a lighter tone. So I have decided to go with it and not fight it, and I surprised myself by how much I enjoy this new approach, and also the writing feels as if it flows more easily.

 

Your Writing Business

Do you use a pseudonym, Ian? Why?

I wrote my romance book under the name Faye Stevens, because it was so different from everything else I had written up to that point. I wanted to give that book, and a possible series, its own identity.

Do you write for the market, or just follow your heart?

I always write for myself, and yes, follow my heart. I think if I attempted to write for the market, it wouldn’t come over as genuine. I am and always will be an intuitive writer, even though I ‌have an outline for each of my books, I always let the characters and situations speak to me and trust where they take me. It doesn’t always work out, but my writing is usually more spontaneous and I like to think better for it.

What’s your overall writing goal, why? And how many WIPs do you have going at once?

I just want to tell stories, explore my characters’ emotions and motivations. I love to experience the creative journey, it is rewarding in itself.

I usually only work on one book at a time, but I am always having ideas for things, and constantly make notes (most of which never see the light of day).

What’s the best thing you ever did that helped your writing business?

I don’t really see it as a business, it’s more of a hobby to me. But saying that, the best thing I ever did to help my writing, was to buy Scrivener, which really helps me organising and writing my books. Also Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation software; as someone who suffers with arthritis it has been invaluable.

What’s your advice on how to manage bad reviews?

Ignoring them would be my best advice. It is impossible to please everyone, and it is often more a reflection on them than on you. What I ‌know is, there are many stories of authors who have engaged with bad reviewers, and it can end badly, and destroy or damage your reputation. See my first comment.

 

Inspiration

Where do your story ideas come from? And what inspires you personally in your writing?

My stories come from all around me. Watching the news, reading books and papers, and having conversations with family and friends.  I’m inspired by anything about overcoming obstacles, and the perseverance and tenacity of the human spirit. Inspiration is like a sponge and it soaks up everything. Because my health has suffered significantly, these are the things that resonate most with me.  

Which genres, topics or themes do you enjoy, and why?

I mainly enjoy reading crime and thrillers.  I like the form of escapism they give me. I also enjoy books on the craft of writing. As for a theme I tend to write about: I like to think we all have good inside of us. I believe in the human spirit, in empathy for others. Much of my writing explores the best and the worst of those traits.

Which book left the biggest mark on you? And which author left the biggest mark on you?

The book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, every word spoke to me. As for the author who left the biggest mark on me, it’s Andre Gide. I first read “Fruits of the Earth” when I was a teenager, and its poetic imagery has never left me.

Do you prefer reading books by indies, or mainstream authors? And if indies, which indie writer inspired you the most, and why?

I most definitely prefer indies. As for inspiration: I’m not sure he’s indie, but Neil Gaiman. His writing style is unique, and his imagination is limitless, weird, and full of compassion and empathy, all of which I love.

When did you start writing, why?

I was approaching my 50th birthday when I became seriously ill. Everything changed when I was left with a life altering disability. It forced me to re-evaluate what really mattered to me. I had always harboured a desire to write but never acted on it, so I vowed to myself that I would write a book and publish it before I turned 51. I have written a book a year ever since then.

What did you want to become when you were younger (or still want to)?

From a very young age, I wanted to be an artist or writer. I was always drawn to what our imagination is capable of, and the desire to create was very strong.

I’m certainly not rich or famous, but I turned my disability into an opportunity, and even though I only consider them as hobbies, I can now spend my good days painting and writing.

What are your plans for your next book/collection/series?

I am currently plotting a new murder mystery series. It’s set in the 1970s in my home village of High Ercall in rural Shropshire, England. The series will be called “The Beryl Braines Mysteries,” I named the main character after my late mother, and although the books will be in no way autobiographical, it will be a gentle nod to my memories of growing up in that time.

 

The Creative Grey Matter

Are you an introvert/extrovert, or both? And do you need external stimuli when you’re writing, or complete isolation?

Definitely an introvert. I prefer to work in silence, and if possible when I am the only one in the house. Early mornings are my best friend when I am working on a first draft. 

What has writing taught you as a person, and how has it improved your life?

I have become more introspective, and I have become more patient. It has given me back a sense of purpose, and allowed my imagination to expand beyond my wildest dreams. I have also learned that small regular steps towards your goal, whatever it may be, over time can produce significant results. It made me slow down and take stock of my life, to see what is important to me. It continues to help me navigate the bad days. Also, I like to paint, it often unlocks my creative side, it’s a counterbalance to my writing, and it complements it.

Do you prefer writing about safe, or more controversial subjects?

I will write wherever the subject takes me, I would never shy away from anything controversial, but I would pause and consider its worth, and if it genuinely adds to the story, or just sensationalises it.

How important is empathy for you?

Empathy is everything to me, it’s what binds us together as human beings, it’s also the cornerstone to most of my writing. 

 

Life in General

How do you balance regular life and writing?

As someone with health issues it can sometimes be difficult, I always just do the best that I can.

How many books do you read a month?

On average, probably two or three, I’m a slow reader.

How hooked are you on writing (and/or reading}?

Completely, reading and writing saved me from a very dark place in my life. 

 

The Fun Part

How often do you get to watch TV or movies?

I try to avoid turning on the TV during the day, and I don’t watch it every night. It can be like a rabbit hole and swallow up your life. I love films, I will always find time for a good film.

 

Miscellaneous

What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt in your writing career (even if not writing-related)?

Have empathy for other people. Life can be a difficult journey for all of us. Never assume you are the only one struggling, seek out like-minded souls and it helps to share the burden for you, and for them.

 

Writers Just Starting Out

What’s your message for writers starting out today, Ian?

Never give up. Keep writing and believe in yourself. If all you seek is money and fame from your writing, you are going to be disappointed. Instead, find your own voice, tell stories your own way, entertain, engage, and above all, enjoy what you do.

If you have a passion for the written word, sharing it is the best gift you can give. You won’t change the world, but if you make a difference to one person’s life, it’s all worth it.

         

   …a great short read with likable characters and a fantastic story line” (5-star review on Goodreads)

     

If you would like to catch up more with Ian, you can do so here:  WEBSITE ** FACEBOOK ** AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE ** GOODREADS **   TWITTER

 

                                                                                                                                                                                           May, 2022   

An Interview With… 

MARYANN MILLER

 

Our special guest today is scriptwriter, editorial consultant and author of many novels and short stories, Maryann Miller! I very much enjoyed Maryann’s short story collection: Beyond the Crack in the Sidewalk, and I am excited about being able to chat with her about her work. The time that Maryann has made for us is much appreciated, and I am more than convinced that you will find our chat with her very enlightening, indeed! Please read on…

 

 

Your Writing Process

 

I am very curious about how you see short stories compared to the long form, i.e. what do both forms mean for you? Are there any insights you’d like to share, regarding your use of these forms?

That is a most interesting question and one I had to think about quite a bit to finally realize that my initial challenge to answering it is that I see no great difference between short stories or novels or screenplays, except for the way the story plays out on paper or computer screen. Story is what is important to me, and some just naturally fit in the short story medium, while others need more to happen and more time in which to let those things happen.

One thing I’ve learned through the process of writing in both forms for so long, is that I will usually know instinctively if a new story idea will work in a short story, or is it the beginning of a new novel.  

What writing process works best for you, Maryann?

When I first started writing I never thought of process. I just wrote stories as they came to me. The short stories often would come in a flash of an inspiration, and then I’d write the whole thing in one sitting. “Maybe Someday”, one of the stories in my collection The Wisdom of Ages came to me that way and only had minor changes during a few rewrites. It’s always a thrill when my muse gifts me like that, and it continues to be the way I write most of my short stories.

Much later, after I started writing novels and met up with other writers, I understood that I’m pretty much of a pantster when it comes to plotting and writing longer fiction. The genesis of the story might present itself in that same kind of flash of an idea, and then I start writing. Most often the leading character, or characters, come with that idea and concept, which makes the whole process work well for me. The characters will help drive the story as much as whatever plot ideas I have.

Which part of the writing process do you love, or hate, most?

Like most other writers, the creative process is the one I love the most, especially that first surge of inspiration when I can’t wait to get to the computer to start writing. It’s always a thrill, too, when the characters present a new idea or direction for the story that I hadn’t considered, and it’s a good one.

What do you intentionally avoid in your writing?

There are a number of things I shy away from in my stories: rape scenes, cruelty toward children, animal cruelty, and extremely graphic violence. The mystery and suspense novels do center on crimes, but I don’t paint the scenes with a lot of gore. That’s the only place in the narrative where I do a bit of “telling” as opposed to “showing.”

While writing I also avoid stereotypes as much as possible. For instance, in the Seasons Mystery Series, I purposely flipped the backgrounds of the two women homicide detectives, giving Angel a middle class, intact Black family, and Sarah having the kind of difficult, impoverished background most associated with Black families.

Have you tried writing all genres, or do you focus only on one or two?

It’s funny as I’ve never thought about picking a genre, especially when I first started writing. I just had stories I wanted to tell. My short stories are definitely mostly mainstream, with only a couple of exceptions, and the novels just fell into the genre classification after they were in process. Play It Again, Sam, the first romance I wrote was just a story based on an experience that a friend had and shared with me. I hadn’t set out to find a story to fit in that genre, it just did. The same was true for the genesis of One Small Victory, my first suspense novel. That story was inspired by a newspaper article I read about a mother of five kids bullying her way onto a drug task force in a small town in Michigan and busting a drug ring. The classification of genre came from the first publisher who actually labeled it romantic suspense.

 

The Business of Writing

Regarding genre, do you write for the market, or just follow your heart?

Writing for the market has never worked for me. A long time ago I had an agent who encouraged me to write romance, since that was easier to market at the time than mystery or short story collections. I tried. I really did. The agent sent guidelines from Harlequin, and I kept them on top of my desk for weeks, reading them over often. And I set out to write a story. I created a heroine and a hero. I outlined a possible storyline. I created a supporting cast. I did all the things the guidelines said to do, but the result was flat and uninspiring. Much later, after I wrote my first romance novel, I realized the difference. The central character came to me. I didn’t have to create her. This was Play It Again, Sam based on my friend’s experience. It was real. It all had substance. It had “legs”. 

How many WIPs do you have going at once?

It used to be that I only worked on one writing project at a time, although I would fit in editing for clients in the morning and work on a new story in the afternoon. Now, however, I have one novel, one nonfiction book, my memoir, and a couple of short stories in progress. I am going to have to settle on one to finish in the near future as having so many in limbo unnerves me. LOL

What’s your advice on how to manage bad reviews?

Over the years I’ve learned to ignore review that are not favorable, and now in the era of instant reviewing on Amazon, we have to have even thicker skin. Back in my journalism days when I wrote for newspapers, I was a reviewer. During that time, it was considered a gross breach of etiquette for an author to contact a reviewer to question or rant against a negative comment in a review. But then most review requests were handled by the book editor, not the author, so there was distance between the authors and reviewers.

In regards to reviews of my books that were sent out by the publisher, I seldom saw them unless I happened to see a review in our local newspapers. Sending a handwritten note of thanks to the bookpage editor that would often be shared with the reviewer was always considered a gracious and polite response.

Now, when I see a new review online, I try to thank every person when I can for taking the time to review, even if it wasn’t a positive one. Amazon used to allow us to do that right there as a comment on the review, and I think it was a mistake for them to stop allowing that. Whenever I see a mention on Twitter that someone posted a review of one of my books on Goodreads, I can thank them there, as well as on Twitter.

How do you celebrate good reviews?

It’s always a thrill to see a positive review of one of my books, and I especially like it when a reviewer really “gets” the story or character and points that out. Then I know it is someone who truly understands story.

 

Inspiration

Is there anything or anyone that has ever put you off writing? If so, what was the outcome?

Funny you should ask. 😊 My college literature professor tried to steer me away from pursuing writing as a career. He gave me poor marks on my papers based solely on the subject matter not the quality of my writing. I liked Steinbeck and Hemmingway and the professor loved James Joyce. I wasn’t, and still am not fond of Joyce. I know he’s considered one of the geniuses of his time when it comes to story and writing, but his style just turned me off. When I told the professor of my desire to be a writer, he shook his head and told me I should take up some other form of creative expression.

Since I’d been writing most of my life up to that point, short stories and essays, I couldn’t stop, but I did give up the dream of being a professional writer. That is until one day several years later, my husband came home from work early and found me scribbling away in a notebook. He read what I’d written, declared it good, and encouraged me to take some creative writing classes. Through all of our years together, my husband continued to be my cheerleader through all the years of rejections and helped me celebrate the publications and awards. 

Which book left the biggest mark on you?

When I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, I cried, and then I read it again several times in a row. His ability to create characters that are so real and so engaging captivated me. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Steinbeck said about writing and living, “Try to understand each other.” Even before I’d read that quote, I knew that understanding people, especially the common man, was a hallmark of his work, and I’ve tried to emulate that in my writing. And his writing is so simple, yet profound. I’m not sure if I’ve reached his level in either way, but I keep trying.

Do you prefer reading books by indies, or traditionally published authors?

When it comes to reading, I have no preference between indies or authors working with a traditional publisher. If they write a good, solid story that has been professionally edited, I’m open to any author’s book. Give me people I can relate to; give me wordage that is above the ordinary; give me a place I can see and feel; and give me an intriguing plot, and I’ll take that ride with you.

What are your plans for your next book/collection/series?

When I finish Brutal Season, the fourth book in the Seasons Mystery Series, I need to decide if that will be the final Seasons book. That’s a hard decision as I love the characters I’m working with, and readers seem to like them a lot, too. Still, I have a couple of story ideas that have come to me recently, one featuring a PI named Memphis. She just showed up one day while I was working on something else, and she’s prodding me to give her a story.

 

The Creative Grey Matter

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or both?

I’m pretty much of an introvert, which may seem amusing because I also love to play on stage. For some time, I wondered about that contradiction in myself, until I realized that when I’m onstage I’m not Maryann Miller, I’m that person in the play. When I’m giving presentations to library groups and taking part in festivals and writer’s conferences, I adopt a bit of that “playing a role” attitude to come out of the shell we introverts like to hide in. That always makes the presentations more fun than nerve-wracking.

Do you prefer writing about safe, or more controversial subjects?

While I don’t consciously seek out issues about which to write, civil rights has always been a cause that is dear to me, and that has been an ongoing theme in the Seasons Mystery Series. Open Season has a subplot of the use of deadly force by police that is never resolved. I’m not sure that social problem ever can be fixed in fiction. And now, ten years after that first book was released in hardback, the fourth book in the series I’m currently writing is again focused on Black people being killed by police and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

When I started writing “Beyond the Crack in the Sidewalk”, the title story in the collection most recently released by Next Chapter Publishing, I hadn’t planned to make the central character a homeless teen. I was responding to a writing prompt that had just the first few lines: “Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!”

Writers were encouraged to take those first few lines and write a story that could go in any direction inspiration took us. My muse gifted me with a central character, Hannah, and she basically told me her story of how she ended up on the streets and why that shrine meant so much to her.

What would you say is your most important attribute that’s reflected in your work?

One of my gifts is empathy and a sincere interest in people, especially caring about things that complicate their lives. My educational background is in sociology and clinical pastoral education, and that has influenced my writing immensely.

Is there anything not craft-related that you strongly recommend to writers starting off today, which you did not know back then?

Develop a thick skin. I clearly remember the first time I was edited and saw all those red marks in the galleys. I thought, “How dare she (the editor) change my words? It isn’t fair.” After letting me pace and rant for a while, my husband told me to sit down, have a glass of wine. Leave the galleys for a day or so, and remember that editors are there to make a book better, not pull all your fingernails out one by one. That was his way of reminding me that the mark-ups were about the book, not me. And the editor was not some ogre, but actually a very nice young woman. She edited all nine nonfiction books I wrote for the Rosen Publishing Group.

That thick skin is also important if a new writer joins a critique group. Our words are not our darlings, they’re just words. That’s a truism that’s hard to fully embrace because we have to love what we write if we want readers to love to read the stories, but our words are not carved in granite. They can change. I’ve learned to accept constructive critiques and my writing has improved as a result of some good feedback.

 

Life in General

How hooked are you on writing (and/or reading)?

Hi, I’m Maryann Miller and I’m a readaholic. I think that answers part of the question. 😊 As to the other, a writer friend once told me that writing is not simply what we do, writing is part of who we are. That’s why I never have stopped, from back in college to now.

What else is important for you, besides writing?

My family is the most important thing in my life. Before my wedding, my father took me out for a drink and this is what he told me after taking a small handful of change out of his pocket, “I may not have a lot of money. Or a fancy house. Or an expensive car, but I have you and your brothers and sisters. That’s all I need to be a rich man.” That was so many years ago, but I can still recall it almost word for word.

 

The Fun Part

Do you have any ‘co-writer’ pets?

My dog Dusty has a bed in my office where he naps while I’m writing. He’s not a lot of help. 😊 There are also two cats who come to wander all over my desk sometimes, especially when they think it’s time to eat. They’ve been known to step on the keyboard and add a run of letters to a sentence – ddddddddddddd. Also, not a lot of help, but I do love my pets. I’ve always had a cat or a dog, and I can’t imagine life without one.

 

Writers Just Starting Out 

What’s your message for writers starting out today, Maryann?

Don’t give up your dream and don’t listen to the nay-sayers. Take classes to learn the craft. We may be born story tellers, but we have to learn the craft, just like a musician or visual artist has to learn theirs. Read. Read. Read. We learn so much by reading other work, even subtly absorbing craft. Finally, if you plan to go Indie, hire professionals to do the editing, formatting, and graphics. We can do a lot of self-editing, but we need someone else to help fine tune the manuscript. Even though I’m a professional editor, I still hire someone else to do that final editing and proofing.

Finally, welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of writing and publishing. You’re in for quite a ride. Enjoy the highs and persevere through the lows.

         

                                            Short stories that stir deep emotion” (5-star review on Amazon)

     

I find Maryann to be a highly inspiring author, and chatting with her opened my eyes to many aspects of writing. I am convinced that you too will come away from this chat feeling motivated and inspired like I was!  We wish you all the best on your writing path, Maryann!  If you would like to catch up more with Maryann, you can do so here:  

           WEBSITE ** FACEBOOK ** AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE ** GOODREADS ** BOOKBUB  ** ALL AUTHOR **  TWITTER

 

                                                                                                                                                                                         April, 2022   

An Interview With… 

BEEM WEEKS

 

We have another special guest on today:  not only is he an editor, audio/video producer and a podcaster in support of indie authors (he also co-hosts the Voice of Indie podcast), but also an author of highly recommended short stories and novels! Please welcome Beem Weeks! With all that going on, I’m very glad that he had time to chat with us ;o)  Much appreciated, thank you, Beem, and without further ado, here’s a little glimpse into the life of another much admired short story writer…

 

 

Your Writing Process

What writing process works best for you, Beem?

I’m an outliner. Nothing intricate. I just lay out the bare bones of the story from start to finish. I add flesh to the bones as I write. I edit my work as I go, so when my editor receives the manuscript, there’s little that needs to be done.

Do you write each book or story for a collection as a stand-alone, or are your stories linked somehow?

My stories are all stand-alone. I’ve never written a series or a sequel, though I have ideas for a follow-up to Jazz Baby that will eventually be written. And though I don’t link my stories together, there are little Easter eggs I’ve dropped in some of my stories that hearken back to Jazz Baby. Just a line or a mention that those who have read the novel will notice.

Are there any themes you tend to write more about? If so, which?

Not necessarily. I do write a lot of coming-of-age stories. We are born, we grow up, we grow old, we die. Along the way, there are experiences (both good and bad) that play key roles in who we become along our journey through this world. I like to capture characters during these various experiences.

About how long does it take you to write your stories from start to finish? (excluding research)

That depends on the story, really. Jazz Baby took the better part of eight years from start to finish. But I walked away from it for over two years. I hadn’t intended to publish it. A short story can take me as little as a day or as long a month to complete. As for collections, my first one, Slivers of Life, contains twenty stories written over four or five years. My second collection, Strange Hwy, contains nineteen stories written over a two-year period.

What do you intentionally avoid in your writing?

I avoid using the word was as much as possible. It’s lazy writing—and it shows, when over-used. I once read a novel where the author used the word was seventeen times in the opening paragraph. I didn’t finish reading that book. Sure, there are places on the page where that word is completely appropriate—even necessary. But I try to keep it at a bare minimum in my stories.

 

The Business of Writing

How many WIPs do you have going at once?

I am currently working on two novels. One set in 1910, the other in 1977. I also have a few short stories in the early outline stage. I work on whichever one is on my mind at any given time.

What’s your advice on how to manage bad reviews?

Bad reviews, like good reviews, are simply a reader’s opinion. They come with the profession. Even the biggest-selling authors have received bad reviews. Are you writing for the reviews? If so, you’re in the wrong field. Write the stories that interest you as a reader. You’ll find your audience in due time.

 

Inspiration

Where do your story ideas come from?

Short answer: Everywhere! I can be standing in line at the grocery store where an overheard line from somebody has inspired a story idea. I’m outlining a short story based on an observation I had in church a few years ago. It’s just something that has stayed with me and needs to be written. Inspiration is all around us. We just need to have our eyes and ears open.

Are your characters inspired by people you’ve met, or not?

Many of my characters are inspired by real life individuals I’ve met or known at various points in time. Some are just figments of my own imagination.

 

The Creative Grey Matter

Do you prefer writing about safe, or more controversial subjects?

I avoid safe at all costs. Safe is boring and does little to grab a reader’s imagination. Many of the best works in literary history have been deemed controversial at times. Those are the ones that stand out. One can write a clean, wholesome novel without being safe. Safe, to me, signifies an author who fears taking chances, fears what others may think. The real world is both dark and light. I try to capture both ends of that spectrum.

The ‘wood for the trees’ adage: do you prefer writing for the big picture, or the details?

Both are vital to telling a complete story. I outline my stories with the big picture in mind. But as I begin to write it, I work all the little details into each scene.

What’s your way of getting over writer’s block?

I can honestly say I’m not one prone to writer’s block. Time and motivation are problems from time to time, but never writer’s block. For those who suffer writer’s block, I would just say, outline your stories. If you’re stuck, you can go to the outline and play around with the stuck point.

Do you need external stimuli when you’re writing, or complete isolation?

I need isolation and silence when I’m writing. I need to focus on and hear the story unfold in my head.

 

Life in General

How do you balance regular life and writing?

I’ve been writing for so long the two are intertwined. Writing is, to me, regular life.

Do you have a day job? If so, what do you do?

I do have a day job. I work for my publisher, Fresh Ink Group. I am an editor, audiobook producer, and video producer. I also co-host the Voice of Indie podcast.

How often do you get some exercise? Which works best for you?

I have a weight room in my basement. I lift weights, ride the stationary bike, and work the stair climber. I try to get down there at least four times a week. It helps clear my mind.

What else is important for you, besides writing?

My faith in Jesus Christ is the most important aspect to my life today. This brings me clarity and peace when the world is raging. Family and friendships are also very important parts of my life today, where maybe that hasn’t always been the case. Life is about lessons learned and lived.

 

The Fun Part

Do you travel for research? 

I don’t usually travel for my research. My upcoming novel called The Secret Collector is set in 1910 Alabama. I’ve visited Alabama twice during the writing process. Though I learned a few things that may have found their way into the book, I didn’t visit for research. I tend to search online when I need to know certain details.

Do you go on writing (or other) retreats?

I haven’t been on a retreat yet. I do visit with fellow author Stephen Geez—who also happens to be my publisher. We’ve had lunch with author Marlena Smith in Alabama. But that really wasn’t a retreat.

 

Writers Just Starting Out 

What’s your message for writers starting out today, Beem?

Be sure you are putting out your very best work. Pay the extra money for a qualified editor. Outline your stories—even if it’s just the bare bones. Study your craft. Learn from other authors. It’s the sure way to make you and your work shine.            

                                            “Short fiction delivers literary wonder.” (5-star review on Amazon)

     

 Thank you for sharing your writing world with us, Beem. We wish you only the best on your writing path!  You can find all of Beem’s books on Amazon here, and engage with him on Twitter here. His website is www.beemweeks.com.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                 April, 2022   

An Interview With… 

ALLAN HUDSON

 

A special welcome goes to my next guest, indie writer of short stories, novellas and novels, Allan Hudson (The South Branch Scribbler). As mentioned before, short stories lie deep in my heart and I am excited to introduce you to another writer whose work I enjoy! Thank you wholeheartedly for taking the time to talk to us, Allan. And without further ado, here’s a special glimpse into the life of a fellow short story indie writer…

 

 

Your Writing Process

Can you please describe your average writing day for us, Allan?

I normally follow the same routine each time I want to write. Early mornings with no distractions work best for me. Make some coffee, check messages and write. I always go back over what I wrote previously to get a sense of where to go next.

Do you write each book as a stand-alone, or are your stories linked somehow?

I’ve always enjoyed reading a series and I try to accomplish that with most of my novels or novellas. They can stand alone, of course, but each one leads to another. With my Jo Naylor series, there will only be 5 novellas but with the Drake Alexander series, I don’t see any end to his shenanigans.

What do you intentionally avoid in your writing?

I dislike excessive profanity in stories I read and have made it a point to not overdo cursing in my own stories. Some will argue it is necessary to portray realistic conversations and/or situations, especially amongst criminals but all in all, it adds nothing.

Have you tried writing in all genres, or do you focus on one or two.

My favorite genres are thriller/action adventures and historical fiction. I like to experiment with sci-fi in my short stories but not in my novels. I have no interest in horror or romance as I don’t think I could write effectively in those genres.

Which part of your writing do you love, or hate, the most?

I love the blank page and the fascination of where it will take me and my characters. The potential is what thrills me. The writing process. I dislike rewriting, so edit as I go. Once the first draft is complete, there should be no major rewrites.

 

The Business of Writing

What’s the most effective marketing method for you?

This is a tough one. I think we all struggle with marketing but my favorite, and most effective in my case, is markets, signings and personal appearances. I use social media as well but it does have its limits. Generous authors who share my work with their readers is great too. Like this.

What’s your overall writing goal and why?

When I began writing, my goal was to get words on paper. I had no idea what would follow. The publishing world is confusing at times but I wanted to share my stories and kept my fingers crossed that some people would like them. My goal is to entertain and I feel I have accomplished it.

How many WIPs do you have going at once?

I usually try to concentrate on one at a time. I dislike leaving a story unfinished by having said that, I do have a short story going the same time I write a novel. The reason I do is that when I get stuck on the novel, the short story gives me a break from it, and vice versa.

What’s your advice on managing bad reviews?

They can sting sometimes, but we always need to keep in mind, our stories will not be for everyone. That is an irrefutable fact. The first one I received made me want to give up writing – it was brutal. But then I looked at all the good reviews and it made me realize it didn’t matter. The few bad reviews I received, I thanked the individuals for their comments and let it slide. Nothing to lose sleep over.

 

Inspiration

What do you like about the short form?

I’ve always enjoyed short stories. A quick easy read which keeps me captivated is a nice break from longer stories. Plus they are fun to write.

Which book left the biggest mark on you?

Shibumi by Trevanian. It will always be my favorite book. The main character is well developed; the prose is perfect for the genre. The dialogue is strong and believable. The setting is imaginative and interesting. I’ve read it many times.

Which author left the biggest mark on you?

As much as I enjoy Trevanian’s writing, my favorite author is Bryce Courtenay. He writes in the style of Edward Rutherford and James Michener, à la  big historical novels. Courtenay’s novels seem to be more personal and emotional. Matthew Flinders Cat is by far my favorite of his stories.

When did you start writing and why?

I’d have to refer you to the previous question and again mention Bryce Courtenay who started writing when he was 55 and it inspired me to sit and write, realizing it is never too late to begin. There was no turning back after I started writing when I was in my late 50s.

Are your characters inspired by people you’ve met, or not?

Many of my characters are imaginative but there are many who are inspired by people I know. One character in my Drake Alexander series is based on a dear friend whose antics have always entertained me, whose friendship I value above all others and I wanted this same relationship in my novels, therefore, Drake and Williston are best friends.

 

Life in General

How do you balance regular life and writing?

It has been much easier since I retired. Now my mornings are dedicated to writing whereas before, I was only writing on the weekends when I was working. Now I plan my days around my writing schedule. Appointments and errands and visiting take place when the writing is done. MY mornings are my own and I write as often as possible.

Who all supports you in your writing ventures?

I owe a debt of gratitude to my wife. She leaves me to my space and time spent writing. She offers helpful suggestions. She attends all my signings and launches, by my side. I couldn’t ask for better. Plus, I have two close friends who have been supportive from the very beginning, encouraging me, sharing my stories and reading them.

 

Other Goodies

What’s your message for writers starting out today?

The best advice I received was to try and write every day, at least 15 minutes. Some days the words do not come as easily but if you commit yourself, they will find their way on the page. Equally important is to reach out to other authors. Share their work, join writer’s groups and find the answers to your questions from experienced writers. The publishing world can be very confusing and there are many traps on the internet to be avoided. Other authors have been there and their experience is invaluable.

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, Zuzanne.         

         

                                                                               A great read (5-star review on Amazon)

   

A pleasure indeed! Thank you for sharing with us, Allan (those recommended books too!). We wish you the best on your writing path, and look forward to many more of your stories, for example, in your  Shorts – Short Stories from Around the World! 

You can find all of Allan’s books (incl. his latest, Fathers) on Amazon here, and engage with Allan (The South Branch Scribbler) on Twitter here, and on FB here.

March, 2022  

An Interview With… 

NANNETTE KREITZMAN

 

A special welcome goes to my VERY first guest, a prolific writer of short stories, Nannette Kreitzman! Short stories lie very deep in my heart and I am excited to introduce you to a writer whom I greatly respect, and look up to for her craft and wonderful personality. Thank you wholeheartedly for taking the time to talk to us, Nannette, and without further ado, here’s a special glimpse into the life of a short story  indie writer…

 

 

After reading your stories, I just had to ask…

Why do you write short stories, Nannette?

It’s not a conscious choice, it’s just what they end up being. I’d add that my characters are naturally short winded. I’ve always been adept at telling a long story short in conversations, I guess my characters share that trait!

When I read Prism, I was very impressed with your writing skills. Well done indeed. Where did you learn the craft–do you have a background in writing?

I would attribute it mostly to decades of reading wonderful authors, but I also worked closely with attorneys in a property management position years back. They helped me hone my professional writing skills which may play a part. 

I know it’s a difficult question to answer, but I just had to ask about that humor and wit in many of your stories! As someone who deeply appreciates wit and humor, I am really curious where yours comes from, and how much of a role does it play in your work and everyday life?

My childhood was challenging.  Levity was not something I grew up with, but I definitely learned the value of laughter and humor as part of the healing process.  I tend to see humor in dark situations, which isn’t always the best case scenario, but it often serves as an effective coping mechanism at the time. This naturally leaks into my writing, and well placed levity can be a great palate cleanser. 

 

Your Writing Process

What writing process works best for you?

I am not a plotter.  The stories I write are those of my characters.  There is no way for me to know what happens until they share it with me, and I am often surprised with how they turn out.  

Do you write each book (or story for a collection) as a stand-alone, or are your stories linked somehow?

As of now, only two of my stories are connected, Willow’s Tale and Willow’s Secret.  I think there may be a sequel to another of my stories brewing, but as of yet my characters haven’t shared enough for me to be sure.

About how long does it take you to write your book/collection/or short story from start to finish (excl. research)?

I’m a very slow writer, often only managing a sentence or two in my one or two hour daily sessions, due to my constant play with words.  I have no complaints, however.  I truly enjoy it.  From start to finish, it usually takes about two months to complete one of my short stories. 

Which part of the writing process do you love, or hate, most?

I absolutely love playing with words.  I liken it to playing with building blocks, as I put them together only to rearrange them a hundred times before I am satisfied with what I have constructed.

Of all the craft guidelines online, which works best for you (and which not)?

It’s very frowned upon to edit as you write, but I can’t do it any other way.  I’m unable to mindlessly spill words onto a page.  My stories develop as I’m writing and often change during the process.  Not to mention I’m a bit of a perfectionist and can’t move forward until I’m happy with what I have.

Have you tried writing all genres, or do you focus only on one or two?

I have been visited by a very eclectic array of characters.  My stories have varied widely throughout the genre spectrum.

 

The Creative Grey Matter

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or both?

I’ve been called an introverted extrovert.  I love spending time with people and socializing, but I do better in smaller groups.  I usually need some down time afterward as well.

What from your youth plays a major role in your writing today?

My childhood was a troubling one.  I tapped into a lot of emotions during that time, and even more during the healing process afterward.  I think this helps me feel, and therefore realistically express, the emotions my characters are facing.

What would you say is your most important attribute that’s reflected in your work?

I don’t shy away from difficult subjects, in real life or in fiction.  I’m not afraid to dig in deep, feel all the feels, and explore all the options.

What’s your coping mechanism when your other tasks prevent you from writing?

I will take notes (usually dictating them in my phone) when ideas come up when I’m unable to sit and write.  This not only prevents me from forgetting them, but tends to appease my impatient characters.

How important is empathy for you?

I am very empathic, my mood often changing to those of the people around me regardless of how I was feeling beforehand.  Although this can be draining, it goes hand in hand with how my childhood experiences have enhanced my writing.

 

Your Writing Business

If you use a pseudonym, why?

I do not, but I wish I had thought of using one when I first started writing.  My name is quite the mouthful and difficult to spell as well.  I would have gone with something simple, like Nett Kay.

What’s your overall writing goal, why?

Pleasure.  I started writing my stories for the pure love of playing with words and I refuse to lose sight of that.

What’s your advice on how to manage bad reviews?

I have been blessed with favorable reviews, but should I ever receive bad ones, I will try to keep my goal of ‘writing for the love of the craft’ in mind.

 

Inspiration

Where do your story ideas come from?

From the ether is all I can fathom!  Usually it’s while I’m out on a walk.  A scene will start playing in my head like a movie, and as the days go by, more scenes join it.

Do you prefer reading books by indies, or mainstream authors?

With the exception of the latest Outlander novel, I have been reading exclusively indies for the past two or three years.  I’ve discovered some marvelous authors!

If you’re a late bloomer, what inspired you to write?

I’ve always loved playing with words, but I never had stories to tell.  I thought I lacked imagination, but it turns out I always had too much going on in my head.  Once my kids grew up and moved out, there was room for my characters to move in.

 

Life in General

How many books do you read a month?

Reading is essential to writing in my opinion.  I average a book a week depending on length.

 

The Fun Part

How has writing fulfilled your life?

It’s given me something which is all my own, separate from the demands of being wife and mother.  Its challenges are the only ones I truly enjoy.

 

Other Goodies

What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt in your writing career (needn’t be writing related)?

As a stay at home mom, one often feels their only successes are those of their children.  Writing has given me the gift of individual accomplishment. 

                                             “Intense & charming – outstanding collection of short stories with 

                                             cool plots and excellent characters… (5-star review on Goodreads)

   

Thank you for sharing with us, Nannette. We wish your characters a happy life in your stories, and we also wish you only the best on your writing path!  

You can find all of Nannette’s books on Amazon here, and engage with her on Instagram here.

 

 

February, 2022