Interview with Mark Gillespie; Author Of Black Storm

Last month I picked Black Storm by Mark Gillespie as my indie book of the month. Mark is an extremely proficient author, with a terriific work ethic. He kindly agreed to an interview and here it is!

  1. For those who are not familiar with your work, how would you best describe your genre?

I call it Apocalyptic Pulp Fiction. But Post-Apocalyptic fiction is the most recognisable term for my kind of thing. There’s dystopian and horror elements in there too. I’ve dabbled previously with other genres (Alternate History) but if someone were to pin me to the wall, brandish a knife in my face and demand a straightforward answer (it could happen!), I’d look them in the eye and tell them that post-apocalyptic fiction is what I do.

  1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing but it was very much a background thing until I reached my early thirties. Stories and song – that’s been my thing in this life. Between the ages of 15 and about 30, I dedicated my life to song and to working as a musician in the UK and Ireland. I had a great time but the music thing fizzled out for me about 2010/2011. Work dried up. I fell out of love with the business of being a musician.

It was time for a change.

Later on, I went to uni as a mature student, studying English and History. When I picked up a book called The Heath Introduction to Fiction and read some of the short stories in there, a light bulb went on in my head. I felt the buzz again.

Real job? Forget it…I was going to be a writer!

  1. Can you tell us about your publishing experiences and journey so far?

I’m indie published. I’ve never submitted a manuscript to an agent or publisher because by the time I was ready to do so (2015), I felt that indie publishing was the best model for me. I wanted to make a living from my writing and I felt that indie was my best chance of doing so.

I’m not interested in sitting in anyone’s electronic slush pile.

Having said that, I accept that indie publishing isn’t for everyone. It’s so much work! I would encourage new authors to research their publishing options and figure out what’s the best model for them. Knowledge is power. Know what you’re getting into and why. If it’s indie, be prepared for a very steep learning curve and always remember to bring your creative and business hats to the table. And make sure it’s you’re A-game.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way but I think I’m getting better at this.

  1. Tell us about Black Storm, what inspired this book?

The initial trigger for Black Storm was something I read online a couple of years ago. I can’t quite remember if it was in a news article or on a forum or whatever – but I read something about a woman in America who’d been spotted walking through a town or a suburb dressed in old-fashioned mourning clothes. It sounded like she was doing an epic solo trek or something like that.

It was just so random and it struck me as noteworthy. I wonder sometimes if I imagined this because I can’t find any trace of it online (Yep, I just Googled it again!)

Whatever it was, that was the seed for the character of the Black Widow. I took note and it stuck. That was the beginning of Black Storm – it all began with the Black Widow.

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  1. You are a remarkably proficient indie writer, can you tell us how you manage to publish books so quickly? What is your process?

I’m lucky that I have the time to dedicate to writing. But I also make good use of that time. A regular working day is between 10-15 hours, which includes both creative and business stuff (creative early, business later).

I get up at 5.30am most mornings and go to bed about 11ish on average. Apart from walking the dog, exercising (super important for authors!) and eating, the work takes up most of my time.

I always have an A project (a book in the later stages of editing) and a B project (ideas, brainstorming) on the go. That’s important for moving onto the next thing. I would hate to finish a book and have nothing but a blank page waiting. That would probably floor me.

In order to be prolific, you have to make sacrifices. What’s eating up your writing time? What can you give up? Nobody said it was all fun and games.

Working long hours is a habit for me now. That’s probably how I get the books out so fast – I try to release something every two months. I also write shorter books at about 50,000 words average. I know that I can’t keep that pace up for the rest of my life however. And I wouldn’t want to. There’s more to life than just work. Much more!

  1. What usually comes first for you? The character or the plot?

I start with a situation that intrigues me. More often than not, it revolves around a ‘what if?’ question.

With Black Storm, that question is what if human beings had been targeted for extermination by an unknown power? We exterminate other species all the time, but what if the tables were turned. What if it happened to us?

With the Future of London books, it’s what if the London riots hadn’t stopped?

Answering the questions is fun.

Character and plot come later. But it’s that initial idea, that question that hopefully will get the juices flowing. If I’m excited there’s a good chance that someone else will be too.

  1. Do you write your books with a particular theme or message in mind and if so, what is it?

I never start with a message or theme. It’s only somewhere within the writing process that it becomes clear to me what that message might be. And there always is one, at least from my perspective. From another person’s point of view, there might be a different message altogether. That’s the joy of individual interpretation. We take the text, soak it up with all our baggage and find a meaning that’s unique to us.

I discover what I’m writing about by writing about it. But it always starts from an entertainment perspective. Is this fun? Is this worth reading about? Can I stay with this from start to finish?

Themes, messages, and the deep stuff – they come from the unconscious. They take care of themselves and appear when they’re good and ready.

  1. Do you have a day job and if so does it help your writing in any way?

My day job is writing.

I’ve done a few jobs now (worked in hardware, written freelance sports articles, been a bouncer). But I’ve never worked so hard in all my life as I do now. Music was tough. Writing is tough. Anything creative is brutal and yet some people look in from the outside and assume it’s a breeze because it’s a passion and it’s associated with leisure/entertainment.

A few years back I was amused to see that the readers of a major newspaper had voted being an author as their ideal job. No doubt they had visions of sitting in a log cabin surrounded by gorgeous scenery. They saw themselves sitting in front of a typewriter, a turtleneck sweater on, a pipe hanging out of their mouths, and a Che Guevara beret on their heads. And the words would pour out of their minds fast and easy. And that’s all there is to it – another masterpiece in the bag.

They haven’t got a clue.

  1. Tell us about your next release

Black Fever is the next release. It’s the second of the Black Storm books, which follows the fortunes of father and daughter, Cody and Rachel MacLeod, as they try to navigate their way through a mysterious apocalyptic event, the Black Storm, which has plunged the world into darkness and despair.

Fingers crossed, Black Fever will be out on May 15th.

  1. What is the most valuable thing you have learned as an indie writer so far?

The number one lesson is perseverance.

It’s so hard at times being an indie author and you’ll feel like giving up a thousand times. And that’s just in one morning! Too often, it feels like a mountain of work with only a crumb of reward in return.

But keep going. If you truly believe you’re on the right path, keep grinding it out. Work hard, but work smart. Learn from others. Join Facebook groups like 20Books to 50K. Read books on indie publishing, writing and story craft, marketing etc…

Absorb the wisdom of others. You’ll find it if you look for it. And if you have any to share, then share it. The indie author community is a friendly one and we’re willing to help those in need. This is how we all grow.

You can find out more about Mark and his books here;

Website

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A Catch-up Interview with Author Kate Rigby

Just over a year ago I posted my very first author-to-author interview to this blog. I was honoured to host the wonderful Kate Rigby, an indie author I had discovered by chance. You can read the interview here. I’m a huge fan of Kate Rigby, and I’ve been working my way through her huge back catalogue since I came across her on social media. I think we’re fairly similar in style and content, and we certainly have the same views in life, so inevitably we’ve become friends and even got to meet up with each other a few months ago! Anyway, I thought it would be great to celebrate a year of author interviews by catching up with Kate to see what she’s been up to since the last interview! Kate has the experience of being both traditionally and independently published, so it’s always interesting to talk to her.

1- It’s been a while since we last chatted – can you tell us what you’ve been doing since then? What books are you working on etc?

Yes, the only new book I’ve been working on at the moment is one I began circa 2005. It’s about a neighbourhood conflict but the political climate of that time which formed the backdrop has changed a lot. So in a way it’s been more difficult trying to bring it up to date than if I was starting it anew. I have spent many years converting my backlist into digital format, this was the one I left until last and inevitably it got more and more out of date! The more out of date it got the more daunting the thought of updating it became. But I need to finish it this year. I planned to finish it last year but things didn’t quite work out that way! I think it’s nearly there or it may be I’m just tired of it now but I’m struggling with the title, not something I usually do.

2- Thalidomide Kid is a story about Daryl, who was born without arms due to the Thalidomide tragedy. Could you tell us what inspired you to write this novel?

thalidomidekid

I think it was a gradual evolution and dovetailing of several ideas. I had an idea for a short story involving someone who cut the limbs off their rag dolls (as my sister and I did!) and the idea for a Thalidomide survivor very much fitted together with that idea. I also had an idea about writing a book in a school setting. I wanted it to be retro and to draw upon my own schooldays, so that side of it became (partially) autobiographical. I spent the same years in Cirencester though I slightly changed the name of the secondary school. There was a boy who was a Thalidomide survivor at the school I went to in Liverpool, although I didn’t really know him and visually he was very different to Daryl. But I wanted Daryl’s disability to be incidental and not the raison d’etre for the story. Yes, it has an impact on his relationships and the way his peers relate to him, but he’s also just another kid growing up and having to deal with what all adolescents do: romantic encounters, sexual awakening and friendships with his added disability.

3- How do you think things have changed for people with disabilities since you wrote Thalidomide Kid? Are they better or worse?

I’m not sure how they are for schoolchildren today, I am hoping things are a lot better with all the strides that have been made by people with disabilities for parity in all spheres of life, the Equality Act and so on. I like to think that things like the Paralympics have made a lot of difference to how kids view disability but at the same time I think the pendulum is swinging the other way due to contradictory government policies. You only have to look at the rise in disability hate crime and the number of attacks on people with disabilities, stoked up by the right wing tabloids to justify stripping people of their benefit entitlements. I could get very political here! But it does make me really angry and ashamed to think this is the way society is heading, after all the decades of progress. It just goes to show how fragile progress is and that we can’t take anything for granted.

4- How much research went into the book?

I mainly based it on observation although I will always try and research around areas where there are gaps in my knowledge. But I do like to be accurate and authentic if possible and of course I had a publisher – Bewrite Books – for this novel so had the added input from the wonderful editorial team at that time. I often get my information from TV programmes or documentaries that just happen to be on during the course of writing a book. But having been a child in the 60s I do remember the climate and the impact of the Thalidomide drug. Every child of that era knew of it.

5-I know you are politically active, and in our last interview, you mentioned keeping a ‘campaign diary’, perhaps with a view to releasing another ‘Guide To…’ style book. Is this still something you might do?

Yes, this follows on nicely from the question about whether things have changed for people with disabilities. I began the Campaign Diary in 2012 when I saw how bad things were getting for people with long term health problems and disabilities under the Welfare Reform Act. After yet another person died, quite needlessly, I felt I needed to record it in words. I didn’t really know her, although we’d spoken now and again on Social Media and her name was mentioned on Question Time. But there have been so many needless deaths. There’s much solidarity along many campaigners. This is important because all the time the government rely on divide and rule tactics to divert us when we need to be united. I just had to begin writing down all the terrible things that were happening, as some sort of outlet, and as documentation. Some of it is just copying and pasting from articles until I can get round to shaping into something. Now it has moved on to Brexit and Trump and other depressing things, although Welfare Reform still plays the largest part. It is all too close and depressing but one day I may have the energy and the distance to distil it. Having said that, there are various things relating to it that I’ve incorporated into my current novel.

As for the Little Guides, yes, they are a lot more fun! I have only written Little Guide To Unhip so far but that went down well on Authonomy when I first showcased it and subsequently when it was published. I have ideas for several more but they are stuck in the backlog! But they don’t require a lot of planning and plotting, so they could be done relatively quickly.

6-Do you have any promotion/marketing tips for newbie indies out there? Has anything been a particular success?

Ooo, I wish I knew the answer to that one! I think it’s what all indie authors want – to find that golden goose. Things are changing so fast too, that what worked a few years ago, or today, may no longer work tomorrow. I do the occasional paid promotion with tried-and-tested promo sites but if I break even that is good. The general advice is to build up your reviews so that you get more visibility on place like Amazon. But people rarely leave reviews these days, even friends who mention how much they’ve enjoyed a book, and I’m not very good at asking people to post reviews! I don’t wish to sound as if I’m nagging. I prefer to approach review bloggers who like my work and there are some wonderful dedicated bloggers out there doing a fantastic job of featuring or reviewing indie authors on their blogs. It’s just a question of finding the ones who review in your genre and like your work. And of course interviews and guest posts like this all help to garner visibility! Another area that is growing is audiobooks and that’s something I would like to explore at some point. The thing that has been most successful in all my years of writing was having a traditional publisher. I was very lucky to find one back in the day when books were all paper and there were many more bookshops. They did all the marketing, they had the contacts and they did get me some reviews in some thrilling places like The Times and The Face as well as publication in the States. But those times are gone. Even people with traditional publishing contracts these days are expected to put in a lot of the leg work and time on social media, so the lines between different publishing contracts are blurring.

7-If you could rewrite any of your novels now, would you, and if so what would you change?

Not so much a major rewrite but maybe some major tweaking. Nowadays that is easy to do with the advent of digital technology but with my first published novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus, once it was in print that was it! If I was writing it now I would have included more about punk music and bands than I did and also I’d have had Lauren in a band. In fact she was based on a character I invented called Donna who was in a band so I just don’t know why I didn’t translate that into the book. When I brought it out digitally a few years ago that was the time to rewrite it but because it was successful as it was I decided to leave it be. I also should have properly capitalised on the relative success of Flamingo Circus. I had a publisher and an agent at that time and they were trying to help me with my follow up book but I didn’t really take on board their feedback. They say that it’s harder to get a second book published than a first and I think that was very true in my case.

8-You’ve covered so many gritty social issues in your novels, such as domestic abuse, substance abuse, homelessness, racism, runaways, disabilities and even feral children. What else is left to do? What else would you like to get your teeth into?

I think humanity is such that you never run out of things to get your teeth into! It may seem as if I’m an issue-based writer but often it’s the characters that come first. I have a backlog of ideas for novels and short stories. Sometimes a couple of ideas for short stories, for instance, will be combined into something longer. I also want to get on with the Little Guides and have also been doing some poetry so I have an idea of putting together a collection of that too at some point. Shorter pieces in the form of poetry, flash fiction or short stories seem to be the way forward, not only because of my own health and time restrictions these days, but also seem to lend themselves more to the 21st century way of life where there’s so much more vying for people’s attention but only the same number of hours to read it in, and that’s just the literature! The same is happening in art, photography and music. If people have to leave Facebook and click on a link to read more or listen to something they tend not to. So their attention needs to be held before that. This is where poetry, art or photography have the advantage in their immediacy. I also want to write something more autobiographical, not that I’ve led a particularly exciting life but I have a plan to do a slightly different take on it. My mum, on the other hand, lived through WW11 and has written an autobiography of her early years but she doesn’t want to get it published! But it would be nice to get it into print form for the family and the technology exists for that too these days.

9- Do you currently have any characters in your head who are waiting their turn to get written?

At the present time, it’s more a question of following up on characters from former novels to see where they’re at now. I already decided to do a follow up of Down The Tubes as some readers wanted to know what happens next! I already knew in my mind some things that have happened so thought I should write about it but just haven’t caught up with myself yet. I’ve never been one to do series or sequels but one reviewer expressed an interest in a follow up to Thalidomide Kid and I’ve also left other novels open-ended, like Savage To Savvy, which would lend themselves to a sequel. So maybe I will do some sequels after all!

10-What are you hoping to achieve in 2017?

For the last two or three years I’ve tried to set myself writing goals as well as other goals. This year I tried not to be too ambitious as for the last couple of years I found that I didn’t achieve them and then felt very disappointed with myself. So this year I have been more realistic and then I won’t feel as if I’ve failed dismally! My writing goals for 2017 are to finish the novel I’m currently working on, bring another of my books out in paperback (perhaps Fruit Woman or The Dead Club, both would be nice) and begin the follow up to Down The Tubes. I think that is manageable!

Thanks very much, Chantelle, for this interview – I’ve really enjoyed it.

If you would like to find out more about Kate Rigby and her books, here are the links!

Amazon Page / Facebook Author Page / Goodreads / Website/Blog

 

Author Interview; Rae Stoltenkamp

Welcome to my latest indie author interview, this time with author Rae Stoltenkamp. I first came across Rae when we were both authors on the now defunct indie publishing platform Autharium. I read her excellent  crime thriller  Six Dead Men and will soon be diving into her new venture, the first in a young adult series, Where Rainbows Hide. In this interview Rae talks about her writing and publishing journey so far, tells us about her writing process and offers her advice to writers about to embark on the indie route!

Q1 Tell us about your writing and publishing journey so far;

In 2006 I made the firm decision to leave teaching and write on a more full time basis. When I told my dad of my decision he didn’t blink an eye and supported me without a moment’s hesitation. In 2012 my dad died and my rebellious streak asserted itself in a desire to do something to honour his passing. I had a completed novel (Six Dead Men) which I was editing whilst sending letters and emails to agents and publishers – getting the usual rejection mail as expected. His death prompted me to do SOMETHING more concrete with my novel. Unbelievably, an opportunity arose to publish in e-book format without any expenditure on my part at all (Autharium). At that time e-publishing was a much debated topic and people were convinced it would have no place in the world. I thought, “Well, what the heck – it’s not costing me a penny.” Tons of no risk no gain sayings crossed my mind: Nothing ventured nothing gained If you’re not willing to risk the unusual you’ll have to settle for ordinary For who that dare not undertake, by right he shall no profit take So I forged ahead. I didn’t have the slightest clue what I was doing but the e-book went into the world and I told my friends and family all about it. I made the sum total of £12 in royalties and could not have been prouder.

Q2 When did the writing bug first grip hold of you?
I first got the writing bug around age 12 but started with incredibly soppy poetry that always rhymed. From 13 onwards wrote angst ridden teenage poetry which is so embarrassing I probably shouldn’t even mention the existence of it. Then ventured into short stories around age 14 and started on my first novel called Panthra.
Q3 Tell is a bit about Six Dead Men. Where did the idea for the story come from?
It’s quite sad really. I’d been to a neighbour’s party and met a rather nice guy. We ended up snogging for quite some time. Afterwards he asked for my number and I was certain he’d call but then he didn’t. I just put it down to the way things go sometimes. But a few weeks later my neighbour called me in, sat me down, made me a cup of tea and was generally acting very anxious. He then told me that the lovely man had been killed in a tragic accident. It may have been the shock but I found myself thinking it was probably my kisses which cursed him. And so was born the premise for Six Dead Men.
Q4 How would you describe your genre and your style?
My preferred genre is Magic Realism. I’m intrigued by how much in life can seem totally inexplicable. This genre allows me to explore this and helps me to delve into characters’ minds to look at how they may think or behave or be affected by circumstances and influences. My style is influenced by writers like Toni Morrison and the poet Maya Angelou. I love how these writers use the rhythm, feel and sound of words to get a message across in a dramatic way. I also equally love the element of melodrama you get in work by Austen and the Brontes. My YA books are all Science Fiction as they have a strong eco message which lends itself to this genre. It was also one of my mother’s favourite genres so I have a great soft spot for it. I guess my YA books are mostly a tribute to her.
Q5 You write in adult and YA genres, can you explain to us how this works? Does the character come first, or it is usually the plot?
As I’ve already said, Six Dead Men was born out of a personal experience so the character was built around this. I thought long and hard about the names as I wanted them to be significant. With my WIP; the prequel to Six Dead Men, the character came first. In fact I woke one morning with her words in my mind. Her voice was strong and clear and I had to race to scribble them all down. My YA novels always seem to be story led but I’ve recently found that characters are beginning to demand I tell their story in greater detail. As this is a series of books on the same topic I don’t have to think about the plot so much – it is almost a foregone conclusion. So it seems natural that I can now focus more on characters and what they feel, think and ultimately do.
Q6 Can you tell us about your writing process? What is an average writing day like for you?
I teach at a local charity 3 days a week so only have 2 dedicated writing days a week. I also volunteer one evening a week and tutor in the evenings the rest of the week. So I usually get up around 6:30am. After a coffee I get stuck right in. I have to set the timer on my phone as I often forget to have breakfast. After breakfast I get straight back into it and work until about 2pm. The afternoons are reserved for meetings or any marketing which needs doing. If I have no meetings scheduled I write until about 3 or 4pm then call it quits for the day. I’m currently thinking of moving all my marketing activities to a Saturday as this will free up more writing time as I want to crack on with several projects.
Q7 What are you working on at the moment?
My current WIPs are: 1. The prequel to Six Dead Men 2. A series of short stories based around characters in Six Dead Men and its prequel 3. The sequel to Where Rainbows Hide 4. The sequel to The Lonely Dragon.
Q8 What would you say have been the best and the worst parts of being an indie author?
The best part is writing about things that matter to me and seeing them in print. There is no worst part as it allows me to do something which makes me feel incredibly fulfilled. Sometimes the precariousness of the financial side can cause sleepless nights but when I’m deep into a project and the words are flowing on the page, I get such a sense of rightness that the worry simply falls away.
Q9 What advice would you give to anyone about to embark on the indie publishing route?
Only go down this route if you have great support from friends or family or both. Trying to do it all alone is a very hard road. Be prepared to put the hours in. No-one will be standing over you to make it happen – you’ll have to do that all on your own. Join a body like the Alliance of Independent Authors as they have a wealth of information which is invaluable. And finally – know your product and your audience then market accordingly.
Q10 What are your hopes and dreams for the future with regards to your writing? What would you like to achieve?
My hope is that within 5 years I will be able to earn a living from my writing and give up tutoring in the evenings so I can spend more time with friends and family. I would then wish to publish any writing for children for free.
Q11 Who are your favourite authors and why?
My favourite authors make up a very long list so I’ll just do my top 10: Jane Austen, The Brontes, George Eliot, Toni Morrison, Louis de Bernieres, John Steinbeck, Terry Pratchett, Joanne Harris, Neil Gaiman and Jacqueline Wilson The Brontes, Austen and Eliot because of the element of melodrama they bring to a cracking good story. de Bernieres because he opens up unexpected worlds in my mind. Pratchett and Gaiman because they tackle serious topics but also make me laugh out loud. Morrison, Harris and Steinbeck for their beautiful use of language. Finally, Wilson as she tackles issues so very relevant to children in this day and age and does it with great sensitivity.
Q12 Tell us three interesting facts about yourself
Not sure these are particularly interesting but here goes: 1. I absolutely loath white trainers – don’t know why, just do 2. I don’t like being given cut flowers as a present as they only serve to remind me that they are already dead and only good for the compost heap now. 3. I love watching garden make-over programmes even though I am the worst gardener on the planet and never even go into my own.
Thanks so much Rae!

Rae Stoltenkamp was born in South Africa and came to England in 1987 to visit family. She liked the weather so much she stayed. After a writing holiday in Greece she had an epiphany and realised she should be writing on a more full time basis. It was probably heat stroke since she hadn’t had sun in a while. She then studied writing at City Lit with the poet Caroline Natzler and is now a writer, blogger and former English teacher living in South London.

Currently Rae also works with www.inkhead.co.uk , teaching creative writing courses to children. This has inspired her to work on a children’s book called The Lonely Dragon. She is writing and editing several projects simultaneously, including a series of YA Science Fiction novels and the sequel to The Lonely Dragon.

Rae has a passion for Argentine Tango and when she is not chained to her desk and laptop, can often be seen tripping the light fantastic with her tango friends. She has also recently discovered the delights of Lindy Hop and is laughing her way through this style of dance.

https://www.facebook.com/raestoltenkamp.author

http://raestoltenkamp.blogspot.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/Raedenewrites

Author Interview; Robin Gregory

Today I am so excited to share my interview with award winning author Robin Gregory. Robin was born in Florida but grew up in California. She has worked as a journalist, a lay minister and an infant massage instructor for mothers and babies at risk. Her debut novel The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman is a beautiful and unique coming-of-age story, a mystical adventure, and quite simply one of the best books I have read in some time. Robin’s book has won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book of the Year Award 2015, the IPPY Gold Medal – Best Cover Design – 2015, and is currently a finalist in Foreword Reviews – Indiefab Best Books of the Year and a finalist in the International Book Awards- Fiction – Young Adult 2016. Read on to find out more about Moojie Littleman and the inspiration behind it!

1-  The  Improbable  Wonders  of  Moojie  Littleman  is  a  unique  blend  of  magical   realism  and  coming  of  age.  Can  you  tell  us  how  the  book  came  about?  Where  did   the  idea  come  from?

Mostly,  my  son  inspired  the  book.  But  so  much  of  my  own  childhood  went  into  the   mix.  I  was  one  of  eight  kids  growing  up  in  a  pretty  messed  up  Catholic  family.  This   led  to  a  lot  of  heartache,  loneliness  and  feelings  of  “not  belonging.”  I  buried  most   of  those  feelings  for  a  long  time,  then  spent  twenty  years  trying  to  figure  out  why  I   was  so  unhappy.  The  healing  of  these  early  wounds  really  began  when  my   husband  and  I  adopted  a  baby  with  special  needs.  The  “not  belonging”  feelings   surfaced  when  I  witnessed  how  others  excluded  him.  His  daily  struggles  have  been   ongoing,  and  yet,  he  is  the  most  kindhearted,  courageous,  and  bright  boy  I  have   ever  known.  He  has  taught  me  to  forgive  the  past,  and  to  look  for  the  good  in   everyone  I  meet,  starting  with  those  who  exclude  him  or  look  down  at  him.

2-­How  would  you  best  describe  your  genre?  Was  there  an  intention  to  blend   genres,  or  did  the  story  just  evolve  that  way?

Oh  boy.  This  was  a  hard  one  for  me.  I  cringe  at  labels—any  kind  of  labels.  The   human  mind  wants  to  label  everything,  doesn’t  it?  It  wants  to  name,  package,  box   and  brand.  I  have  learned  that  one  of  the  best  ways  to  find  inner  peace  and   happiness  is  to  abstain  from  doing  this.  Our  opinions  are  vastly  limiting  and   troublesome.  MOOJIE  LITTLEMAN  is  about  coming  of  age,  but  also  about  spiritual   awakening.  The  book  would  probably  fall  best  into  the  “Visionary”  category,  but   few  bookstores  have  a  shelf  for  that.  Magical  Realism  works  better  as  a  category   than  Fantasy  since  the  story  is  grounded  in  physical  reality  while  encompassing   mystical  themes.  And  Magical  Realism  gave  me  a  way  to  climb  into  Moojie’s  skin,   and  live  from  a  soulful  point  of  view,  not  just  physical.  I  wrote  the  story  for  fluent   readers  of  all  ages,  but  my  publisher,  editors  and  agent  convinced  me  to  market  it   as  Young  Adult.  They  were  looking  at  Moojie’s  age,  the  PG  rating,  and  the  allusions   to  The  Odyssey,  which  students  in  the  US  study  from  age  12  to  18.  It  pleases  me  to   no  end  that  the  book  has  won  awards  in  Young  Adult  and  Adult  categories.

3-­ Do  you  have  any  personal  beliefs  or  passions  that  influenced  the  book?

To  expand  a  little  on  the  first  question,  my  spiritual  practice  has  been  key  to   shaping  the  story.  I  believe  we  are  all  coming  of  age  spiritually;  that  is  why  we  are   attending  what  a  friend  of  mind  calls  “Earth  School.”  In  the  past  twenty-­one  years,   I  have  seen  all  kinds  of  healing,  and  have  come  to  the  realization  that  nothing  is   incurable.  Several  of  the  so-­called  miracles  in  the  story  actually  did  occur  in  my   life.  A  part  of  me  has  been  wanting  to  teach  others  that  what  they  consider  to  be   miracles  are  perfectly  natural  events.  The  key  to  accessing  miracles  lies  in  our   ability  to  give  up  limiting  beliefs,  judgments  and  labels—to  stop  naming  things,   conditions  and  people  as  “good  or  bad.”  Even  Shakespeare  knew  way  back  that  we   evaluate  others  according  to  our  own  self-­image.  It  is  important  to  remember  that   messed  up  folks  are  doing  the  best  they  can.  Those  who  have  been  mistreated,   mistreat  others.  We  begin  to  stop  the  crazy  cycle  of  fear  and  hatred  by  knowing   and  living  this.  I  am  not  suggesting  that  people  should  not  be  imprisoned  for  their   crimes.  I  am  saying  that  if  we  fear  and  hate  them,  we  are  part  of  the  ongoing   problem.  People  who  fail  to  love  do  so  because  they  do  not  know  how  to  love.   MOOJIE’s  story  is  a  parable  to  help  others  examine  their  actions  and  beliefs.  To   help  stop  the  cycle  of  hatred  toward  oneself  and  others.  Compassion  is  a  mighty   healing  balm.

4-­ Tell  us  about  your  writing  process.  Are  you  a  plotter  or  someone  who  starts   writing,  and  waits  to  see  where  it  will  go?

It  may  have  been  a  great  disadvantage  to  write  MOOJIE  by  the  seat  of  my  pants.  I   had  about  500  pages  before  I  took  a  serious  look  at  story  structure.  Blake  Snyder’s   SAVE  THE  CAT,  a  book  on  scriptwriting,  and  John  Truby’s  THE  ANATOMY  OF  A   STORY,  helped  me  revise  pacing,  action  and  character  arcs.  Would  I  have  saved   myself  years  of  rewriting  had  I  had  a  clearer  vision  of  plotting  in  the  beginning?  Oh   yeah.    But,  what  can  you  do?  Sometimes  you  sit  down  to  write  and  the  bloody     characters  just  take  over.  They  just  do  not  behave  at  all.  Not  very  decent  of  them,   is  it?

5-­ All  the  characters  in  Moojie  Littleman  were  memorable  and  well  drawn  -­  tell  us   how  you  managed  to  create  such  realistic  and  believable  characters?  Are  any   based  on  people  in  real  life?

Thank  you  so  much.  You  know,  from  the  time  I  started  imagining  the  story,  I  was   taking  mental  notes  on  people.  What  was  it  that  made  them  interesting?  What   are  they  pretending  not  to  know?  How  do  language  and  appearance  reveal  their   deeper  beliefs?  And  mostly,  how  are  they  shaping  their  world  through  choices?   Almost  every  character  in  the  book  is  a  composite  of  those  observations,  warts   and  all.  Life  is  not  easy  for  anyone.  I  did  not  want  to  present  characters  as  good  or   bad  as  much  as  being  in  differing  stages  of  awakening.  Each  has  their  own  inner-­ outer  struggle;  each  has  their  limitations  to  overcome.  Like  many  of  us,  they  fail  to   live  up  to  their  own  expectations.  I  ended  up  loving  them  all  for  who  they  are,  and   who  they  are  not.

6-­ Moojie  himself  was  incredibly  endearing.  Is  his  story  over?  Or  will  there  be  any   further  stories?  

I  am  so  glad  you  feel  that  way  about  Moojie!  When  I  set  out  to  write  the  story,  I   knew  that  fictional  characters  with  physical  or  mental  challenges  are  rarely  given   front  and  center  stage.  They  are  usually  confined  to  secondary  roles.  I  felt  it  was   absolutely  imperative  that  Moojie  steal  the  readers’  hearts.  My  son,  who  has  been   blessed  with  amazing  charisma,  helped  a  lot  with  this.  I  would  love  for  Moojie’s   story  to  continue.  Now  that  I  am  acquainted  with  the  characters,  I  know  how  to   take  better  charge  of  them.  I  will  insist  that  they  go  play  elsewhere  while  I  rough­out  the  plot.  Ha!

7-­When  did  you  first  know  you  wanted  to  be  a  writer?

This  question  always  makes  me  smile.  I  often  hear  about  writers  who  knew  of   their  calling  before  they  cut  their  first  teeth.  Not  in  my  case.  I  had  a  tough  time   learning  to  read,  and  a  mother  of  eight  children  has  no  time  to  read  to  her  litter.   My  father  was  a  pilot  in  the  Korean  and  Vietnam  Wars,  and  mostly  gone.  I  didn’t   start  reading  fluently  till  high  school.  My  life  changed  when  I  discovered  Kana  and   Hemingway.  As  a  teenager  living  in  a  perpetual  state  of  underwater,  I  turned  to   journaling  to  save  me  from  the  emotional  tsunamis.  That  led  to  short  stories,   poetry,  and  eventually  longer  fiction.  I  never  thought  of  myself  as  a  writer.  Writing   was  just  something  I  did.

I  love  what  Robertson  Davies,  the  Canadian  novelist,  once  said:  “There  is   absolutely  no  point  in  sitting  down  to  write  a  book  unless  you  feel  that  you  must   write  that  book,  or  else  go  mad,  or  die.”

8-­ Tell  us  about  your  writing  and  publishing  journey  so  far  -­  which  paths  you  have   followed  and  why?

When  I  graduated  from  college,  I  took  an  internship  at  a  local  newspaper.  It  was   fantastic!  I  learned  to  get  that  first  draft  down—and  fast.  That  led  to  writing   freelance  articles,  and  book  and  movie  reviews.  Then  I  wrote  my  first  screenplay   and  novel.  They  were  pretty  awful.  But  they  taught  me  a  lot-­mostly  humility.   Writng  is  like  being  in  the  circus.  You  have  to  jump  though  hurdles  the  same  way   acrobats  jump  through  burning  hoops  in  order  to  learn  how  not  to  make  mistakes   that  get  you  burned.
It  took  thirteen  years  to  write  MOOJIE.  Thirteen  years  because  I  had  to  evolve  in   order  to  deliver  the  story  in  the  manner  it  deserved.  During  that  time,  the  book   has  been  workshopped,  shared  with  a  number  of  alpha  and  beta  readers,  put   through  2  manuscript  consultations  and  edited  by  five  pros.  After  submitting  to   agents  and  getting  nowhere,  I  contacted  publishers  directly.  Three  publishers   offered  me  sub-­standard  contracts,  which  I  turned  down.  (Thank  heavens  SCBWI,   a  writer’s  org  that  I  belong  to,  provided  a  manual  with  standard  publishing   contracts.  Holy  moly!  Publishers  will    take  your  skivvies  if  you  let  them!)  I  wanted   to  keep  my  rights,  to  choose  my  cover,  and  be  the  one  to  decide  when  the  book   was  ready  to  print,  among  other  things.  While  researching  my  options,  I   discovered  Wyatt MacKenzie  Publishing,  Inc.  (h=p:// http://www.wymacpublishing.com/),  a  traditional  publishing  house  that,  for  20  years  has   offered  consultation  and  assistance  to  indie  authors.  I  contacted  some  of  their   authors,  and  they  gave  stellar  reviews.  After  an  hour  consultation  with  Nancy   Cleary,  the  publisher,  I  knew  the  indie  consulting  program  was  right  for  me.  And  it   has  been  fantastic!  I  can’t  say  enough  about  Nancy’s  guidance,  respect,  support,   and  expertise.

9-­ What  advice  would  you  give  to  a  new  author  who  is  about  to  launch  their  new   book?

I  am  assuming  that  the  author  wants  to  be  a  pro.  In  this,  she  has  already  had  her   book  read/reviewed  by  at  least  10  people—beyond  buddies  or  family  members,   who  will  love  every  word  you  write  no  ma=er  what.  I  am  assuming  she  values   brutally  honest  feedback  because  that  is  the  way  the  public  is.  I  am  assuming  that   she  has  listened  to  the  feedback,  and  revised  for  clarity  and  tightness.  I  am   assuming  that  she  has  given  the  book  plenty  of  time  to  ripen.  Right  down  to  the   last  day  before  I  sent  my  book  to  the  presses,  I  was  deleting  or  rewriting  passages   if  they  didn’t  sparkle.  The  editor  had  to  practically  tie  me  down  to  get  me  to  let  go   of  the  manuscript.
That  said:
—  If  you  want  your  book  to  make  a  dent  in  sales,  your  manuscript  must  be   professionally  edited  and  proofed.  The  cover  (front  and  back)  needs  to  be  equally   polished  and  interesting.  Yes,  this  costs  money.  But  if  you  do  not  include  this  in   your  budget,  you  might  as  well  not  spend  the  money  to  publish  (unless  you  are   merely  doing  it  for  family  &  friends).  As  most  of  us  know  by  now,  the  key  to   marketing  rests  upon  getting  reviews.  If  your  cover  isn’t  delicious,  and  your  editing   is  sloppy,  people  won’t  even  sign  up  for  free  copies.  There  are  simply  too  many   other  professional  books  to  choose  from.  A  cover  created  by  your  amazingly   talented  brother  who  won  a  ribbon  in  the  high  school  art  fair,  might  be  beautiful,   but  can  it  stand  up  to  the  covers  on  booksellers’  shelves?  If  not,  your  book  will   probably  disappear  into  cyber  space  with  millions  of  others  whose  authors  were  a   little  too  anxious  to  go  to  press.
—  Start  marketing  your  book  four  months  before  the  release  date.  Yep.  Four   months!  Send  it  to  pro  reviewers  (Kirkus,  Foreword,  Publisher’s  Weekly).  Enter  it   in  contests.  Do  a  few  giveaways.  Create  an  audience  on  social  networks  by  posting   samples,  sharing  news  and  reviewing  similar  books.  This  will  give  you  a  chance  to   build  up  a  pre-­order  list  on  Amazon.  It  is  only  the  beginning.  And  it  is  crucial.

10-­Tell  us  a  bit  about  your  next  release. What are you working on right now?

While  playing  with  a  MOOJIE  sequel,  I  am  also  writing  a  collection  of  inspirational   prayer-­poems  and  a  guide  to  spiritual  healing.  There’s  also  the  audio  book  project   of  MOOJIE,  through  ACX.com.  It’s  an  amazing  process.  I  have  to  give  Amazon   kudos  for  providing  such  a  user-­friendly  service.  However,  my  reader  has  stepped   away  from  the  project  to  sort  out  personal  problems,  so  the  release  is  delayed.

11-­ What  would  you  like  readers  to  take  away  from  The  Improbable  Wonders  of   Moojie  Littleman?

I  would  love  for  my  dear  readers  to  realize  that  freedom  is  a  choice.  No  ma=er   what  difficulties  we  face,  be  it  loneliness,  physical  or  mental  problems,  lack  of   opportunity,  not  enough  money,  lousy  parents,  even  homelessness,  there  is  a   Source  of  unconditional  love  available  to  each  of  us.  We  can  grow  through  joy   rather  than  pain  and  suffering.    It  takes  effort  and  trust  to  rewire  our  thinking,  but   we  can  open  ourselves  to  receive  miracles  that  freely  and  gladly  offered.  When   this  Immaculate  Heart  is  felt  in  the  still,  deep  pool  of  our  being,  we  can  begin  to   experience  joy  and  freedom  beyond  your  wildest  dreams.  I  know  this  is  true.  I   have  lived  it.

Robin, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview!

You can find out more about Robin by following her on social media;

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