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An Interview with Beverly Stowe McClure, Author of LIFE ON HOLD

 

ImageWhen Beverly was a child she hated to read. Even though her eighth-grade teacher sent her poem “Stars” to a high school anthology and it was published in Young America Sings she hated to write. In spite of her rocky relationship with books, she managed to graduate from high school then attended Midwestern State University, where she read more books than she could count. After four years, she graduated cum laude with, you guessed it, a teaching degree. And somewhere along the way, perhaps reading to her sons or reading great Newbery winners with her students, she discovered what she’d been missing: reading was fun. Now she reads most every day. She also writes stories and articles for children and teens.

Beverly lives in the country with her husband, two cats, and a variety of wild critters that stop by for a handout or just to peek in the door. Besides writing, she plays the piano, searches for her ancestors, and teaches a women’s Sunday school class. She also has the most beautiful grandchildren in the world.

Website: http://beverlystowemcclure.wordpress.com

Blog: http://beverlystowemcclure.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/beverlysmcclure

Twitter: http://twitter.com/beverlymcclure

Goodreads:http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11462.Beverly_Stowe_McClure

Congratulations on yet another book release, Beverly! How do you keep yourself so productive?

Thank you, Mayra. It is fun to see a new book, after so many months of writing and editing, finally in the hands of readers. As for being productive, I think as an older writer, realizing I’m in those supposedly “golden years” motivates me to stay busy. Each hour of every day is precious to me. I hate to waste time. Maybe my years as a teacher helps too, since I’m used to a schedule. Even though I retired years ago, I still write out my plans for each day, not that I always stick to them, but I try. Also, my sons are grown and away, leaving me time for myself, which is rare when you have children at home. I do not see how writers with young kids and even teens manage to write.

I write at least two hours every morning except Saturday, which is catch up day, and Sunday, church day. Sometimes, my words are not worth keeping. Other times, they flow onto the screen and a story forms.

What was your inspiration for Life on Hold? Sounds like a compelling mystery.

ImageOne day, I read an article in the local newspaper about a young couple that had a baby while they were still in high school. The girl’s parents made her give the child away. The teens eventually went their separate ways, married others, and had other children. Years later, a chance conversation between the boy or girl (I forget which one) and a friend mentioned an 18-year-old boy they knew that had been adopted when a baby. The article went on to tell how the former boyfriend and girlfriend, who no longer were married to their spouses, found each other again and decided to search for the son they’d given up. And, you guessed it, the teen mentioned was their son. They went on to have a wonderful relationship with him. I love stories with happy endings. I also imagine this story happens quite often.

Could you share with us what your process was like during the creation of this novel?

Most of the time, my stories start from something I read about, or sometimes a little voice speaks to me, or an event begs to be told. With Life on Hold, I basically started with the plot of a teen discovering her father really was her stepfather. At first, I wasn’t sure how the story would end or even how we’d get there. The characters carried me along, occasionally as confused as I was; other times knowing exactly where they were going. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to my writing and try to write a little every day, as I mentioned earlier. My schedule is flexible, but mornings are my best writing time. It took me a bit over two years to write the story, including many revisions and then more edits with my great editor. Yes, I’m slow, but like the turtle I eventually reach my destination.

Did you hit any walls while writing the book? If yes, what did you do to overcome them?

Not walls exactly, but the final version had many changes from the original as I got to know the characters better. I keep each draft on the chance an earlier edition might have a scene I’d want to add back in. When a scene wasn’t working, I rewrote it in different ways to see what worked best. Many times the first thought was the best.

Did you celebrate when you typed The End?

I didn’t do anything special, but the words The End are two of my favorite words. They give me a sense of accomplishment, because many times in a story, I’ll wonder if it will ever end or if I should scrap the whole thing.  

What do you want readers to get out of this book?

I’d like for children/teens who are adopted or those that are step children to realize that bringing a child into the world does not make a man a father. (Or a mother, a mother) Holding, rocking, and whispering gentle words to a child when she’s sick make a father. Attending her programs at school, helping her with spelling, taking her to the movies make a father. A father and mother show their love by actions: love, discipline when necessary, and always being there when the child has a crisis, whether big or small.

What do you enjoy most about being a childrens book author?

The most exciting thing about writing for children to me is when a child or teen says he/she likes my books. What greater reward can an author wish for?

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

You’ve heard it before, but it’s true. Hang in there. Never give up. I have enough “No thank you” letters to paper my whole writing room, but some of them also contain a word of encouragement. Cling to those comments. Use them to improve your story. Keep writing. Learn more. Attend conferences, Online ones if you can’t get to live ones. Keep writing. Yes, I’m repeating myself, but if you stop writing when times are tough, you’ll never be published. If you’re persistent, one day, you’ll succeed. Hint: Don’t expect to get rich, unless you write a blockbuster. Enjoy the writing. For me, the finished story is the reward.

Whats on the horizon? 

My chapter book, Kate, Little Angel Sometimes (title will be changed) is scheduled for a May/June 2013 release from 4 RV Publishing. January 2013 is the release date of my Tween paranormal A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat,MuseItUp Publishing. My orphan train story, Scattered to the Winds, is under contract with Twilight Times, and Guardian Angel has Weird Noises in the Night,no dates set yet.

Is there anything else youd like to share with my readers?

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my thoughts. I hope they help you in some way. Visit me on my blogs. I love comments. If you read my books, please let me know what you think.

Thank you, Beverly! 

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Interview with Fiction/Family/Relationships Author Richard Alan on ‘The Couples’

Richard Alan

Richard Alan lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with his wife, Carolynn. They are the proud parents of three wonderful adult sons.He is a Vietnam combat and 101st Airborne Division veteran.

After an education in mathematics, a 17 year career in manufacturing engineering and a 22 year career in software engineering, he has started a career as an author. Richard writes novels about people trying to find their life-partner, soul-mate, the person they are meant to be with for life. His first two books, Meant to Be and The Couples, are available on his website and most online retailers.

Richard’s other interests range from mathematical analysis and photography to anything with an engine. His current projects include writing the third (Finding Each Other) and fourth novels in the “Meant to Be” series, and discovering the properties of functions of p-adic numbers. Having completed a potting bench for his lifepartner, Carolynn, he is busy driving her to watch salmon runs, visit National Parks, and anywhere that provides an opportunity to view her avian friends.

His latest books in the Meant to Be Series are Meant to Be and The Couples.

You can visit Richard Alan’s website, VILLAGE DRUMMER FICTION at www.villagedrummerfiction.com.

CONNECT WITH RICHARD:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon Kindle Store (Meant to Be)| CreateSpace (Meant to Be) | Amazon Kindle Store (The Couples) | CreateSpace (The Couples)

 

ABOUT THE COUPLES

 

 

Acclaimed author of Meant to Be, Richard Alan, once again enchants us with characters that we really want to know. You will laugh, cry, and love with them as you seek the answers to the relationship questions posed by this talented author.

Will a tough techy lady be able to find love with a man who is still mourning his deceased fiancée?

Will an intellectually snobbish genius learn that there is more to the truck mechanic than meets the eye?

Can a nerd and a party girl find happiness together?

Can a teenage boy musician get past his unrequited love to learn to love a ranch girl instead?

Will a troubled rape victim be able to have a normal relationship with a man?

The Couples is about people who may belong together and how the world around them helps them, or sometimes defeats them in their search for a life partner. It follows the lives of couples,their friends, and their support systems,as they explore their relationships.

The Couples is Richard Alan’s second novel in the “Meant to Be” series. It continues to explore relationships, love, and life.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Richard. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Couples, is all about?

The Couples continues the theme established in Meant to Be of people who may belong together and how the world around them helps, or sometimes defeats them, in their search for a life partner.  It follows the lives of couples, their friends, and their support systems, as they explore their relationships.

Meyer and Joan return in The Couples, along with several other characters from Meant to Be.  New people are introduced who also interact with Meyer, Joan, and others.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters? 

Anna and Michael, both of whom are techies, are the main characters.  Michael is emotionally hurting due to the sudden death of his fiancée a few weeks before their wedding.  Anna has to get over her poor self-image and learn to trust her feelings.  The book centers on their ability to help each other and to grow to become a couple.

There are several supporting characters.  One of the them is suddenly confronted with the opportunity to become the mother of the daughter she gave up for adoption ten years earlier.  Another is a rape victim who is trying to rejoin society as a whole person.  One is a teenage boy musician who is trying to get past an unrequited love and finds happiness with a ranch girl. These and several others come together as a community to support each other in their quest to find their life partner.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination? 

They are totally from my imagination.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write? 

First I develop characters and then the characters tell me their stories.  The stories they tell me always provide twists and turns.  I follow them wherever they take me.  Sometimes I am as surprised at the outcome of a relationship as I’m sure my readers will be.  Occasionally, a subplot will be very interesting but not fit the main thrust of the book.  I save those for subsequent novels.

Q: Your book is set in the Pacific Northwest, including the Seattle area and the Boise, ID area.  Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular? 

The stunning backdrops of the stories my characters wish to convey is provided by the rich tapestry of the mountains, plains, deserts, forests, and marine environments of the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story? 

No; the interactions between, and the growth of, the characters is the major theme of the story.  The setting provides reasons to interact.  The characters reaction to the scenes around them may provide insight into their personalities.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening? 

A 10 year old foster child is visiting with a family who might adopt her.  When a bully is about to hurt the girl, he is stopped by the potential future father.  She smiles at him and wonders if this is what it’s like to have a father.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts? 

As they sat in front of the campfire, Anna’s eyes were filled with tears.  She told Michael, “Just when things were the best, they became the worst.  I could never provide that kind of love for someone, like Sharon did for you.”

Michael left his chair, kneeled in front of Anna, and holding each of her hands in his, told her, “You can and you will.”

He leaned forward and kissed her lips.  Anna’s mind was spinning.  She tightened her grip on Michael’s hands with as much strength as she could.  She knew that business partners shouldn’t act this way but… it was heaven to be kissed by Michael.

Anna closed her eyes and said in a quiet voice, “Michael, I’m scared.  I’ve never even had a boyfriend and sometimes, just the thought of you, does things to me I don’t like to think about.  That frightens me.  I’m not sure…”

Michael stood up in front of Anna.

Interrupting her he said, “Please stand up, Anna.”

“Michael, please listen…”

Michael lifted her arms slowly pulling her to a standing position.  He guided her arms around his neck, and in a soft voice told her, “This is how to get rid of that scared feeling.”

Michael wrapped his arms around Anna, pulling her body tightly against him and put his cheek against hers.  He could feel Anna’s arms slowly tightening around his neck.  Michael thought “Thank you Lord, for bringing Anna into my life and finally letting me hold her.”

Anna thought that having Michael’s arms firmly around her was better than her dream.  With the warmth of the fire pit, the cool evening breeze blowing on her, and the warmth from Michael’s body against hers; Anna didn’t ever want to let go.

After a while Michael asked her, “Does this help you feel better?”

“Yes, Michael,” she whispered.

 

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track? 

I have never suffered from writer’s block.  I have the opposite problem.  This is a good problem which has allowed me to write four books in the last fifteen months.

 

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted? 

Create world peace.  Oh, no – this is not a beauty contest.  Seriously, I’ve written a storyline for my fourth book where a woman in her late twenties takes a six year old girl for her first ride in a sailboat.  I would use the extra hour to continue polishing that story so my love of sailing, and being on the water, comes thru and becomes part of the girl’s character.

 

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why? 

Roger Penrose’s The Road to Reality.  Only a genius can take a reader from arithmetic to particle physics and beyond in one volume.  In my opinion, this one volume provides more science than any two years’ worth of college courses.  His clarity of thought and purpose should be a guiding light for any writer, in any genre.

 

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?  

Do not try to edit your own manuscript.  Have a group of beta readers critique your book before you have it published.  Listen to the editors and beta readers, but be careful not to let them ruin the spirit of your story.  They are not the author, you are.  The final product ultimately is your responsibility.  Start creating buzz about your book long before the manuscript is even finished.  Read blogs about writing.  There is a wealth of information out there and many authors who are extremely supportive.  Good luck and have fun.

 

 

 

 

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Guest Blogger: What Do We Mean By Creative Writing by Heidi Ann Smith

What Do We Mean By Creative Writing?

By Heidi Ann Smith

What is creative writing?  By this question I do not mean to ask how we can cause those who are not creative writers to understand a work of creative writing rather, by this question, I mean to provoke others to ask how we might understand the question. For a long time I labeled myself as ‘a free-verse poet’ until it occurred to me that if I did not label myself as aligned with any particular genre I might have more creative writing options. Rosemary Butcher argues that, “the thesis is produced in a sense in the making of the work”. By this I mean to suggest that a creatively written text is evidence of a performance that has ended and that the performance must not aim at reproduction and by ‘re-production’, I mean a ‘preconceived’ idea.  If a creative writer is aware how a creative writing performance will end before the writing process has begun this necessarily limits the creativity since the nature of creativity implies that something will ‘arise’ or ‘come to light’.  It is in the making of the text that the artist supplies the necessary space and all of the materials that provoke a work of art to come into being.

Some may argue with the above proposition by asserting that anything can be interpreted as a work of art, for example, by arguing that Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (1917) and other ‘readymade’ art proponents, have demonstrated that anything ‘chosen’ by an artist can be a work of art.  If you will recall, Duchamp argued that a urinal is a work of art simply because he ‘chose’ to submit urinal to an art exhibit (that claimed it would present all works of art).  Duchamp signed the urinal with the pseudonym, ‘R. Mutt’.  I would counter this argument by suggesting that the work of art was the designer of the urinal not Duchamp.  ‘Choosing’ a common object and signing a pseudonym does not instantiate a work of art no matter how famous the artist’s signature or how ‘well chosen’ the object. In terms of creative writing, the previous argument would imply, for example, that the poet Mark Strand could sign his name to a store receipt and that store receipt would suddenly become a creatively written artifact.  While an object signed by a famous poet may be of value, history demonstrates that monetary value or affiliation with someone famous does not necessarily translate into a work of art. Vincent van Gogh, for example, sold only one painting in his lifetime (and received very little money for it) and Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Peirce’s writings did not gain popularity until after their deaths. The previous examples demonstrate that the artist informs the field of artistic practice, not the viewer or the object, no matter how well ‘chosen’.  How was Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” altered by the viewer’s ever increasing appreciation of it?  How was Duchamp’s urinal informed by Duchamp’s artistic practice? While some may suggest that anything is a work of art, I would argue along the lines suggested by Deleuze that a work of art is ‘molded’ by a skilled and practicing artisan and that the work of art itself ‘causes sensations’ or ‘affects’ regardless of the viewer. Is a tree in a forest, a tree in a forest, if no human is there to view it? Following along similar lines of reasoning, some may want to say that a machine is a work of art. I suggest that a machine may be a work of art but a machine cannot manufacture an art theory, a machine can only instantiate an art theory.  Artists are creators of art theories that arise in the ‘making’ of the work of art. If this is not the case, then what are the fundamental notions by which we might arrive at understanding of what we mean by ‘creative writing’ and what are the conditions that allow or cause a work of creative writing to come into being?

About Heidi Ann Smith

Heidi Ann Smith grew up in the Chicago area and began publishing poems as a child. At a young age, she won various local and academic awards for her writing; based on her writing abilities, she was awarded a scholarship to a private high school and attended college courses during her high school years. After high school she began raising a family and was taken away from her writing, but soon returned to complete a Bachelor of Arts from Eastern Illinois University. She then earned a Master of Arts in Humanities from California State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Several of her poems recently found homes in various journals, and she published a scholarly thesis on the German artist George Grosz. Heidi is currently a PhD student studying Creative Writing at Middlesex University in London, England. THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY is her first novel.

You can visit the website at www.monkeypuzzlepress.com.

About The Clara Ann Burns Story

In Heidi Ann Smith’s short novel THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, a woman who suffered child abuse looks back over her turbulent life as she approaches her fifties. Smith describes it as “a story of a young girl, Clara Ann Burns, who was tortured, abused and neglected by her family. When she was old enough to go out on her own, she got herself into situations that were not always the best. But in the end she raises her own family and holds onto the hope of healing and living without fear.”

Smith explains that the story “is based on some of my life experiences,” which included sexual abuse. “I needed to write this book–and I needed to have the right and the freedom to bring together different events.”

Rather than creating a traditional narrative text from start to finish, in THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, Smith–who holds one master’s degree in fine arts in creative writing, another in humanities, and is a PhD student in creative writing–chose to express child abuse and loss by experimenting with literary genre. The result is that the protagonist, Clara Ann Burns, tells her story through written memories (short stories, lists, poems, one-minute plays) and memorabilia (hospital records, photographs, personal records). All are presented without explanation: a grandmother cooks breakfast while she speaks to her deceased husband; a mother scalds her child in a bathtub; the funeral processions of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the death of a child’s father; and the rape of a stepdaughter. This multi-genre approach, Smith feels, more accurately conveys “the impossibility of piecing together this story, and reflects the inconsistencies of an abuse victim’s memories that tend to jump from one instance of abuse to the next, rather than flowing through, perhaps, what might be considered the normal ups and downs of life.”

In addition, Smith points out, “These isolated memories of abuse that flash through Clara’s mind are what it means to have post-traumatic stress disorder. I suggest further that these isolated incidents also represent the perplexity of healing from prolonged neglect and abuse, since a constant state of fear is what is most familiar to Clara since she was abused by family members and friends for many years. If a child believes his or her own family is not adverse to his or her own torture, neglect, or rape, the child cannot survive as emotionally or psychologically intact. In Clara’s case, the abuse is pervasive, there is no relief for many years, nor hope of relief until she is an older woman and capable of looking at what happened to her objectively through the instantiation of the events as presented in the text.”

Despite the personal inspiration behind THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, Smith’s academic and scholarly understanding of both creative writing and fine art informs the book’s power. She likens writing to fine art: “All the great artists I studied reflected their life; in a great work of art, you cannot extricate the artist’s life from their work. When you look at a work of art by Van Gogh or Caravaggio you see some truth about their life. For me, the truth does not necessarily read like a biography; there are details that are blurred from your view. When I was engaged in the writing process, some things that were hidden from my view came out–which may grab the reader because it hit me as well.”

Smith hopes that readers who can identify with THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY will find some comfort in it. “When I was a little girl I was very sick and I didn’t have a happy home life. I started reading poetry, and I felt some kind of resonance and a kindred spirit with the other writer’s work. I hope my work will reach someone and that they will also know that they are not alone.” And, she adds, “I also hope the work is received as a work of literature.”

 

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