Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reader Interview: Kelsey Bryant!

Reader interview: Kelsey Bryant, from Texas! 

E. Kaiser: Thanks so much for joining us here on E. Kaiser Writes-A-Blog! As a reader, I know there are a lot of personal opinions involved in what you enjoy, and what you hate, and I do love a good opinion. (Especially if it's personal. ;-) )
So, tell us yours!

Kelsey: Thank you so much for putting out the call for interviews! I've never been interviewed before ... it makes me feel ... *special*. ;-)
Oh, good, permission to be opinionated! Sometimes I try to soften my opinions, but it is terribly unfair to expect people to suppress their opinions about the books they read. It's such a personal experience!

E: What's your range of favorite genres? Can you introduce us to the why's of that?

K: My favorite would have to be the classics, followed by non-modernized historical fiction. (You know, where the author writes in a respectful, authentic historical style.) A close third is fantasy that has a real, historical feel. I love history. There's something about leaving behind your day-to-day existence and "traveling" to learn more about the world and what's been important for centuries. It elevates you and teaches you far more about living life than you can learn just by limiting yourself to the present. I enjoy books where I learn information and facts. And, I really like a great escape. : )
Two quotes come to mind: "The heroes of Thermopylae have been an inspiration to humanity for centuries. What squabble around a ballot-box will ever be that?" - L. M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon
(This one I heard from you!) “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” - J. R. R. Tolkien

E: Always glad to help pass along great lines! Glad you liked it too.
Among all the basic threads that just about all stories borrow from, what're your favorite story lines?

K: I looked up a list of basic plots to help me pick out my favorites. I would have to say my favorites are a quest; a riddle or mystery; an underdog who triumphs; a young person who matures in an admirable way; someone who rises in life; and someone who sacrifices him- or herself for a person or a cause. Combine those in various ways, and I would really like that book! Oh, and I enjoy a sweet and honorable romance. Most of all, though, I enjoy the "plot thread" where a person who doesn't seem special - particularly to himself - grows into an incredible individual within the book. He still isn't aware of how he's grown, but everyone else around him is! I love having someone like that to root for!

E: How about your worst pet peeves? Let us have 'em!

K: Ooh, a chance to be really opinionated! If we're talking about storylines, I'd say stories that have a pessimistic worldview - the ones that keep spiraling downward and end worse than they began. Sometimes I want to shake the author and say, "Wake up! Life doesn't have to be like that. Those who are God's children don't have to dwell on unhappy endings!" I also dislike it when a romance is thrown into a story that doesn't need it. I think our culture dwells on romances too much - especially the forbidden ones.
 If we're talking about smaller chunks within any given book, please can I bring these culprits to the bar: mean children, cruelty to animals, and the death of a child, young adult, or animal. Okay, those are things that authors sometimes have to include, because, let's face it, they're real life. I can make myself stand them if they contribute to the story.

E: Okay, how about that Thing-You-Can't-Stand-Above-Anything-Else.

K: Ohhh ... the Thing that makes me skip part of the book or close it altogether?! Too much information within a love scene or a pseudo-love scene. Ick. I don't need that.

E: Glancing quickly backward over your reading history, what stands out as the moment that melted your heart, all warm and puddle-y?

K: When, in the first book of the Boxcar Children series, the children set up house in their boxcar! I didn't always love practical things like playing house with my dolls, (I was 50% adventurous tomboy and 50% domestic doll-player) but I really enjoyed reading about people doing it for real. That vicarious enjoyment, like I was doing it myself, was definitely an early-on heart-warming moment!

E: Same thing, what's the first-to-mind scene that fired your emotions?

K: Um, the scene that made me cry so much that I think my eyes were puffy the next morning? Masouda's death in The Brethren by Henry Rider Haggard. I loved that heroic, fiery girl so much, and she was in love with the wise, gentle Godwin D'Arcy, and she sacrificed herself for him, and he didn't realize he loved her, too, until he held her lifeless body in his arms ....

E: ...Made you so mad you couldn't see straight?

K: Grrr ... it was at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Archdeacon Claude Frollo had just succeeded in betraying Esmeralda to the gallows. After all she had been through, after almost escaping, after starting to finally hope again ... Frollo's fate, on the other hand, was satisfying.

E: What is your favorite trait in a character, and why do you love them?

K: I love talking favorite characters! Wait a moment while I bring to mind all my favorite characters and think of why I loved them ... hmm, above all, I probably love intelligence, humility, and un-self-consciousness. Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility), Anne Elliot (Persuasion), and Molly Gibson (Wives and Daughters) really stand out to me. There are lots of other loveable traits, but I think those three traits are necessary for me to latch on to a favorite.

E: What makes you most hate the villain?

K: I find it easier to hate a villain whom I don’t understand, when his motives aren't logical - he just hates, loves to be cruel, and/or doesn't understand the protagonist. (Enter Claude Frollo.)

E: What was your favorite "switch" that caught you completely off guard, but you loved the result!

K: Oh, fun question, but that's a hard one ... I love mysteries, so there are a lot of marvelous switches in those kinds of books, but I don't want to go into any of those in case I give something away - you know, there might just be somebody out there who was just about to read that one mystery I might mention and poof! there goes the suspense. Oh, I know! This can't be dangerous because surely everyone's familiar with this one. The Scarlet Pimpernel - (SPOILER ALERT - if you haven't read this book, don't read the rest of my answer!)
when Sir Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel, whom the bad guys were looking all over for, turned out to be the "Jew" who had supposedly been leading them to the Scarlet Pimpernel. After the bad guys were gone, he revealed himself to Marguerite his wife with, "Zounds! but I'm as weak as a rat!" That surprise still has me tingle sometimes!

E: What small things do you especially like to see included?

K: Mmm ... that sets my mind off in all sorts of cozy, comfort-food directions - I like it when there are big families in a story, and all the children's unique personalities are described; when special houses are described; when children play imaginative games; when smells and taste and food are described; and when the protagonist has times of quiet reflection. There may be others ... but those are obviously important ones because they came to mind first!

E: Thanks for joining us, Kelsey! 

K: Thanks for having me! This was so much fun. It makes me want to grab something else off my shelf - say, The Three Musketeers? Middlemarch? Cranford?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Last-Part-Of-The-Middle-Is- SOOO Hard!

Okay. I think we have a bunch of writers out there, so I'm asking this question of you.
 Yes, you.

 Don't think I'm talking to the person behind you.
 (Not that there is anyone, since you're on the computer... but, you know, figuratively.)

 What do you do when you've got the lion's share of the plot worked out, you've got most of the scenes written down. You even have the ending done.
 And you've got all those pesky links to link up... and you've been working on this project for SO Long, sweating over it to make it perfect.

 Your brain revolts and your interest plunges to unchartedly deep places in the black ocean...

 And now you just want to chuck the thing and take a long walk off a short pier?

 All you want to do is yell "HELLLLPPPPP!" at the top of your lungs and have some celestial being sweep in on golden wings, slap the manuscript together and say, "There. Done."

Red Line= Writing Ideal ~ Green Line= Reality
 I'm hitting the hard, gravel grade that comes before cresting the summit on mountain roads. Have you ever climbed a mountain road?  (Agony!)
 I have, and believe me, the stretch right before the top is when you're murderously thinking "Who's dumb idea was this? It's not worth it! I can't believe I let anybody talk me into this." And "....why don't I turn around and go home....?"

 That is also what happens in novel writing. But it is of course your own idea, and so you can't blame anyone else.

 So, here we are.
  We're past the halfway mark, and not yet to the finish, and that is always the hardest part!

  The very last gasp!
      (But it takes so loooong!)

 How do you handle that "last part of the middle is soo hard!" feeling? Do you have ways of combating?
 Tell me!

 I need HELLPPP.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Writer Interview: Glenda Fralin

 Second in our Writer Interview series is Glenda Fralin, from Wymore, Nebraska

 Thanks so much for joining us, Glenda! We're so glad to have you here this time, and we hope to get you back for a reader interview sometime later. I know you're a member of the Nebraska Writer's Guild, but tell us a little more about yourself and what you've written.

Glenda: I grew up in Kansas, not far south of where we live now in Wymore. We had the Flint Hills on the West and the Big Blue River on the East within a few acres of each other.  There was a hill in a pasture where we could go to the top on a clear night and see the lights of Marysville, Blue Rapids, and Waterville by turning in a circle. That part of the Blue Valley is probably one of the most beautiful landscapes there is. I fully intend to write a lot of stories using my Kansas home as a back drop. We lived within miles of Alcove Springs which is a privately owned park open to the public. It's got some springs that come right out of the limestone into a pool. The water is as cold as if it's taken from the refrigerator and taste fresher than anything from a tap.
Alcove Springs, near Marysville, Kansas
My parents still live on that farm.  They are in their eighties and very independent. They are devout Christian and belong to the First Baptist Church in Blue Rapids. Growing up in that church with all the activities and fellowship, I became a Christian at the age of 9. I'm still Baptist, but I've visited other churches and enjoyed the experience. I haven't visited a Catholic church yet, but I may in the future.
Those experiences affect my writing immensely. My poetry is often about family and our place in the world, the valley I grew up in and places we've been. Some are humorous and just for fun. I usually like to do readings of those at functions, but will read others as well.
My first novella is a Christian fantasy.  It's set in Nebraska. I've lived here since 1975 so I've learned a lot about the limestone we have in many of our states in this part of the world. The limestone, often close to the surface is easily quarried and a lot of houses are built from it. The smells of farms such as alfalfa, animals and their odors and such all became a part of The Search by their very absence from the story. I hope that tweaks a little intrigue. The Search is set in a small town and its surrounding lands.  Some is a take-off from Psalms 23. Some of it is very dark and frightening in the canyon where evil creatures dwell and a death shadow hovers. There are also a lot of light and uplifting parts such as the meadow. We have both dark and light in life, and even some areas that can be confusingly gray. So my book is an exploration that Sheridan my protagonist guided me through.
In my book Six Strange Short Stories (my daughter wrinkled her nose a bit at the tongue twister title.) contains more psychological thrillers, and at least one I reserved as a tribute to my cornier side. Don't let that make you think it's all sweetness and light. I included that story to lighten the darkness of some of the other stories. One called The Tunnel was inspired by a deep depression I went through back in 1996. A family enters a tunnel thinking it may be fun, and find themselves deeper and deeper into darkness and torment along the way. In their sense it's both psychological and physical.
All in all, I consider myself a mishmash of river rat, farm girl, wife, mother, nurse and I don't care how much education I've had, I do reserve the right to say ain't. I write about things that nag at me to be written. I'm no exception, the elements of my life past and present are included for backdrop and character building. I told my family nobody is safe.
  E: Okay, before we get started, I've got a few un-writerly questions for you. I know you grew up on the plains and in an era a lot of our younger readers haven't experienced. What is your most vivid memory from childhood that really illustrates the dramatic changes that have taken place between your childhood days and now?
G: For one thing we were a large family by today's standards. Most of the people we associated with had large families of their own. I'm one of 6 children in the number 2 spot. I have an older brother who tormented me when I wasn't tormenting him. Many of the families from a generation before had upwards of 10 to 15 children. It's an agricultural community so families were larger to help with the farms. Parents didn't only give their children chores, they trained them in etiquette, respecting elders, and it wasn't unusual to do Bible memory for rewards.
We argued and fought, but we never in all the history of my family from the Holmes, to Wheats, to Millers neglect gathering together every couple of years. Then there is my mother's family. She had two siblings and she's the last one which bothers her as she is the oldest. Her mother was one of 9 children and the Stansberry's have large reunions but we never went. My mom does keep in touch with them, and my parents have been to one or two of the reunions. Family was much more nuclear and drew strength from one another back then. Even those who were states away would make the journey home at intervals and we'd all get together for a huge dinner. Christmas is still a large affair for the Millers, which is growing constantly. We now meet in a gymnasium because numbers are getting upwards of seventy or eighty. Not all make it ever year, but a great number do. We continue to be close and so our children are still a large part. I think in our family it will continue in some way for many more generations. Family, with that particular sense of closeness, I believe is something being lost in this day and age.
Oh, lest I forget, one thing that we had a lot of fun with was touch football. Half of us didn't know the rules, but we'd be out in our grandparent's yard running around and having a ball. I think my grandparents may have handed down some old 8mm films of our antics. In fact, my aunt, if I remember, had them converted to VHS, which is now outdated too. Family is great. I wish the children of today could experience that type of support from generations.
E: Yes, family is great! I know of a lot of homeschooling families that are fortunate enough to be having these same types of experiences as they grow up right now. They're very lucky! because you're right... the family bond is getting pretty loosened in society as a whole out there!
 How about this for a quick writing challenge. Using a short paragraph, how would you paint a description of the setting/your world/the plains as you saw it then? 
Flint Hills of Kansas
G: Hiking through the flint hills or fishing from the river bank, the atmosphere of the farm transformed to magic. The colors of limestone and sometimes red rock, sandstone, evergreen cedars and plants of all colors grow wild.  I'd ride my horse up those hills and jump small chasms. Then when mom wanted gooseberries for pies we were in the wild gooseberry bushes pricking our fingers to get the small berries by the bucketsful. We had a spring fed pond stocked full of bluegill, sun perch and even wide mouthed bass and catfish. The picnic grounds as we call one part of the pasture has a beautiful brook fed by a spring that in one spot takes a short waterfall over variegated colors of rock. Magic lives in the plains and it's full of stories to be told.

E: Wow! This makes me want to visit your old home area! I love that kind of place.
 So, let's get started on the writing things! What's your favorite genre/genres, and what do you think really draws you to that/them the most?

G: I love to write pastoral poetry. When it comes to stories, I love adventures, psychological dilemmas, mystery, suspense, intrigue, and all those genres. Genre is a little bit limiting because in one story there can be many elements. Such as when I write a Christian book or story, I don't like to throw it in the readers face. I allude to it through events and ideas. I include many of the genres in the one story. I hope that is a satisfactory answer.
I'm not a historical writer per se. I don't write erotica or romance. I'm lousy at writing strictly romantic stories, but I do include romance in most of my stories even if not always a love story between a man and woman. Romance is a broad element in life, just like love. It appears in many forms.

E: What's your most favorite writing related advice?

G: I love research. We're told to write what we know. The more I research and learn the more things I know about, the more I can include in my writing. Research can be fun, even if it's trivia or word games. I highly recommend finding some premise somewhere on Facebook or some other site by taking a situation someone tells the world about and make a story out of it, especially if you need to research some of it. After all, we've been researching since the day we were born and will to the day we die through experience and learning.

E:   Good point! What is your favorite type of character to write? Why do you think that especially appeals to you?

G: Flawed. I hate characters that have it all together
all the time like James Bond. I want strength and vulnerability in my protagonist. That's where internal conflict can enter. It can even outwardly become apparent through a companion or child. Flawed is what we are and the possibilities are endless.

E: Where do you like to get your characters? Do you like to draw off of people you know, other books, or just pull them out of the blue?

G: Mostly from myself and people I know, but some are put in my path such as the man who probably built our house in the 1920s. He most certainly built the huge garage in the back that was his gambling and hooch parlor at the time. He did most of the gambling and his brother supplied the booze.  During prohibition it makes for quite the story. That takes a lot of research. I'm influenced by other books. Edgar Alan Poe probably helped with my interest in the flawed character and internal battles that come with it. It's hard for me to pull something out of the blue, but I do find things all over to make into a premise.

E: Some writers talk about their characters getting out of control and things happening that they didn't intended to happen; have you ever had this happen?

G: Oh certainly. Sheridan wrote most of The Search after chapter three, and some before that. I'd been introduced to her during a prequel, unpublished, I wrote about her and her husband in Egypt as archeologist and anthropologist.

E: Sounds interesting! I'm a sucker for archeology/adventure type tales of intrigue.
 How do you write, is it 'start with page one, scene one' and go through it in order; or just "whatever scene pops into your head"
(and that might mean that you have the entire middle of your book written before you even start on the beginning)? 

G: I refer to my method as a kind of layer cake. I start with a premise, do a focused free write, make a rough draft of a shorter version that is a foundation for the beginning, middle and end, the rough draft (when the characters take over), and so forth. Finally it's polished through proofing, revising, editing and on to publish. The publishing is the icing on top of the cake.

E: How do you plan your stories' "bones", or do you?

G: Oh, I build from some kind of skeleton. But like any living creature, a skeleton needs connective tissue. I won't give an anatomy lesson as that's not your question.
I've tried outlines, but they're like a grocery list. I forget them and leave them behind most of the time. They can serve as bones, but my layer cake method is kind of my process.

E: Have you tried any plotting, outlining, methods; and what works best to your way of thinking?

G: All of those methods are good. I do plot, with suspense, psychological thrillers, mystery and all that, plotting is a must. I try to get to know my characters, but they know me better I think. I've studied and taken a class from Sally Walker on the 36 point character outline. I think I'll likely use that to keep my characters somewhat under control.

E: What is your worst writing trouble?

G: My worst writing trouble is procrastination. It's easy to procrastinate when other things enter your life, such as fear of not being received well, making too many mistakes, self-doubt. Those are my most persistent thieves of time. When I get going, such as this interview, I can't seem to stop.

E: What is your worst writing fault? How do you identify and rectify it's effects?

G: My punctuation is terrible. I get in more trouble with that. I use Word's built in functions a lot and proof, proof, have my husband and a critique partner or two proof. Then I can get through it so it makes some sense.

E: Hey! It's been great having you here! We've so enjoyed learning more about another writer's mental workings! Thanks for participating.

G: I've enjoyed it. I haven't thought about how important some of my history is for a long time. I know I use it, but when you asked those first questions, my family dynamics struck me as one of the things that supports me as a person and built me through the years. It's not something I think of on a daily basis. Thank you for having me and giving me such thoughtful questions. I hope I can do more of these. I do interview a lot of other writers, but now I know how fun it is to be interviewed. Thanks Elizabeth.
E: I'm so glad to have you! And you're so right... our personal histories, family histories, these are so important to who we are, and yet we tend to forget about them in the hustle and rush of the every day.

 Wow! What do you think about Glenda's childhood? Sounds pretty idyllic to me. I know I'd love to go back in time and spend a couple of years there! ;-)

 ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~
Have something to say? 
Shoot me an email, ekaiserwrites-at-hotmail
and we'd love to get an interview with you on here!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Q&A: How do you get your ideas?

 Okay, this has to be a question most creative types are used to being asked, but it seems like it's a perennially popular one in the bargain. In fact, it's a question I, myself  love to "listen in" on when it's being answered; so it will probably be around for a long time yet!

 Q:  How do you come up with your stories? Do they just pop into your head, or do you search for them?

 A:  For me, stories definitely pop into my head; sometimes they'll be sparked by another thought, sometimes not!
  Sometimes they won't leave me alone... for months. When that happens I usually give in; even if I have another project I'm in the middle of.
 I have lots of stories in various stages at any particular time, so I'm definitely a "messy writer" in that respect. ;-)

 What about you?