Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reader Interview: Mary Ruth P.

Reader interview: Mary Ruth P., from southwest Missouri!

 Thanks so much for joining us here on E. Kaiser Writes-A-Blog!

M.R.: Thanks so much for having me again! I had so much fun with the writer interview, and I'm looking forward to this one too!

E. Kaiser: 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, established opinion. (Especially if it's personal. ;-) )
 So, tell us yours!

M.R.: Wow, that's a loaded question! Let me start off by saying that I have very eclectic tastes in what I read, and (contrary to a fairly common misconception) I'm actually very easy to please. For me, it's very easy to tell when a book was written simply because the author had something they couldn't keep inside, something they just had to say because they loved it and believed in it. I have a wild aversion to reading books where I can tell that the author had some ulterior motive, or that they were writing just to appeal to a certain audience. If a writer has written a story just because they had to tell that story, I can pick that up in the writing, and if the story is exciting chances are I'll like it regardless of genre.

E. Kaiser: That's a very good point.
What's your range of favorite genres? Can you introduce us to the why's of that?

M.R.: Historical fiction is my first love - my mom introduced me to that at age eight, with the Dear America series and later, the Royal Diaries series (both of which I love to this day). I think the reason I love the genre so much is that, even though human nature doesn't change, you get to see it in so many interesting applications in the different situations of history. Plus I love reading a well-researched historical novel and getting to see a faraway place in a long-lost time through a characters eyes.
  I also love fantasy. I read The Chronicles of Narnia when I was ten, but didn't really get into the genre until I became friends with author H.A. Titus as a teenager. She was already a fantasy nut, and it didn't take long for her to recruit me to the cause! I love the opportunities fantasy offers to go all the cool directions history didn't go. I love swords and amazing architecture and long, gorgeous dresses and armor and the challenges (and blessings) of a world where technology doesn't do everything for you.
  The only other genre that I think I can consider a favorite is science fiction. I'll admit, though, I'm a little harder to please in the science fiction department than in other genres. A lot of the same things about fantasy that appeal to me are present in science fiction - the room for imagination, the opportunities to see human nature in unique applications - but a lot of science fiction stories focus too much on the science and technology itself and let the plot drift to the sidelines. That I dislike. I like science fiction as long as the science part is merely a factor of the plot - not the other way around.

E: Among all the basic threads that just about all stories borrow from, what're your favorite story lines?
M.R.: Hmm... I like stories where the hero is reluctant to get involved in whatever the conflict of the story is, has to come to the realization that it's the right thing to do, and then throws himself into it with all he has. I also like stories in which a central character struggles to know or decide which side he or she is on. And of course, any story in which an ordinary little person gets pulled into something far bigger than themselves and becomes a hero is great, too.

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

M.R.: Book teasers that give away the story. Romance novels of all kinds, Amish and vampire romance in particular. Melodrama - i.e., shrieking, wailing, gnashing of teeth, weeping, and vomiting over things that really aren't that big of a deal. Over-the-top cliche-ness - "Can Kate and Jason overcome their mutual dislike for each other long enough to solve the murder... and find love along the way?" - seriously, just put me out of my misery!

E:  Ha! I'm totally on that page with you, there!
Okay, how about that Thing-You-Can't-Stand-Above-Anything-Else.

M.R.: Sappiness. I review books for several publishing houses, and one time I accidentally got my name on a list to review this Christian historical romance novel. I almost gagged multiple times. I mean, I've been around guys that I've thought were handsome, but I've never felt "overwhelmed by his masculinity". And although I've never kissed a guy, I find it rather difficult to believe that doing so would make a girl "worried that her bones had turned to dust". I'm very much an action-oriented, keep-it-real kind of girl, and all the pining and wistfulness and mush and gushing emotions in sappy novels just really disgust me.

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

M.R.: Well... in spite of how emotional I can get over books, I'm really not a 'warm and puddle-y' kind of person. It's just not the way I'm wired. So I'm afraid I can't think of a single moment that made me feel that way. : )

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

M.R.: The first thing that comes to mind is the end of the Dear America book Voyage on the Great Titanic. I was... oh, maybe eleven or twelve when I read it, and it's the first book that I remember crying over. The main character had become really good friends with one of the cabin boys, and she got off safely but he chose to go down with the ship and his fellow crewmen. At the time I was pretty sure I would never ever get over it as long as I lived, but I've managed to piece together a normal life since then... barely. ; P

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

M.R.: I was reading The Sword and the Flame, the third book in Stephen R. Lawhead's 'Dragon King' trilogy. The main character (who I had loved in both of the previous books) watched one of his best friends be murdered, so he murdered his friend's killer (who had dropped his weapon and surrendered already) and sort of went mad for the rest of the book and just sulked in his quarters while everyone else was running around trying to save the kingdom. And then all of a sudden, 'poof!' he gets over it and everything goes back to normal after everyone else has been running themselves ragged trying to keep it all together through the whole book. It made me so mad at him that I actually put the book aside for a few months right in the middle. The only thing that brought me back to it was the fact that I cared about the rest of the characters too much not to find out what happened to them.

E: What is your favorite trait in a character, and why do you love them?M.R.: I absolutely love it when a character expects to fail in a task or quest, but does it anyway simply because it's the right thing to do. I love self-sacrifice, protectiveness, and loyalty.   Protectiveness and loyalty in a character appeal to me because they're so central to the way I was raised. From the time my siblings and I were tiny our parents taught us that you look out for the people you love, you look out for people who can't look out for themselves, and you stand with your friends and family no matter what. If they're in the wrong, you correct them, but you don't stop being loyal to them. Self-sacrifice is a part of that too, in a lot of ways, as well as being part of doing the right thing even if and when it costs you. That's a trait I want to possess myself - being able and willing to do the right thing no matter what it costs, and to know that the cost is worth it - so I like seeing it portrayed well in fictional characters.

E: Good one! I like the way you explained that. Very true.
  So, what most makes you  most hate the villain?

M.R.: That's kind of a tricky question, since there are only so many villain-making traits and they're pretty close to universal (e.g. cruelty, self-centeredness, lust for power, corrupt desires, etc.). I guess the thing that makes me hate a villain most depends on how well he's written. Writing a truly evil villain requires a deep understanding of evil itself, and I think a lot of writers either don't have that or are uncomfortable with delving into the understanding they do have. In cases like that, you usually end up with the cliche 'kicks-kittens-and-tortures-servants-for-enjoyment' kind of villain, which bugs me to death. True evil is, quite often, far more subtle than that.
  So I guess, in order for me to really loathe a villain, he has to be realistically evil. The exact details of how that evil manifests itself don't matter nearly so much to me as being able to believe that the villain is truly evil. And of course, the more I love the protagonist, the more I'll hate the villain for hurting him or her. ; )

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

M.R.: The first thing that comes to mind is the revelation towards the end of Angela Elwell Hunt's novel The Immortal. There's a moment when the main character and the readers all realize that 'Oh... Asher's immortality wasn't a curse... it was a gift! And I've been missing that for the last 200 pages of the book, but he's been missing it for the last 2,000 years!!!' That moment is a total game changer in the book, but the result is heartrendingly beautiful. In fact I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it! : )

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

M.R.: I love it when books talk about the food the characters eat. The Secret Garden and the Redwall books are particular instances that come to mind. The food in those books always sounds so delicious! Of course, I always end up having to put the book down and go find something to eat because just reading them makes me hungry, but it's a really nice detail to include. I think more authors should write about food in their stories. There's a special kind of happiness that really good food makes people feel, and weaving that into the happiness of loveable characters and exciting adventure just adds another layer of delight to a good book. : )

Thanks for joining us, Mary Ruth!

You're so very welcome, Elizabeth. This has been a lot of fun and I've really enjoyed it. Happy reading, everyone!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Q&A: What else are you working on?

 Q: Do you have any other books you're working on?

  A: And the answer is, Yes!
 I'm working on the sequel to Jeweler's Apprentice.

 In it the action heats up, and even more things are brought together. I think that readers of Jeweler's Apprentice will enjoy delving straight back into Fia's story, and getting to spend more time with the characters from Book 1. The plot line becomes deeper, and the whole feel of the book, while staying true to the first, just ups the tension a little. So I'm hoping fans of JA will be really pleased with the sequel.

  As I am a "messy writer" I have many books in the process of creativity. (I try to save most things I write, and then when I come back around, (even if it's years later) I can build a little more on it.)

  As for works in the "Serious Construction phase" there's JA's sequel; when spring and spies makes everything more dangerous,

   & The One with the "straw haired" heroine; where a smart, secluded girl must leap into a troublesome journey through varied dangers and adventures; with a boy who never knew she existed, and a guide she never thought could be real. (It's been super fun so far!)

...And runners up:

    ...a contemporary mystery doing with San Antonio what Charade did with Paris; murder, long lost artifact, and who in the world can you actually TRUST these days?!

    ...a historical romance, (and I once said I wouldn't write romance! *Due partially all those ones with racy covers, I confess.* Also the fact that a good romance leaves my "hero-less" heart feeling dispirited...) (But! It's not really THAT sort of romance. The girl is like someone you care about, but wouldn't want to be. I hope.)
  Anyway, it's set in first century Judea; Jerusalem under Roman rule, the twisted power of the Pharisee/Sadducee sects, and a people who have nearly all lost hope.
  Except her mother. (Mother's can be maddeningly optimistic sometimes.)
  She makes bad choices, (like really bad choices) and it seems to be working for her, but when it all folds up, she finds she falls about as far as possible.
  A Stranger on the road can lift her from the pit; but she's the one that will have to beat her way back on the path from where she came.
  It's sort of turmoil-ish, so I'm not sure if the inspirational "market" would like it. I'm still thinking on it's target, but the thing wouldn't leave me alone so I had to write it.

...and there's a sci/fi thriller that's edging around in the back of my brain and comes out every so often to demand I add a scene. Super-hero-in-strange-places, intergalactically finding a real life, redemption and, beyond all hope - true love.
 It's a blast to write, but again, not sure of a target audience.

 What do you like the sounds of? Any votes on what should get the most attention?

 Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Writer Interview: Rhonda Hall

 Writer Interview: Rhonda Hall, from Omaha, Nebraska!

 Thanks so much for joining us, Rhonda! 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.

         Rhonda: I have four completed novels, two screenplays & numerous plays. The first novel is a cozy mystery. It is coming out sometime in November as an e-book. It's called Aunt Two Lips Takes a Powder. I wrote it not long after my father passed away. I really used it as an escape for what I was feeling. It's actually been 20 years, since he passed. Often times, when I am angry, or frustrated everything comes out funny. I had an uncle who was a handful! He is my antagonist in the book. I hope I'm not making this sound sad because it isn't. It balances that tightrope walk that we all have when someone, particularly a family member, is hard to deal with. I try to give it a spin. What's interesting to me, is how many people love my antagonists. I think it's because I make them real. They are not bad people, just difficult.
         The second book I wrote is called, The Nose Picking Boy. (Name is subject to change!) It follows a young boy and a childhood friend through adulthood. They get married & she has a baby by another man. Mom then abandons them. My protagonist raises the child as his own. What I hope to show in that book is the power of forgiveness. For balance, I show people who don't forgive & how it eats them alive.  
         I have a Christian novel that I wrote. Marbles in the Ashtray.   That book came to me because I worked with a guy who came to work one day & told me this tragic story about a friend of his son. The boy's mother was dying of cancer and the father couldn't take it. He went out and laid down on the railroad tracks & was killed. Afterwards, I kept asking about the boy. How's the mom, how's the boy. Anyway, the mom never died. I wondered, what happened?  In the book, I try to answer that question.  To me, the answer was clear. To me, God intervened.
        My fourth novel, The Mermaid Queen is about a young pregnant woman whose boyfriend wants her to rob a Pancake house.  She chickens out and hides out in the bathroom. The restaurant patrons kind of adopt her & she lives on an island with some crazy women. Her boyfriend continues on his crime spree.
        I have two screenplays, one is titled My Sister the Alien. It's about a boy who finds out his sister is an alien, and if that's not bad enough... so are his parents. Another screenplay I wrote is called The Sandstones. Although, I need a new name for that one, cause I don't think the title cuts it.  It's about a spoiled well to do family. The dad loses his job, then they lose their cars, their homes, their cell phones you name it. They have to move in with an Aunt, whose a taxidermist. She lives in a trailer park, where goats wonder freely!
E: So, let's get started. What's your favorite genre/genres, and what do you think really draws you to that/them the most?

R: I don't know that I have a favorite. I like to read all different types of stuff. I do like a good literary novel. I love getting into the psyche of people. I also like to read mysteries & or books with lots of humor. Christopher Moore comes to mind. So does Carl Hiaason, or Jennifer Weiner, though sometimes they get pretty foul & I honestly don't care for that. 

E: Now, I hear that you wrote a mermaid story. What got you started on that one? (I know you live far, far away from any large bodies of water!)R:  My family and I went to a family reunion in Seattle. Our motel was near a strip mall. We had breakfast at this place that served these fabulous Buckwheat Pancakes. (That used to be the title, Buckwheat Pancake Haven.) It was such a neat place I wanted to go back. The restaurant, next door, had a $1.99 breakfast & my family all wanted to go eat there!   I begged them to go back for Buckwheat Pancakes, but NO................. The novel starts in that Pancake place. She ends up living on an island & is terrified of water. 
While on our trip up there, we took lots of ferry rides & I loved every minute of it. So, I incorporated it into the book. I got the idea for Mermaids, kind of from the book the Mermaid Chair. You had these crazy women  on an island. I twisted it cause I loved the idea of an island of women who all think they are Mermaids. The women are a bit crazy, but not weird crazy as in the Mermaid Chair.

What's your most favorite writing related advice?

R: I don't think I have ever read this bit of advice, but I think you've got to live your life. You have to go for this or that experience, cause that's how you meet people. That's where ideas come to you. I think you've got to go for a walk or ride a bike. That's when things become clearer. I hate to be shut in, & I know a lot of writers who do that. They just lock themselves away & write. I think it's great for them, but I want to experience life as well. Who knows, when it can all be taken away. This is going to sound weird, but when I was a kid, I watched a Marcus Welby episode where this woman had a disease. She couldn't feel the wind on her face or it triggered a seizure. I remember thinking how horrible it was. So, I always feel like I have to feel the wind on my face. Which could be why I'm obsessed with bike riding, or physical fitness.

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

R: I like to write about changing characters, or characters who were meak & mild & then found independence. In other words, a good character arch!
In my fourth book, my protagonist, Michaela, is a wall flower. She has to come into her own, she has to be independent & yet she knows, at times she has to accept help. I'm sure the reason it appeals to me, is because it is me. I was never like Michaela, 20+, single & unmarried, but I had a difficult childhood. I was bullied, and tormented. Even the teachers could be terrible. It's nice to be away from that, and I like it when my characters can finally stand on their own. 

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 put of the blue?
R: I do draw from people I know. Like I said earlier, In Aunt Two Lips, the antagonist is my uncle. He was a very challenging person! I write him exactly the way he was, with the exception of murdering his wife & framing his niece... But other times, I kind of make people up. In the Mermaid Queen, my antagonist is a figment of my imagination.

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?

R: No, I'm a control freak. I say what goes & my characters can like it or lump it. I hate it when writers say, "I just let Bob tell me what he wanted to do..."  Oh, pish posh... be a man/woman & stand up to them.  
E: 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)?

R: I'm a pantser, which is weird cause I'm also a control freak. 0 I usually have an idea where I'm going, but I may not have it all worked out. Sometimes, I get stuck & that's because I don't outline... so that can be a problem. The middle is always a problem. Usually, I have plot points in my head & I write towards those points.

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

R: Usually, I just have an idea. Sometimes, I have the end. In the book I'm writing now, The Flip Flop Murders, I know the ending & I can't wait to write it! But sometimes working on the parts in between make it hard to continue.

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

R: I went to Lew Hunter's Screenwriting Colony. He's a big believer in outlining. You really have to outline for screenplays. That helped me finish the 3rd book I wrote, but I'm afraid I am a creature of habit & haven't outlined in a while.

E: What is your worst writing trouble?

R: It's funny, because my worst writing trouble has always been the same. At times, I can't move forward. How I got over it was, I started attending the Nebraska Writers Workshop. I used Wednesday nights as a deadline, so I always made sure I kept moving. Unfortunately,  my schedule has changed at work & I can't attend... I no longer have the deadline...so consequently I have been moving very slow on the book. Before, I was working like gang busters, but nothing lately.

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

R: Keeping a schedule. I usually get up and work out, then come home & get ready for work. While eating my breakfast, I write for a little while. Only, sometimes, I don't write... I fall asleep, or I look at Facebook, or anything else...I try to make it a rule not to get on the internet, while I'm working...but sometimes... I need to research something....and then it's a deep dark black hole. Once you start, you're trapped like a caged animal. Stay away from all time sucking devices! The other fault is falling asleep... that's a little harder... I try to get plenty of rest & take away the plump pillow. I'm real good about turning off the T.V.... just lots of noise in the morning. Unfortunately, before I know it, it's time to go to work...ugh.

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

R: Thank you for the invitation!