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!


Unknown said...

Hi, Rhonda-it's nice meeting you. :D I like your idea about the boy who finds out his sister is an alien. Sounds very promising and like it could be hilarious. :D
I also like you using real people you met in your work. I think really good writers are always inspired by real people, even if they don't necessarily copy a specific character from a specific person. A book should have real life in it. :D

Kelsey Bryant said...

Great to hear from you, Rhonda! What a fun interview. I like your favorite writing-related advice, about living your life. I've often found that to be the best inspiration and teacher, too, so it's good to hear that from a more seasoned writer! As writers, we should never be afraid of new experiences! (That's what often reconciles me to a less-than-comfortable situation.)

E. KaIser Writes said...

Thanks for stopping by, girls! Rhonda is a great person (and a busy one!) who I very much enjoyed meeting at a Nebraska writer's conference. It's so much fun to make new connections with other writers!
Thanks for being our guest here, Rhonda!