Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Interview with Patricia Crandall by Linda Barnett-Johnson -

Book Interview with Patricia Crandall

I had the pleasure of editing one of her books and some short stories. Here is what she had to say about the writing process.

1) Please tell us about what you like to write? List your websites, what you do and anything else you'd like our readers and writers to know about you. (Please list your accomplishments too).

I write in all genres – thriller, mystery, general, humor, y/a, novels, short stories, flash fiction, essays and poetry. I do not like to be restricted by one particular type of story or a character. With one exception, I have two series characters in my popular Bottle Mining stories linking Gert Carver and Nina Westacott.

Gert and Nina, friends for many years, now share a common passion – bottle mining. They meet an eclectic variety of characters as they trade-off collectibles and old bottles at flea markets and solve gentle mysteries/problems involving neighbors, relatives, past students, farmers and hicks in and around the upstate New York community of Indian Falls. My short stories including Gert and Nina are The Crazy Jug, The Pink Victorian Lady, The Rescue, Hikers and Bottle Miners and The Conjurer.

I have published a vast number of poetry/haiku, numerous articles and short stories published in small press magazines, a variety of newspapers and presently on web sites. I have won poetry awards and have four books in print, ‘Melrose, Then and Now,’ a historical volume, ‘I Passed This Way,’ containing poetry, ‘The Dog Men,’ a thriller which draws the reader into a tempest of animal abuse, lawlessness, and kidnapping within the confines of small-town happenings, and ‘Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner,’ – seeking adventure in abandoned dump sites and the challenges of entering flea markets.

I have recently had short stories published in four Phyllis Scott Publications – ‘The Pink Victorian Lady,’ in The Landing & Other Short Stories and Blue Eyes & Other Romantic Short Stories, ‘The Rescue,’ in All in the Game & Other Short Stories and ‘Not Suitable Viewing for Children,’ in The Fear Beast & Other Short Stories.

I live with my husband, Art, at Babcock Lake in the Grafton Mountains near Petersburgh, New York. My daughter and her family live nearby. Also living near us is our son. I have two granddaughters and one grandson. I devote time to my family, writing and community work. I enjoy reading, skiing, golfing, knitting, walking/hiking, swimming, exercising and traveling.

Beachfront Press

2) You are a busy writer. What is the most challenging for you as a writer?

The most challenging for me as a writer is putting aside the time to complete a story, novel or poem. Writing the first stages of a story is easy. Words and ideas flow. Plots and characters take shape. Whereby, comes a moment of truth. There is too much ‘story.’ The masterpiece needs to be cut. I am challenged to be disciplined. Thus, the real work begins and it is tedious. Through persistence in weaving the story, the end result is generally satisfactory. Still, I find a professional edit is needed in order to send a finished story to a publisher. Challenges are ongoing. However, when the story is published, it is worth the time spent and the cost.

3) How do you manage your time?

Managing time: I write every day and the amount of time varies. Some days, I spend one half hour writing. Most of the time, I write or re-write three hours at a time. One hour in the morning and two in the evening. More talented writers than I am, who procrastinate writing their stories, ask, “how do you write as much as you do?” Simply, every day I write something and I work on several stories at once. This keeps my ideas fresh and the flow of writing consistent. I then set the work aside for a week or longer. When I reread it, my interest is revived and I am ready to continue until it falls flat again.

In good weather, I long to be outdoors with family and friends. After 6:00 p.m., I disappear and retire to my desk and computer to get my writing ‘fix.’ I will glance at the beautiful red sunset sinking over the lake and rivet my eyes back to that difficult sentence on the computer. A writer will find time to write no matter what the circumstances.

4) Can you describe your surroundings as you write?

This poem best describes my surroundings as I write;


Laden on an ell-desk, work-piles wait.
A cluster of photographs surrounds
a scratched and watermarked blotter.
One clear frame portrays
three school chums visiting
after twenty-odd years.
A hectic-electric typewriter clacks on,
spewing artful wordage.
Four male generations peer
from a silver antique frame
My father, a toddler,
sits on great-grandfather’s knee.
I swivel to a tape dispenser,
snip off a narrow adhesive
and seal an envelope bulging
with a manuscript.
A daughter framed by pastel hearts
smiles to celebrate graduation day.
A postal scale denotes
One Forever stamp will leave its mark.
Through a picture window,
denuded trees neighbor with green pines.
The lake beyond is calm.

The typewriter is now in a corner of the room. In its place on the desk are a computer and a printer. A copy machine for large manuscripts sits on a wall unit with numerous shelves filled with books and an old bottle collection. A rocking chair on a plush, oriental rug is inviting to a guest, but please guest, don’t stay too long as I have a pile of work to do. It is a perfect room for a writer…a view of a beautiful lake, pine trees and nature abounds.

5) Where do you get your inspirations? Who inspires you?

Writing inspirations are everywhere. Newspapers are a good source for material. Headline – ‘Pregnant wife and baby survive murder plot.’ What if…? While on vacation, ideas flow, particularly for the perfect character in my next novel or short story. Taking a walk down a wooded path provides great ideas for writing poetry and Haiku.

Inspirations for my writing career began with the ‘Nancy Drew’ series by Carolyn Keene when I was a pre-teen in the 1950’s. Each holiday, I would request the latest Nancy Drew title and upon receiving it, I would curl-up in an over-sized chair and begin reading the fast-paced adventure.

I dabbled at creating my own mystery stories at an early age. My first effort detailed a long, frightening chase by a sinister man. A dark tunnel appeared, leading to (of course) a haunted mansion. The not-so-brilliant ending had me saved by the man of my life at the time - my father.

I have been inspired by Agatha Christie. As a writer, I find Agatha Christie an excellent study, particularly in developing characters, descriptive scenes and her exceptional talent attributed to writing a variety of books including original mystery plays, romantic novels, a memoir of archaeological expeditions in Syria, poetry and her area of expertise, plotting mysteries.

As well as Agatha Christie, I like to write in the style of Mary Higgins Clark and the outstanding, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. Even though I like to read the fast-paced, violently descriptive, James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell novels, I am not comfortable writing in that mode.

Inspiration is found reading an advertisement on the side of a bus, reading a new author as well as old, familiar ones, stopping to listen to a street preacher shouting or a bag lady mumbling demonic prophecies, and in a child’s drawing. I seek and find inspiration everywhere.

6) Do you use any set formulas for writing? How do you develop your stories? Do you use an outline? What do you use, if anything?

I do not have any set formula for writing except to write something every day. My stories develop as a brainchild and the characters take shape at their own pace. I frequently ask ‘what’s next?’ I feel claustrophobic using an outline. I write helter-skelter and admittedly, it is the hard way.

7) How do you develop your characters?

My characters develop themselves. I create them using a combination of real and imagined people. I’ll admire one person’s hair color, another’s features, still another’s body type and put them together. Any attempt I make at molding a character does not work. If I force a character to act against his/her will, the story is all wrong. I will sit back and think it through, letting the character direct me. I have read other author’s essays confirming this dilemma. It is a fact. A character will lead and the writing flows until the next hurdle due to plot, scene description, etc.

8) Have you learned anything from other writers? Editors?

I consistently learn from the unique style of other writers. I pay attention to the voice they use. When a writer captivates me, I do not want to imitate his/her writing. I want to achieve what they have accomplished by leaving a reader satisfied and anxious to read more of their books.

A good editor is necessary to make the suggestions and corrections that will make a story the best it can be. At times I cringe at the slashing an editor does and/or the suggestions he/she makes to re-write the story when I believe I have created a masterpiece needing few corrections. The editor is usually right. There may be exceptions, but someone needs to keep the author in line so the work becomes acceptable for publication.

9) What kind of writing goals have you set for yourself?

My writing goals are varied. I write mainstream, mysteries, non-fiction, historical, flash fiction, young/adult and poetry. I work on several stories at the same time. This pace keeps my thoughts fresh. I continually submit my work for publication and enter contests. My ultimate goal is to write well.

10) Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Do you have any last comments or advice you want to give our readers and writers?

My pattern for a writer’s success is Winston Churchill’s famous quote: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. Never, never, never give up!

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. We know our readers will be able to get a clearer picture of what you write. Linda

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New book interview with Barbara Ehrentreu by Linda Barnett-Johnson
Please join.

Book Interview with Barbara Ehrentreu

1) Please tell us about what you like to write? List your websites, what you do and anything else you'd like our readers and writers to know about you. (Please list your accomplishments too).

I like to write almost anything, actually. When I start a new piece I never know in which genre it will be. I would say the majority of my novels that are still unpublished are YA. I like this time when everything is so fraught with problems that seem insurmountable for a teen. But I have written adult stories as well and one is a little bit erotic too.:)

What I have been doing for a year is private tutoring for a tutoring company. I like the one on one with students who really need the help and I love when they start to improve. I used to teach full time and my last full time job was a Literacy Specialist for grades K and 1 in a charter school. I am retired from teaching for a few years, but tutoring helps pay the bills. In addition to writing prose I write poetry and many of my poems are on my blog. I have been part of Poetic Asides where we write to a prompt and then post the poems on the website. Sometimes only a poem will do to express something.

I have a Masters in Reading and Writing K-12 and ended my graduate work as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I have attended many writing workshops in addition to this. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor is the first YA novel I ever wrote and it took five years to get it published. Also, I am an editor for 4RV Publishing and have edited everything from picture books to very long chapter books for adults. My book is being published by MuseItUp Publishing and I am very happy to be part of this unique and supportive group headed by Lea Schizas. Two of my stories are published online. One is a children's story and the other is an adult story. Here are the links:
"The Trouble with Follow the Leader" (children's story)

Out on a Ledge

You can find out more about me here:
Barbara's Meanderings

2) You really are a busy lady. How do you make the time to write? What challenges do you face as a writer?

When I have something to write I write it. I would love to be able to write during the day, but usually my writing is done at night when everyone is asleep. I am in the middle of writing a new story and it is going slowly. I think about it at night in bed and when I have time I'll sit down and write a little more. I write my blogs mostly at night and when I'm in a time crunch for something I will just ignore everything else and write. This is only when I'm not working or there isn't any pressing family business I need to attend to.

An example of how I write happened this morning when I went over to a poetry website on which I used to post my poems. It's called Poetic Asides and Robert Brewer, the person who runs the blog offers prompts every week and during the month of April. Lots of poets post their poems in the comments section. I went over there today to give one of my friends the link and found I needed to write to the prompt for the day. So I stopped everything and wrote a poem. Writing poetry doesn't take me that long, because it always flows out of me and it's almost like relaxing for me to write a poem. Fifteen minutes later I sent my friend the link after realizing why I had come over there. Many of my novel manuscripts were written during NaNoWriMo, which is a full month devoted to creating a 50,000 word novel in only 30 days. You need to write at least 2000 words a day and almost every time I have taken part in it I have won, completing a full-length novel.

Did I mention that I am also an editor and when I'm working on a piece I try to do it during the day, but occasionally I will edit in the evening. It all depends on the deadline on how much of my day time will be spent editing. The challenges I face as a writer are mainly how to promote my book. I have a big online presence, but I want to get my book out there to people where I live. How do you promote an e-book is what I am dealing with and I am going to have a book signing. I have an IPad so that will work to display the book itself. Also, I am preparing my business cards and postcards as well as a few posters. My problem is that all promotion costs money and I don't want to spend much until I get some sales.:)

3) I am always curious about the working surroundings of a writer. Could you describe that for us? What do you see from your working station?

Right now I'm working on a pull out desk in my bedroom on an Apple laptop. Facing me is part of my collection of Betty Boop dolls and a few other figures, like sports announcer bobble heads and the Mets mascot. Also we have a dark bronze head of Honore de Balzac. Behind me are bookshelves holding all of the signed children's books I have. There’s a TV in here, but I sit with my back to it. Somewhere in front of me are a few photos of my family. If I want I can open my blinds and look out at the pool in the apartment complex's courtyard or beyond that to the water below near the parking area. Sometimes I walk along the boardwalk there and look at the birds that alight on the small beach there. When I walk down the path I sometimes see a bunny.:)

4) Where do you get your inspirations? Who inspires you?

Much of what has inspired me to write has come from my own life in one form or another. One of my daughters inspired my YA novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. Of course I got her permission to use her story, though it was changed considerably. Sometimes, as was the case of my picture book WIP a sentence inspired me. I have been in movie theaters and someone walking by me has inspired me to write. I did actually try to write a poem in the dark car. I have been on the road and the fall foliage inspired me to write and I did write while driving.:) Any natural setting will inspire me too. We were once at a rock ledge overlooking the water and as I sat there watching the water and the people and feeling the sunshine on my face I had to write. I wound up writing two poems and a short story that day. My own experience as a child inspired me to write my children's story, "The Trouble with Follow the Leader" which is about a real event that happened to me. The story on which I am working now is about a real experience that happened to a child in my first grade class. So as you can see, almost anything can inspire me to write. Also, I have been known to write birthday poems in a few minutes to put on birthday cards for family and friends. Put me in front of a keyboard or give me a pen and paper and I will write something! As I put on my bio, writing is my life.:)

5) You are inspiring me to write again. I started out writing, and now editing for writers. What encouragement can you give to beginning writers? Is there a motto you live by?

I am so happy that I have inspired you to write. I think if you have something to say you should definitely keep writing. As for encouragement for beginning writers I think it's very important that you know your craft. Writing may seem easy to you, but knowing the skills you will need is very important. Once you have finished your first draft most of the time your writing is not ready for publishing. First of all leave it alone for awhile and then when you get back to it look at the work like it wasn't yours. Be an editor and cut anything that takes away from the story. Be ruthless, because it will only take away from your story. When you are happy with your draft then you should send it to a few people to have them read and critique it. With the book I am publishing now, it went through several revisions before I sent it to a critique group and then after that it went through nineteen revisions until it got to what I thought was my final copy. I kept sending it out and getting rejections. After a rejection I went back and tried to revise it again. Through all of this I never gave up my dream of being published. Even though my family was sure I was pursuing a dead end, I had wonderful support from my critique group and they gave me great suggestions. I also had several other writers read it and used their suggestions.

During this time I started a blog and began to gather friends on Facebook. I attended workshops both in person and online. I networked as much as I could. You should take every opportunity to make friends with writers and authors. Don't give up and don't get discouraged no matter how many rejections you get. Keep submitting your writing in any form you write. I had two short stories published online. So if you don't have an online presence you need to work on that. All you need is to be on Facebook and Twitter and have a blog.

6) Do you set goals for yourself? What goals do you have?

Well of course, my goal for over five years was to publish my book. Now that is done, I would like to publish another one. My short-term goal is letting as many people as possible know about my book and read it, of course.:) I am planning on submitting my second novel to my current publisher, since I am very happy here at MuseItUp Publishing. Of course, I have to look it over and get it ready. I am also an editor for 4RV Publishing and I hope to be editing more books as the year goes on.

7) How do you develop your characters?

Usually I'll sit down to write and then after a few chapters I'll realize I don't know much about my character. I use a character wheel, which is very handy for organizing character traits and finding out about your character. Besides the usual hair color, eye color, age, height, etc. you put in more specific things like what the character would have in their room, parents (if YA or MG), favorite color, favorite sport, favorite music, hobbies, and the one that allows you to know your character best and propels your story: what is the one thing they must have or do? It's the one thing they would do almost anything to get or achieve. With this goal in mind you can flesh out the plot of your main character. Also you want to add friends to this wheel and describe them too. Or if you want, you can make a separate wheel for the friends. For your secondary character or character you need to do the same kind of wheel. So you know what is the one thing each character must have or do. I did a whole blog post for the MuseItUp Publishing blog on this. You can go to the blog and learn more about this technique.

8) Do you have a set formula for writing? Do you do an outline? What do you do?

As I said in the last question, I just start to write. Many times I go on and continue writing as the words keep coming. I did this for all of my NaNoWriMo books and wrote them until I got to the end. With the YA novel I am about to publish I got stuck in the middle and then I had to find a way to tell the secondary character's story. I don't like to do outlines, but in this case I had to go back and do a plot outline. Also in the second YA novel I have not submitted but is ready, I stopped on one chapter and then had to go ahead and outline the chapter to make sure the events went in the way I wanted them to go. I just let my muse take me where it will and when it starts to rebel I stop and figure it out. I am really what is called a "pantser". I take a story idea and just write.

9) When you edit, what is the most common mistakes a writer makes?

Probably the most common mistakes I have found are run on sentences. The next one is passive verbs. Many people put in too many "that's". I am guilty of this myself.:) Another problem is writers tend to forget actions during dialogue. One writer had almost page long paragraphs of narrative and then in the dialogue had paragraphs of dialogue without any idea that the characters were talking to each other. One character talked, then another with no idea to the reader of where they were or what was happening during the conversation. Mostly, writers tend to assume you are thinking what they are and leave out important parts of the story. Or they overwrite and have to pare it down. Some put in too many tags. Also, of course, there are grammar and spelling errors.

10) Thank you for doing this interview. It’s been a pleasure. Do you have any last comments or advice for all of us?

Not really, your questions have been excellent, Linda and I am very pleased to be a guest on your blog. My only comments and they're not advice, because I am not a multi-published author with a lot of experience, are to not put yourself down as a writer. Too many new writers don't submit their work, because they feel it isn't good enough for anyone else to read. Since writing comes so easily to most of us we can't be objective about our own writing. What you have looked at and thought no one will read, might be the best thing someone else has ever read. I say this, because I felt this way for years. It took me five years to get my book published, but before that when I was writing it I never thought it could get published.

Maybe one piece of advice to the new writers. When you give your writing to someone to read be prepared for some good and some bad comments. I look for the bad ones, because this means the person who is reading my work is being honest with me. Do you want to accept all the bad ones? No, but at least keep an open mind about what needs to be changed in your writing. Your work is only as good as the amount of time you have put into it. If you really love your story, then make sure it is the best it can be. Join a critique group and get many different opinions. Send it to beta readers and when you have all the comments go back and revise it until you feel it is your best. I revised my first chapter so many times I can't count them. I added parts to my book when people suggested them if I felt they would work. Writing is constantly experimenting to see what works and what doesn't work. I am very glad that I took the plunge and sent out my work. Yes, you will get rejections, but there will be the one acceptance that will make a difference and I hope it will make you feel as excited as I did when I got my contract.

Thank you for your answers to this interview. I really enjoyed reading them. I especially liked the last one. We all have to be a little toughed-skinned in order to read an editors comments. You need to really take into consideration their feedback. If you can't take any constructive criticism, how can you possibly continue as a writer? Don't get mad, but get glad that someone is honest enough to tell you what they feel you should change, or suggestions for something they feel would make your story sing. Isn't that what we all want?