A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
I believe that would depend on what other skills, talents or interests they might have and how much of their time is devoted to writing. People are individuals and social engagement is a choice that requires basic skills. Anyone can develop a talent and practice those skills. One’s level of interest in social involvement must not be confused with his or her ability to interact socially when desired.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
When I first started writing, nothing could have convinced me that longhand was not the best way to go. There seemed to be a direct connection between my pen and the ideas that couldn’t wait to be written. Later, when my work as a spiritual teacher and counselor required me to write lesson plans, the typewriter became my instrument of choice. Years later, a student gave me a computer in exchange for counseling, taught me how to use it and lovingly demanded that I provide handouts of all my lesson plans, I gave it a try. I’ve been hooked on the computer as my writing instrument ever since. For me, the key is to be alone in an uninterrupted, quiet place and to be so proficient with the instrument used that I can give my undivided attention to the process. Given that, thoughts stream through my fingers onto the written page.
What inspires you to write? My love for words, ideas, and communication. A great poet and nature-lover wrote, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” I would say “I think that I shall never see a tree as lovely as a poem.” For me, words are symbols; a magical way to paint a picture of one’s invisible thoughts. I write for the joy of writing and sharing my thoughts; I read for the joy of discovering another’s thoughts.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
Living with another person and writing at home requires predictability of long stretches of time that I can be alone in the house. If that were not possible I would have to rent a private space for writing because I can sense another person’s presence, and that is a distraction from the total concentration that I give to the art of writing. As my husband’s schedule changes, I adapt my writing times to the change, and that becomes a set schedule until the next change in our lifestyle. Since I write a variety of different things for the course studies in our ministry, I try to hold firm to a routine of book-writing six to eight hours twice a week, with other writing six hours weekly. This gives me a bit of versatility. For example: if I sit down to write a lesson plan or a counseling plan for a student and feel the “muse” taking my attention away from that, I give in to the muse and postpone the work. However, if the “muse” should visit when I am close to the deadline on my written work, I make a note of the highlights and discipline myself to set it aside until the next writing day. Short periods of writing don’t work for me because I lose myself and all sense of time in the joy of writing.
How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Not difficult at all. From my earliest memory, I kept a journal and later wrote poetry as a teenager. In my twenties, I wrote children’s stories and read them to my own children and neighbors. The writing urge was so strong in me that I always had to discipline myself with the use of time management for balance in my activities and interests. Short stories and children’s stories, along with my journal, documents related to my spiritual work, and workshops related to my career as a Hospice program manager were the only things that I wrote, but I had begun a thirty-year love affair with the study of world-religions. I had no thoughts of writing a book, but there seemed to be something important left unsaid about the question of religions. A Comparison of World Religions became my first self-published book in 2006.
Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that? I would think that everyone who has an artistic talent craves time alone to give uninterrupted freedom to the expression of his or her creativity. Not only authors, but songwriters, poets, painters, photographers, composers, and sculptors might be overbalanced in their craving for private time if they have established a lifestyle that challenges it. Time-management, with built-in time frames for being alone, contributes to a healthier balance for me.
Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs?
My partner is my partner in all things. He enjoys my enthusiasm and hearing about my writing ideas. He is my first among three editors with any finished book. I value his input and contemplate his ideas before deciding how to proceed.
What are your views on modern erotica? Have they completely dehumanized the idea, or is it better?
There is something for everyone and my true philosophy is, ‘to each his own’. There is an audience for every type of writing and I encourage people to read or write what they enjoy. I too have a preference, and I write that which I would enjoy reading.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I tend to think of my writing as a ‘partnership’ with the idea and the inspiration. I go into a writing session with an objective in mind and I hold that thought in silence. Soon an idea comes, and I go into brief meditation to let it present itself as a plot or vision about the topic. I am the first audience for these ideas and I effortlessly write away while the “muse”, or creative inspiration, fills me with words more rapidly than I can write them. It is like a download from somewhere in the upper regions of my mind. Once the complete manuscript has been written in that way, whether it takes one writing session or 20, I examine it critically and consider who the reader might be. Finally, I give it my ‘voice’ to fulfill my objective for the writing before beginning the first of three edits. My objective is always to express myself in relation to the topic and the purpose for my writing.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Be true to yourself. If writing is not a talent in you that is pressing to come out and be seen, you will find it burdensome. Starting with short stories would be a good test for talent. I write for the love of writing and the finished product is my reward. If you write for the purpose of rewards from others, it will become a labor in which the public dictates and in which your expectations are often unmet.
Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
It is my voice, the unique way that I express ideas in words. No two artistic voices are the same. I write as if I were speaking candidly to the reader.
Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
Anyone can write. The answer depends on one’s concept of what a writer is.
Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?
My autobiography, Windows of Life and Death, was published in 2011. I consider it the masterpiece of my books, yet my life is not over, so it can’t be the final word.
What is the secret to becoming a bestselling author?
No matter how excellent a book is, without proper promotion it remains largely unknown. I love the writing but find any effort beyond that to be a chore that keeps me from getting on to the next book.
Is there a genre you absolutely despise, or are written pieces all pieces of art and demand to be respected equally?
Everything in writing is but the expression of someone’s thoughts. To despise a genre would be to resist the liberty of writers to authentically present in their own way. Respecting the right of everyone to speak through their chosen genre leaves me at liberty to write my own thoughts without apology or a need for approval.
What is your motivation for writing more?
As a young military wife with children and a busy lifestyle of travel, I thought that someday I might publish my own writings. I established an independent publishing company in name only called, ‘Brass Trunk Publishing’. Everything that I wrote went neatly into that trunk to wait. The year that my husband retired from the service, when I was still only 36, a warehouse containing all of our household possessions was burned to the ground. The brass trunk was in it. The writings were lost but the ‘muse’ has helped me rewrite some pieces that were most memorable for me. My poverty upbringing, my illiterate parents and grandparents, and my work in nursing homes and hospice care produced more ideas for novels than I could even begin to write. Each one would speak to social and psychological concerns that are timeless. What could ever motivate me to stop writing?
Do you see the ‘writing germs’ in any of your family members?
Only in my son. His love of writing and for the beauty of words led to excellent critiques in high school and college with a lifetime of songwriting that began when he was six years old.
Which book would you want adapted for the silver screen?
What a dream that would be! Windows of Life and Death begins with a near-death-experience, but it is down-to-earth enough to speak to people in all walks of life. Reincarnations of Marisa is equally impressive and would be adventurous enough to appeal to a wide audience of both believers in reincarnation and doubters.
If you were to change your genre, which one would you choose?
Having written my final word as a direct influence on the spiritual quest with my book, REALITY, A Journey Through Time, I will be changing my genre to romantic novels. This allows the liberty to embellish or change true stories in support of my message while adding more color to characters and events. The language will still be beautiful and honest, but the writings will be explicit, more direct and more interesting to the average reader. My goal will be to show that the harshness, the passion and the struggles of the human condition can be told without guttural language or graphic descriptions of sexual encounters. If I am right, there will be a rekindling of hope and strength in my readers as they embrace the character with whom they identify. My first one will be a story of incest, hardship, illiteracy, financial deprivation and the triumphant spirit. It tells the story of Ben and Rose; the developing years of each and how their paths converged. It gives insight into why some people struggle with life and others accept what seems unacceptable. Through 65 years of marriage their lives unfold and culminate in Ben’s tearful question, “What was my life all about? I can’t figure it out.” It is not the answer but the search for the answer that breathes new passion into Ben despite his 86-year-old Leukemia-riddled and pain-racked body.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
Thirty years ago, I was working as a professional story-teller to supplement my salary as a Prayer Counselor. The moment I decided to accept the challenge to do that, my muse began to feed me dozens of original stories separated into categories for different types of audiences. A series of ten stories entitled ‘Country Flavored Truth’ proved to be the most popular by far. I recorded the stories without ever writing them, and sold them in a bookstore during the years of that adventure. One of my projects is to put that series of short stories in writing. Another project is the story of Ben and Rose that I have previously described, but I am also writing a novel entitled “The Songwriter”. How long will it take? Who can tell? I focus on the joy of writing and not on what I will do with it once it is finished. The idea of one step at a time has always helped me enjoy every stage of my work as it blossoms into the fragrance of its maturity. The nectar is sweet.