I’d like to welcome Lorraine Devon Wilke back to Layered Pages to talk about her writing. She is an author, photographer, singer/songwriter, started early as a creative hyphenate. First, there was music and theater, next came rock & roll, then a leap into film when a feature she co-wrote (To Cross the Rubicon) was produced by a Seattle film company, opening doors in a variety of creative directions.
In the years following, she wrote for and performed on theater stages, developed her photography skills, and accrued a library of well-received feature screenplays (The Theory of Almost Everything was a top finalist in the 2012 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest; A Minor Rebellion a Quarter Finalist in that same event in 2014). She kept her hand in music throughout – songwriting, recording, performing – leading to the fruition of a longtime goal to record an original album (Somewhere On the Way). Accomplished in collaboration with songwriting/producing partner, Rick M. Hirsch, the album garnered stellar reviews and can be found at CDBaby and iTunes (one tune from the collection is even featured in the epilogue of After the Sucker Punch). She continues with music whenever she can (which, she maintains, is never, ever, enough!).
Lorraine, why do you write?
Not to sound trite, but it seems I must. Truly. It’s the most effective, most pleasurable, most succinct way for me to organize the thoughts rumbling around my consciousness that need to get out—a formulating plot, a necessary commentary, a passionate letter. To sit down at my computer and let those words flow from my head, through my fingers, and into some cogent, tangible, readable form, seems the best way to communicate what I’m thinking. I was that person who wrote Letters-to-the-Editor; I could settle a family battle with a thoughfully composed missive; my visual stories unrolled into screenplay format, and when I finally had a narrative I felt could sustain the novel format, I wrote my first novel. There’s something about the process—thought, through hands, to words—that is so powerful, so clear and understandable, that makes the form, to me, one of the most perfect ways to communicate. There’s also the matter of knowing there is a reader on the other end of those words. The idea of conveying ideas, concepts, great stories, emotions, to another person through your words feels like a tremendous exchange of give and receive. Very interactive and synergistic. I love the sense of getting caught up in creating a world, people, and a story, and knowing someone else will read those words and, hopefully, be transported, or moved, or entertained, or impacted in some way that is transformative. It feels like a gift I I’m able to give and so I do… always with hope the receiver enjoys it!
What is your writing process?
I can’t say I have a specific process. Or ritual. Or way I must do things. No special spot to write, shirt to wear, music to listen to. Which is good, I think, because it allows me to get to work pretty much any time inspiration hits. I work with a laptop, so I can write anywhere and often do. I can write with others in the room, noise going on, madness ensuing around me, or I can write in complete silence and solitude. Very internal process for me, learned, I suppose, as one of eleven children in a very loud, chaotic family! Of course, if someone wants to endow me with a good cup of coffee or an excellent piece of chocolate on a regular basis, I could easily make those items part of an excellent writing process.
How has writing impacted your life?
In a way, it’s saved my sanity, given me a place to focus, organize, and explore my never-ending thoughts, both creative and editorial. As a blogger/editorial writer/essayist, I often found that, as I’d note something happening in the world, read an article that provoked me, or heard some nonsense in the news that demanded a response, I was compelled gather my swirling thoughts into words. It wasn’t ego or arrogance; I simply HAD to say something or I felt like my head would explode! I took to blogging, and when someone at one of the bigger news sites printed two pieces, I knew I had my outlet. And since it was likely I had more to say than anyone would ever want to publish, I started my blog, Rock+Paper+Music, which is kind of a column for me, and from there I was invited to write for The Huffington Post.
When I’d get response to topical issues that expressed relief or commiseration, telling me I was giving voice to those who felt the same way but didn’t have the ways, means, or desire to speak out loud, I felt like I was providing a public service. Very noble. Until I discovered, and become enmeshed in, the grinding, hashing, redundant vitriol that seems endemic to topical writing. After years of that gauntlet, weary and in need of a figurative shower, I got out of politics, deciding I had to focus on more creative, positive, productive avenues for my words. Again, for my sanity. See, it’s all about my sanity! 🙂
So now my writing is built on a creative platform. I often find a way to put my editorial opinions and perspective into the mouths of characters or the prose of my narrative. That ability to fashion a completely original, imagined story, peopled by characters who bring life and humanity alive for me—and, hopefully, readers—has been an exhilarating exercise, given me a sense of tremendous creative joy.
As for impact on a career level, it’s been very exciting to be in control of my destiny as a novelist. With so much of the “business of art,” there is the waiting to please/win-over/convince gatekeepers just to get in the door to hopefully please/win-over/convince the next set of “permission givers.” Hopefully, once one does that, it’s “all steam ahead”—in the case of publishing, to get the book out to readers. So far, I have not had the particular experience of working with a publisher. I’ve been “doing it for myself” and there’s a certain purist beauty in that: to pursue the stories that move and provoke me, to write my narrative in a way that meets my creative standards and in my particular voice; to choose my title, my cover artwork, and then, with the help of professional editors, formatters, designers and selective readers, produce a book I’m proud to put out. Then… click—it’s in the hands of readers.
That’s an amazing bit of artistic empowerment that has allowed me to pursue this writing path without the obstacles too often put in our way.
When do your best ideas come to you for a story?
I’m a power walker and it’s during my walks that my creative Muse most often visits with ideas for a story, suggestions of where to take a plot, or notes about what I might have forgotten, left out, or misplaced. Walking helps clear my mind and make room for that “channel” of inspiration I tend to count on. And it’s good exercise. Win/win!
How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?
Good question. On a topic that seems to have given birth to a lot of silliness in the world of book reviewing, particularly for indie writers. When you see very mediocre books with hundreds of 5-stars reviews clearly written by family or friends within writers groups; when you read threads on Goodreads or other sites where writers beg each other for review swaps (“you like mine and I’ll like yours!”); when industrious book sites charge writers ridiculous fees for reviews; when authors get friends to attack or negate revewiers who didn’t like their books; or when trolls go out of their way to collectively bash writers they don’t like for one reason or another, the whole process and value of reviewing becomes moot, corrupt, and tarnished. Which is too bad, because good, honest, thoughtful reviews can be very helpful to an artist. As for my own, I’ve made clear I would no more want a fake, traded, or purchased “good” review than I’d want a unfair, mean-spirited negative one. I want readers who’ve taken the time to read my books to leave their honest, authentic responses to the work, whatever that is. I’ve been fortunate to have received largely positive reviews on my first novel, After The Sucker Punch, some so/so reviews, and a few “meh” reviews. None have been solicited, none have been “trades,” none have been manipulated. Happily, none have been throat-slitters either! But I’ve certainly received negative reviews on work in other arenas: music, movies, plays, etc., and you learn as an artist to take the bad with the good. Develop thick skin. Feel the hit, then let it go and move on.
I figure if I did the work to the best of my ability, if I “spoke” in my true, authentic voice as an artist, if I delivered the work I wanted to deliver, then how a reader receives it is his or her prerogative. I don’t deliver my work until I’m completely happy with it, and, if I’m happy with it, then I’ve done my job. Of course, I’m THRILLED when others are happy with it as well, but I respect anyone who honestly has a different opinion. It’s a very wide world out there and we all look at what we read, listen to, watch, through the filters we’ve gained from a lifetime of experience; every artist must be clear on that… if not, public consumption can be a painful thing!
What advice would you give a beginner writer?
First of all, you must be an absolute pro about the work: study and learn your craft, gain experience, write-write-write! Find the best people to offer critique (and be selective… everyone has an opinion; that doesn’t mean it’s the right opinion—or the right one for you); then listen, be humble, try things, experiment, but never lose sight of your own voice. Never.
If you are going the traditional route, expect to spend a considerable amount of time querying agents, with all the arcane rules and expectations that go along with that particular path. Be utterly professional, deliver the best possible work in whatever format or increment is requested, never get surly or argumentative; be gracious and resilient. Go after it with everything you’ve got, but realize all the “rules” you’re told to follow can and will change from agent to agent, so also be prepared to be flexible and tenacious. It can be a long haul, but if that’s the way you want to go, learn everything you can about the agents best suited for the kind of book you’ve written, then go after it like nobody’s business.
If the “indie” route is the one you opt for, understand that you will not only be the artist, the writer; you will also be the “business person”: the publisher, marketer, promoter, and publicist. That aspect of it can be confounding, frustrating, exhausting, brutal, dispiriting, and endless, but if you do it right, with eyes open to every good possibility, clarity about your goals, and a bracing sense of reality about your work and how it fits into the marketplace, you can have quite the successful ride! It can even be empowering, vindicating… fun!
But don’t publish until your book has been polished, fine-tuned, written, rewritten, read, critiqued, edited, copyedited, formatted, and put together with a professional designed cover. Do NOT cut corners; that not only reflects upon you as a writer, but on the indie community as a whole. Those unfortunate stigmas attributed to self-published writers by many in the media and the publishing industry—“amateurish, sloppy, poorly edited, loads of typos and misspellings, horrible covers, bad writing, lousy plots”—didn’t emerge out of nowhere. They came from too many books that did have those problems, mucking up the waters for all indie authors. Be someone who raises the bar. Do it right. Be as good as you can be. Be the kind of writer, with the kind of book, that could sit next to any legacy writer at Barnes & Noble and be right at home. Don’t publish until you’re sure you have a book like that.
Then keep writing!
Thank you, Stephanie! I appreciated being a part of your “writers series”… and thanks for all you do for independent writers. It’s much appreciated!
HYSTERICAL LOVE, with a publication date of April 7, 2015, and is available for pre-order at:
AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH B.R.A.G Medallion Page: B.R.AG. Medallion Honoree
Lorraine’s website: www.lorrainedevonwilke.com
For all publicity inquiries contact: www.JKSCommunications.com
Lorraine’s other web links:
Other Items referenced in bio: To Cross the Rubicon
Somewhere on the Way (CD):