Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.D. Faulkner

JD Faulkner

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.D. Faulkner to talk with me today about her book, Mirrored Time. J.D. lives in Seattle, Washington. She spends her time reading anything she can get her hands on; studying Greek and Roman mythology; and avoiding the rain whenever she can. MIRRORED TIME is her first novel and book one of the Time Archivist Novels.

Hello, J.D.! Thank you for chatting with me today. Tell me, how did you discover indieBRAG?

As a self-published author, I spend a honey-bunches-of-crazy amount of time researching ways to promote my book. I discovered indieBRAG on one of my searches and thought: “Hey, what could it hurt?” I’m really honored to have been chosen to receive an indieBRAG medallion.

Please tell me about your book, Mirrored Time.

I stumbled upon the idea for Mirrored Time almost by accident. I was just finishing law school and was trying to think of what I wanted to do after graduation. So, I was imagining my dream job and I thought “Doesn’t everyone really just want to find out that they are special in some way?” And then Gwen walked into the Time Archives.

Mirrored Time is a story about a girl who is just trying to find a job but, instead, finds out that she is part of a time travelling order. There are dangerous secrets, an imprisoned god, an ex-gladiator thief— you know, normal things. I really wanted to tell a story that I’d enjoy reading. But at the heart of it, it is also a story about trust, and family- the one you are born with, and the one you chose.

Mirrored Time

What are some of the challenges in writing Time Travel?

I wish I could say that I haven’t tossed and turned in my bed in the small hours of the night, figuring out the theory of time travel. But that would be a lie. More than once, I wrote myself into a corner. In order not to end up with a gaping plot hole, I had to perform some pretty impressive mental gymnastics. There are rules to the world of time travel that I have created, but then there is also a god involved. And he doesn’t necessarily play by the rules. So it gets complicated.

What are some of the periods the story jumps around in? Which one is your favorite?

With my college major focusing on Greek and Roman history, those are my favorite time periods. The majority of Mirrored Time is set in some modern universe (I purposefully kept it vague so people could fill in the blanks as they wanted). But not everyone is what they seem at first glance, and certainly not everyone is from this modern age. The next installment takes place a large part in Ancient Egypt, and I can’t wait to play in that world.

Tell me a little about Gwen Conway. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Honestly, I struggled a little bit with Gwen. Out of all the characters, she’s the one into which I poured the most of myself. She isn’t fully me, but she is a piece of me. I think most authors would admit their characters come from a part of themselves. Gwen is meant to be somewhat difficult: She doesn’t trust easily, which is a weakness that both gets her in trouble, and one that is exploited. But I also tried to make her very loyal. It might take her awhile to open up to people but, when she does, she is fiercely protective of those she cares about.

I think your premise is extraordinary and very unique. The idea of an ancient force being imprisoned behind a mirror-made-prison is fantastic! What was your inspiration for that?

Mirrors intrigue me. Ever stare into a mirror that has the reflection of another mirror inside— and the two reflect off each other in an infinite repeating pattern? I’ve always been fascinated by that. The imaginative part of my brain always wondered what would happen if I stared into the pattern for too long. Or when you catch a mirror in the corner of your eye? Ever expect to see something there that shouldn’t be?

So, to me, the mirrors naturally became a portal through time. It’s what a lot of my characters use to time travel. It also felt right to be the prison for my half-mad god. If a mirror could take you anywhere in time, how awful would it be if it could also imprison you in one single space?

What are your favorite Greek and Roman legends? What is an example on how they play a part in your story?

I do like playing with Greek/Roman themes of the myths; fitting little hints/nods to my favorite myths in my writing is always fun. Maybe I’m the only one who notices, but I enjoy it!

Mirrored Time was part homage to the myth of Pandora’s Box. There is this struggle to prevent a dangerous force from being released upon the world, but it still focuses on the idea that there is always hope.

In the current book I’m working on, Fractured Time, I’m playing with a few different myths. But I’m especially exploring the story of Persephone and Hades (maybe a more PC friendly one). In the myths where Hades is cast in a more positive light, a kind of romance can be found. I’ve wanted to write my own version of it. I like that conflicting love between a creature of dark and one of light. I think it makes a love story more interesting and more tragic.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I am lucky to be part of an amazing writing group called the WorldWiseWriters. Most of us like to refer to ourselves as seat-of-the-pants-ers. Although I usually plan to stick to an outline and write during certain hours, by a certain spot, that gets thrown out the window. When the motivation hits, I have to write. Sometimes I’m lucky and I’m at my desk (usually with my two cats avidly watching me). Most of the time it’s in less convenient locations— anyone else get the writing bug in the middle of the night?

Please tell me what WorldWiseWriters is all about.

The WorldWiseWriters started as a group of mostly unpublished writers who all entered the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. We’ve never met in person as we all live in different places (Washington, Idaho, Vancouver BC, Georgia, and England), but we all connected and quickly grew to depend on each other. I would recommend every independent writer out there to find a support group. It helps so much to have a constant source of encouragement. I know that my journey as a writer would have ended long ago without these amazing women. If you want to learn more about us, we have a website: http://www.worldwisewriters.com/

Who designed your book cover?

The amazing Rebecca Sterling designed both my first cover and the new cover, which I absolutely adore. She is very talented, very reasonably priced, and so patient to work with. She was able to perfectly capture my vision for a book cover and I can’t sing her praises enough.

How fantastic! Does she have a website you can share with us?

I would love to! I’m always willing to brag about my spectacular designer; I’m so honored to have worked with her. You can find her site here

What are you working on next?

Currently I am working on what will probably be a novella in my series, the Time Archivist Novels. One of the character’s backstories has kind of morphed into a complex knot that is becoming a bit difficult to unravel. I think writing it out in its own story will give it the room to shine that it needs.

Do you stick with just one genre?

I don’t really consider genre when I’m writing. Ultimately I just write the story that I feel needs to be told. Struggling to fit the story into the appropriate genre box comes later. It could be because I love reading books of all genres: There are so many great ideas out there, how do you limit yourself to just one?

Author Websites:

website

World Wise Writers

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.D. Faulkner who is the author of, Mirrored Time our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Mirrored Time, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Mary Zinda

American Gyspy Girl

I’d like to welcome Mary Zinda to talk with me today about her B.R.A.G. Medallion book, American Gypsy Girl. Mary writes from the beautiful Kettle Moraine region of Wisconsin. She has been studying and practicing her craft for over a decade by attending conferences, critique groups, and writing classes. After learning many valuable lessons from other talented writers, Mary feels her novels are ready to see the light of day. Mary has a passion for all things old and forgotten and has a habit of pulling over to read roadside historical markers. She loves to (RV) camp with her husband, three sons, and various cousins and friends, and she would not be opposed to becoming an “RV gypsy” in her retirement. She is the author of the middle-grade historical fiction novel Lark of Yesteryear, its companion book Owen’s Journal, and her adult fiction novel The Making of Mathilda MacGregor. Her latest coming-of-age novel, American Gypsy Girl, is an Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

You can visit Mary Zinda at her website

Mary, please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

I do a lot of research, some of which is keeping up with what other indie authors are doing, what they find helpful, and things to avoid. I came across an author’s blog post that mentioned IndieBRAG, but I was skeptical. Some of the awards for writers that I’ve seen have a large entry fee, and I never want to feel like I paid for a review or award, so I pass those up. But when I looked into IndieBRAG, I noticed the fee was small and thought, “What the heck! Might as well try it.” It was the first time I have ever thrown a novel in the ring anywhere, and I sure was surprised when it was chosen to be among the other fine indie novels they have selected.

I love the title for your book, American Gypsy Girl. Please tell me a little about your story?

This novel took me close to eight years to complete. I wrote about half of it, and when I didn’t know where it was going, I walked away and wrote two other books. When I came back to it, it was almost like it wrote itself. Charlene Bucher, the main character, was born to young parents who lived a very different way of life—living in an Airstream camper at campgrounds with a band of like-minded friends who love to party. All very non-conventional, dysfunctional, and downright difficult to rise above. The main idea came to me almost 25 years ago when I actually met and hung out with some people who lived very much like the Buchers in my story, though they were very hard-working and kind people and not at all dysfunctional partyers. Some reviewers have called it a “modern-day fairy-tale,” and I guess I have to agree. I do love a happy ending…

What is an example of the dysfunctional aspects that Charlene faces early on in her life? How does she struggle with that?

Without giving away too much, I will say that growing up in a 28-foot camper gives a young girl a disadvantage from the beginning. Charlene’s dad is a real renegade whose favorite pastime is drinking beers by the fire and avoiding the police at all costs. Her mother is an alcoholic who is rarely coherent and often needs to be tended to. Neither one of them pay too much attention to the young girl who shares their camper, which is why Charlene is on her own to find out what life and love is all about. Early on she meets up with people who steer her in the wrong direction, which leads to an unplanned pregnancy that complicates her already complicated life.

Please give me a little insight to Charlene’s strengths.

Charlene is one of those characters that I missed the minute I typed the final period. She is wise enough at a young age to recognize that the way they live is not normal and makes a promise to herself to find her own “normal” and strive to get there, even though she has no idea how to accomplish that. She has a heart of gold, but like many teens, she falls prey to “fitting in with the cool girls” and pays a price for it—which makes her very real (who hasn’t done something just to be “cool”?) What I love most about Charlene is she never abandons her parents, even if they deserve it. Her love for them is very forgiving, and I like to think that’s why she is able to rise above her upbringing.

Tell me a little about Delbert Littman.

Oh, how I love this man! Delbert is a retired Baptist minister who summers at the campground where Charlene and her family live. A lonely widower with an eye for spotting a lost soul in need, Delbert becomes a beacon of reason for Charlene. I love his fiery preacher ways when Charlene does something stupid and she needs a good “sermon.” Del also provides the love, attention, and fuss that every young girl needs to feel special (and who doesn’t love PB&J sandwiches cut into butterfly shapes?) Delbert is an awesome guy!

Your story takes place in Wisconsin and most of the book is set in the 80’s. Why did you choose the time and place for your book?

As an avid Wisconsin camper and lifetime resident, the setting was already implanted in my head. The location of River’s Edge Campground is also where I met the real-life “gypsies” I once knew, so it seemed I ought to stick with what I already knew. And as for the timeline, Charlene is born the same year I was—1969, so the 80s is when I was a teen bent on big hair, blue mascara, and had a crush on a new boy every eighteen seconds. I noticed that a lot of the horrible fashions from that time seemed to be popping up here and there, and my own teen boys have taken a liking to songs I’d rather forget about—Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, to name one—so I thought the young adult reader might enjoy reading about that time. And for those of us who lived through the 80s, it’s always fun to go back and visit.

Is there a message in your story you want readers to come away with?

I like to say that “Gypsy Girl” is a book about a young girl’s triumph over adversity, but I like to add that it’s a humorous tale and not to be taken too seriously. I wrote this book to entertain, to uplift the reader and introduce them to a way of life that few know exists. Really, the only thing I want them to walk away with is this: “Geez! I should laugh more often!” Laughter is, after all, the best medicine. And, of course, I hope to inspire someone to get out there and try some camping. You never know who you’ll meet at a campground!

Where do you like to write?

I can write from anywhere, as long as my muse is with me. I wrote the entire novel The Making of Mathilda MacGregor and a good share of American Gypsy Girl in notebooks while camping. The problem with that is retyping it into the computer later—a tedious experience! So now, I write on my laptop, and any old place will do. Couch. Bed. Camper. My favorite spot is in my gazebo on warm afternoons —before the mosquitoes come out to suck the creativity out of me.

What is your writing process?

When I’m working on a novel, I dedicate days to it, during which I don’t do much else. Once the ideas stop flowing, I take a break and do other things (like clean my house and cook), and that’s when the ideas come to me. Writing takes a lot of time, and my mind has to be submersed in it fully when putting it to page, so I am the sort who is either writing, thinking about writing, or feeling guilty for not writing. I will say that I need two things to make anything at all, good or lousy, come out of my fingertips: coffee and music that goes with the theme of what I am working on. I wrote American Gypsy Girl while listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Greatest Hits album.

Who designed your book cover?

My very talented brother, Dan Petry of Design Cellar Creative, designed the cover for American Gypsy Girl. I am one of those authors lucky enough to have a graphic designer right there in my family tree! He sure did a beautiful job with this cover, too. I gave him the meager directive that I wanted an Airstream and the American flag on the cover, and what he produced was nothing I could have ever dreamt up! I can only dream up words, the rest I leave to the pros.

What are you working on next?

Just answering this question makes me smile. Fans of American Gypsy Girl will be pleased to learn that there is another (but different) American girl in the works. I am ten chapters into American Rebel Girl, the story of Elsie Hammond, a trouble-making teen sent off to Wilderness Therapy for the summer. This book is also set in the 80s because who doesn’t love reading about big hair and big trouble at the same time?

Do you stick with just genre?

For now, I am sticking with the humorous fiction genre that American Gypsy Girl fits into because I feel most comfortable in it. That’s not to say I will never write anything different. My previous book, The Making of Mathilda MacGregor is serious fiction that tackles the heavy subject of losing a parent to cancer. Lark of Yesteryear, my middle-grade historical fiction book, is a ghost story surrounding the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871. I don’t think I want to limit myself to one genre or another, but I’m smart enough to know that an author should stick to what is selling and give the readers what they want. However, having the freedom to write what you want is part of the joy of being an indie author, and I can promise you that I’m not done writing ghost stories!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Mary Zinda who is the author of, American Gypsy Girl our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, American Gypsy Girl, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

A Greater World by Clare Flynn

A Greater World -BRAG Book

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree  

Author Website

Amazon US

Amazon UK  

She crossed the world to marry a man she’d never met

When Elizabeth Morton’s father asks her to travel from England to Australia to marry a complete stranger, she thinks he must have lost his mind. This is 1920, and a woman has rights. But when her brother-in-law shatters her comfortable world, she has no choice but to travel across the world.

When Michael Winterbourne, a lead miner, battle worn from the trenches of the First World War wakes up with a hangover after his engagement celebrations, he has no idea he is about to cause a tragedy that will destroy his family.

When Michael and Elizabeth meet on the SS Historic, bound for Sydney, they are reluctant emigrants from England. They may hope their troubles are over, but they’re only just beginning.

A Greater World moves from the docks of Liverpool to the beautiful Blue Mountains of Australia, from coal to cocaine, from drawing rooms to courtrooms.

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Damon Wolfe

Damon Wolfe BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Damon Wolfe today to talk with me about his book, Tanglewood. Damon writes for 12-year-olds of all ages. Why 12? Because 12 is the best of times, and the worst of times, and throughout life, whenever we find ourselves in the best of times or the worst of times, the 12-year-old within us shows up, and helps us enjoy the moment and survive the day.

His stories combine comedy, mystery and action. Themes in his work are often built around the challenges of leaving childhood, and the boldness required to grow up while helping others grow.

Like many writers Damon has developed his craftsmanship over many years while working in other fields. His experience and education includes:

  • Executive Producer and cofounder of Stereobox, a visual effects and animation startup company in Marin County, California, and Chennai India.
  • Computer Graphics Supervisor at Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers Digital, a Disney Animation Studio in Marin County, California.
  • Artist and Technical Director at Wild Brain Animation Studio in San Francisco.
  • Degree in Traditional and Computer Animation, Vancouver Film School.
  • Artist and Graphic Designer at various startup companies and video game studios.
  • Before his career in entertainment Damon was a medical doctor. His specialty was child psychiatry.

 

Hello, Damon! How did you discover indieBRAG?

I researched sites and blogs that provide reviews of independently published books. I recall that indieBRAG was mentioned on more than one “review of best review sites” posts, but I’m sure the link I clicked was listed on writeforkids.org.

Please tell me about your story, Tanglewood?

Tanglewood is about 11-year-old fraternal twins Jen and Ben who have a deep affection for the stand of bamboo that surrounds an unsold house across the street from them. Jen, especially, senses that the bamboo is more than just a plant, as if it has a spirit within that makes it almost human. They look forward to playing in the yard surrounded by the bamboo all summer, but then learn that they have to go to sleep-away camp so their pregnant work-at-home mom can complete a clothing design project before the baby is born. Jen and Ben are not camp kids, so they dread going. But before camp the house with the bamboo is sold to Nash, the father of a school bully, a boy named Stones, who embarrassed them horribly on the last day of school. Nash and Stones cut down the bamboo and tear its roots from the ground. The assault devastates them, and everything goes from bad to worse when they learn that Nash will be the cook at their camp, and Stones will be his assistant. On top of that, Nash is a strict vegetarian, but not for the usual reason — he believes plants are mankind’s mortal enemy. Nash is a vegetarian because “we need to eat plants before they eat us,” and he’s raised Stones to have a fear that plants are biding their time, and could attack at any moment. So the twins, who want to do something to keep Stones from bothering them at camp, create a life-sized creature from the hewn bamboo, and name it Tanglewood.

While Ben is busy building Tanglewood, Jen convinces Stones that she and her brother are friends with the bamboo he destroyed, and that it’s coming to get him. On the night before leaving for summer camp they maneuver their creature across the street, and their plan works, but in the chaos they have to flee, and they lose Tanglewood. Unseen by anyone, the bamboo puppet actually comes to life, and hides in Nash’s truck bed, which is packed up in preparation to bring his equipment and supplies to camp the next day. That’s the set-up. The bulk of the story takes place at camp, which is both unfamiliar and poorly organized. Jen and Ben find Tanglewood alive wandering in the woods. After the shock, they realize that Tanglewood is nothing like the powerful, protective creature they imagined when creating what they envisioned as a kind of older sibling to protect them. Instead they wind up having to protect their creation, because Tanglewood is actually a new being who does not understand what he is, or what is going on around him. Tanglewood is as naïve and curious as a very young child, and there is nothing truly dangerous about him. When he encounters Jen and Ben he immediately senses a connection between him and then, and becomes attached, to Jen, especially. He’s needy. In order to protect Tanglewood, Jen and Ben have to improvise, break rules, figure out how to communicate with a plant-being who does not speak, and maneuver constantly so that Nash never discovers him.

Along the way, Stones gets dragged into the mix, but, because the tables are turned, Jen leverages Stones’s fear of Tanglewood to dominate her former nemesis, and in the process she inadvertently sets up conditions for Stones to undergo a complete transformation. Of course, Nash does discover Tanglewood, and the kids must draw upon everything within themselves in order to keep Tanglewood from being destroyed. Through the story Tanglewood gains insight and independence, and, assisted by an encounter with a neighboring Taiko drumming camp, comes to understand his true nature and purpose. Tanglewood is a coming-to-life journey which reveals the powerful connection that exists between all living things. It’s a tale of transformation, and a story that explores the contemporary challenge to see our lives and the life of the natural environment as inseparable.

What is the relationship like between Jen and Ben?

They are two sides of the same coin. There’s a scene between Jen and her mother where Jen expresses concern that she isn’t as girly as she’s supposed to be. The mom explains the concept of “The Other” to Jen, i.e., that each person is a mixture of qualities that most of us mistakenly think of as separate from ourselves. Jen and Ben have a close relationship not so much because they are twins or because they live in the same family, but because they complement one another. Jen is more physically competitive, more outwardly expressive, messier, more impulsive. She’s a very creative thinker, a natural improviser. Ben, on the other hand, is quieter, prefers neatness to anything messy, and is more contemplative. He’s also creative, but in a very different way than his sister. Ben is really good at making things, whereas Jen is good at making things up. Jen comes up with the idea to make Tanglewood as a solution to their problem with the bully, Stones. But Ben is the one who figures out how to make Tanglewood as a real thing, and then constructs it himself.      The relationship between Jen and Ben is stressed to its limits at camp. Jen is driven to protect Tanglewood as her highest priority, which leads to things like her hiding with Tanglewood in the woods instead of sleeping in her cabin. Ben is left with the business of making sure that Jen’s absence isn’t discovered. And as events pile up, and Jen makes up next their next move as conditions change, Ben has to shift from one set of half-solved problems to another, which drives him crazy, but his devotion to his sister keeps him going. For a chunk of time the situation separates them from each other, and we can see how their individual qualities begin to mix: Ben is forced to improvise, and Jen has to deal with the consequences of her improvisations without Ben’s help.

What is one of the adventures they encounter?

Jen and Ben, like many kids, prefer hamburgers and hot dogs to vegetables. Their father knows the camp will serve a vegetarian diet because Nash is the cook, so when he drops them off he gives them each a 3-pound bag of beef jerky as a gift. At the first camp meeting Nash announces his strict “no meat policy” and has already searched a few cabins for contraband. He brandishes one of the bags of jerky, which happens to be Jen’s. So the twins leave that meeting, race to get Ben’s bag of jerky, and then dash into the woods to stash it. That’s when they find Tanglewood, alive. After the initial shock, Jen, Ben and Tanglewood settle into their first close encounter, a moment filled with awe and wonder for each. Then Nash’s booming voice penetrates the woods as he announces that the cabin assigned kitchen duty for the week has to show up for work. The sound of Nash’s voice frightens Tanglewood, who runs deeper into the woods and Jen takes off after him. Ben realizes he’s in the cabin assigned kitchen duty, so he’s is forced to return to the camp, dreading having to be in the kitchen with both Nash and Stones while not knowing where his sister is. As he approaches the kitchen he realizes he’s still holding on the bag of beef jerky — he’d forgotten to ditch it in the woods. Just before he enters the kitchen he flings the bag over his shoulder just to get rid of it. The bag lands in the back of Nash’s truck. That bag of jerky pays off later in the book, triggering Nash into action that leads to a big chase through the woods toward the ultimate confrontation between him, the kids, and Tanglewood.      

What is a bachi?

Bachi is the Japanese name of the sticks used to beat the large, barrel-shaped Taiko drums. Bachi are much thicker and heavier than standard drum sticks. The role they play in the story is that they’re given as a gift to Tanglewood by Senpai, the master teacher of the Taiko drum camp located over the ridge from Jen and Ben’s camp. Tanglewood responds to vibrations, and the beat of the Taiko drums draws Tanglewood to the drumming camp where he meets Senpai. Senpai believes that music and rhythm are a language bridge between all forms of life, enabling us to communicate with plants. I wanted to push the concept of music as common language to its limit, and I wanted to use vibrations, sound and rhythm as the means for Tanglewood to develop his understanding of who and what he is. When Tanglewood grasps the bachi, he senses the connection between himself and the inanimate sticks. Eventually Tanglewood discovers that the bachi enable him to cause trees to sway, and facilitate his ability to protect the forest trees from Nash when Nash goes on a destructive rampage.

What are Jen’s strengths?

Jen is loyal, energetic, has a profound confidence in her own power, and desires to be a protective force. Her confidence and power set up the conditions for her character to illustrate the thin line between power used for good versus power used for evil. Both protectiveness and aggression require force, and, although Tanglewood is nature, Jen’s character represents the force of nature. We tend to hold onto the cliché that nature is sublime and benevolent, but, in fact, nature is an awesomely powerful entity that should scare us as much as it conjures images of beauty, peace, and calm. Jen’s character reveals the duality of nature, that it is both creator and destroyer. One of the foundational ideas in the book is that we and nature are continuous and connected, and that animals in general and humans, specifically, do not exist as a separate entity. While Jen and Ben represent diverse aspects of being human, it’s the contrasting intentions and disturbing similarities between Jen and Nash that support the theme of nature as power. Although Nash is undeniably cruel, and his world view that plants are at war with humanity seems distorted, his concept of nature as a dangerous force is not wrong. Jen, on the other hand, takes action motivated by the will to be a protective force, but she has many moments where her willfulness skirts the edge of cruelty. Jen’s dual qualities and the question whether she will use her power for protection rather than cruelty plays itself out in the complex relationship between her and Stones.

What was the inspiration for your story?

 Tanglewood is the convergence of six concepts and entities that have provoked my interest and curiosity for many years, and then applying the essential “What if…?” question to each. Specifically:

FRATERNAL TWINS:  What if a pair of fraternal twins wished they had an older sibling?

OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE: What if plants have a soul or spirit within them that is similar to the soul or spirit we believe lives within ourselves?

BAMBOO: What if bamboo came to life as an animate being?

FOOD: What if a vegetarian ate plants not because he wants to spare animals, but because he believes plants are competing with people to dominate the planet and are mankind’s mortal enemy?

MUSIC:  What if music is a truly universal language that connects not only human cultures, but all forms of life including plants

SUMMER CAMP: Summer camp is supposed to be fun, but what if it’s not?

What is one of the underlying inspiration themes in the story?

I’m fascinated by the emerging multicultural world. We’re at a moment in history where more and more people throughout the world are raised with and have to reconcile the divergent western and eastern philosophies about spirituality and about the forces that enabled life to evolve. I wanted Tanglewood to be a story that, at its foundation, portrays a world where dualism exists, where imagination is a fundamental tool that enables us to integrate contradictions. Underneath all its action and adventure, and alongside the magical idea that plants share a spiritual intelligence with us, Tanglewood is a metaphor for the urgent challenge we face in the contemporary world: to embrace the fabric that unifies us all.

Will you please share an excerpt?          

This excerpt takes place after Jen and Ben have discovered their bamboo creation, Tanglewood, alive in the woods surrounding their camp, camp Triple-Bar. They’ve spent enough time with Tanglewood to realize that, although made of bamboo and as tall as a thirteen-year-old he behaves like a very young child. The problem at the moment is that Ben has already officially checked in with his cabin counselor but Jen has not. They’re approaching the camp from the woods and have Tanglewood with them.

Tanglewood with Medallion

The field at Triple-Bar was the camp’s largest open space. Between two posts at one end of the field stretched a long cord used for air-drying bed sheets.

Sheets hung along the cord’s entire length to build up a stock of fresh ones before the kids began ruining them with dirt, the occasional bed wetting, and vomit, which happened at least once a day at camp even when there wasn’t a stomach flu going around.

Jen, Ben, and Tanglewood neared the edge of the field as they descended the last bit of slope. Ben saw the sheets. “Let’s go there,” he said.

Jen hung back with Tanglewood, making sure he stayed completely hidden behind some trees, while Ben moved to the sheets and peered through a crack between two of them to see if the coast was clear.

The area surrounding the sheets was empty enough, but the rest of the field was in the same chaos they had seen when they first drove up, only this time there were more objects flying through the air. Frisbees, volleyballs, badminton shuttlecocks, all shooting up and coming down like popcorn above an undulating sea of dust in the middle distance.

Ben returned to Jen and Tanglewood. “It’s crazy in there but maybe that will help. You’ve got to check in with somebody and at least get your name crossed off a list. Where is your cabin?”

Before Jen could respond an arrow pierced one of the sheets and stuck into a tree trunk with a thwockita-sproing only four feet away from her and Tanglewood.

“Wally!” a counselor shouted from somewhere in the chaos. “There’s no archery allowed yet, Wally!!”

“Then why was the equipment closet with all the cool stuff in it left unlocked?!?” the kid named Wally yelled back.

Back behind the sheets Jen and Ben watched the arrow vibrate until it came to a full rest.

“Maybe it’s better if nobody knows I’m here,” Jen said.

“That’s insane, Jen! When you’re nowhere to be found they’ll call Mom and Dad. Then everyone will ask me what’s going on. You know how terrible I am at lying!”

As great as Ben was at making things he was truly bad at making things up.

“I wasn’t being that serious!” Jen said. Then she turned to Tanglewood, patted his cheek, and gesticulated as she explained. “OK. Tanglewood, you have to stay here for just a bit, you just stay with Ben. Ben will take care of you. I’ll be right back, there’s just some work I have to do but then you’ll see me again, soon, all right?”

Jen convinced herself that Tanglewood understood and accepted what she just said, so she turned to go, but Tanglewood threw himself at her, same as before. He just would not let her out of his sight.

Ben tried to entice Tanglewood away from his sister. “Here you go, Tanglewood. Over here. C’mon, boy. That’s a good boy!” Ben beckoned, using a sappy voice as he patted the front of his thighs.

“Oh for heck’s sake, he’s not a dog, Ben!” Jen said.

Then she turned to Tanglewood, speaking, this time, with more firmness in her voice, as if talking to a resistant two-year-old. “Tanglewood, you are going to be fine without me for five minutes.”

Tanglewood clutched her leg and sat on her feet while shaking his head vigorously.

“Hey, he understands how to say ‘no’.” Ben said, genuinely impressed now that he thought of Tanglewood as a toddler.

Jen sighed. “We need another plan.”

Ben said, “Maybe we can dress him, disguise him like he’s just another kid, really cover him up and no one will notice, not for a little while, anyway. You have that poncho thingie that Mom gave you. It has a hood, right?”

Maybe because his idea to hide Tanglewood under some clothes was as close to a complete lie as Ben had ever thought up, Jen was impressed. So impressed that she overlooked all its obvious flaws, except for one.

“Problem: You’ll have to go get the poncho. Plus get some bandanas. They’re all still in my duffel.”

“I can’t just walk into a girl’s cabin!”

“You can if you’re me,” Jen said, as she began taking her shoes off.

“What are you doing?” Ben said.

“We’re switching clothes. Put your hair up with this.” She pulled her elastic ponytail band off and handed it to Ben, along with several strands of her hair that were knotted in it.

“Ick,” Ben said, taking it with two fingers.

A minute later Jen was in Ben’s clothes and Ben in Jen’s.

* * *

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I write in a 1959 “canned ham” style travel trailer parked in my driveway. I rebuilt the trailer myself specifically as writing studio. The trailer studio project was born of pure necessity for space, not just by the desire to have a cool writing room. However, it is a perfect combination of comfort, minimalism and style — a box of light that inspires and opens my mind every time I walk in. Here is a picture:

Damon writing space

The full story motivating the trailer rebuild is posted on my site as an essay titled, “Rehabilitation”. Briefly, my household filled up a few years ago when my mother-in-law needed to move in with us because of her frail health.

My writing process begins with ideas that emerge from stream-of-consciousness. I truly don’t know where the ideas come from, but when an idea hits and I like it, I immediately write it down. Usually characters arrive before the main narrative. Once a character takes shape I begin writing monologues. When I have more than one character, I put them together and write down their conversations no matter how superficial or deep. I write lots of dialog during the early phases. I’ll convert some dialog into action, and some into a character’s internal thought process. As the conflicts and narrative take shape, I conjure scenes, a habit I developed learning to write screenplays, which require creating many, many scenes then eliminating ones that don’t have dramatic energy, or that don’t have a satisfying payoff down the line.

Throughout the writing process I’ll maintain a document where I develop and outline the subtext of the story. That subtext document has two critical purposes. First, it reinforces the dramatic questions and goals for the story. Second, it helps me identify aspects of the story that need to be converted into action, events and character behavior, and away from description or explanation.

For developing action, and plotting, I find I have more success if I’m away from my laptop. It helps to be in motion, so I’ll go on long walks, always carrying a notebook, a red pencil, a blue pencil, and a graphite pencil. I often use my phone as a note-taking device. I used to exercise by running outdoors, but I get so many ideas while running that I now use a treadmill at a gym because it’s much safer typing into my smart phone while in motion on a steady machine without cars nearby or uneven terrain underneath.

When I’m in creative mode my mind is immersed in the story and characters most of the time I’m awake, whether or not I’m physically writing. I’ve developed strategies to keep track of thoughts with short notes. I rarely use audio to record ideas because it’s easier and faster to telegraph a thought with a few written words or a quick sketch. Back when I commuted in the car, I kept a dry erase marker on hand, scribbling thoughts or symbols on my windshield. I got good at writing along the edges of the windshield without taking my eyes off traffic. The shower is another a place I needed a note-taking solution. Standing under running water always opens up the flood gates. I told my wife “I wish I could take notes in the shower.” She searched online, and two days later I had my first pack of Aqua Notes, a 40-sheet pad of waterproof paper with suction cups you attach to tile or glass. It comes with a standard pencil. Even if the water is on full and is superhot, those notes, once written, do not run.

For narrative structure, I usually start with 3×5 cards, but I’ll hit a point where I stop using the cards, and create a document that lists slug lines of major story beats. Under each beat I’ll write down essential details of what happens in each of the scenes comprising the beat. Then I’ll go back and forth between the “beats document” and separate documents for each scene. I’ve become a big fan of the software “Scrivener” for the creation phases because it’s built to address the classic “blizzard of paper” reality inherent to long-form writing, where you’ve got plot threads, character notes, research and miscellaneous bits spread all over the place. Scrivener makes cross-referencing easy, and streamlines the winnowing and consolidation process as I reduce a story down to its essential scenes.

Sometimes scenes equate to chapters, but I use Acts as a fundamental structural framework. As the Act structure clarifies, I’ll assign and refine chapters based on the pacing and sub-arcs I want to deliver in each Act’s beginning-middle-end.

During all phases of the writing process I spend time scribbling and sketching with pencil on paper. So many of my ideas have nonverbal origins and aspects inaccessible using words and sentences as primary instruments. I may discover new characters, or clarify unique attributes of existing characters. I’ll also draw maps and floor plans to visualize layouts of exterior environments and interior spaces. These schematics help me identify opportunities for action, help me clarify staging and improve plausibility of timeframes between related or simultaneous events.

I’ll also use paper and pencil to diagram thematic forces, colliding arcs, and sources and streams of conflict. I find if I can’t diagram the story clearly using abstract symbols then something is either missing or implausible.

When I’ve completed a write-through, I’ll consolidate the book into one document before I start mercilessly editing, slashing out all the parts readers tend to skip (my favorite Elmore Leonard tip). Painful as it can be, I enjoy the editing process. I always read my work out loud, and favor rhythmic fluidity over grammatical perfection.

I use beta readers to help figure out what works and what doesn’t. Beta readers are particularly helpful identifying whether the pacing is working, or not.

Who designed your book cover?

I did. My background in illustration and animation gave me the confidence to do it myself.

What are you working on next?

Most of my writing time this year is devoted to my next novel, The Neighborhood. This one will skew toward readers a little older than Tanglewood. The Neighborhood is about kids who live in a unique setting — an isolated neighborhood designed by a modernist utopian architect. Every house has a wall of glass wrapped around its front, where the living room, dining room and kitchen are located — the public spaces of private homes. The people who live in the neighborhood don’t mind that level of transparency. No one who lives there obstructs the outer view into those public spaces with curtains, shutters, walls or landscaping. There are no fences or walls anywhere in the neighborhood, creating a universal backyard space that enables the kids to lead a free-range life.

So the question is whether the neighborhood is a place where everyone is more connected to each other, or is it just a magnet for weirdos where everyone’s secrets and lies are buried that much deeper? Within the microcosm of the neighborhood freedom of movement and trust in others is unlike what kids today experience — not in the USA, anyway. The kids of the neighborhood exist as a self-generated subculture. Without over-scheduled lives, parental micromanagement, and with room to move around, they are forced to confront the realities of living with others: adapting to difference, and managing unpredictability. The narrative bombards the kids with changes that pile up and challenge their abilities to adapt and tolerate. The main characters range between 11 and 13, a time when kids face one of life’s most dramatic shifts: the transition away from imagination as the fundamental fuel for play and fun, to the phase where imagination becomes an essential instrument needed to solve real conflicts and real problems.

The transparency angle is, in part, a metaphor for social media. We’re all unsure whether the constant public exhibition and viewing of facts and artifacts is a good or bad thing. The Neighborhood addresses the question how can we leverage increasing openness so that we become more relational, and less transactional? Are our relationships amplifying our compassion and collective will to make the world a better place? Or do we value connections only for what they can do for us, personally?

The neighborhood’s open architecture, landscape and attitudes are rooted in nostalgia, but the story’s plot lines address the challenges and confusion we’ve created for the current generation: How do we accommodate difference? How do we distinguish differences due to diversity from differences imposed by injustice? How can we hold onto wonder, curiosity and optimism in an era when people flock to cynicism, doubt and fear?

The cast of characters in The Neighborhood is an ensemble composed of widely diverse personalities, and the main character, arguably, is the neighborhood itself. Ultimately, the story is about how communities are created and evolve, and how to maintain our connection to the past as we accommodate the changes needed to improve the future.

That’s the deepest layer of subtext. My goal, as exemplified in Tanglewood, is to write stories with multiple layers such that a wide range of ages will have plenty of entertainment and, if they seek it, food for thought. I love literature and all entertainment designed to be fun, dramatic and meaningful, but the fun and drama is accessible to all while the meaningfulness is optional — the audience can see it, not see it, or ignore it, and the story still pulls you in and works. PIXAR’s storytellers are geniuses when it comes to that sleight of hand.

Two other projects I plan to complete this year:

I’m developing a short film idea for a filmmaker friend.

I’m finishing up a long-form essay on my experience working in India to develop a visual effects company I co-founded with colleagues from my animation days. The two months I spent working 80-hour weeks in India changed my view of the world, and my understanding of myself. Not a complete surprise, but the experience changed me much more than I had imagined.

Do you stick with just genre?

It depends on what “genre” means. I know that’s a weasel-y response, so I’ll clarify.

I don’t think my work fits, or will fit, into clear-cut genres, which I realize is a risk. Tanglewood, for example, has a fantasy element, but calling it “Fantasy” would be considered misleading by most fans of true Fantasy. One of my favorite comments about Tanglewood comes from an 11-year-old reader who said she loved the book because it has “believable magic”.

I write for middle-graders and young high-schoolers, but are “Juvenile Fiction” or “Young Adult” genres? They seem more like clusters of age-appropriateness, and say nothing about where their stories fit in the narrative spectrum.

I have stories planned that might be thought of as genre, like “Lunatics” which takes place in the future at a reform school on the Moon.

I’m sure my tag line, “I write for twelve-year-olds of all ages” will always hold true. And I’m sure most stories I plan to write will be a cross between magical realism and contemporary fiction. I’ve heard convincing arguments that those descriptions aren’t distinct enough to qualify as genres.

I see that you have a strong love for Historical Fiction. That’s clearly a genre, and a very challenging one to pull off. I think I have one historical fiction novel in me. The French Revolution and Cooking are probably the only two areas I’d be willing to research in depth enough to write a story worthy of Historical Fiction. I have a plan for a story that takes place right after the French Revolution. Post-revolutionary France was basically where and when the restaurant was born, and one of the reasons for that was the glut of chefs who no longer had an aristocracy to employ them. So, the basic idea is: “A chef from a French aristocratic estate is without a job after the French Revolution, and opens up a restaurant during the Reign of Terror.” I love cooking, and am fascinated by the way restaurants run, how menus are developed, and by the contrast between the chaotic clanging rush in the back-of-house kitchen and the orderly, calming atmosphere of the front-of-house dining area. The dictatorial organization of kitchen hierarchy creates an apt microcosm — a type of “reign of terror,” complete with its own set of slicing tools. There’s comedy in there, somewhere, along with the slings and arrows of surviving in an unforgiving environment. The Restaurant Business and Post-revolutionary France: they have a lot in common.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Damon Wolfe who is the author of, Tanglewood, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Tanglewood, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 Author Link:

Web site: Website

Tanglewood on Amazon: kindle and paperback formats.

Tanglewood on Create Space

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads Author Page

 

A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.J. Alexian

Ted Mitchell BRAG

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.J. Alexian to talk with me a little about his writing. T.J. lives in Attleboro, Massachusetts in a renovated green Victorian, along with seven ghosts and his long-time (and long-suffering) partner. He also has three kids and one spiritual kid, and their stories and their spirit form the heart and soul of his novel, Pictures of You. A profiled author in the Writer’s Digest book Writer with a Day Job and an award-winning communications specialist, Pictures of You is Alexian’s first novel, although he has two more being prepared for distribution: The Late Night Show and Confessions of a Diva Rotundo.

T.J., Why do you write?

Compulsion? Insomnia? Not enough love as a child?

That all may be true, but I can’t think of a better release to have. I’ve always felt that people who love to write possess the ability to rule the world. At least, the world of the page, or of the screen. And those who write well, who capture the interest of others and somehow manage to draw them into this world? Who have the ability to bring their stories so vividly to life that others believe in it, too, and get swept away from the mundane day-to-day and slip into the version of reality they’ve created? Now that’s a whole new level of power: for some, I’d call it eternal life.

That’s why I write. For the challenge of creating life, of aiming to capture lightning in a paperback, of somehow managing to breathe life into my own personal Frankenstein. One of these days, I’ll get it right!

How has writing impacted your life?

That’s a hard one to answer, because I can’t think of a day where I haven’t written, in some way, shape or form. So how would I know what life would have been without it?

Duller, that’s for sure. I think because I can write, I’ve never been bored. I don’t like it when people say they’re bored. How is that possible? There is always something to do in this world. Or at least, something to write.

I certainly think it’s given me an income, and the ability to take care of my family and live a somewhat comfortable life. That’s appreciated.

I also think it’s given me an outlet. For creativity, yes, but also as a means to express my frustrations and avoid blowing up. Besides writing, I direct plays, and I once had to deal with an extremely unreasonable actor who was playing my lead and also making my life miserable. Re-blocking scenes, staging tantrums. Rather than having a meltdown myself, I went home and wrote about the insane things he did each night. In my story, I made him as unreasonable and over-the-top as I could…hey, this was my version. It got to the point where I couldn’t wait to go to rehearsal, just to see how badly he’d behave, because that meant a new story for me to tell! I think that’s a great way to get rid of a problem.

Finally, writing has given me a chance to reach out and make connections, all across the world. I love that feeling. I love this shorthand way or bridging the distance. It’s truly a gift.

Pictures of You BRAG Book

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

Ideas are like flowers in a garden: they can pop up practically anywhere. I do think, though, as a general rule, my best ones occur in the morning. So why the heck am I writing this at night? Mornings are great for ideas, though. Afternoons are good for heavy writing.

The thing is, even when I’m not writing, I still am, in my head. Working through problem sentences and plot flaws. Thinking about my main character, and sometimes not very nice thoughts. And that’s why the morning is so great. You’ve had the whole day before, plus a few hours sleeping, to think things over. So if I can manage to wake up in time, it makes getting something down that much easier.

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

I always make it a point to thank someone for a positive review. If they take the time to write about what your story meant to them, it’s the least you can do.

I never respond to negative reviews—but I do read them. And hopefully, learn something.

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

Write every day. Even if you’re not feeling inspired. Even if you think you have nothing to say. Set a goal of one page, then one chapter, then ten. Or one poem. Or one song, wherever your inspiration leads you. And then, work at it. Rewrite. Improve. Little things can grow big over time. Ask any acorn.

Take classes in grammar. It’s not fun, I know. It can be as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist. Still, it will give you a better feel for the rules of the road and allow you to better express yourself. By the way, revisit this periodically. Like the dentist, a check-up never hurts.

Keep a journal. Seriously! Look at your own life as a story and the people in your life as characters who inhabit your world. Learn to tell your story vividly, because it will help to color and influence the stories you want to tell, and will make them that much more believable. Side note: it will also make you extremely annoying at family gatherings, because you’ll know the real story. And have evidence to back it up.

And finally, network. Talk to other creative people: authors, storytellers, illustrators, editors. Get to know them as people, and not simply as minions designed to advance your career. Successful writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and also, people can spot insincerity a mile away. Besides, couldn’t we all use a few more friends?

Author Links:

website

Amazon

B&N

goodreads

 

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Laurie Lunsford

Laurie Lunsford BRAG

I’d like to welcome Laurie Lunsford to talk with me today about her B.R.A.G. Medallion book, It’s a Piece of Cake. Laurie is an artist, musician, poet, and a published author. Laurie is also the founder of Dancing Hands, an interactive music program. Her life experiences include teaching art in several elementary schools, raising three sons, inventing percussion musical instruments, and designing “one-of-a-kind rings” for those in transition.  She loves expressing herself through paint.

Painting, poetry, music, and gardening have been a healing agent as she maintains health through a chronic condition of her own.  

Laurie has started Interactive Art programs in three facilities, an Assisted Living Facility, a Psychiatric Nursing Center, and now at Golden Living Alzheimer’s Care Unit in Muncie, where she has an open art studio.  She also trains and facilitates volunteers.  She blogs on arts and healthcare blog several times a week at Hands That Create

In her free time, she is writing children’s picture books.  Her second children’s picture book is in process. It will also be useful in Alzheimer’s units to bring memories back about relationships and experiences.   Both books are very interactive and spur discussion. The past year she has been visiting elementary schools and Young Author groups, encouraging children to utilize their talents, not only in writing but in all the arts.

She also leads creativity workshops at health care conventions.

Hello, Laurie! Thank you for chatting with me today. How did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered indieBRAG on FaceBook from a local authors group.

Please tell me about your story, It’s a Piece of Cake.

Its a piece of Cake BRAG

This is a book that encourages kids to persevere when learning something new. Young children find challenge in discovering different things to try, like diving off of a diving board, climbing a tree, or playing the piano. Nine different situations show the frustration of learning and also the success that comes with practice. The bright whimsical illustrations show children with whom the reader can readily identify. The unifying theme of “It’s a piece of cake!” comes out through incorporating a piece of cake in the illustrations to find.

What was your inspiration for this creative book?

I get ideas from things I experience every day. I love to put my ideas in story form. Some of them stay on the computer until I am ready to create something with them.   This book came from idea I had three years ago though a brainstorming session.

The inspiration to actually do the book came from meeting one of my son’s friends. Brittani was doing some unique art work, using cut paper. She made family portraits using the cut paper and it had become a business. Her art was in demand. One day she told me she had always dreamed of becoming a book illustrator. As we talked, I decided I would love to have one of my ideas in book form with HER illustrations. I went to the computer and pulled out one of my ideas and commissioned her to do the illustrations. I am an artist also and have a freer style. I have drawn a few illustrations using my style to show Young Author’s groups how we can all “be ourselves” when we draw pictures.

My inspiration also comes from children. I love interacting with them, especially   through the arts. This book fell in line with what I love.

What would you like readers to come away with your book?

Confidence to learn new things….and knowing the fun of reading a good book.

Where can readers buy your book?

It can be ordered on my interactive arts website through Paypal. It is also found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kindle. It is also sold in small specialty stores around Indiana.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I enjoy relaxing on my couch with my laptop in total silence.  My ideas come at all hours of the day and night.  I write my little tidbits down as I get them or dictate them into my iPhone and develop them later. A large number of ideas come while I am driving my car.

Who designed your book cover?

Brittani Gothard, the illustrator

What are you working on next?  

The next book is from the very heart of me.  It is all about slowing down, living in the moment, and using all my senses to experience wonderful things.  It is called Wait, Katie, Wait.  Katie is the essence of who I am.  I am only beginning to find the pace which comes with being old enough to be a grandma.

Wait, Katie, Wait appeals to of all ages. Children bring the energy of wanting to be on the go. Older people offer the pace that brings the ability to enjoy the moment… touching, tasting, seeing, hearing, and smelling. These are moments to enjoy and remember. Grandpa and Katie go on daily adventures. The farmer’s market, fishing in the river, and a birthday party are a few of their destinations. Grandpa’s steps are slow but Katie wants to run ahead. Grandpa enjoys Katie’s company as they share together and Katie learns how to “stop and smell the roses”. The details and pictures in this book, make it mutually satisfying not only to the one being read to but also the one reading. There are roses in the illustrations to find. Alzheimer’s patients enjoy the story and the pictures that spark memories.

Do you stick with just genre?

I write for magazines about the healing benefits of the arts.  Some of my memoirs have also been published in newspapers and magazines.  My thoughts expressed through my blog has been a creative endeavor that flows easily because of all the valuable and shareable experiences I reflect on every day.

Thank you!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Laurie Lunsford who is the author of, It’s a Piece of Cake, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, It’s a Piece of Cake, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

 

 

Interview with Diann Ducharme

04_Diann Ducharme_Author

I’d like to welcome Diann Ducharme today to Layered Pages to talk with me about her book, The Outer Banks House. Diann was born in Indiana in 1971, but she spent the majority of her childhood in Newport News, Virginia. She majored in English literature at the University of Virginia, but she never wrote creatively until, after the birth of her second child in 2003, she sat down to write The Outer Banks House. She soon followed up with her second book, Chasing Eternity, and in 2015 the sequel to her first novel, Return to the Outer Banks House.

Diann has vacationed on the Outer Banks since the age of three. She even married her husband of 10 years, Sean Ducharme, in Duck, North Carolina, immediately after a stubborn Hurricane Bonnie churned through the Outer Banks. Conveniently, the family beach house in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina provided shelter while she conducted research for her historical fiction novels.

She has three beach-loving children and a border collie named Toby, who enjoys his sprints along the shore. The family lives in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia, counting down the months until summer.

For more information visit Diann Ducharme’s website. You can also follow Diann on her blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Diann, please tell me about your book.

Its 1868, the era of Reconstruction in North Carolina, and times are tough. Yet the barren barrier islands of the Outer Banks offer a respite for the Sinclairs, the once-wealthy plantation owners. The family of five and three servants plan to spend the summer in the newly constructed cottage, one of the first cottages on the ocean side of the resort village of Nags Head.

There, on the porch of the cottage, the 17-year-old daughter, beautiful, book-smart and boxed-in Abigail, teaches her father Nolan’s fishing guide, good-natured, ambitious and penniless 19-year-old Benjamin Whimble, how to read and write. The two come to understand, and then to love each other, despite the demands of their parents, the pursuit of prim and proper medical student Hector Newman, and Ben’s longtime relationship with sour-tongued net-mender, Eliza Dickens.

But as Abby and Ben come to learn, tackling the alphabet is the easy part of the summer. Against everything he claims to represent, Ben becomes entangled in Nolan’s Ku Klux Klan dirty work, and Abigail’s mother Ingrid, unexpectedly pregnant, reveals facets of her personality to Abigail that shed light on her growing madness and inability to mother. As Abby and Ben venture from the cottage porch to a real schoolhouse—a schoolhouse for the slowly dwindling Freedmen’s Colony on nearby Roanoke Island, they soon come face to face with her father, dressed in KKK robes and hunting a man that the entire colony of freed slaves has come to love and respect. It becomes doubtful that Abby and Ben’s newfound love will survive the terrible tragedy and surprising revelations that one hot Outer Banks night brings forth.

The Outer Banks House is the first historical fiction novel set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the mid-19th century. It combines history, romance and coming-of-age drama, as Abby tries to adjust to life in a post-war South. Each chapter begins with a pertinent quote from Robinson Crusoe, the novel that sparks such controversy (over slavery and racism), and finally appreciation and love, between Abby and Ben.

What are some of your interests in the Civil War?

During that post-Civil War Reconstruction era, vacation homes were starting to be built along the ocean side of the Outer Banks. The questionability of such endeavors—something at which the local “Bankers” looked askance, due to the cottages’ dangerous proximity to the sea–captivated me. I wanted to write about people that would do such dramatic things. I also enjoyed imagining women in hoop skirts, fresh from the war, hanging out at beach cottages. I didn’t know much about the Civil War, nor Reconstruction in North Carolina, but I did know about hanging out at the beach, so I learned as much as I could about that time period and blended what I knew with what I had learned.

What is some of the research that went into this story?

During my research, I read a terrific book called Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony by Patricia Click, about the Freedmen’s Colony on Roanoke Island during and after the Civil War. The book taught me everything there was to know about the Freedmen’s Colony, of which I had previously heard nothing. Learning about such a unique and unheard of aspect of the Outer Banks piqued my interest enough to use it as a major point of reference in the novel.

I also learned during my research that many residents of the Banks were pro-Union during the Civil War. As much as North Carolina is considered a southern state, it was interesting for me to know that the people of the islands didn’t necessarily hold the beliefs that were championed by people of the mainland. This fact helped me to form Ben’s character, as well as create a picture of the independent-mindedness of the people of the Banks.

I also dragged my family all over the island in the name of research. A pivotal scene occurs on the large dune system called Jockey’s Ridge, located in Nags Head. My family and I climbed the dunes several times, and it never failed to amaze me just how high they were—a giant hill made of sand! And too, a much smaller dune system exists to the north of a unique maritime forest called Nags Head Woods. The dune system, called Run Hill, is pretty much a secret to most visitors of the Banks—eerily quiet in the dead of summer. This is where I found the trees—the northernmost beginnings of Nags Head Woods—whose trunks were buried in sand. Just as my characters stumbled upon these feats of nature, so did I explore them for the first time as well. I think such exploration made the writing more believable.

Please tell me a little about Abby’s father’s work with the Ku Klux Klan.

The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866 as a way to reassert white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies that favored politician and economic equality for the newly freed blacks. The Klan extended into every southern state by 1870, including North Carolina. Nolan Sinclair, being a wealthy plantation owner, was a politically connected man before and after the war; these during Reconstruction these humiliated and temporarily hobbled politicians and former slave-owners set about righting a white supremacist agenda which eventually made its way into many southern legislatures.

Why did you choose the Outer Banks of North Carolina for your story?

The Outer Banks is a long, skinny chain of barrier islands that run along a good portion of the coast of North Carolina. One the one side, the ocean crashes against the naked sand, all drama. On the other side, the sounds caress the maritime thickets and marshland, more forgiving. I knew that I wanted to compare the two ecosystems, similar to the way in which I pit the “Bankers” against the mainlanders who build their vacation homes there.

Also, nothing there stays the same—everything is dynamic, fleeting—yet the tiny strip of land still hangs on, facing the wild weather year after year. The concept of change suited my characters as well.

I have vacationed on the Outer Banks since the age of 3, so it is a very special place for me.

Please tell me a little about the Sinclair family.

Nolan Sinclair, the once wealthy and powerful planter from Edenton, North Carolina, is fearful of losing his plantation in the Reconstruction aftermath of the Civil War. In a desperate act of assertion, he moves his family to the unusual house on the sand for the summer of 1868. His connections with the KKK threaten his otherwise peaceful summer plans at the seaside. His fiercely intelligent and aloof wife Ingrid is in the early stages of pregnancy, but she fears that her body cannot safely bear any more children. And their eldest child, 17-year-old Abby, misses her Uncle Jack, dead from an illness contracted during the Civil War. Their faithful servant, Asha, travels to the beach with them for the summer.

What are some of the fictional aspects of the story?

The setting is very real, but I had to imagine what it must have been like in 1868. Not a lot was written about the area during this time period.

What was your writing process and how long did it take to write your story?

It took me about 3 years to complete the first draft of the novel. I wrote during my second child’s naps and on weekends when my husband took over the household duties. But I was thinking about the novel at all times of the day and often at night!

What are you working on next?

I am working on a present-day novel about a once-beautiful woman, now scarred, who struggles to overcome her agoraphobia in order to regain custody of her two children. During her recovery, a love interest with a deer hunter ensues when she moves to her blind aunt’s home in the mountains of western Virginia.

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 The Outer Banks Series Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 25 Spotlight & Giveaway at Raven Haired Girl

Tuesday, May 26 Guest Post & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, May 27 Review (Book One) at Back Porchervations

Thursday, May 28 Review (Book One) at In a Minute

Friday, May 29 Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Saturday, May 30 Spotlight at Becky on Books

Sunday, May 31 Review (Book One) at Book Nerd

Monday, June 1 Review (Book Two) at Let them Read Books Spotlight at I’d So Rather Be Reading

Tuesday, June 2 Review (Book One) at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, June 3 Review (Book Two) at Back Porchervations

Thursday, June 4 Spotlight & Giveaway (Book One) at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, June 5 Review (Both Books) at Bibliotica

Sunday, June 7 Review (Book One) at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, June 8 Review (Book One) at Ageless Pages Reviews Guest Post at Curling Up With A Good Book

Tuesday, June 9 Review & Giveaway (Book One) at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, June 10 Review (Both Books) at Unshelfish Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, June 11 Review (Book Two) at Book Lovers Paradise Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, June 12 Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes

Sunday, June 14 Review (Book Two) at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, June 15 Review & Giveaway (Both Books) at Genre Queen

Tuesday, June 16 Interview at Books and Benches Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, June 17 Review (Both Books) at Luxury Reading

Thursday, June 18 Review (Book One) at Books and Benches Interview at Layered Pages

Friday, June 19 Review (Book One) at Build a Bookshelf Review (Book Two) at Ageless Pages Reviews

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