Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)
Quote of the day:
"Beauty is truth and truth is beauty."
- Guest Author
Today I welcome an interesting author who has, written books and interviewed many other authors - Sylvia Massara. Welcome, Sylvia. Tell us how it all began.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I’ve been writing since my early teens, and started out writing short screenplays for the series Starsky and Hutch (with me and my best friend as regular characters in each episode of course). I then used to pass the screenplays around the class; and this became so popular that the kids used to ask me when the next episode was coming out. This marked the beginning of a writing career for me (minus the income at the time).
WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
I was a voracious reader, and in the early days I was addicted to Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators series; when I read them all, I went onto the Hardy Boys; and once I hit 15 yrs of age or so, I turned into historical and contemporary romance, so Barbara Cartland and Harlequin books (then called Mills&Boon) had a field day with me.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
Aside from writing Starsky and Hutch episodes, at age 16, I wrote a historical romance novella a-la-Barbara Cartland, and I sent it off to a publisher. Amazingly, the guy wanted to publish it, but instead of the 35K words I’d written, he wanted 80K at least. I was STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, and didn’t go ahead with it. Being 16, I wasn’t that disciplined, and was too interested in boys to write a long novel. God, how I regret this now, especially since all the relationships in my life to date have been disastrous. So when I think that I threw away a potential writing career for men, I simply want to shoot myself!
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Losing myself in the stories I write. When I write, I am instantly transported into the world of my characters, and nothing else exists for me. This is also a good way of running away from my problems :)
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Being an indie author, I find it unacceptable that indies are branded as “no good” just because we didn’t get picked up by a traditional publisher. This stigma is slowly dissolving, but getting exposure as an indie is a full time job, and this leaves little time for writing.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
My professional career is in the field of human resources, and now I freelance as a HR Consultant in order to maintain my writing habit and pay the bills. I do earn royalties for my novels, of course, but I haven’t yet reached the point where my income is regular enough for me to give up my bread and butter job.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My novel “The Soul Bearers”. The story was inspired by real life events, and I started working on it back in 1997, and published it in 2010 for the first time. Since then, it has received nothing but great reviews—and because I don’t buy reviews, it doesn’t have that many, but at least they are sincere reviews that were unsolicited.
A US-based publicist and agent read the story not so long ago, and she loved it so much that she is now representing me to sell the film rights for the novel. My aim for this novel was always to make it into a feature film. It’s a story that needs to be shared with the world, and is my only serious work. My other novels are either in the genre of mystery or romance, but The Soul Bearers is a drama; a mainstream novel that deals with some very serious issues.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am supposed to start book 2 in my Mia Ferrari Mysteries series, but somehow I cannot find the time or energy. I am still very busy with social media, promotional activities, and blogging.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Unconditional love and friendship, of which we see very little in this day and age of “me, me, me”.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I’m a multi-genre writer, and aside from drama, romance and mystery, I’ve written screenplays for thrillers and action movies. These are projects that unfortunately had to be shelved due to lack of funds. Hollywood is a fickle friend, I’m afraid.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Discipline is the main thing, and to be meticulous about proofreading and editing. No one wants to read a novel that has hundreds of typos, grammar errors and goes in all directions. Oh, and never give up!
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
No. I’ve been writing for a long time, both for pleasure, and now as a published author, and one thing I never run out of is ideas for plots. I have at least four other novels in my head right now for my mystery series, and a few other novels for my other genres. I have characters inside my head all the time, wanting to come out. Hehehehe. Do you think I should be committed to the loony bin?
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I write when the muse takes me. It could be at any time, and in any place.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Well, I would love to write from my villa in Tuscany, except that I don’t have a villa yet, and George Clooney will not lend me his.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Creating a story that will provide inspire or entertain readers. We all need this from time to time.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I don’t have a favourite author per se, but if I have to name one who has touched my heart, it has to be Harper Lee, and her Pulitzer-winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
This is one of the reviews I received from a reviewer who read The Soul Bearers. When I read what she wrote, I cried with happiness, and what a great triumph it was for me to receive such a candid review. This is why I refuse to pay for reviews or even ask for them. This particular person approached me when she saw my book on Amazon, and asked if I would give her a free copy for her to review. I never refuse someone who approaches me for a free copy of my book if they wish to review it, and so I gave her a copy. This is what she wrote when she finished reading it:
The Soul Bearers by Sylvia Massara is an absolute triumph! This is the story we all wish we could write! It is one of the most deep soul touching, more profound novels I have ever read. The depth of the despair and love that these three characters feel is unequaled to anything I have ever experienced through a book. This is a story of love and loss, of rejection and acceptance, of life and death, of hope and rebirth. You will cry your eyes out - it was a deeply cathartic read for me. Beautifully written, with characters that will get under your skin and you will embrace, with a depth of humanity unparalleled to any other book I have read, poetic and raw at the same time. Hope; hope is the word that defines this book: hope in spite of certain death, hope in spite of rejection and abuse, hope resulting from true unconditional love. Hope that heals, hope that forgives, hope that is the way to rebirth. Love as the only important thing worth living for. Alex will find love - both spiritual and physical - through the love shared by Steve and Matthew, a love that will grow to embrace her too and help her exorcise the demons of her very abusive childhood. And healing will come on the wings of a butterfly.
This book is a definite MUST READ. No holds barred, no caveats. This book will show you pure, unadulterated love and hope through tears and loss.
I have received many reviews for this novel, not all on Amazon, some are just word of mouth through Twitter or Facebook or through other retailers, but so far, they are all good.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Time for a confession here: I had a 20-something girl give me a very trashy review on one of my romantic comedies. She was especially destructive, AND she hadn’t even finished reading the book, so I couldn’t see how she could possibly make comments like the ones she made.
She also argued that my protagonist was stupid because of the way she behaved. My protagonist had just turned 40, you see, and she was driven by her fear of impending menopause and her fluctuating hormones. This reader did not understand what it’s like to go through meno, and yet she set herself up as an authority on how my protagonist, a peri-menopausal woman, should behave.
The worst part, though, is that she never finished the story; so I don’t see how one can review a novel when they don’t bother to finish the book and find out how the character changes through the story, and what she learns from her actions. The reader missed this, and therefore her comments were totally out of line.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mind getting unfavourable reviews if the reader isn’t pleased with my work, but I think the reader should at least try to maintain a certain level of civility, and try to give some constructive criticism instead of trashing an author’s work.
Well, in those days, I was going through a horrible marriage break up, and my hormones were in a rage ( I was in peri-menopause myself), so I wrote a very infamous blogpost, which went viral in 24 hours, about how authors should beware of certain reviewers. Granted, I shouldn’t have attacked this girl and her blog, but I will put it down to the fact that on the day I wrote the blogpost, my ex-husband dumped me because of a chronic illness I was battling, and he ran off with another woman.
I won’t go on and on about what I wrote in that blogpost; but I did make the point that authors should beware of some reviewers who set themselves up as reviewers, but they weren’t providing constructive criticism. The operative word here is SOME. I didn’t say ALL reviewers, but SOME. Of course, the whole thing was blown out of all proportion, and for the next month I received heaps of hate mail, threats, I was supposedly ostracised from the blogging community (or so they told me), and my blog received over 7000 hits in 24 hours. What a shame this didn’t happen for one of my good blogs or sales on my novels!
To cut a long story short, I was criticised for being a “cry baby” and how I couldn’t take criticism. But what these people didn’t realise was that by their attack on me, they proved that they couldn’t take criticism either. And they were obviously not very good reviewers because none of them picked upon the fact that I was having a go at SOME reviewers (namely only 2 people), and not ALL reviewers. So whether they liked it or not, I proved my point that SOME reviewers (especially the ones who said horrid things about me and threatened me) were obviously not constructive after all, and didn’t get it that I was having a go at a couple of individuals and not the whole community of reviewers.
The ironic thing was that these people thought authors should just lie down and take trashy reviews, and simply live with it. So it was interesting to see that these reviewers couldn’t do the same thing when they had to take what they dished out. Since when did they pass a law that reviewers had freedom of speech but authors had to shut up?
While this was going on, someone sent me a link to a blog where author Anne Rice was similarly attacked because she had the temerity to defend one of her characters. I wrote to Anne, and she was gracious enough to respond to me. I have great respect for her writing, and I enjoyed reading her early vampire series. She is well known and famous, and yet she was shot down in flames, too. It was good to get her support, I must say.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Most definitely. A lot of the experiences and thoughts I have come out as things that happen to the characters in my novels.
I think that writing is the only profession where I can say, the older the author, the richer the story; full of depth, sensitivity and wisdom. These things, I feel, can only come with age and experience.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
To date, I have four books published.
HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
I haven’t entered my novels in any awards, and of course, the Pulitzer is out of my hands because I’m not a US-citizen. LOL. The interesting thing, though, is that I was looking into the Booker Prize, which is bestowed on authors who are citizens of a Commonwealth Country.
It all looked good until I saw the criteria: “You must be a traditionally published author”. Well ,that did it for me. I think it’s time that these institutions/organisations stop discriminating against indies. Who cares if the author is an indie or not? I thought the prize is supposed to be given for the content of the book and not what kind of author writes it!
WHAT DID THEY MEAN TO YOU?
Since I haven’t entered my books to be considered for any prizes, and no one has bestowed the Booker Prize on me, I cannot answer this question; but I still feel very strongly about indie authors being excluded from traditional book prizes such as the Booker.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Well, I know that ever since I was 5 years of age all I wanted was to be an actress, but I listened to my parents, and it was drummed into me that I should get a “secure” career. So I studied human resources, and though jobs are never “secure” I did enjoy a great career in this field, but deep down inside, my creativity was always ready to burst out of me. After all, this is who I am. So I would love to do some acting. Mind you, I’m too old to start now, but in my early 30’s I was lucky to do a bit of acting in TV commercials and some soapies. This, at least, gave me a taste of what I loved the most.
My other love is travel. I especially love Italy, and anything Renaissance.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
The answer is yes. I went through three editors before I was happy with one that I could truly say was professional enough to handle my work. I also work with a small publisher in the US to bring my books out in paperback format. At present, my books are in digital format only.
IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
“Stop making war and exploiting people for your own ends. Grow up, get a job and read a good book!”
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
For me a perfect day is a day when I am symptom-free from my chronic condition, and also one where I could share with a loved one the experience of travel and Renaissance art. Oh, and let’s not forget coffee—a writer’s must!
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Right now, I would have to say my chiropractor. Why? Who else is going to treat my chronic condition when I am in horrible pain?
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I intend to start novel number 5 around Christmas time when I take time off my freelancing work. I will also keep pursuing film producers to take on The Soul Bearers and make it into a film.
This is my dream; after which, I intend to buy a small but beautiful Tuscan villa and spend six months in Australia and six in Italy, writing, writing and writing.
Thank you, Clancy, for having me as your guest.
Sylvia's contact points: