- GUEST AUTHOR -
Welcome to some facts about Phoenix! This emerging writer from Los Angeles, California, came from a long line of Americans who were pioneers and individualists. Her family tree goes back to the revolutionary war and is filled with rugged people, rough coal miners, and farmers who lived in log cabins in the early west. She loves researching history, philosophy, and religions and is never content with the way things are explained. Phoenix loves to look into the nooks and crannies and wonder, what if? Welcome, Phoenix ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, grew up in California, and came from a long line of Americans who were pioneers and individualists. The family tree goes back to the revolutionary war and is filled with rugged people, rough coal miners, and farmers who lived in log cabins in the early west. I love researching history, philosophy, religions and am never content with the way things are explained. I love to look into the nooks and crannies, and wonder, what if? I live in Hollywood with my husband, Gary, and our ornery tomcat, Snickers. I wrote A Whisper from Eden, A Historical Fantasy, which is an epic fantasy about the Mandan Indian tribe.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I have always had a habit of entertaining my friends with stories of my life experiences. One time, after a particularly long saga, a friend said that I ought to write. I was rather stunned and asked why. She told me it was because I seemed to love to tell stories and I had a way with words. I had never considered writing, but at the time, I was reading quite a few westerns by Louis L'Amour. I thought – I'll bet I can write a western. It would probably be fun.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Research. A Whisper from Eden started as an American western, but evolved into something else entirely, because the research spurred ideas. The year was 1837. Clayton Pinckney was enthralled with the Indians. He was a sixteen-year-old, aspiring writer who has little interest in his advantaged life. He was handsome, well educated, and the son of a wealthy plantation owner. However, his enthrallment with the Indians was a shame to his family. Clayton was determined to prove his was not just a foolish boy with silly ideas with his ideals about the Indians. He felt he could ignite imaginations and provoke curiosities with his writing. He ran away from home to search for a tribe in the northwest.
I needed an Indian tribe, but I knew nothing about American Indians. My research led me to the Mandan tribe, and I was hooked.
A heated clash with his father was all that was needed to prompt Clayton to run away from home in search of a fabled wild and exotic tribe called the Mandan.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Stopping. Once sit down to write, I get lost. I can start at 8:30 in the morning, look up, and realize it is 6:00 pm and I have not moved.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I have had many vocations and enterprises, but mostly a secretary.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
A Whisper from Eden took two and a half years to write. I didn't do anything else. It was an all-consuming project. I was just enthralled with it. However, I did go to work. I had just a receptionist job at the time in which I answered the phones, greeted people, and did a little word processing. The typing work was light, so with the permission of my boss, I wrote all day and edited my work at night. I researched on the weekend. I have to confess that I was completely obsessed with the story.
I didn't have a computer at home and wrote the book at work. I was about three quarters finished with the manuscript when the Northridge earthquake hit the Los Angeles area. Our building was wrecked. The company moved everyone out for renovations and left me in the lobby with a hardhat. All I had to do was redirect the calls to the temporary location. There was no heat, toxic fumes, noise and nothing to do. I figured this was my chance to finish my novel. I sat there from 8:30 in the morning until 10:00 at night, freezing to death and getting sick from the stupid fumes. But I finished it.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
My husband and I are voracious readers. It seems I have a house in order to have a place for all our books. Bookshelves in every room. But buying Kindle has been fantastic. Books are cheaper and downloading them is instant. We read all genres, and as a writer I hate the idea of being limited to one genre. My husband and I are co-writing a paranormal urban fantasy series.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The Internet and the boom in self-publishing have given talented writers, who might otherwise be ignored by the traditional publishing business, a chance. This gives them so much freedom.
I decided to by-pass the whole traditional publishing arena, with all the query letters to agents, which I found a long and painful process. Agents liked the book, but wanted me to cut it. Publishers do not want to take a chance on a new author and such a long book. I put the book into e-book format, downloaded it and voila, I was published. Even with traditional publishing, an author has to marketing his/her own book. So, I marketing on-line and don't have to go on tour doing book signings and all that. I just had the book made into a print version. I should get copies in the mail soon and it will be a dream come true. My book is in print! The book is selling well, by the way.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
A Whisper from Eden, A Historical Fantasy is really a literary work about Native Americans and 1837 history, with some fantasy elements. So it defies genre or category. Historical fantasy most of the time is about castles, dragons and such. Multi-genre fiction is difficult to market. If it were placed in a brick and mortar store, it would probably go to the literary section, where they put non-genre fiction.
I have several books in the works, all in different genres. However, my husband and I are writing - a paranormal urban thriller series. We are and having a lot of fun with it.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
I know this may not be a popular thing to say, but yes. Write, write, and write. Writing is a craft and constant writing is the way to hone the skills. The other is read. Stephen King in his terrific book, On Writing, says good writers are also addicted to reading fiction.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
No. I have a trick. If I am starting something new and have no idea what I want to write, I put my fingers on the keys and just start writing. Whatever comes into my head. It always surprises me that the creative thing kicks in.
When I first started writing, I was clueless about what to write, but I thought I wanted to write a western. I put my fingers on the keys and wrote whatever popped into my head, "The young boy walked into the general store, carrying a pail of water. A shot rang out. He fell to the floor, lying in a pool of blood." What is this? Why? So, I kept it up by asking why? It blossomed into A Whisper from Eden, and my imagination and research led me to something that was no longer a western.
Also, never try edit or be critical while you are writing. Editing and revising are separate hats. James A. Michener said he is a lousy writer, but a brilliant re-writer. I'm not saying it is brilliant, but I re-wrote A Whisper from Eden five times and each time, I made it much better.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Early in the morning.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Obviously, here at my computer.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Entertaining people with a good story.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Hands down – Tolkien. He is a master at evoking an emotional response. When I read The Lord of The Rings the first time, I was trembling and my heart was pounding when little Frodo and his hobbit friends were hiding from the Nasgul in a ditch.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I got a review the other day. I have to say that this review on Amazon.com was the crowning glory to me, compensating for the incredibly hard work of writing a novel – hard hat and freezing fingers included.
A Native-American, Space and Visionary Saga Full of Heart and Soul I loved this novel. Its scope is immense; it is a unique fantastical view of Native American history - yet plausible to those who believe in the power of the spirit.
The author's respect and love for the Mandan culture and way of life (which was thoroughly researched and seamlessly integrated into the plot) is evident in the way the story progresses. The story takes twists and turns as unpredictable events befall the characters as time moves on, yet the entire saga is cohesive and stays true to its themes and possibilities. I was enthralled and moved.
A wonderful story. I can't recommend it highly enough!
Whew! I get teared-up.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
A friend said she could not read the first draft of our paranormal urban fantasy series. Too violent. I suggested that it was not her genre. She agreed that she doesn't like thrillers. But the rejection still stung.
Not really. I think many fiction writers are drawn to the profession because they like creating worlds other than their own.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I guess my whole world revolves about writing, marketing on the Internet, and reading. However, when I want a diversion, I absolutely love movies.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
I don't care how many times I re-read a manuscript I wrote, I miss things. I guess I'm too close to it. Indie authors are criticized because many of their books are poorly edited. And I have to agree. I read books on my Kindle that have lots of typos, bad grammar, and bad e-book formatting.
It can be expensive to have your work professional edited but it is essential. I finally found one who is fast and charges a very reasonable rate.
I am on a very tight budget, but I have put together a team. I have beta readers, a person who formats for the eBooks and print on demand books for Createspace, an editor, a person who does video trailers, and a cover designer. Then there are people I hire for marketing and promotion. In addition, I need someone who has more expertise with computer stuff. I set up my Word Press websites myself, but I'm always running into things I don't know how to do.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Get up early and write for about four hours, then check my e-mail, and put on my social media, marketing hat. By that time, it is time to eat dinner and I curl up with my Kindle.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Hands down -- my husband. We are a quite a team and his imagination and curiosity never ceases to amaze me. And he can find something positive about the most awful situations.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Oh, don't get me started. I have to say that education in this country has taken a severe nosedive. People are graduating high school who can barely read. Teaching the technology on how to study is vital to education and to life. And absent everywhere. At least until Mr. L. Ron Hubbard perfected the subject.
I studied his material, and when I applied it for a while, it not only raised my IQ about twenty points, but transformed me from a practically illiterate person into a voracious reader and led me to a writing career. I can't say enough about the subject.
I read a book, Three Cups of Tea, about a man whose passion was setting up schools in Pakistan. He found that people were not swayed by the terrorist rhetoric when they had even a basic education.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
We have a goal to publish four books in 3013. And we want to travel. It would be wonderful to actually experience the places in my stories. I have to rely on carefully researching the areas.
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
Goodness! What a question. Umm. Are we talking only fiction? Then I guess The Lord of the Rings.
Actually, yes. I would be Clayton Pinckney, my protagonist in A Whisper from Eden. His character is patterned after a real person, painter George Catlin – early 1800's. Catlin was a lawyer turned painter who saw the fire of the Indian spirit being extinguished by the whites of the east coast. He lamented that the culture of the eastern tribes had already been shattered, and he saw that the white man's lust for space would soon reach the wild tribes on the Plains. Through his written words and images in paint, he hoped to make the public aware of an American treasure: the spirit and beauty of the Indian culture.
His passion for the Mandan fairly steams off of the pages of his notes and letters, and his love is proclaimed through his canvases. He tried to capture their spirit for all of us forever with his paintings, such as the image of his close friend, the proud and flamboyant Chief Four Bears. In all his splendor and formal attire, a painting with so much life and fire, Chief Four Bears still reaches out and touches us after all these years.
This determined historian left to the world his research and paintings, an invaluable record of the magical Mandan. It is as if Catlin was looking into a planetary crystal ball, as if he knew he had to arrive and report on a valuable way of life that he knew was to perish. We are fortunate in his timing and foresight because the most prosperous and unique of all the North American tribes, the extraordinary and enchanting Mandan, were decimated by a terrible evil.
The great smallpox epidemic of 1837 laid to waste the most prosperous and unique of all the North American tribes. When this catastrophe hit the area of the Missouri River and prairies beyond, the Mandan's magical powers could not protect them.
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Totally. They have been the gatekeepers, choosing what people are allowed to read. The reason is, of course, they are in business. They have to keep a sharp eye on the bottom line to stay in business. I am a BIG supporter of self-publishing and Indie authors. They have the freedom to create what they want to create. My book was too expensive for publishers to take a chance on.
However, if a self-published work doesn't sell, that does not necessarily mean it is not good. It mostly likely means the author needs learn more about marketing.
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Yeah, I did quit. Many times. I hated the agent rejection letters. I have a huge file of them. Why I keep them, I don't know. Some were so rude. One had a stamp, and stamped my own letter – No Thanks. I guess at least they answered me and just didn't throw it in the trash.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
I prefer anything with fantasy elements – a period piece, urban fantasy and even dystopian about a future world. I have a dystopian novel I'm working on called, The Trash Pile People.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
Stephen King said something that I'm sure was meant to be cynical. It was an article answering the question: What is talent? He said every book has an audience somewhere. But talent is what sells. Meaning enough people want to read it. Writing something that catches the public's fascination does take a certain talent. Like the Hunger Games. The writing I thought was good, and obviously the series intrigued people. However, I looked at the reviews and they were awful. I mean there were hundreds of them with a common theme; it was disturbing, but the reader just could not put it down. I decided to buy it and felt the same way. I even went back to read parts to study how she created such intense suspense.
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Felling like they just read a good story and want to tell their friends about it.
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my writing career.
http://www.phoenixbooksite.com (Books reviews and author interviews)
Amazon US Link
Amazon UK Link
Goodreads: Phoenix Reads
Facebook Page: Fiction by Phoenix
Facebook Profile: Lee Jordan
Pinterest: Lee Jordan
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Phoenix. Sounds like you are on track. Keep looking in those nooks and crannies for a top seller.