Dr. JERI FINK
- Guest Author
Today, I interview someone who shares my love of writing and photography.
Dr. Jeri Fink re-invented the art of storytelling, merging fiction, fact, and photo insights into riveting books you'll never forget. Find her work as a Family Therapist, expertise in psychopaths, and photography in her 27 books and hundreds of articles and blogs. Read her BROKEN series of thrillers; subscribe to photo insights; and enjoy fascinating blogs on www.hauntedfamilytrees.com
Welcome, Jeri ....
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
Writing is in my soul. I wouldn’t know how not to write.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I was eight years old. I had one of those black-and-white marbled composition books. Instead of using it for schoolwork, I began to write stories about people and animals. I grew up in New York City, so I would sit on a bus or subway looking at people and making up stories about them.
That hasn’t changed J
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I never have a shortage of ideas. When I start a new manuscript, I have to choose which idea to follow. It’s not difficult – in fact, often I have to consciously push away my “ideas” into a file in my head so I can focus on only one or two at a time.
Preparation, of course, depends on my genre. Blogs, articles, mini books, and other short pieces require a statement of my subject and an outline. Then I research. I’m an intense researcher – I won’t accept a “fact” until I’ve seen it at least three times in publications (websites) I know I can trust. Even then, I make sure there is no conflicting information. I also outline my fiction but in a different way. For example, my 7-book series of thrillers are all connected, over 500 years, so I have book outlines, timelines, character connections, names, etc.
I’m always surprised when I hear that a writer doesn’t like research. I LOVE research. My favourite type of research is to gather the information and then go to the location. I bring my camera, my notes, and a lot of blank pages. My new thriller series came together that way.
BTW I usually do my first drafts longhand and then transfer them to the computer where I edit (as I’m transferring them) and edit/rewrite five or six times or more.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Everything but the business! I love the research, writing, integrating photographs and words, stories . . . I could go on forever. Over the years I’ve come up with several new terms that were not defined at the time. One of them is psychotechnology – the psychology of technology. More recently, is photo insights – the merging of words and photographs to deepen the reading experience. Photo insights, by definition, are a reflection of photo psychology (a concept I did not invent).
In my series of thrillers, I’ve done extensive research on psychopaths and the psychopathic spectrum, drawing from my own experiences as a Family Therapist/Social Worker, professional literature, interviews, popular literature, statistics, videos . . . I love to move between different media to create a fully integrated concept.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
That’s easy – THE BUSINESS. I have no trouble writing books, blogs, articles, and creating photo insights. It’s a lot easier than marketing, promotion, publicity, and branding.
6. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Someone once asked me which was my favorite book. After writing and publishing 27 books (I’m a hybrid author – I publish both traditional and indie), hundreds of blogs, articles, and photo essays, my answer is – the piece I’m working on at the moment.
7. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m completing a 7-book series of thrillers, Broken, that merge fiction with photo insights, and explore psychopaths and their prey. As a family therapist, I’ve had a lot of experience with this . . . The first three books are out on Amazon; I hope to complete the final four books before the end of this year. I also write several blogs, run a photo psychology email list, and post regular photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
8. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Life. Inside, I’m still that child who looks and hears stories everywhere. In fact, I think and dream in stories. Some people have auditory memories; others visual memories. I have a memory based on stories – I might not remember your name but I won’t forget your story.
9. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Whatever works for what I’m writing at the moment. My blogs and articles are all nonfiction. Broken consists of fictional thrillers that incorporate historical facts, actual people and places, and of course, photo insights. I’ve written children and adult books, professional books, fiction and nonfiction. My mini-books are nonfiction.
10. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
READ! Too many new writers ignore the fact that part of being a writer is being a reader. Then WRITE! Write, edit, and rewrite . . . sweat over your work. Enjoy that part of it as much as the original creation.
11. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Never. If I can’t think of a solution or story, I just go to sleep and dream it. That works every time. I’m a lucid dreamer.
12. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I prefer to write fiction in the morning. The creative words flow easier at that time of day. Nonfiction tends to be better later in the day or evening. Editing/rewriting is best midday. However, I can write any time of day (and do). I love late at night (early morning) to work – well after midnight – because the world around me is quiet and peaceful and the noise in my head has a better chance to be heard. J
13. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
My desktop computer is in my home office. The kitchen table, along with a lot of ice cream and chocolate chip cookies works very well too. My dogs keep me and my characters company.
14. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I’ve been asked that question so many times! It’s like asking what my favourite flower is – my favourite ice cream – even my favourite restaurant. There are so many good authors out there that I tend to say my favourite is the one I’m reading at the present. If you want to go back in time, I would say Mark Twain because of his humour, his colourful characters, and the common sense he imparts. I love Shakespeare, although it’s much better to see his work performed rather than read it. How can I leave out Colleen McCullough, James Michener, and Michael Crichton? I’m a big fan of Greg Iles, Naomi Regan, and Noah Gordon . . . the list goes on. Right now (since I recently returned from the Arctic), I’m reading everything written by the Icelandic author, Arnaldur Indrioason. His work is dark, but spellbinding.
I make sure to read fiction EVERY DAY. I have a huge number of print books, but lately I read my fiction only on an iPad. Oddly, I can’t read nonfiction on a screen – I always get the hard copy. Did I mention my good friend, Margaret Mendel, who wrote Fish Kicker? Great read.
I surround myself with books, words, and images.
15. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
A few years ago, I wrote a novel called Trees Cry for Rain. A 99-year old man approached me after a presentation in Florida. There were tears in his eyes. The book told the story of Sephardic Jews in 1492. He thanked me for remembering his legacy.
My new series of thrillers goes from present day back to 1492. Two of the books, Broken by Men and Broken by Kings are about the same period in history.
16. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I just received a comment online about my posts. “If I had your ego, I wouldn’t be broke.” The words kill me – I work seven days a week, sometimes fourteen hours a day. I’m so compulsive about grammar and content, that I even rewrite my emails! The “troll” suggested it was a performance – a function of my overblown ego. I never responded (the “rule” with trolls), but I wanted to tell her how hard I work, how I never give up, and how I’m deeply invested in my work. It’s not about ego – it’s about passion.
17. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
How could you not be influenced by things that happen in life? Everything touches me – my family, friends, and enemies - and influences my writing: the guy in the grocery store who just broke up with his wife; my friend who has a terminal illness; another friend who just lost her beloved dog. Everything that happens in the world creeps into my soul – climate change; endless arguments about abortion and gay rights (is that what we need to focus on when everyone should have the opportunity to mould their own lives?); the migrant crisis; and the heartbreaking struggle in Israel and the Middle East. People should be allowed to live their lives! I travel and see good and bad in the world, and that influences me as well. What would there be to write about if I wasn’t sensitive to the things that happen within and outside of me?
18. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love life – the first snow in the winter, the incredible flowers that bloom everywhere in the spring and summer. I love photography and expanding it in all directions; merging images with words; and, as a family therapist, exploring family, human relationships, and the concept of photo psychology.
I love my family, along with their smiles, their laughter, and the amazing stories in their lives. My children are grown now, so my dogs keep me company – a puppy Golden doodle named Tucker and an older Labradoodle named Coco.
I also love the fact that my son bakes incredible chocolate chip cookies with his son and is proud of his cooking. I raised him right!
Perhaps number one on that list is my husband, Rick. I’m a dinosaur when it comes to marriages – we have been together since teenagers and I’m still very much in love with him. He’s my favourite travel companion (another one of my “loves”) – we just came back from the Arctic and a few years ago, went to Antarctica. Our bucket list is to go to every continent on the planet. Right now, we’re only missing one – Australia!
19. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Absolutely! Any writer who thinks he or she can edit their own books is missing something. We all need editors – from content to copyediting. Too many Indie writers skip this step with disastrous results.
20. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My husband – as I said above.
21. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Enough hate! Enough politics! Stop looking at money, power, and ego and attend to the real things that affect people – like climate change, peace, and opportunity to live life as they choose. Right now, in my country, the political candidates are arguing about things like immigration and gay marriage. Ridiculous! People have a right to pursue their lives in any way they wish (as long as they don’t hurt anyone or thing). That should be a given. We need to be concerned about preventing wars, terrorists, and most of all, climate change. If everyone could visit the Arctic and see what’s happening, they would know what I mean. Ignoring climate change is like discussing real estate taxes when your house is burning down.
22. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
When my new series, Broken, is out (I hope before the end of the year), I want to do another series that focuses on New York and it’s very colourful history. I’ll also continue to explore and expand my online presence in blogs, photos, etc. Lastly, I would like to write two mini non-fiction books – one on photo psychology and another on hidden places to visit in New York City.
23. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
All of them and none of them.
24. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Totally. Read #35.
26. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
I tried once – for about a day. It was more like a temper tantrum.
27. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
I think my favourite book to write and research was the 4th book in my series of thrillers, Broken By Madness. It’s the first historical in the series and takes place in my favourite place on the planet – New York City. I grew up in New York and have spent my adult life in the suburbs. I discovered a rich mix of history and culture right in my backyard – I still astound native New Yorkers with what I found in plain sight. For example, the world renowned Wall Street was originally a wall built in the 1600s to keep out the Indians and the British. It’s gone now, of course, but if you walk down Wall Street in Manhattan there’s a line of black bricks in the pavement that follows the original wall! In this book I confronted a unique challenge as a family therapist when my characters with psychological disorders couldn’t be defined in modern terms. How do you describe a psychopath in the 1600s?
28. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Clean writing, well-organized, clear plotting, published, and read.
29. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
My new books are designed for today’s readers – a good, fast read with strong plot and a lot of action. They’re written so readers, if they want, can go to deeper levels to understand the symbolism, metaphors, emotions, and significance of the content. For example, all of the books in the Broken series, are connected even though they span 500 years. Names, actions, places, and roles link between all the books. However, the reader who doesn’t care can still enjoy each book independently.
30. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A book cover is critical – one of the most important components of a good book. I work with a professional designer but have constant input.
31. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Book marketing/branding is up to the author these days unless you’re a #1 bestseller. It’s all about money and how many books are sold. I spend a huge amount of my daily time on this – I write many blogs, photo essays, email lists . . . it’s endless. I consider it a necessary evil.
32. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
I’m a hybrid author – I’ve done both traditional and indie publishing.
33. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Let me tell you a story. I co-authored a children’s book about a REAL therapy dog (my dog) named Gizmo who spent his life working with local kids. In the book, Gizmo wanted the world to be clean and safe for everyone. The story went up the ladder – accepted by every acquisition and content editor along the way. They loved it. Ultimately it was rejected. The reason why? They “loved” the book but the main character (Gizmo) wasn’t a famous dog or owned by a celebrity.
Too many books are out there because they’re “written” by celebrities, authors who are young and look good when they go to the “in” parties in town, or look alluring on a book cover. “Real” authors tend to be introverted, thoughtful, and creative – something that’s rarely considered in selecting books to be “bestsellers.”
It’s like asking my Golden Doodle puppy to discuss politics. They’re different beasts.
34. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Someone to take care of all my marketing, sales, and business. I enjoy the blogs and photo essays but the other stuff . . .
35. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a guest on your website. One of the greatest things about today’s writing is that so many barriers have come down – we can reach across the world and share our thoughts, ideas, and emotions. I like to brag that my book cover designer is in Taiwan and my website developer is in the Philippines.
I have a son who lives in Israel and I hope, a new friend in Australia. I communicate with a fellow author in South Africa as easily as my friend who lives a few blocks away. The world is a remarkable place and all of us need to participate, in as many ways as possible, preserving it for future generations.
Clancy's comment: Well done, Jeri. Great photographs. Agree with you about writing compared to marketing. Yuk, what a pain, but necessary.