As part of the Hop Against Homophobia blog hop (http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com) in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia (May 17), I have been asked to talk about my perceptions and experience with homophobia. As a writer, I think the place where you can gauge social issues best is in the everyday entertainment that people seek out on their own.
Posts Tagged ‘author’
As an author, I have a certain idea of how my work should be perceived.
As an author, I am pleased when people become invested in my characters, inspiring strong opinions both positive and negative. That investment often results in feelings of approval when one’s favorites triumph, and of anger and betrayal when they fail. The ultimate betrayal is, of course, when a character dies or is killed, his potential spent for the sake of the requirements of the narrative.
Today, I passed 100 ratings at Goodreads.com, something of a red letter day in my mind. To me, it seems like a good time to look back and take stock.
What really warms my heart, though, is not the number of people who have found my books engaging enough to comment on them, but the average rating for each book in order of publication.
Starlight (Pact Arcanum #4) is mere hours away from publication.
I knew, in an abstract sense, that authors have fragile egos. It’s inevitable, when you pour your heart into creating something, that you want people to respond positively. As Stephen King put it, “Authors are needy.” But I honestly wouldn’t have believed the kind of crap that some authors spew at critical reviews, and at the reviewers who write them. Then I started reading the angry reader discussion threads about it on Goodreads, which were often accompanied by extensive documentation.
I mean, it’s great when people love your work, but if others think your work is crap, they’re entitled to their opinions, especially when they’ve bothered to write you a review at all. And I truly despise the common tactic of talking all kinds of trash about the reviewers, making condescending asides and snide remarks about their analytical skills or education, then loftily declaring oneself to be above the fray and unwilling to participate in anything as vulgar as internet flame wars.
Meaning: “I’ve had my say at your expense, but if you respond, you’re a bottom-feeder.”
It’s ridiculous. Honestly, if we as authors are so narcissistic that we think everyone who doesn’t love us must be mentally deranged, then we have no business posting our work in public forums. Come on, people. If you want your audience to take you seriously, then show a hint of professionalism, and maybe even a little gratitude that someone took time out of their day to tell you what they thought of your work.
Today, including all titles and platforms, I sold my 500th book, not counting free downloads. This comes just under a year since the first ebook edition went live, in February 2011. I call that a modest success, with an average of about 40 books sold per month, and I hope to build on it in 2012, with the publication of Starlight.
Thank you to everyone who offered me encouragement, from family and friends, to editors, beta readers, and reviewers. I appreciate your support.
As part of the IWU blog tour, I have author Laura Vosika in the studio, author of the Blue Bells Chronicles.
Laura is also working on several other novels and a non-fiction book on raising a large family. Past publishing credits include an essay in Glamour magazine. Laura grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America’s east coast. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music, and master’s degree in education, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, private music instructor, and school band director. She currently lives in Minnesota with her nine children, and assorted menagerie.
Let’s see what she has to say:
Q. Tell us a little bit about your book.
Blue Bells of Scotland is the story of two men, polar opposites but for their looks and love of music, who trade places in time. Shawn, a celebrated musician and philandering, gambling, drinking, self-centered scoundrel, finds himself caught in medieval Scotland with the fate of a nation on his shoulders, while Niall, a devout Highland warrior, must navigate the roiled waters of Shawn’s life–amorous fans, angry mistresses, pregnant girlfriend, and a conductor ready to fire him (an ominous notion to medieval ears!)–trying to get back to save his people.
Q. What excites you most about your book’s topic? Why did you choose it?
That’s a hard question to answer, because I can’t narrow it down to just one thing. I have loved researching the time of Robert the Bruce, and learning about the remarkable people of the time–the Bruce himself; James Douglas, or the Good Sir James as he was known by the Scots; Angus Og, Lord of the Isles; Isabel MacDuff who defied her husband and the king of England to crown Bruce king; Elizabeth Bruce, Robert’s queen and so many more.
I also love the aspect of time travel, but I think what interests me about time travel is the question of who we would really be in different circumstances, a different world, among different societal expectations and beliefs; the question of what happens when an individual is thrown out of their element and their whole world turned upside down.
So, I suppose if I had to narrow it down to one thing, it’s really the character exploration of how and why people make the decisions they do, become who they are, how they grow–or devolve–and change over time.
Q. How long did the book take you from start to finish?
Ignoring the many months I let it sit, before I really got serious about finishing it, maybe two years.
Q. Did you seek the support of a writer’s group or class?
Yes. I was lucky enough to be teaching music lessons at a community center which was also home at the time to the Night Writers. Each week, I’d walk out of my studio and see the notice, on the wall directly opposite my room, for their meetings. I called once in 2005 and never heard back. In 2006, I finished teaching at exactly the same time their meeting started, so I just walked down the hall and introduced myself. It’s been a match made in heaven. They’re a great group of people who know how to encourage, pick out the good parts, and also help move a piece of writing to a higher level.
Q. What surprised you the most about the book writing process?
As I wrote a book years ago, I think nothing new really surprised me this time around, but I think it’s always a little disconcerting how deeply our minds get sucked into the world we’re writing about. In The Minstrel Boy, someone talks about the disconcerting feeling, when he spends a great deal of time researching the past, of realizing these people are long gone. I suspect it’s similar for all writers, that we sometimes feel a little disoriented shifting into our ‘real’ lives, as as if we have literally just stepped out of the world we spent the morning writing.
Q. Did you have any favorite experiences when writing your book?
Without a doubt, traveling to Scotland for on the ground research was the best part of writing. I loved every part of that trip, from my unplanned stop at Linlithgow Castle and my discovery of the tiny ruin of Finlairig, hidden away in a copse, to exploring castles Urquhart and Tioram about which I’d read so much, and climbing hills myself in medieval-style leather boots.
I really enjoyed meeting people there–Judith at Eden Court Theatre, who gave me a full tour of the place where Shawn’s orchestra plays, Joe at the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, who showed me some of the highlights of the museum and took me around the battlefield, telling me all about what it’s like on the day of the annual re-enactment, and Wendy (I hope I’m remembering her name correctly) at the Loch Ness Backpackers where I stayed.
I loved trying haggis, walking around Inverness, and seeing Highland cattle. It’s an incredible experience for a suburban American to hear over and over that ‘there are no no-trespass laws in Scotland,’ and to be told we can go anywhere we like, as long as we shut the gates behind us and don’t let the sheep and cattle out. It’s a little intimidating, for someone who’s whole close-up experience with big animals is a Golden Retriever, to walk into a field with those big, shaggy cattle with their large horns, but I found they were more scared of me than I was of them. That experience also made its way into future books.
Q. What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book?
I hope they’ll take whatever they like from it. If they want just a fun time travel and adventure story, it’s that. If they like history, I hope they’ll take an appreciation of the times of Robert the Bruce and the amazing Battle of Bannockburn from it. It’s also a story of change and redemption, for those who like that aspect.
Q. What projects are you currently working on?
I’m in the very final stages of putting out The Minstrel Boy, Book Two of the Blue Bells Chronicles. All that’s left is formatting and waiting for the new cover, as the title was changed from The Blue Bells Trilogy to The Blue Bells Chronicles.
When The Minstrel Boy hits the stores, so to speak, I’ll be editing the next three books. After that, I have another novel set in a Scottish castle, with dual storylines in both medieval and modern Scotland; however, this one doesn’t involve time travel, but rather an old mystery that needs to be laid to rest. I have a completely different novel, written years ago, set in Boston in the 1990’s, more contemporary-style fiction, which needs to be published, and I have two non-fiction books in progress, one on the history behind the world of the Blue Bells Chronicles, and one on raising a large family.
Q. Is writing your sole career? If not, what else do you do?
I was a freelance musician on trombone for many years, and later switched to harp. I still occasionally perform on harp if I’m asked, but rarely. In addition to writing, I currently teach music lessons on harp, piano, guitar, and wind instruments.
Q. What tips would you offer to anyone writing fiction for the first time?
Research, re-write, capture all the senses, use realistic dialogue, re-write, join a writers’ critique circle either in real life or online, and did I mention–re-write.
Q. Did you do any research for your books, or did you write from experience?
Both. I have very little actual experience with time travel or medieval Scotland. But the world of music in the Blue Bells Chronicles is largely my own personal experience from years of playing in orchestras
Q. How did you come up with your title?
Blue Bells of Scotland is taken from the title of a theme and variations, written by Arthur Pryor, to show off what a trombone is capable of–much more than people thought at the time he wrote it. His piece is, in turn, based on an old Scottish folk tune. Not only is Shawn Kleiner, one of the two main characters of Blue Bells of Scotland, a trombonist known for playing this piece at the end of his concerts, but the story also incorporates the ideas of streaming banners and noble deeds as per the lyrics of the song, and the idea that we as people can rise to the occasion and be so much more than what people think we’re capable of.
Q. What can we look forward to in your next book?
It’s rather hard to say without giving away the ending of Blue Bells of Scotland, but The Minstrel Boy we’ll see Amy become a much more major character, and we’ll see a minor character from Blue Bells come to the forefront. We’ll see much more of the thieving MacDougalls, including Duncan, the son. Both the modern and medieval storylines will take us to MacDougall’s dungeons, gallows are built, and whether they are used or not will ride on the timid shoulders of a terrified scullery maid.
That’s all the time we have. Thanks for coming in!
For more information on this author, check out the following links:
Book purchase links
I’m giving away 3 print copies of the second edition of Sunset through Goodreads.com (http://bit.ly/wa5SvZ).
Sign up between Jan 7th and Jan 21st for the drawing. This offer is open only to those folks living in the United States, just to save on postage, but if you live halfway around the globe and would like a reviewer copy, drop me a line at http://pactarcanum.com/contact and maybe we can work something out.