Author Interview: William Galaini

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog. I am very pleased to welcome William Galaini, author of Trampling in the Land of Woe. It turns out we share the same editor and publisher, Ally Bishop at Scarlet River Press. I am happy to finally chat with William about writing, publishing, and his book.

Bio:

Everything is now Twitter. My bio will be 140. Vet, married, bonkers son, four cats, crushing insecurity. Out of room to explain myself. Sad.

Welcome, William!

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What is your book’s genre?

Hmmm… historical neoclassical fantasy literature? With romance. And even a bromance.

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Please describe what Trampling in the Land of Woe is about.

Book blurb – As World War I rages on Earth, Hephaestion, lauded general and soul mate of Alexander the Great—and now a citizen of Purgatory—embarks on the darkest, most challenging journey of his existence: descending into The Pit of Hell to rescue his king. Chased by Hellbeasts, hunted by Jesuits, and aided by unexpected allies, Hephaestion tests the bounds of loyalty, dedication, and even death as he faces the greatest demon of all: himself. A blend of steampunk and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Trampling in the Land of Woe drives through the cobblestoned streets of New Dis, soars above The Pit in airships, and then stumbles down into the terror-ridden rings themselves. Steam-powered trains, zeppelins, and ornithopters zoom by in a mash-up of literary proportions, all to answer one question: What will one man do to understand the meaning of love and truth?

Envision a steam-punk Dante’s Inferno for the setting. In that setting, Hephaestion breaks into Hell in an effort to rescue his lover and king, Alexander the Great. Throughout his journey he encounters various historical figures and personalities that either aid or hinder his efforts. This all occurs while the first World War occurs on the surface of Earth, so we have dirigibles, paddleboats, cannons, and locomotives.

Sounds like an intriguing read. How did you come up with the title?

Milton’s Paradise Lost has several passages that refer to Hell as a land of woe. The thought of an ancient Greek cavalry general like Hephaestion kicking in Hell’s door to descend its rings of torment brought the verb ‘trampling’ to mind.

What inspired you to write this book?

….. okay this might be embarrassing. A DND session. Well, technically the gaming system we used is called Savage Worlds. This system lets you establish the setting in any way you like, so I build the setting of Dante’s Hell in 1910 so that my players had trains to ride and zeppelins to fly. So my gaming group and I used my setting as a narrative playground for about a year. From that, I plucked story elements, conflicts, and plots that captivated everyone the most. Trampling is the first novel from this.

While the specific characters we played don’t make a showing in the novels, many of their challenges do.

I had to look up ‘DND session’–Dungeons & Dragons. I can see real merit (and fun) in the creative sessions you and your gaming buddies enjoy; especially for writers of fantasy, dystopian, and steam punk stories.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Being done. At least, being done before the next round of edits and revisions. At that moment you feel the marvelous sensation of growing power and overcoming adversity.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Not really. Hephaestion is a handsome, capable man driven by principals. He is patient, temperate, and focused. I am NONE of those things.

I will confess that Hephaestion’s caretaker, a German from Purgatory with bad gambling habits named Yitzhak, is exactly like me. His sarcasm, observations, and reckless idealism causes all kinds of trouble but also often saves the day.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I likely have a different answer for this question each time I’m asked, so here is my current one: patience. I can pound out a novel once a year and that includes six to seven months of research. Granted, I’ve got eleven novels planned out and I spend years outlining them, but once I’ve finished my first draft my patience VANISHES. I become impatient with my cover artists, my editors, my layout artist, and my publisher. I do my best to contain this tiny, embarrassing monster of mine, but sometimes my editors or artists will get a rambling voicemail message that entails a combination of my raging impatience and my apologies regarding such.

I’m impatient with the team that makes a book happen because I’m ignorant of what they have to do to make my book a reality. This childishness embarrasses me.

I appreciate the candid answer, William. I remember growing impatient with my first book until I discovered what each of the team member’s important projects entailed on the road to publication. Thank God I listened to my gut, my editor, and that we didn’t rush to publish; it would have been a disaster.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Enemy at the Gates. It was about the siege of Stalingrad. I was engrossed in it for both its detail and humanity. I had chosen the book to read for research for an upcoming novel that involves a city under siege. Just before Enemy at the Gates, I had read The 900 Days, which was equally haunting.

My next book will be fun. I’ve got my eye on Ready Player One. I hear it is a good read.

My writing mentor recommended the film version of Enemy of the Gates for dealing three alternating POVs; it’s a super film. I just ordered the book.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’m a fan of books, but some of my favorites are written by Ken Follett, M.M. Kaye, Isaac Asimov, and I love Milton and Pope’s prose.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Mom. Yeah, it is cliché but completely true. Mom had me reading science fiction like I, Robot and Rama as a kid and I gobbled it up wholesale. My stepmother, Mutti was also a huge reader and she got me into contemporary works like Terminal Man and some John Grisham.

My wife also. She is always there next to me in the car or the kitchen when I’ve got an idea. She is the first barrier all ideas and character elements have to pass through in order to make it to the page. Ginger actually doesn’t read my books because, frankly, she just doesn’t have to. She watched me mix the thing and bake it in the oven. No need to taste it to know it is good.

How nice to have that instant feedback. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

We have a couch that is actually long enough for me to splay myself out on. I look like I’m ready for Jack to paint me like one of his French girls. That is the BEST place to get my read on. 

As for writing, I just need a proper keyboard, a chair, and either headphones or silence.

Okay, now I won’t be able to get through that scene in Titanic without thinking of you sprawled out on the couch, waiting for Jack. Too funny. Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m not as insecure as I profess to be.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I learned a lot of self-acceptance in writing. There are no mistakes to be made in writing. You literally will not do anything wrong when you write…

…until you publish. Publishing is where mistakes are made, not the writing. Publishing too early or without revising properly are both brutal mistakes that I have paid for.

Do not be impatient when publishing. Allow the various stages of double-checks to occur. The hindrances you face in publishing your book will make it more refined.

Couldn’t agree more. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Meaning and fun. I explore heart-break and deeper themes via the proxy of adventure. I hope that, on the surface, the reader is satisfied with a good time but upon reflection, they ask themselves the questions that motivated the story.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I didn’t stop.

What didn’t work?

Awesome question. Well, a number of things. First off, I had a preconception of the book being a lone journey and I kept trying to force it into that mold. My dev editor, Ally Bishop, wisely aimed me toward focusing not on character in the narrative, but on relationships. This brought a close friendship between Yitzhak and Hephaestion and through that relationship a lot of the story’s themes and conflicts became far more vivid and engaging.

Secondly, I had a hard time finding the rhythm of my syntax. I still struggle with it now, but it took a lot of proof editors to help me polish it.

Ally is the real deal. She encouraged me to change the original ending of my book, smart lady. Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

There are no mistakes in writing, only in publishing. That is my axiom.

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Website and social media links?

Williamgalaini.com

@wgalaini on Twitter

https://www.facebook.com/WilliamLjGalaini/

Where can we find your book?

My, so glad you asked! Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and ask for it at your local library.

https://www.amazon.com/Trampling-Land-Patron-Saints-Hell/dp/0996926208/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485893782&sr=8-1&keywords=trampling+in+the+land+of+woe

What’s next for you, William?

Part two for Trampling is already done and it is awesome. Boudica is the main character in the sequel. I’ve just started part three!

Great interview, William. Thanks for chatting with me. Best of luck with your books!

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

My Thoughts After The Women’s March on Washington

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Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Mission and Vision 

“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

Shared from The Women’s March on Washington website.

My experience of standing shoulder to shoulder and marching with thousands of women, men, and children at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, January 21, 2017, was one of peace, inclusivity, unity, and respect. I am grateful to the women who marched with us in 600 sister marches in their respective countries, and I’m very grateful to the organizers and co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, who worked hard to organize what turned out to be a massive, historic event.

The short speeches made by six-year-old immigrant rights activist, Sophie Cruz (who won my heart), America Ferrara, Amanda Nguyen, Scarlett Johansson, Angela Davis, Cynthia Hale, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Gloria Steinem, LaDonna Harris, each of the co-chairs of the March, and Ashley Judd reciting a poem written by 19-year-old Nina Donovan from Tennessee, and many others, left me feeling represented at the March—as a Latina, as a mother, as a sister, and as a woman. As a mother, my heart broke for the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, and Jordan Davis. The mothers and their sons were rightly remembered that day.

I took away nuggets of wisdom from all the speeches, heard the truth of each speaker, and felt fortunate to be part of a march that demanded unity and respect for ALL. My group left just before Madonna came on stage, so I can’t speak to her message.

What I can say is that women and men, from across the United States and Canada, carried signs with deeply personal messages on a wide range of issues. The signs around me included messages about the LGBTQ community, the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, human rights, domestic violence, immigration, the environment, education, Pro-choice, Pro-life, keeping our young women safe on college campuses, unity, and respect, among many messages against Trump and his decisions. And no, not every woman at the March was pro-choice as I’ve read recently. I saw plenty of women carrying pro-life signs standing next to plenty of women carrying pro-choice signs. So to me, it is incorrect to say or assume that it was a women’s pro-choice march as it has been described; it was much more. I never thought it was a case of “us” versus “them” that day; not at all. That’s not how I choose to live, and it pains me that many women and men are painting the March in that divisive light. Maybe you had to be there?

We were single and married women, mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, activists, members of the clergy, members of every denomination, faith, belief, and then some, standing together with our children, partners, and friends. The march wasn’t a dangerous, violent, hate-filled event, where you, your beliefs or your children were in danger of being trampled and hurt like I’ve read this week. I didn’t witness animosity or shaming of women by women; everyone simply spoke from their hearts as women do on matters that are important to them. Instead, it was a peaceful, rowdy, wonderful march with lots of respect, kindness, humor, and comradery among the marchers. I experienced patience, polite and kind behavior, and good humor, which was incredible, given the huge number of marchers, the long hours of standing, and the frustrating lack of large screens and microphones for thousands of our fellow marchers who weren’t close enough to the stage to see or hear. But who could have predicted the massive turnout?

I know women multi-task like nobody’s business, but on that day, we were physically limited to carrying one large sign, or two small signs as some did. I felt we were more than the signs we carried that day, as I would venture to say most women who participated (myself included), hold many, many issues close to our hearts. It was heartening to see the different messages around me; many that expressed my own feelings. I wished I’d had ten hands for ten different issues!

To say the Women’s March wasn’t focused, organized, or inclusive doesn’t describe the March I experienced—women have big hearts and we hold many issues close to our big hearts, and thank God for women—ALL women. Are we perfect? Will we always get it right? Will we always agree? No, and there is still plenty of work to do for future generations, and lots to learn.

Obviously, I can’t know if the March was a wonderful experience for all the marchers, but I pray it was. If it was less than a positive day for you, I’d certainly like to know how we can do better. I was proud to march with women for women’s rights, for respect, compassion, and for unity in this country. I certainly marched for the rights of my sisters, neighbors, and for children around the world—refugees most definitely included.

‘Respect my existence or expect my resistance’ was the message I chose to bring to the Women’s March. I wrote the message on my poster board in English and in Spanish. That message still resonates with me and my heart as I believe it includes the rights of all men, women, and children in this country and the world. I took home a lot more understanding of the human experience, and how we all do the best with what we’ve been dealt with in life. I am grateful for the eye-opening experience.

Thank you to the thousands of women who couldn’t march with us and who took the time to knit and donate the pink pussy hats most of us wore with pride on that historic day.

Lastly and most important of all: you may not like or agree that women marched and protested on Washington as is our right. You may not like or agree with the many messages women brought to the March, but please know women marched for YOU, too. And we will keep marching for you because we that’s important. Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.

For a list of speakers and performers at The Women’s March on Washington:

https://qz.com/891175/the-full-lineup-of-the-many-many-speakers-and-performers-at-the-womens-march-on-washington/

About Eleanor: 

ellie

Former counselor and family support worker for immigrant and refugee families, Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month selection by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

Author Interview: Barbara Eppich Struna

Welcome to The Writing Life blog! Today, we are celebrating our third blog anniversary, and to help us celebrate is Barbara Eppich Struna, who was my first guest author in 2015. That seems like eons ago, and I’m happy to say that the Tuesday Author Interview series is still going strong. We have a wonderful line up of talented authors for 2017, who will chat with me about books, writing, publishing, editing, marketing books, and publishing. I hope you’ll join us each Tuesday. Thank you for your support!

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A storyteller at heart, Barbara Eppich Struna lives on Cape Cod with her family in an old 1880 house where her imagination is constantly inspired by the history that surrounds her. She is the published author of two historical novels, The Old Cape House – “First Place – Historical Fiction, Royal Dragonfly Awards 2014”, and The Old Cape Teapot.

Struna is an International Best Selling Author, a Member in Letters of the National League of American Pen Women, International Thriller Writers, Sisters In Crime, and President of Cape Cod Writers Center. Always a journal writer, she is fascinated by history and writes a blog about the unique facts and myths of Cape Cod.

Welcome back to The Writing Life, Barbara!

What is your book’s genre?

Suspenseful Historical Fiction

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Barbara, please describe what The Old Cape House is about.

Nancy Caldwell relocates to an old sea captain’s house on Cape Cod with her husband and four children. When she discovers an abandoned root cellar in her backyard containing a baby’s skull and gold coins, she digs up evidence that links her land to the legendary tale of Maria Hallett and her pirate lover, Sam Bellamy. Using alternating chapters between the 18th and 21st centuries, The Old Cape House, a historical fiction, follows two women that are lifetimes apart, to uncover a mystery that has had the old salts of Cape Cod guessing for 300 years.

How did you come up with the title?

My husband and I, along with our children, live in an old 1880 house on Cape Cod similar to the house in the story. In fact, it is the house pictured on the book cover.

What inspired you to write this book?

I always wanted to write a story about our old house and its history. I knew from my research that it held many secrets. When a connection finally sparked in my head between our house and the 18th century Cape Cod legend of Sam Bellamy, his lover Maria Hallett, and the pirate ship Whydah, I knew I had to write The Old Cape House. Besides I’ve always maintained a philosophy in life of,  ‘It could happen….” and “What if….”

Of course, I never found what my contemporary character discovered but I did uncover several surprises.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Crafting the plot, and if I discover any missing facts or holes in the history within the story, after months or years of research, that’s where I make it up and fictionalize. I love to tell a good story.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways? 

My contemporary main character resembles my life and thoughts about 50% through the storyline. The character experiences some of my adventures and choices. She takes chances as often as I do.

For example:

Did I move across the country with my children into an old 1880 house at forty years old? Yes.

Was I a stay–at-home mother of five children? Yes.

Did my husband/artist support us through his artwork? Yes. I was the business manager/agent for his career.

Did I unearth a surprise in my backyard like my character? Yes, under 10 inches of dirt.

Barbara, what do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Making sure the reader wants to turn the page.

I agree! What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

To be honest, it’s been a while since I have had the time to finish reading someone else’s book. When I’m engrossed in writing, and I’m on Book #4, I’m too tired to read extra. Plus my research takes up a lot of time. But I do love the whole process of writing a book. In the new year of 2017, I plan to read more.

I find it difficult to read for pleasure when I’m writing, as well. Who are some of your favorite authors?

I enjoyed reading William Martin’s Cape Cod and Back Bay. I love the technique of alternating chapters between centuries, which he does so well.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

My mother always encouraged me to follow my dreams and my husband, a full time/self-supporting artist, who never gave up on his goals.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write in the parlor of our old house in front of a large bay window and always listen to instrumental music, usually movie soundtracks. Because all of my children are grown and on their own and my husband works in his art studio, I can play my music without interruption. I have to set the timer on my phone to 45 minutes; otherwise I’d sit at the computer all day, lost in the story.

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Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?  

Whenever I’m driving on the road and I see a garbage bag on the side, I always think there’s a dead body or treasure inside.

I’ll admit my mind goes there, as well. Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I knew there would be numerous drafts and editing but did not expect the lengthy time involved as the MS moved through editors, proofreaders, and beta readers.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

An appreciation for a good story that is simply told and the need to keep turning the page. 

Looking back, Barbara, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I think the best thing that happened to me was that a publisher picked up my book and guided me through the preparation and publishing of my first and second novel. I also paid attention and educated myself about the many confusing ins and outs of the process. My third book, coming in 2017, will be self-published because my publisher closed. It has turned out to be very challenging but with my background knowledge in place, I know it will be a success.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped? 

Querying too early and thinking the MS was finished. I was rejected 55 times before I re–wrote the MS based on the comments in the rejections and finally received a contract.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Edit, edit and edit. Find at least 10 beta readers that include, some family, friends, but mostly readers who are merely acquaintances.

Great advice. Website and social media links?

barbarastruna.blogspot.com  Blog

https://www.facebook.com/strunabooks/  B.E.Struna Books

@GoodyStruna  twitter

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Where can we find your book?

Amazon

Barnes& Noble

Ibooks

www.Struna galleries.com

What’s next for you?

As I mentioned before, my third novel in The Old Cape Series will be out in June 2017, The Old Cape Hollywood Secret.

Currently I’m writing the fourth in the series.

Thanks for visiting us again at The Writing Life, Barbara. I wish you the very best with your series. Happy writing.

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

A Decent Woman

Many, many thanks to Meghan Holloway for her generous book review.

Of Quills & Vellum

Elegant and evocative, Eleanor Parker Sapia’s A Decent Woman is the tale of two different women from very different classes of society who develop a deep bond of friendship. Set against the backdrop of the unforgivingly patriarchal culture of Puerto Rico in the early 1900s, Sapia’s story is a lyrical work that is both a social criticism and an exploration of the trials women have faced.

decentAna Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older…

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Author Interview: Caroline Allen

Welcome to our first author interview of 2017! Here at The Writing Life blog, I have the great pleasure of chatting with authors across genres every Tuesday. Today, I’m happy to chat with talented artist and award-winning author, Caroline Allen.

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Caroline Allen is the author of EARTH and AIR, part of the 5-book Elemental Journey Series. Both novels were published in 2015 by Booktrope Editions of Seattle. Each won Independent Publisher awards soon after publication, a gold medal for regional fiction for EARTH, and a silver medal for visionary fiction for AIR. Prior to becoming a fiction writer, she worked as a journalist all over the world, as a reporter and editor in Tokyo, London and Seattle, and as a travel writer throughout SE Asia. She now lives in rural Oregon and is a book coach and a visual artist.

Welcome, Caroline!

What are your book’s genres?

Literary, visionary fiction.

Please describe what your books are about.

I’m writing a series of five books, The Elemental Journey Series, which includes EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER, and ETHER.

EARTH and AIR were published by Seattle’s Booktrope Editions in 2015. I’m currently at work on the third novel. All five books follow one protagonist on a hero’s journey around the globe as she finds herself in a world rocked by climate change and growing chaos. What does a person’s journey look like in such an unstable world? Is there a greater spiritual call to be answered by each person in a world on the edge?

Caroline Allen Earth.jpg

EARTH looks at our protagonist as she is rooted in place, in the rural farmland of her ancestors. Pearl Swinton, the protagonist, has mystical visions. She wants nothing to do with these visions, her family and teachers think she’s crazy. She can find nowhere where she “fits.” When she hears her aunt in another town has the same “curse”, she goes on a bicycle journey to find her. In the end, she learns she must uproot from this rural bedrock of tradition and forge a new path for herself.

Caroline Allen Air.jpg

In AIR, Pearl lands in Tokyo, where she hopes to float above the culture and find perspective. She meets a Japanese missionary who makes himself homeless, in his despair over his brother’s death in a culture that overworks its people. As he lives beneath a bridge folding origami cranes, he tells Pearl he is now homeless, just as she has made herself in leaving her rural American hometown. What are the uses of disconnection? He asks her: Where truly is home? He urges her to study her visions to find her purpose and help the world.

You ask great life questions. How did you come up with the titles?

I was a short story writer, living in Washington state, more than a decade ago now. I was sleeping in Seattle when I awoke from a dream and sat up, and I was “given” the message that my short stories would fit together into a novel, and there would be a series, EARTH (connection to our place of birth), AIR (leaving our traditions and floating above the culture), FIRE (the burning of the ego in London), WATER (personal healing in the Pacific Northwest), and ETHER (being of spiritual service to others).

I was “given” the general story for each book. The task after the dream, of course, is developing the characters, writing all of the plot twists, revising and editing and getting the books to market. It’s a lifetime task.   

Fascinating. What inspired you to write this series?

I was an international journalist for a decade, working in newsrooms in Tokyo and London. I was at the London dailies when I had a huge spiritual opening. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I was able to read everyone’s mind, no, more than that, I could see the bigger truths affecting them. It hit me all at once, and was extremely overwhelming. I moved back to the States as part of the process of figuring out what was going on with me. When I finally integrated this side of myself by doing metaphysical healing work in Seattle for years, I was inspired to include “visions” in the novels. What if there was a character who all of her life had spiritual visions? How would everyone react? What purpose would her visions ultimately fulfill?

My path in understanding my visionary side inspired me to write all five books.

I look forward to reading your books, Caroline! What is your favorite part of writing?

When I created Usui, the Japanese missionary, in AIR, I fully and completely fictionalized him. My books are semi-autobiographical in that sometimes a scene or a place or a character is based on either real life, or an amalgamation of different lives. But Usui was totally fictionalized. And I fell in love with him. I’m still in love with him. He is like the greatest love of my life. I dream of him, and talk to him and feel his presence. He’s depressive and weak and shy, but also so spiritually evolved. It’s just this love. I cannot explain it any other way.

His spirit has come back in FIRE, the novel I’m writing now, and he shows up and speaks every once in a while to my protagonist. My favorite part of writing is this falling in love. It’s as real as any love I’ve ever known.

What’s really exciting is that apparently I’m not the only one who fell in love with him. A Massachusetts artist fell for Usui too, did a painting of a scene in the novel where Usui is folding origami cranes beneath a foot bridge as a homeless person. The painting was accepted into a major juried show called Alienation in the fall of 2016.

The character Usui is intriguing as I practice Usui Reiki. The strong connection most authors have to their character(s) is quite fascinating. It happens to me, as well.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Pearl Elizabeth Swinton is a semi-autobiographical version of me. Like me, she grew up on a subsistence farm in Missouri, flew to Tokyo to live and work, traveled through SE Asia, lived in London and ended up in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike me, she has had visions since she hit puberty, and this fact in itself changed how closely the story could follow my life. Pearl is much more excitable than I ever was, much more dramatic, and much less intellectual.

As she travels the world, she meets many characters who do not exist in real life, people I never met.

I’m a book coach, as well, helping people all over the world write novels and memoir. Just this morning, I was speaking to a fiction client about how important it is to disconnect from thinking the protagonist is you. You need the freedom to truly create a work of art. I have been able to see Pearl as separate from me, even though sometimes our paths run side-by-side.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing, Caroline? 

Writing envelopes me. It swallows me. It takes me over like a whirlwind romance. I have to figure out a way to go into that phase and to come out of it, or, as has happened in the past, I look up and it’s the first of the month and I didn’t make enough money to pay the bills.

There were bigger challenges in the beginning of my fiction-writing life. When I gave up journalism, I couldn’t seem to get into the next phase of creative writing. I wasn’t writing. Anything. I was so shut down and didn’t know why. I came to a dangerous edge in my life. In therapy, a counselor told me, “You need to write every day. Every single day.”

I burst out sobbing. “I can’t. I can’t.” I just kept repeating those two words. “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t,” wailing into my hands.

“Why?” she asked again and again.

“The monsters will come out. If I open that door, the monsters will get loose.”

She sat pondering, while I rocked on the sofa.

She didn’t even ask me to explain the monsters. I would’ve had no words for what I meant. Instead, she said: “OK, you like to build things, right? Here’s the plan. Go home and build a cage. Put it beneath your writing desk. Keep the monsters in the cage. You’ll need them for writing, so open the cage every morning to start your writing session, let them out, write, then put them back in and close the cage door. Can you do that?”

I looked up, sniffed, and nodded. For some reason, I loved the idea.

I built the cage. It sat under my desk for 13 years.

I understand the need of a visual and even a literal cage when dealing with monsters after a creative period. Artists and writers need their dark sides, as they are part of the whole.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Incarnations by Susan Barker. Loved it. Written by a British author, well-researched and beautifully written. It deals with the past lives of a Chinese taxi driver. I dig past lives and think the whole subject is rich fodder for fiction.

Caroline, who are some of your favorite authors?

Mostly my favorite writers are poets. Mary Oliver and Adrienne Rich top the list. Women who live their lives with integrity, outside the mainstream, who speak with poetry and love about their lives.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills and The Unconsoled were profoundly strong influences on me. He plays with time in both books, where forward is backward and now is then and people exist and do not exist, and he writes about these subjects within a well-told plotted story. This appeals deeply to my metaphysical side. I do not think life is linear, and an understanding of the nonlinear life can help expand our excitement of it. Authors who go to that place seem expansive and exciting to me.

Camus and Dostoyevski are two other influences. Any author who sees the dark side and absurdity of what it called “normal” society appeals to me. To me what we call normal is absurdist at best.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

My yurt! When I finished AIR, I gave myself the gift of a yurt in the woods. The original yurts were and still are used by nomadic tribes in Mongolia. A modernized versions of these are becoming popular on the U.S. West Coast. When I moved to Oregon, I camped up and down the coast to get to know the state, and the state parks rent yurts as cabins. I fell in love with the round, domed structures.

Caroline Allen yurt.JPG

I purchased a kit from Pacific Yurts. Don’t let the word “kit” fool you. It was an intense full-on construction scenario and my friends and I were utterly exhausted after building it in a clearing in the woods.

Months after it was constructed, I found a desk, chair, and dresser down a rural road, at the end of a gravel driveway, placed there for free by the owners. It was the kind of furniture I would’ve loved as a little girl. Now, I had my writing desk. There is no internet connectivity or consistent electricity, so it’s just me, my laptop with its battery, and some candles. Next year, I will be able to afford a wood stove. The view is of forest. A family of deer like to hang out around it. There’s even a bear. Being that close to the wild engages my inner wild child writer.

I do love the idea of a yurt in nature!  Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m also a visual artist. That’s not the surprise. I just finished a project called Outside the Lines, one painting a day for one year. For 366 days — it was a leap year — I painted a painting every single day. That’s not the surprise either. I painted one while in the departure lounge waiting for a late United flight, my carryon as an easel, I painted one the day I had surgery for an accident that severed my foot from my leg (the morphine made the painting really really wild), and I painted one during a birthday party for me in Seattle.

Anyone who follows me on social media knows about these paintings. I’ve strung them on clothes line with pins around the inner walls of my yurt, like prayer flags.

This is the surprise and it’s happened several times: I’ll walk into the yurt and see all of the paintings, hundreds of expressions of my soul, and become so emotional. I’ll wish I could paint like that. Oh, if I could just paint like that I’d be such a fulfilled person. I’d feel so weepy. Yes, I look at my own paintings and wish I could paint like I already do paint. That reaction is a surprise even to me. I still don’t get my reaction. A healer friend told me sometimes it takes the emotional body time to catch up with the physical body. Perhaps that is it.

We are constantly peeling our emotional onion while writing and painting, aren’t we?

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

As an author and a book coach, the biggest thing that always, ALWAYS, surprises me is how far we women still have to go in speaking our soul truth. How far we have to go as writers in working through the blocks to speaking our truth, and how far the publishing industry has to go in accepting us. It surprises me again and again that people are not used to women truly speaking the depths of their truth.

If my protagonist, or me as a person, speaks in terms of her/my relationships (to the opposite sex, or to children, or to any sort of caregiving role), we are much more accepted and acceptable.

Speaking pure truth through fiction or memoir is still more rare than it should be. This affects the writing process and it affects publication. Finding a publisher who’ll take a chance on women speaking deep soul truth is better than it was, but it’s still too difficult!

I wholeheartedly agree with you; still too difficult. What do you hope readers will gain from your books?

All five books explore a paradigm shift from linear thought to a more spiritual holistic mindset, through the story of one character. The books go from sticking to the past of our ancestors to trying an entirely new way of living through a shift in our perceptions. My deepest hope is that by explaining the process, in five books that will take decades to complete, the details of the path will help others on a similar journey. I believe we all need to make this paradigm shift, but that it’s so radical that no one person or book is going to create it. I am part of a greater path of bringing this information into this time period in the world.

caroline-allen-earth

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

Tenacity. I have nothing else to add. Simple hard work, day after day, month after month, year after year. You’ll be exhausted.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

Everything worked, even the things that didn’t because they were part of the learning process for “being” a fully fledged writer. I wouldn’t change any of it.

I landed a big New York agent with EARTH. I really connected with him. He loved my novel. We shopped the book around to all the major houses, and we got great feedback and some serious nibbles, but nobody would bite. It was a two-year process that failed. But I would not say it didn’t work. What I learned was unbelievably helpful. It helped me as a writer and as a book coach. I wouldn’t change that “failure” for the world.

Do you have any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Tenacity. Tenacity. Tenacity. It may take a decade longer than you thought. My path took 15 years longer than I thought it would. You may well be writing about subjects before your time! Maybe the world hasn’t caught up with you. But, your time will come, but you’ll miss it if you give up.

Great advice, Caroline. I love the idea of writing about subjects before our time!

Website and social media links?

www.carolineallen.com

www.artofstorytellingonline.com

www.artofstorytelling.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/carolineallenartist

www.twitter.com/artofstory

http://www.instagram.com/carolineallenartist 

Where can we find your book?

Amazon

EARTH

https://www.amazon.com/Earth-Elemental-Journey-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01GIBQIFA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483405361&sr=1-1&keywords=earth+by+caroline+allen

AIR

https://www.amazon.com/Air-novel-Elemental-Journey-2/dp/1513703943/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483405375&sr=1-1&keywords=air+by+caroline+allen

Barnes and Noble

EARTH

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earth-carol-allen/1000420387?ean=9781620156513

AIR

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/air-david-allen/1000420194?ean=2940153195681

IBooks

EARTH

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earth/id1119725900?mt=11

AIR

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/air/id1119726394?mt=11

What’s next for you?

I’m nearly finished with my third novel, FIRE, and I just landed a literary agent. In FIRE, Pearl travels throughout SE Asia and lives in London, where she meets people who lead her more and more closely to her purpose. Before she can find her purpose, though, she has to heal her lost self.

The literary agent and I will shop the book around to find a publisher this year.

Fantastic, Caroline. It was great having the chance to know more about you and your series. All the very best with your writing and painting in 2017!

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

Leary, But Hopeful New Year Musings

IMG_0591
The Capacon River, West Virginia

What a year.

2016 was a roller coaster of a year, chock full of ups and downs, perilous and hairpin turns, sad and surprising, exhilarating moments sprinkled about, all the way to the ball dropping in Times Square.

Earlier in the evening on December 31, I joined my sister and a good friend in filling our champagne flutes with 2016 water (our Puerto Rican family custom), which we would throw out at midnight (throwing out the “bad”), and refill with bubbly to ring in the New Year. We were so DONE with 2016. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically spent at the beginning of the evening, we nervously looked toward the new year with hope, lots of lovely and all-important hope–may we never lose hope–but, I certainly prayed all those celebrating the end of 2016, at home and abroad, would remain safe.

Minutes before midnight, we muted Kathy Griffin’s voice and Anderson Cooper’s giggling for the fourth time, rolled our eyes over Mariah Carey’s concert walk out, and through our own giggles and raised eyebrows, wondered if a certain CNN anchor would have a job in the morning after many televised tequila shots and other interesting shenanigans, which included an on-camera ear piercing. At midnight, I popped the champagne cork (which I hate doing, but sister and friend declined!), and held my breath that nothing else would happen as we toasted each other–a knee-jerk reaction to 2016, I’m afraid. I then spoke with my beloved children, who stayed home (thank God) to celebrate with good friends, enjoyed my sister’s fabulous New Year spread, and we learned of the massacre at a Turkish club in Istanbul. We prayed for the victims, for Betty White (whom we adore), for our children, for everyone, in the tumultuous days before and after Trump takes office as President of the United States. God help us all.

Just before falling asleep on January 1, 2017, I wondered if Prince William will take over when Queen Elizabeth passes on because I can’t imagine a Queen Camilla, and pondered what would happen to the business of the monarchy if Princess Diana resurfaced alive and well, with a daughter born of her marriage to Prince Charles before their marital separation. I still miss her. I know, I know. But I’m a writer, an historical fiction writer; I think of stuff like that late at night. A story needs twists and turns, and all the complications imaginable to work well, right?

Although I know it’s not good for me to fall asleep with worries, fears, and negative thoughts on my mind, but baby steps with feeling hopeful and all rah rah optimistic in 2017. I’ll get there. All I can muster at the moment is cautious optimism. And thank God for the Bed Time Fan app my daughter told me about. I slept like a baby and woke up very happy to be alive, craving a Mimosa.

On the creative front, here at The Writing Life blog, we will continue posting our Tuesday Author Interview series, starting next week. So stay tuned! I’m now back at the writing desk with my second book, The Laments of Sister Inmaculada. No personal blog posts until then. I’ll be on social media sparingly, and by spring, I hope to send the first draft manuscript to my editor. Fingers crossed and prayers said. I love this new story and my characters, who will keep me company this winter. I hope you will love them, too.

I wish you and yours a blessed, safe, happy, healthy, prosperous, and creatively uplifting 2017. May all your hopes and dreams be realized this year.

I am happy to share some words from Neil Gaiman, which I highly encourage you to follow in 2017.

Eleanor x

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK