Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"The 'What's-Up-Wednesday' Guest Interview!"

I'm starting a new segment on my site today called "What's-Up-Wednesday?" where on one day I may do a guest interview, and on another I may just do a story of some sort. Today, I'll be interviewing an aspiring author that I am acquainted with, and whom I think you would enjoy meeting.

Here is our interview:

Our very first guest here on “What’s-Up-Wednesday?” is a writer and one of the co-hosts of the Creative Writing Podcast; her name is Connie Wilson. Connie, welcome to my blog.

Thank you. It’s great to be here and thanks for letting me be your first guest!

I’ve known you for a while because we both have participated in the SpringWrite Writing Challenge and now we’re both in the SummerWrite Writing Challenge, on Live Journal.com, plus I also follow the Creative Writing Podcast (CWP). I thought that my readers would enjoy getting to know you as well. So, Connie, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? We’ll start with something simple. When did you start writing?

I can remember as far back as ages six and seven, when we lived in Alaska, and being told to go up to the playroom and write about what I had seen outside. The refrigerator was littered with stories about bunnies watching caribou eating tall grass or seeing black bears tearing through garbage bags, batting around empty milk jugs. The teacher pulled my parents aside on more than one occasion to tell them that I had a gift for detail, even at such a young age. Different family members tell me that I've been telling stories and making up plays, even before I could write. I was a tomboy, so there were stories about the misadventures of He-Man and Rambo. I'm an only child, so I had to entertain myself somehow.

As my hormones corrupted my body and teen angst took over, I wrote horribly morose poetry about stumbling over a tombstone with my name on it and other morbidly haunting things that made me think I was cool (I was wrong). As I grew up and discovered boys (and how much they sucked) I started writing romance because I figured that if real life wasn't going to go my way, I was going to create worlds where I was God. My tag line was that if I wasn't going to get any romance, my characters might as well get some.

I got serious with it when I was about 19 years old. When I say serious, I mean that's when I decided that I wanted to get published. I started reading up on how to craft likable characters; how to create plots with beginnings that hooked the readers; how to create black moments that kept them wanting more; and how to write endings that left them satisfied.

Where do you get your ideas from, other than where you just stated?

Well, there are actually several answers to that question. There have been a couple of poorly written books that I have read and said to myself, “If it were done this way, it would have been so much better,” so I rewrote them my way. Furthermore, I have also gotten ideas from songs, either from the concept of songs or from a single lyric. I also get ideas from movies and television shows. In addition to that, my life has been pretty interesting, (so I’ve been told) and with the ideas from my experiences, I believe that I have enough for a few good novels or maybe a Life Time movie.

Are you working on anything right now?

I’m working on an interracial teen love story about two teenagers that aren't as different as they may seem on the outside. The working title is “Northern Lights,” and it is set in Mackinaw City, Michigan. I've been working on variations of it, since I was 19 years old. At first there were three of us writing on the series. The other two authors are now working on their own endeavors, but I've spent so much time on this one, that I owe it to the characters to see it through. After rereading it as adults, we had realized that we wanted it to be anti-Sweet Valley High because my friends and I had loved the Sweet Valley High series as we were growing up, and thought that would be a good angle.

Also, my boyfriend, Kinte, and I work jointly on creations at Literotica.com, which is an adult fiction and fantasy site where authors hold story contests and are on the lookout for new and exciting ideas. I’ve got a few stories in the works that are Kinte’s ideas, but I write them out.

Was there a specific incident or reason that got you to start writing?

Honestly, it was due to being an only child. I read so much and so quickly that I was driving my dad nuts with saying, "I'm bored," all the time, so he'd make me write book reports about what I read. Luckily for him, even at ages 6 and 7, I was weird and liked doing them. Then, as a teenager, writing became an outlet to express my feelings. I wrote what I didn't feel like I could say. To this day, when I have something to say, I'll write it out before I say it, because it's easier for me to put it on paper first.

I started writing interracial romance because they tell you to write what you know. There's not a lot of it out there, and it's still a new market. I like being different.

Here’s a good question. Who are your heroes?

That’s easy. I have a 14 year old cousin who has Cystic Fibrosis. Every time I think life has given me more than I can handle, I think about Emma and how she takes on everything with a smile on her face. From the minute that girl was born, she's taught me more than I could have ever learned on my own.

She sounds remarkable and she’s a very worthy hero! Here’s a special shout-out to Emma:

“Hey there, Emma! How are you, girlfriend?”

My next question is about the actual writing of your stories. How do you set up your stories? In other words, do you use outlines, such as character sheets and plot work sheets, or do you just write and then keep on going?

At the start of every story, I write down a list that usually looks like this:

1. Do main characters’ character sheets
2. Figure out beginning
3. Figure out black moment
4. Figure out ending
5. Do secondary character sheets
6. Brain-storm scenes
7. Put scenes in order
8. Type all this stuff up

I do character sheets more than I do plot worksheets, although I have started doing plot worksheets. I actually like knowing what flavor ice cream my character likes. I write romance, so at some point, they're going to break up, and then she's going to drown her sorrows—that might come up. I have a few other character sheets that I've drafted on my own, that I do. I also will write mundane scenes with my characters at the store or short interactions between the main characters or their friends just so I'll get to really know them. I try to make sure I know the characters as well as I know myself, so that by the time I start, the story practically writes itself.
I have neck problems, so nine times out of ten, I usually end up writing things out in a notebook first, and then I type things out in another notebook. Old habits die hard.

When I’m writing, I usually have to have complete silence in order to concentrate. Are you the same or do you listen to music while you’re writing?

It really depends on my mood. Normally I can't really listen to dance, up-beat type stuff because I'll end up chair-dancing and entertaining myself. I live by myself; I tend to crack myself up. I guess I'm sort of weird because if I'm really into a scene, I don't necessarily know what song's playing, but if the wrong song's on, it snaps me out of the moment. I usually can't listen to anything too hard when I'm writing, like Ludacris; his music makes you want to slap somebody. I'm a big country fan, but I usually can't listen to it unless it's Little Texas, because Little Texas cures all ailments. It's usually hip hop or bands like Nickelback, 3 Doors Down and Matchbox Twenty.

What writing resources do you use?

When I need motivation, I use Write or Die from the DrWicked.com website. It's a program that helps motivate you to write by enforcing consequences if you don’t meet your self-imposed goals for writing. When I need help with words, I use the Rhyme Zone, which is a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus. For prompts and help on writer's block, I use a book called, “Outwitting Writers' Block: And Other Problems of the Pen” by Jenna Glatzer.

To keep myself motivated, I’m a member of several writing communities on LiveJournal.com, one of which I actively participate in called the National Novel Writing Year (NNWY) and the SummerWrite Writing Challenge that you are in, also. However, I would have to say that my biggest resource would have to be the Creative Writing Podcast.

Where can we find The Creative Writing Podcast (CWP)?

You can find it on iTunes, Podcast Alley, Podomatic and it will be coming soon to Zune. You can also find it directly at their website, The Creative Writing Podcast.

Who is behind CWP?

Well, there are three people that officially run it. Kinte, my boyfriend, is the producer. He does the technical stuff, deals with the website, makes sure the podcasts come together right, and makes sure the forum runs smoothly. If there are holes in our manuscript for the show, he fixes them. Then, I’m the host, and a friend of ours named Sahar is the co-host. In short, Kinte makes sure that Sahar and I sound good, which makes the whole program sound professional. Sahar, the co-host, is probably the best decision we could have made to add life to CWP. She's an absolute gem and we are thrilled to have her as part of the CWP staff. There are a lot of friends of the CWP that come to talk in the forums for the podcasts and answer our writing challenges.

What is the mission statement of the CWP?

Our goal is to showcase independent writers and give them a chance to shine. We want to bring writers together in a “ginormous” community so we can learn from each other and help each other out.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better, Connie, and I hope you’ll come back and visit me again some time.

I’d like that.

Before we sign off, do you have any advice that you’d like to pass on to other writers that you think may help them?

Yes, I would say to read as much as you can, and not just in your own genre. Read the classics as well as what's current. Read to see what to do as well as what not to do.

Write for yourself. There's always going to be someone out there that doesn't like what you write, but if writing is what you really want to do, then don't let them stop you. If your grammar isn't perfect, if your spelling isn't all that great, you can get over that. Write for you, not anybody else.

One of the most important pieces of advice that my best male friend told me when I told him I was going to get serious about writing (he was an English major at the time, working on becoming a screen writer) is to read up on all the rules of characters, plot, and how to set things up. You can choose to break from them after that point if you want, but it's important to know them first.

Thanks very much for spending time with us, Connie. Good luck with your work at CWP and on your anti-Sweet Valley High novel, “Northern Lights.” We look forward to hearing that you’ve been published soon!

(Anyone that wishes to contact Connie Wilson or follow her progress, can reach her directly through the Creative Writing Podcast.)

Until next time...stay safe, stay well, and may God bless you all.


Please visit my other blogs:
Cynde's Daybook ~and~ Usurper Exposed. Thank you!


Connie said...

It looks fantastic! And thank you so much for leaving a link to the CF website so we can get awareness out there.

Cynde L. Hammond said...

You're quite welcome, Connie. I had a lot of fun doing this and hopefully other authors will want to come on my site as well.
Thank you and I'll see you at SummerWrite!~Cynde

Anonymous said...

that was great keep it coming

Pam said...

It was great to learn more about you Connie!

Anonymous said...

That was so awesome Connie! What a great podcast. I am really proud of the writer you are and know we can all look forward to the great stuff to come.