Tag Archives: challenge

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The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

Author Rumer Haven is on my Write Despite feature this week, talking about the special blend of genres that make up her novels, and her fears when she was starting out that her ideas wouldn't stretch to a whole book. Welcome, Rumer!

 

Rumer Haven
Rumer Haven

What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

Probably finding my voice and genre. I’ve always loved creative writing, but for a while there, my writing was primarily of the academic and business variety. I tend toward long, intricate sentences, and I had a graduate school professor once tell me that my writing was good but could be great if I would only relax it a little.

I have also felt caught between the literary and commercial realms. I don’t consider my writing highbrow, but it’s not exactly a beach read either. And while my stories usually have romance, they don’t fit the formula of that genre.

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How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

I think by now I’ve learned to embrace the hybrid genre. The stories just are what they are; it’s how they come to me, and I’d be hard-pressed to hack limbs off them just so I can squeeze them into one category or another. So while it can make it difficult to position myself to find the right audience, the more I write, the more I see the commonalities between stories, which makes the cross-genre easier to define (even if takes a few words to do so). As has become clearer to me from my first two novels, I trend toward contemporary women’s fiction with historical, paranormal and romantic elements. Gives me a lot to work with, and I’d prefer to continue mixing and matching versus pigeon-holing myself into any one.

Streamlining my style is an ongoing challenge, yet I’ve found that it helps to pick up my pace when drafting. If I don’t let myself dawdle and dwell too long on the wordsmithing, and instead just push the story forward by writing faster, my language does seem to simplify and relax.

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What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

Not having an idea that I could sustain across an entire novel. Since then, it’s fearing what others think of my stories—but in the beginning, I wrote for myself. I simply wanted to write a novel whether it would be published or not. And it took years to find that first idea, so I doubted it would ever happen. But once I did grab onto that first idea, subsequent ones flowed, which has been such a happy relief.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

Write. Just write. Don’t wait for the right time, don’t even wait for the right idea (like I did). Just write, and the words and ideas will flow from there. Staring down a blank page (or blank screen, in this day and age) is daunting, so write something on it, and it won’t be scary and blank any more! Ideas beget ideas, so even if your first draft is crap, trust me, there are diamonds in that rough. Pluck them, polish them, and set them in something stronger. But you can’t do that unless you have something to work with in the first place; you have to create the clay before you can mould it. And in my case, writing actually helped me work through difficult circumstances that threatened to squash my dreams. Instead, I achieved them…by just…writing.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now. 

I’m presently writing a 1920s murder mystery. My first time dappling in that genre, so we’ll see how it goes! But it’s fun writing Roaring Twenties historical fiction again after my debut novel, Seven for a Secret.

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Meanwhile, I’d be remiss not to share my latest release, published just last week! Woven between 21st-century and Victorian London, What the Clocks Know is a haunting story of love and identity:

Twenty-six-year-old Margot sets out on a journey of self-discovery – she dumps her New York boyfriend, quits her Chicago job, and crashes at her friend’s flat in London. Rather than find herself, though, she only feels more lost. An unsettling energy affects her from the moment she enters the old Victorian residence, and she spirals into depression. Frightened and questioning her perceptions, she gradually suspects her dark emotions belong to Charlotte instead. Who is Charlotte? The name on a local gravestone could relate to Margot’s dreams and the grey woman weeping at the window.

Finding a ghost isn't what she had in mind when she went ‘soul searching’, but somehow Margot's future may depend on Charlotte's past.

Amazon UK - http://amzn.to/1QsiFfr
Amazon US - http://amzn.to/21DZoCw

Thanks so much for joining us, Rumer, and for your fascinating answers to my questions! Good luck with all things hybrid.

Until next time,

Margaret

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The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

This week I'm delighted to welcome Crooked Cat author Vanessa Couchman to my Write Despite Feature. Like many of us, Vanessa struggles with procrastination. I'll let her tell us how she deals with it. Welcome, Vanessa!

Vanessa with The House at Zaronza
Vanessa Couchman

What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

I’m an odd mixture of contradictions. A perfectionist by nature, I am also a serial procrastinator. Add in a lack of self-confidence and you have a recipe for complete stasis. I call it the rabbit in the headlights syndrome. It’s amazing that I get anything done at all – but, paradoxically, I have a tendency to take on too many commitments. I’m just a gal who can’t say no.

So my main challenge is carving out time to write and forcing myself to use that time effectively, rather than just frittering it away. We live in the wilds of Southwest France and so I don’t know what I would do without the internet. But sometimes I really wish it had never been invented. It’s the procrastinator’s paradise. I don’t have the willpower to turn it off. Also, there’s a lot of pressure on authors to have an extensive social media presence, which takes up plenty of time.

Najac in SW France, in the mist
Najac in SW France, in the mist

How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

As a freelance writer by profession, I can’t afford to miss deadlines, but when it comes to writing fiction I just assume that I have infinite time to get it done. Then I reach the end of the day and realise I haven’t achieved what I set out to do. Despite this, I do actually love writing and it gives me a buzz to see my characters take on a life of their own.

For me, National Novel Writing Month has been a boon. (Nanowrimo.org) I wrote my first novel, The House at Zaronza, during November 2012 and most of a second novel in November last year. Having to achieve 50,000 words in a month is just the goal I need. The problems are, first, that you end up with something that isn’t quite novel-length and have to finish it and, second, that the focus is on quantity rather than quality, so a lot of editing is needed.

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What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

I first started to write when I was very young. Then I had no fear at all. I just wrote to tell stories. At that age, you don’t have dreams of publication or the hang-ups that accumulate as an adult.

I started writing fiction again about six years ago after a very long gap that was filled with a career and then running my own business. My fear then was that my writing wouldn’t be good enough. I began with short stories and I cringe when I look at some of the early ones. With the help of colleagues from a small online writing community, Writers Abroad, I improved and got some successes in competitions under my belt. But I have always felt that novels, rather than short stories, are where my heart lies, even if their length makes them more daunting!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

It obviously depends on the circumstances. And, given what I’ve said above, I’m probably not the best person to offer advice! However, if you also have the procrastination gene, I suggest trying to set goals for what you want to achieve each day or week: not huge, overarching goals, but broken down into bite-sized pieces, so that you can achieve them, tick them off and feel a sense of satisfaction.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now. 

If you had told me a few years ago that I would be a published author, I would have fallen over. I’m sorry my mother didn’t live long enough to know it: she loved books and reading and would have been so proud.

The House at Zaronza, published by Crooked Cat, was inspired by a true story we came across when holidaying on Corsica – an island we love and keep revisiting.

Village on Cap Corse, Corsica, setting for The House at Zaronza
Village on Cap Corse, Corsica, setting for The House at Zaronza

The B&B where we stayed had framed love letters on the walls, which the owners discovered walled up in the attic when they restored the house. They were written in the 1890s by the local schoolmaster to the daughter of the house, but they were destined never to marry. I just had to write the story, which stretches into World War I and beyond.

Corsican sunset on Cap Corse
Corsican sunset on Cap Corse

If I’m allowed two things, I’m also rather proud of my French life blog, Life on La Lune. We’ve lived in France since 1997 and I started a blog six years ago about French life, history and culture. People often take the trouble to write to tell me they enjoy it, which means a lot to me. Here's the link: France blog: http://vanessafrance.wordpress.com

Thanks so much for appearing on Write Despite, Vanessa! I'm sure many readers will related to your procrastination, and thanks for such beautiful, inspiring pictures. They really make us want to read your book! Vanessa's links and the blurb to A House in Zaronza are below.

Until next time!

Margaret

Blurb from The House at Zaronza

The past uncovered. Rachel Swift travels to Corsica to discover more about her forebears. She comes across a series of passionate love letters and delves into their history. The story unfolds of a secret romance at the start of the 20th century between a village schoolteacher and Maria, the daughter of a bourgeois family. Maria’s parents have other plans for her future, though, and she sees her dreams crumble. Her life is played out against the backdrop of Corsica, the ‘island of beauty’, and the turmoil of World War I. This is a story about love, loss and reconciliation in a strict patriarchal society, whose values are challenged as the world changes.

The House at Zaronza universal Amazon book link: http://getbook.at/Zaronza

France blog: http://vanessafrance.wordpress.com

Writing site: http://vanessacouchmanwriter.wordpress.com

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vanessa-Couchman/e/B00LQM4T9O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/houseatzaronza.vanessacouchman

Twitter: @Vanessainfrance

About Vanessa

Vanessa Couchman has lived in France since 1997 and is passionate about French and Corsican history and culture. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and placed in competitions. She is working on a sequel to The House at Zaronza, set in World War II and another novel set in 18th-century Corsica. Vanessa works as a freelance writer and is a member of the Historical Novel Society.

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Hi there!

Joining us for the Write Despite feature this week is author and actor Angela Wren. Like so many of us, Angela has a nagging critical voice inside her head. Angela calls hers Nemesis. But I'll let Angela tell you about it. Welcome, Angela.

 

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What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

Luckily I'm fit and healthy and have never had any physical challenges to overcome - unless you count being totally left-handed a challenge!  My greatest challenge is my greatest fault and that is my uncanny ability to persuade myself of things that cannot be true.  Call it inner doubt, insecurity, whatever you wish, but I call the her that I sometimes become, Nemesis.  She is my greatest enemy, she is a rival that I have to keep at bay, and she is always there, somewhere in the background as a voice that will never be completely silenced.  She appears at trivial moments - for instance when I'm having that discussion with my wardrobe about what to wear for a night out - as well as critical ones, such as when I'm waiting in the wings to make my first entrance.  I have ways of dealing with her but, I've never yet found a way to make her disappear altogether and perhaps I never will.

 

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Angela on stage as Elvira in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit"

How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

Greatly in some respects, even preventing me from writing at all.  I've loved stories from being a child and my very first attempts were as a schoolgirl but I stopped because Nemesis agreed with and reinforced Sister Mary Paul's assessment of my efforts.  Much later, in July last year when the email arrived in my inbox from Crooked Cat, Nemesis told me to delete it unread.  I didn't of course, but it did sit there for two days before I opened it.  And even then, as I read the first few lines offering me the contract to publish Messandrierre, my other self was telling me that it had to be a mistake.  'That email was meant for someone else,' she said.  I told her to shut up, read and re-read the email, had an hour or so dancing on the ceiling, and then accepted.

What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

It's the same with everything I do.  Nemesis with her constant nagging question, 'what if nobody likes your production, the character you're currently playing, the story your working on?'  She's been asking me that question all my life and I have no doubt that she will continue to do so.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

I think there are far more qualified writers than me out there who can provide pithy, sensible and very useful advice.  All I can say is that, in dealing with my Nemesis, I've learned that she needs to be challenged and managed.  And there are times when she just needs to be told exactly what to do with herself!  Perhaps I'll put her in a book.  Maybe she'll leave me be then.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now. 

I'm proud of everything I've done but I suppose my first and most awesome writing experience, thus far, was when I returned from France in 2010 to find a letter from an editor wanting to publish a short story called 'Aunt Maggie'.  It took a whole box of tissues to get through that moment!  And when the cheque arrived, I was so overwhelmed that somebody was actually paying me for my words that I never cashed it!

The first cheque Angela received for her writing
The first cheque Angela received for her writing

It sits there in a frame on my bookshelf in my writing shed.  And I know that when I get my print copy of Messandrierre I'll need tissues, lots of them!  I'm working on book 2 in the series, so my hero, Jacques, is constantly with me and he makes a very nice change from Nemesis!

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Thank you for speaking so openly about your inner critic, Angela! I know you're not alone in your constant fight with negative thoughts. Have you got an inner critic like Angela's Nemesis? Let us know in the comments.

If you'd like to connect with Angela, her links are below, together with her bio.

Until next time!

Margaret

Anyone wanting to meet Jacques and the other villagers in my murder/mystery, Messandrierre, can find him at :

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

 

Author Bio

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, for about 5 years. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Novel Blurb

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.  But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won't give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

 

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The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

Hi there!

My guest for this Thursday's Write Despite blog  feature is best-selling author Shani Struthers. When I first met Shani at a Romantic Novelists' Association party, she was writing romance fiction, but since then she has become a best-selling Paranormal author. Shani is fun to be around, and passionate about her writing. But is writing always plain sailing for her? Let's see. Over to Shani.

Shani Pic
Shani Struthers

What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

I haven’t had to overcome physical challenges as such – well, not unless you can call three children a physical challenge! Actually… thinking about it, I think you can term them a physical as well as a mental challenge! I’m the mother of three children. I also work (a freelance copywriter for the travel industry) and, like so many people, I have a million daily tasks to complete. Life is busy, busy, busy! But, I’ve always known I wanted to write novels. Copywriting is great but, in terms of creativity, you’re limited by the brief. It was only when the children had grown older that I could make that dream a reality, grabbing whatever hours I could whilst they were at school, or on play dates, or visiting the grandparents, fitting in a third job rather than taking time out to relax. It’s been worth it though, and, I’m learning now how to find a balance, even if the scales tip slightly over sometimes into late nights and early mornings – writing always seems to find a way!

How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

It stopped me frankly, because for many years. I was too tired! But there comes a time when you have to stop making excuses, when you have to sit down and write the first sentence, finding a way to fit it all in, to write the next sentence and the next, until, voila! You have a book.

 

Shani's "Runaways" series.
Shani's "Runaways" series.

What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to craft a novel. For so long, I’d thought about it, but I’d never put it into practice. I’d gained some confidence from my copywriting but a novel, as I said above, is a completely different beast. My first novel was called The Runaway Year, a contemporary romance, set in Cornwall, and, sending it off to various publishers, I was surprised to receive several acceptances. That spurred me on a bit!

Tintagel Sunset
Tintagel, Cornwall. The inspiring setting for the Runaways series.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

Writing is supposed to be enjoyable, it’s supposed to be fun; you have to love what you’re doing, and not feel that it’s a chore. Find time for it but don’t beat yourself up about not finding enough time either, not initially – you have to live in the real world too. For people who lead busy lives, balance is something that will come if you’re determined enough.

The Highlands of Scotland, the setting for Jesamine.
The Highlands of Scotland, the setting for Jesamine.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now.

I’m proud of everything I’ve written but my heart lies not in contemporary romance but the paranormal, which is why I’ve switched to that genre.

Shani's best-selling Paranormal Psychic Surveys series
Shani's best-selling Paranormal Psychic Surveys series.

rise to me

 

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I love my Psychic Surveys series, a set of paranormal mysteries, but it’s Jessamine, my heart belongs too. A Gothic-style paranormal romance, set in the Scottish Highlands, the story wrote itself over a couple of months, making me cry on several occasions. From all the feedback I get from readers, I’ve gathered I tend to write emotions well – in Jessamine, a range of emotions are covered, including grief, loss, acceptance and hope. You’ll need tissues if you read it!

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Thanks so much, Shani. So interesting and inspiring to us all! Good luck with your future writing.

Here are Shani's links so that you can connect with her and find out more.

Facebook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/p9yggq9

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shani_struthers

Blog: http://shanisite.wordpress.com

Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/mq25mav

Until next time!

Margaret

You might also enjoy:

Write Despite. Meeting Louisa Heaton. Vertigo is Not Romantic!

Write Despite - Meeting Jane Bwye. Forty Years to Fruition.

 

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This Thursday's guest on my Write Despite blog feature is Harlequin Mills and Boon author Louisa Heaton, who has had to overcome the debilitating effects of vertigo, which struck at exactly the wrong time in her writing career. Fortunately, Louisa didn't let it stop her from getting published. But I'll let her tell her own story.

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What challenges have you had to overcome in order to write?

I've always written. Ever since I could hold a pen in my hands. And for many years it's been relatively easy. At least, the sitting down part. The writing part. The getting published part? That was harder. But the real challenge came three years ago when I was struck down by a mystery illness.

I'd been working at a private hospital. My job was to take people's blood, assist in minor surgeries, usually skin cancer removal, remove stitches, take patient's BP, that kind of thing. It was perfect research material for my Harlequin Mills and Boon Medical stories I was trying to write.

Then one morning I woke up, had breakfast, felt absolutely fine, but was suddenly struck by the most vicious bout of vertigo. The world was spinning so fast and I was hit by a wave of intense nausea, as I collapsed to the floor of my home. I couldn't open my eyes. I couldn't move. Every time I tried, it just made it worse. I couldn't call for help as I felt like I would throw up. Luckily, ten minutes after it began, my husband came into the room and found me.

We called the doctor and he diagnosed an acute ear infection. Said I would be better in a few days and he would write me a prescription for anti-nausea meds.

He was wrong.

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How has this challenge affected your writing?

It took me nine days to walk straight after that first attack. The world seemed on an axis, the floor seemed tilted. I couldn't focus on anything that moved, as it made me dizzy. Just after I'd recover and think I was over it, another bout of vertigo would hit and I'd spend another week staggering  around like a drunk. I got afraid to leave the house. I couldn't write. I couldn't read. Staring at a computer screen, scrolling up and down would set me off. It was impossible.

It was at this point that I got a request for a full manuscript from Mills and Boon. I'd only written three chapters and they wanted the rest. I had to make myself sit at a computer and I wrote 5k words a day. Often taking breaks to lay back on my bed groaning, my eyes covered, trying not to let the world spin. It was tough. I cried. I despaired, not knowing how I would get through it.

I needed to write. To read. These were the two things that I loved doing. I needed to find a way around this disability now that I was housebound anyway. I had an MRI and saw an ENT and a neurologist. They discovered I had MAV, migraine associated vertigo, only my migraines are silent. I have no pain, just bouts of vertigo. I got put on propranolol, to control the migraines, but it had the added side effect of lowering my BP to such an extent it would take me three or more hours in the morning, just to go from a lying, to a sitting, then standing, position! I ended up writing in small stints. Ten minutes here. Five there. But I got it done. I had to.

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What was your greatest fear when you first started to write? 

That I wouldn't be able to give my publishers a finished book. Nothing much was helping, so I decided to focus on the migraine part of my diagnosis. I decided to put myself on a migraine diet, avoiding trigger foods and I got almost 95% better! I was able to finish and because I'd completed one book, I then knew I could power through and do it again.

I still get dizzy, but the vertigo is mostly gone. I can write again, which is good, as I'm currently writing my sixth title with Mills and Boon medical.

I can't do book signings or go to author events because all that head movement, lights, people moving, just makes me really dizzy again. I've learned that I'm still set off by patterns and colours and movement in my visual field. I'd love to do an author talk, but I can't guarantee I'll stay upright whilst doing it.

But I can write! And read. And I even quilt and sew.

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What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by challenges? 

My advice to someone who is set back by a physical challenge is to research as much as you can. Find out what you can do. I got myself better and I live with a condition that two years ago was debilitating and made me lose my job. I even looked into dictation software in case I had to give up typing. If you have a passion, a need, then you find a way to make it happen. Become your own advocate. You might even find you know more than your doctors do! It happens.

If you want to write, then do it. Find a way. Even if you have to do it the Barbara Cartland way and get someone else to write down what you're saying! It might take time, it might be hard and you may stumble along the way, but there are always options. The one option I took, time and time again?

Never. Give. Up.

Keep Going.

Persevere.

It's amazing what can be achieved.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something your're writing now. 

I'm proud of everything I've written, because each title has been solid effort on my part to fight past a disabling condition. I'm proud that my books do well, despite the fact that I can't do book signings or author talks, or promote myself in that way. My favourite book is the one about to be released in March this year, One Life-Changing Night, is out this March and is available for pre-order here.

 

Thanks so much for your inspiring story, Louisa! I do hope your health continues to improve. Here are Louisa's links, so you can keep in touch with her.

https://www.facebook.com/Louisaheatonauthor/?ref=ts&fref=ts

Twitter @louisaheaton

Website http://www.louisaheaton.com

Blog http://www.louisaheaton.com/blog

Until next time!

Margaret

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It took more than sixteen years for my novel A Nightingale in Winter to find its way out of the attic and to get published. I thought that must be some kind of a record, but I was wrong. This week's guest on my Write Despite blog feature about authors who have overcome obstacles in order to get their words out there is Crooked Cat author Jane Bwye, whose first novel Breath of Africa took forty years to see the light of day. I can't imagine how it must have felt when Jane finally saw her words in print.

But I'll let her tell the story. Welcome, Jane.

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Thank you Margaret for giving me this chance to think over my writing habits. It’s been an enlightening experience.

Jane Bwye
Jane Bwye

What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

Conflicting priorities. I was never good at balancing my life, although as I’ve grown older, I like to think I’ve learned better habits. Once I focus on something, I am totally immersed in the task at hand, and everything goes out the window - that has included family!

Mummy often didn't even answer when she was spoken to,  and once she even forgot to collect somebody from school... My husband and my first five children suffered when I started writing Breath of Africa. They didn’t say anything. They just looked more and more unhappy until I had to take notice.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

…Which was why my first book took forty years to come to fruition. Looking back, I believe the long gestation period was good for my writing. I was that much more mature, and had many experiences to ponder over.  Once the children had fled the nest, and our “afterthought” was at University, we came to live in the UK and I had time on my hands. I was able to set and keep to objectives, but I yearned to be back in Africa.

What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

I had no fears. I’ve been a freelance writer since my first commission at the age of twenty. I knew I could write, and had many stories and articles published. When I started writing my book, I would wallow in nostalgia for hours on end at my desk, while my husband ensured I wasn’t distracted by household chores. However, I soon discovered that I did not know how to write a novel! I had to learn the difference between a story and a plot, and the technique of viewpoints among many other things.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

My advice to aspiring writers facing challenges is always to be humble. Look anywhere and everywhere for advice and inspiration. Go to conferences and workshops, rub shoulders with real authors, soak in the ambience. Ask for BETA readers and offer to do the same for others. Always seek to perfect your work. And never give up – even if it takes forty years.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now.

Of course I’m immensely proud of Breath of Africa. I still can’t believe that it’s my book which won a Gold Star on the Harper Collins Authonomy website, was nominated for the Guardian First Book and Not-the-Booker Awards, and has been likened to the works of Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing. It is an Amazon best-seller, and has put me back in touch with people I had forgotten I’d ever known.

Breath of Africa cover picbreath of africa - 902kb

 

I am also happy to have found a charity to support with the book – helping a tiny village called Kajuki in the shadow of Mt. Kenya.

Kajuki micro finance
Women from Kajuki Village

I still regard Africa as my home, and here is my favourite excerpt from the book.

Caroline and Brian are courting…

“Their favourite place was the rim of Mt. Menengai, the volcano overlooking Nakuru town; smaller than Ngorongoro, it had its own dramatic character. They stood on the jutting promontory and looked over the dense scrub in the crater depths, interspersed with black mounds of glistening lava, a dark, forbidding country.

“It’s the third largest crater in the world,” Brian told her. “I read that somewhere.”

Caroline gazed beyond at the vastness of Africa which rolled through patterned farmlands, across hills and plains into the hazy distance. As evening fell, grey clouds crept along the crater depths and swirled up the cliffs, snatching at them with wispy fingers, as the wind caught and tossed the vapours into nothingness among the trees.

They walked towards the car, but a sudden movement in the long grass near the forest distracted them. Brian turned off the track, parting the stalks in front of him.

“Careful of snakes!” Caroline warned.

She followed, treading in his footsteps. As they approached the thrashing, it increased, and she saw the soft brown hide of a female impala, its eyes wide with fright. One leg was caught in a loop of wire.

“It’s a trap, but the wire hasn’t tightened too much. I’ll see if I can free her.”

Brian caught hold of the leg and the animal stilled. She seemed to know they were trying to help. He struggled with the wire, and eased it over the hoof. He let her go. The doe stood there for a second, then moved her leg and took a small step. She bounded away and the grass closed behind her. It was as if it had never happened. 

The sequel concluding this family saga is nearing its completion, and if it meets with the publisher’s approval, my cup will be full.

 

Thanks so much for apearing on Write Despite, Jane. It has been fascinating to read about your book and you writer's journey! Here are Jane's links, below.

Until next time!

Margaret

Links:

Amazon Author Page:    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Bwye/e/B00BOK0NN4/

Breath of Africa paperback:         http://www.amazon.co.uk/Breath-Africa-Jane-Bwye/dp/1908910798/ref=la_B00BOK0NN4

Breath of Africa ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00BOAK0FA

Website:                              http://janebwye.com/

Blog:                                      http://jbwye.com/

Facebook:                           http://jbwye.com/

Twitter:                                https://twitter.com/@jbwye

LinkedIn:                             https://www.linkedin.com/in/jane-bwye-9866041b

You might also enjoy:

Write Despite: Meeting Ailsa Abraham. Three accidents, a stroke and several novels

Finding Your Writer's Path

 

3 Comments

 

The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

Today's Thursday Write Despite features the incredibly inspiring Ailsa Abraham. Ailsa is a multi-published author who writes fiction despite having suffered brain damage and a stroke as a result of three separate accidents - a fractured skull at the age of 15 when she fell onto rocks from a cliff top, a stroke following a car accident, and a near-fatal motorcycle accident which put her into a coma for three weeks.

Beautiful but deadly. Ailsa fell onto rocks from these cliffs at the age of 15.
Beautiful but deadly. Ailsa fell onto rocks from these cliffs at the age of 15.

If you can write despite all of that, I think you can write despite pretty much anything!

But I'll let Ailsa tell her story of writing against the odds.

What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

Brain damage and severe pain are the most awkward. My spine is pretty well crippled which can make sitting at a desk rather sore. I have experimented with voice recognition but it turns my Julie Andrews' accent into a mangled version of rubbish so it's easier to touch type, at which I am fortunate enough to be good.

Since a few head-injuries plus a stroke, my mind becomes disconnected. Often I don't know which language I'm speaking, one of the disadvantages of being bilingual. This results in me losing words in both tongues and screaming in frustration. Sometimes I have to act them out to a friend to get the answer.

Ailsa on the motorbike which ended up putting her in a coma for 3 weeks.
Ailsa on the motorbike which ended up putting her in a coma for 3 weeks.

I'm a very impatient person. I want it done now. No, I want it done five minutes before I thought about it which makes writing a very frustrating occupation. Consequently I write in the patchwork quilt method – whatever scene grabs me gets written. When I have a few in hand I stitch them together in the right pattern until the tale is coherent. Overall this works better for me than trying to write chronologically.

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Ailsa finds a 'patchwork' way of writing suits her best.

How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

Possibly it has given me insight into other people's suffering. I tend to be compassionate both with real folks and with characters, both good and bad. When I have a bad character I need to work out what made them like that and so they become less two-dimensional, perhaps even pitiable.

IRL (in real life) I laugh at everything. That is my defence method. When lying on the floor, having been attacked by furniture when my feet and brain aren't speaking, I can hardly stand on my dignity, can I? Face it, I can't really stand up so...I giggle. There tends to be a lot of “off the cuff” humour in my work. A woman involved in very serious and dark work will suddenly “throw a googlie” by saying “Well, you don't piss off gods, do you? Just in case!” That's really me speaking!

My profile picture
Ailsa Abraham

What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

I didn't have any. Given that I was only writing for the amusement of friends it was not a fearful situation. I don't tend to scare easily anyway. Having shaken hands with DEATH regularly I tend to look at it and say “What's the worst that can happen?” With writing the answer is that in the worst case scenario, everyone will hate your book. Hey but then you would be famous for writing the worst book EVER!

When I first started I was writing male romance under a pseudonym and the only trepidation for me was that some gay men resent women writing that kind of fiction. So far nobody has had anything but praise for it. Even straight people apparently like them!

A's kiss book

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

Don't let it. Writing is something you should HAVE to do, not want to do. I would never have got into this malarky if people hadn't bullied, pushed and shoved me. I didn't think my stuff was good enough but publishers have agreed so I'll go along with them. They know what they are talking about. The only thing that should put you off writing is if you can't possibly face rejection because it will happen. 99 people will love your book and one miserable git will leave a one-star review. Being a normal human being, you will ignore the ninety-nine and notice only the bad one. Stop it. If you can't take that, don't write. Get as much feedback from friends, writing groups etc. and be open to constructive criticism.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now

As usual, with my disorganised brain I am writing three WIPs (works in progress) at once. I'm not especially proud of any of my books in particular, as they all mean as much to me. Each was a huge achievement. I think when I get Book 3 of Alchemy series finished, it will be the greatest one because I have literally had to come back from the dead to write it. I was getting on fine with the first draft until a motorcycle accident nearly wiped me out and put me in a coma for three weeks. It has taken over a year for me to get back to writing properly. I couldn't even do blog posts at first which will teach me to do somersaults over the handlebars at my age!

I am quite proud of being able to mix genres so well. I consider it rather like cooking. So I don't just make cakes, I do a mean home-made soup as well. Alchemy series is magical reality, my boys are in romantic detective drama and I'm about to embark on non-fiction too.

Out of the way, folks, the literary motorbike is revving up again. Thanks for having me over Margaret and here are my links (works from all over the world!)

both with Amazon

***

BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France since 1990 and is married with no children but six grandchildren.  She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn't have all those, I'd have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing. Her other passions are running an orphanage for homeless teddy bears plus knitting or crochet now that she has had to give up her beloved black Yamaha.

Ailsa's Publications:

As Ailsa Abraham :

Alchemy and Shaman's Drum published by Crooked Cat

alchemy

shamans drum4 go mad

 

(Shaman's Drum was nominated for the People's Choice Book Award)

 

Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter - @ailsaabraham

Facebook – Ailsa Abraham

Amazon Author Page

Web page

Thank you so much, Ailsa. You're a complete inspiration to me, and I'm sure to everyone who reads this post!

Until next time.

Margaret

You might also enjoy:

Write Despite with Author Miriam Drori

Finding Your Writer's Path

9 Comments

 

 

The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

Welcome to the first post in my new Write Despite Thursday Feature, where writers and would-be writers answer 5 questions about the obstacles they've had to overcome in order to write. I'm so excited to hear what everyone has to say, and I know these posts are going to be really inspiring to us.

So, over to Miriam!

miriam
Miriam Drori

Hi, Miriam! Thanks so much for kicking off this feature on my blog. Now to the questions!

What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

I’ve had to overcome a conviction that I couldn’t write creatively. It was so strong that the possibility of being a writer didn’t even occur to me.

Why was that? Because it was clear to my teachers, my parents and me: writing wasn’t my thing. I was good at the grammar part, of course, because that requires a sense of logic, and an understanding of and adherence to rules. But I wasn’t a creative person. Much better to stick to Maths, which was the subject of my degree. Some creativity must have shown in singing and playing music, but that was never going to be my forte either.

math-notebook-492351_640

 

It took decades to get over that. I only thought of writing because, after discovering social anxiety, I knew I wanted to raise awareness of this common but little-known disorder, and writing was the only way I could try to do that. At least I knew I could express myself well in writing, through my work as a technical writer. I began with non-fiction and only later thought of writing fiction. If I’d known how much I would have to learn about writing fiction, I don’t think I’d have started!

How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

The whole attempt to fictionalize the social anxiety experience formed most of my learning curve up to now. One problem I didn’t have was writer’s block. I always knew what I wanted to write. My problem was: how. When I’d finished my first draft, I joined a writing group, where I learned a lot and I’ve been learning ever since and always will be, online and offline.

What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

I don’t think I had real fears then. I should have done, but I was too naïve. I didn’t know how difficult the process would be. I think I’m more fearful now. I worry that I’m not a good enough writer to make a big impression.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

So much depends on what the challenge is. If it’s a fear of writing, just do it. If it’s a lack of time, stop doing something that’s less important than writing. If it’s writer’s block, move away from the computer and think about your passions.

 

girl-1126008_640
Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now. 

I’m proud of everything that has been accepted for publication. I’m also proud of my latest work in progress, which is a first for me on at least two accounts. It involves collaboration with another author and it’s historical.

What I’m most proud of at the moment is my novel, Neither Here Nor There, published by Crooked Cat Publishing. It’s a romance with a difference. It’s a light read, but it touches on complex topics and takes readers into a world that most don’t recognise.

neither here nor there

Here’s the blurb:

Esty's life was laid out for her from birth. She would marry one of a handful of young men suggested to her and settle down to raise a large family in a tiny space within the closed community of her parents, near to and yet far from the modern world.

But Esty has decided to risk all by escaping while she still can. Will she make it to the other side? Mark, who is struggling with his own life changes, hopes that Esty will find a way through her troubles. He is fast falling in love with her. Separately and together, in Jerusalem and London, Esty and Mark need to overcome many obstacles in their endeavour to achieve their dream.

Neither Here Nor There is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes and elsewhere.

Thanks so much for answering my questions and kicking off my Thursday Write Despite feature, Miriam! It's been a pleasure speaking to you.

Miriam's answers to my questions - especially when she talks about the opinion and expectations of her parents and her school - sparked memories for me and inspired me to write a post of my own. Here's the link, if you'd like to read it.

Finding Your Writer's Path.

I hope you found what Miriam had to say inspiring, everyone.

See you next time!

Margaret

You might also enjoy:

What is Writing Success For You?

Can writing Improve Your Confidence?

3 Comments

The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

There can be so many reasons why it's hard to sit down and write.

These can be as varied as the necessity to earn money to eat, or long ago memories of teachers who called you stupid as you struggled with dyslexia. Then there's ill health, low self-belief, or the need to make a perfect cup of coffee or to empty the bins before you start. Not to mention the inconvenient demands of a family, or an non-supportive partner.

In my first years of writing fiction, I had a boyfriend who was driven demented by the sound of me typing.

 

typewriter-452187_640

He would come into the kitchen - which was the only room in our flat where I could have a desk - and read out passages from my current work in progress in a cynical tone of voice.

"He strode off without a backward glance. She turned and walked slowly in the opposite direction, feeling as battered and bruised as if he had hit her physically. They hadn't spoken for more than five minutes, and in that short time he had made it quite clear that he no longer found her attractive. Well, asked a little voice, what did you expect?"

In those days, I wrote romances filled with tall, dark heroes with amazing cheek bones. Was my boyfriend jealous? Maybe. Certainly, those books were written despite him.

Never fear, reader; I dumped him. Not as soon as I ought to have done, but that's a different story.

I have written despite having repetative strain injury in my wrists from a brain-numbing data inputting job at a college. (I wore tubigrip bandages).

I have written despite relationship break-ups and in snatches of time while my baby son napped.

 

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Writing takes time, and it also takes self-discipline, so in a way, all writers Write Despite something.

But some people have to overcome greater challenges than others in order to express themselves on paper, and I thought it would be inspiring and reassuring for us to hear these writers' stories of creation against the odds.

So, from next Thursday, 21st January, I'm introducing a new feature on my blog: Write Despite.

Each week, a writer who has successfully dealt with challenges in order to write will inspire us by answering these 5 questions:

  • What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?
  • How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?
  • What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?
  • What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?
  • Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now.

I can't wait!

Cheers!

Margaret

You might also enjoy:

Finding Your Writer's Path

What is Writing Success for You?

Can Writing Improve Your Confidence? Try Writing About a Stand-up Comedian!

1 Comment

FeelTheFearAndWriteAnyway

Write about what you know...

Authors are often advised to write about what they know. Sound advice, because then it will come across as vividly in our writing. But if we followed that advice to the letter, then what we could write about would be very limited. Sometimes you have to go out and deliberately create experience to write about - like the time I decided to make one of my characters challenge herself to perform stand-up comedy.

As a child and a teen, I really lacked self-confidence. But it wasn't until my thirties that I made a deliberate decision to do something about it. I set myself small, achievable goals, like challenging myself to say one thing during an adult education lesson, taking baby steps until gradually, over several years, my self-confidence and self-esteem increased. Now I teach creative writing and give talks to groups of business women - both things I could never have contemplated doing in the past.

Ongoing challenges

The habit of challenging myself hasn't gone away though, and I like to keep my 'taking risks and doing scary things' muscles honed. That's why, a few years back, I decided to include the challenge of performing stand-up comedy in my novel The Dare Club. I knew I'd have to do it, you see, in order for it to feel authentic. Here's what I wrote about the experience at the time. And by the way, I'm still proud of this achievement! Although it has proved a difficult one to top.... Suggestions, anyone? 😉

Performing Stand-up Comedy in Greenwich

I did it! Last Tuesday night I went to London and performed my 3-minute stand-up comedy routine at Up the Creek in Greenwich in front of an audience of around 200 people! I’ve been waiting to tell you about it until I had the footage, and now I can reveal all!

Those of you who have been reading my blog regularly know that I set myself this challenge as part of the research for The Dare Club – the novel I’m writing about a group of newly divorced and separated people who set themselves challenges as part of their recovery process. My character Colette is going to have a go at stand-up comedy, so I had to do it. I don’t feel the need to try out all my characters’ dares – after all I have got an imagination. But I really felt I needed to experience the terror of this particular one.

The day started at The London Theatre with a 1-1 with Harry Denford, the comedian who delivers the course. Feeling nervous, I ran through my material, and Harry suggested I cut some things and change others. I wasn’t entirely sure I agreed with everything he said, but hey, I’m the rookie – he’s been doing this for 20 years or more, so I took his advice. Then we ran through it again, focussing on how to perform it so that the audience was involved rather than just being recited to. The session finished with him telling me that the other comedians were meeting in a noodle bar near Up the Creek at 5.45pm. “Look for a group of people who don’t look as if they should be together,” he advised me. “All sorts of people do this course.”

I went to Greenwich to look at the outside of the venue. It seemed surreal that later on I would be performing inside! But I didn’t feel tempted to flee to the nearest station to get the hell out of there. It had been far too difficult arranging childcare etc for that! Besides, I wanted to see what I was capable of.

Outside Up The Creek Comedy Club, Greenwich
Outside Up The Creek Comedy Club, Greenwich

I killed the rest of the afternoon by alternately taking in the sights of Greenwich and practising my act in toilet cubicles. Close to the Cutty Sark, I spotted a man walking round talking to himself. “I bet he’s one of the comedians,” I thought, and sure enough, when I approached a group of people in the noodle bar at 5.45, there he was.

I made myself eat something and exchanged nervous chatter. Then all too soon it was time to go. I loved the inside of the comedy club, but all those empty seats were daunting. The other comedians had invited between 20-40 guests each! Mad! I’d invited 1, my mate Sharon, who'd promised to film me doing my act.

Harry told us all to have a go on stage, to practise going on and off and looking at the ‘audience’. The lights were so bright, you couldn’t see anything! 

The Comedy Stage Awaits
The Comedy Stage Awaits

After a long wait and lots more angst and practise, Harry announced the running order. I was to go 4th, after a guy who looked like a younger Colin Firth. I was happy with 4th – not 1st, but not having to wait too long. Good.

The place was packed out – not a spare seat! Sharon was at the front with her video camera. It was real – it was actually going to happen!

The chairs for the performers were arranged around the back of the club. It was a bit like one of those hairdressers where you don’t need an appointment and you keep moving round until it’s you turn. But when I got to the last seat, I couldn’t sit down. I was too pumped up with adrenalin. Just before the MC announced my name, I did a few jumps and arms wings, limbering up. I expect I looked like a prat, but that was the least of my concerns at that moment.

Then it was time. And amazingly, a feeling of calm settled over me as I went up the steps to the stage. We’d been told to take the mic out of the stand and to put the stand behind us. I did so – it took an age. But then I looked out at the invisible audience, said ‘hello’ and dived in.

Ok, it wasn’t perfect.

I didn’t have the mic quite in the right place to begin with so I started off a bit quiet.

I forgot to include one of my jokes, which meant the one that preceded it didn’t work quite so well.

Because I’d made some cuts, my routine was slightly short.

But I loved it! People laughed and it felt amazing. I didn’t want it to end. And when total strangers congratulated me at the bar later, I just felt so proud of myself. All the next day, I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt transformed. Who’d have thought that I, who’d once been so painfully shy I couldn’t speak up in front of people at all, could actually go up on stage and entertain a large crowd of people?

I whole-heartedly recommend the experience to everyone.

If you’d like to see my performance, you can view it on YouTube by clicking here. But be warned, it contains swearing, lies and smut, so give it a miss if these are likely to offend you!

Would I do it again? You bet your life I would! In fact, I need to seek out opportunities to make it happen.

And Colette? How is she going to get on? Well, she’s going to have a mixed experience. She’s got a particular reason for wanting to do this challenge, and because of that, she’s going to choose to ignore some of her tutor’s advice. So it could all go horribly wrong for her… Well, it’s fiction, isn’t it? I can’t give my characters a completely easy ride.

Dare Club cover1
The Dare Club, available from Amazon