Don’t believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That’s only in her mind. In real life, she’s a genuine Okie from Muskogee, who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University. She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story. Part of the epic Black Friday Indie Book Sale, I was luck enough to get to interview her this week!
1. What are your books about?
I tend to write a little of a genre mashup. My current Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy are portal fantasies, centering around a parallel world, Aerisia. They could be considered portal fantasy and epic fantasy, with a side dash of romance.
Coming in December is an entirely different work, Knight’s Rebirth, that’s a fairytale fantasy. That’s the best way I can think of to describe it, anyway. Knight’s Rebirth is sort of a humorous take on the larger than life aspects of common fairytale themes.
Currently, I’m working on an urban fantasy project for Nanowrimo called Ashes on the Earth that concerns a naive, human girl getting thrust into a world of warring shifters. However, when I started this project, I knew I didn’t want “standard” shifters, such as werewolves, wolves, panthers, bears, etc. My shifters change into creatures from legend, mythology, and folklore all over the world. It’s a blast finding new creatures for my shifters’ doubles, and the supply is endless!
2. Who or what inspires your writing? How do you hope your work inspires your reader?
I’m inspired by nature, by music, by movies, by books, and by the world and people around me. I have found inspiration everywhere from a dirt road to a sunset to a forest to the 1980’s gangster movie, The Untouchables.
I hope my work inspires readers, ultimately, with a sense of hope. I tackle difficult topics in my books, but I always want to write an ending that leaves readers with a sense of hope and of good triumphing over evil. I feel like there’s so much negativity in the world. Fiction should offer some escape.
3. I use soundtracks to help me focus when I write. Do you have any writing rituals or tricks to help you keep in the mood to create?
Soundtracks for me, as well! Last of the Mohicans is my all-time favorite, but Pirates of the Caribbean, Gettysburg, Anna and the King, Lord of the Rings, and many others also provide fantastic inspiration.
4. I love fantasy and so I have to ask: Who is better, JRR Tolkien or CS Lewis? Or, if not these, who is the King of Queen of Fantasy?
Ah, I definitely enjoy Narnia and its world, but, to me, Lord of the Rings is the ultimate in epic fantasy.
5. What's next for you?
As I mentioned, Knight’s Rebirth is set to debut in December. After that, I plan to write and rapid release Ashes on the Earth and its sequels. Ashes on the Earth is the first book of the Stones of Fire series, and it’s plotted to be a four, possibly five, book series. Following the release of Stones of Fire, I will go back and finish up my second Aerisia series, Beyond the Sunset Lands. (Book 1 is available now.)
Find Sarah on Amazon.com!
You'll never know what you don't know about a period until you're writing a book or making a movie about that era.
Seriously. It's odd what you find yourself typing into the Google search bar. For instance, when I was writing Necessary Evil, I needed to know everything worth knowing about engagement rings during the Civil War. Were engagement rings used? If they were, did they have stones? Were they gold? Could we tell what they were just by looking at them?
Similarly, with The Dinner Party, I've found myself researching things that I never would have dreamed of looking into. Here are a few instances:
- If you were a jerk, would you call an Irishman a 'potato-eater' (Answer: yes.)
- Do the Felsons own a mill or a factory? (Answer: both. It is a factory, but its powered by water, which means it would have commonly been referred to as a mill)
- Would a husband lead a wife into the dining room for an elegant dinner party? (Answer: no, indeed! The very gauche idea!)
- How close would an owner's/overseer's house be to the mill/factory he ran? (Answer: it varied, probably dictated by wealth, wife, and how smelly the factory/mill was.)
- What would young radicals be ranting to their elders about? (Answer: pretty much the same thing they are ranting about now, only with fewer selfies.)
Fortunately, I really love this kind of thing. Research like this makes the past come alive in ways a text-book can't quite touch. Movie-making, too, allows us to remember that our ancestors were, at the end of the day, people just like you and me, trying to make a go of things and learning, working, laughing, fighting, and loving along the way.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find out whether lemons would have been available in New Hampshire in May of 1906...
1. Hi and welcome to Wanderings! Our audience is dying to get to know you, so tell us a little bit about yourself!
Thank you for having me. I am a happily married homeschooling mother of three kids. Writing is my passion and cover design my hobby. I love a good story. If I can’t find one, I endeavor to write one.
2.What inspires your writing?
Life inspires me. I love people: how they make decisions, relate to those they love and hate, and what they pursue. Situations can spark ideas. Conversations, visual impressions, and people’s body language all have provoked me to mull over new ideas.
3. What inspired you to write this book?
Seventh Born, and the whole Talented Trilogy, started with an idea over a decade ago now. My husband I were having difficulty having children and I was faced with the very real possibility that we would remain childless. As I realized that dream might be slipping away, I prayed a lot, trying to find a new long term dream or goal, a purpose. The answer was publishing. With that in mind, I struggled with the fact that all of the publishers I looked into were not looking for what I wrote: non-magical historical-like medieval-like romance with adventure. So, I decided to try to write straight fantasy. What if one of my main characters were a public official in a country that officially followed a different religion, sort of like the prophets of the Bible? What if I used the seventh son concept that I kept encountering in my reading at the time? What if I threw in some special abilities that could be possibly genetically engineered? But I didn’t want to do science fiction so I set it in a regressed society inspired by some Roman cultural aspects (in their dress, architecture, and vocabulary), but not in everything, which gave me room to world build in new directions.
4. Romance is the best! Which classic couple is your favorite: Elizabeth and Darcy? Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester? Romeo and Juliet? Or do you have another favorite and if so, what makes them the best?
One of my long-time favorite books is Jane Eyre. However, Elizabeth and Darcy hold a close second. Darcy, especially, has inspired a character in some of my books. Lord Dentin of Honor and the Novels of Rhynan series is almost a medieval version of Darcy. However, all that said, I tend to be drawn to romantic couples and their relationships. Realistic romance tends to crop up in all of my books.
5. So, you’ve just written a book: what’s next?
More writing and publishing is on the agenda. I currently have five novels (the next two in The Talented series, the first installment in a science fiction series, a contemporary inspirational romance, and then third novel in the Novels of Rhynan series) are in the pre-publishing process. I am currently writing the first draft of a novel in a new series, with at least five more installments planned. I still even more ideas simmering on the back-burner for more novels. I can’t wait to write them all!
One of the best parts about film making is, as I may have mentioned before, all the cool people that you get to work with. Another fun part is all the place you get to go in search of locations, props, costumes, vehicles, etc. When you're working on a no-budget film, you can't afford to have things made for you, so you have to improvise, be creative, beg, and borrow.
Yesterday, I got to go to Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick, ME, to look at costumes for our upcoming movie The Dinner Party. Located on a beautiful farm, with rolling fields framed by pine trees, it looks like a set out of Anne of Green Gables - except for the bison, milling about in the far field. Yes, Hackmatack is also a bison farm - how awesome is that?
The stage is located in an enormous barn and there's a refreshment stand that boasts of selling coffee along with the usual theater goodies. The costumes were stored in another wooden equipment shed. Autumn Allen, our leading lady for The Dinner Party, helped me sort through decades worth of dresses, suits, hoop-skirts, and outfits from every era, which Hackmatack generously allowed other theaters and filmmakers to use. The Edwardian period is pretty tricky to outfit (it's a very distinctive period), so every article of clothing helps. What didn't help was seeing the gorgeous Medieval outfits that they had on the rack: they just revived my long-dormant desire to write a an Ivanhoe movie... something I'm pretty sure the owner of Narrow Street Films would have fit over at the mere suggestion. (An Edwardian period piece on a no-budget film is one thing... but a movie involving castle sieges and jousting tournaments and knights in full armor? Yeah...)
Back to the project at hand: thanks to Hackmatack's generosity, we have a good start towards costuming our cast and I've discovered a bison farm and a new place to go see some shows. While some people may see no-budget films as daunting and more work than they're worth, the challenge is its own reward - and the by-products of discovery, creativity, and new acquaintances are the diamonds in the rough.
Check out the Hackmatack Playhouse website for this Summer's line-up!
The script is written.
The cast is assembled.
The schedule is set.
The crew is standing by.
Tomorrow, we begin rehearsals for Narrow Street Films new movie, The Dinner Party: a musical comedy without the music set in the first decade of the 1900s. It's sure to be a blast.
I'm taking the director's chair on this one, which is always a fun challenge. Right now, the producer and I are knee-deep in location scouting, costume conjuring, and the endless search for coffee and crew (any hairstylists wanna come and join us? Pretty please?).
This isn't the first time we've done a historical movie (see The Man Who Wasn't Tex Magru) nor is it the first time I've directed (see Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness, coming soon to Amazon Video), but every movie, every script, is unique and present both problems to solve and opportunities to explore. You get to really flex your creative muscles working on projects like these: from losing locations (a problem we're currently trying to solve) to last minute casting changes (Michael Lawrence had a number of these!) to technical issues like lighting and sound, film making is both overwhelming and a rush, like a triathlon, where you're doing all three parts - swimming, cycling, running - at the same time... while juggling kitchen knives.
But the absolute best part about film making is the people that you get to meet and work with along the way. I've met some of the best people working in Indie films: tough, smart, hard-working, team-players who can still laugh after long days on a hot set, trying to remember lines. Want to know a person, really know a person? Make a zero-budget movie with them. It's an eye-opening experience for sure.
We haven't been on set since the wrapping of Chance back in 2017. Now we return, with a new script, a new plan, and a great cast. As the director, I don't know how everything is going to get done - I just have to make sure it does. But I can guarantee one thing: the film is going to be a blast, both to make and to watch.
Stick around, guys. You won't want to miss this!
Every other Monday, we ask indie authors Five Questions about themselves and their fabulous new books. Looking for your next great read? You'll find it here, with these folks!
1. Hi Lisa, and welcome to Wanderings! Our audience is dying to get to know you, so tell us a little bit
Greetings and Salutations, everyone! Writing has been my creative outlet since I could first hold a pen. My school bus rides were about an hour each way, and these were the days before smartphones. I spent the time inventing epic storylines with brave heroines and challenging obstacles. I now have over 300 works published on Amazon. I love all sorts of storylines. For fiction, I’ve written medieval romances, cozy mysteries, dystopian, science fiction, fantasy, time travel, historical fiction, and probably everything else in between. I’ve also written quite a number of non-fiction titles.
2. What do you do when you're not writing?
When not writing I am vice president of the Blackstone Valley Art Association. I am fascinated with film photography, watercolors, cyanotypes, and a myriad of other styles of art.
3. I know when I write a book, I always have a particular person in mind as an audience.
Who do you write for?
I always write to allow the characters to come to life. It is in my nature to write as authentically as I can and to let the characters speak for themselves. I never try to plot them in a direction or force a certain ending. I don’t think about any third party person peering in on this world.
I start with the characters. I think about what they would say. I consider how they would react. That then leads to new developments in their lives. It allows them to learn and grow in a way which comes naturally.
I am often surprised about the directions the characters take and the way the story ends. I think that is a real joy of being a writer – to allow the creative process to blossom and unfold. I am thrilled that there are readers out there who enjoy my creations.
4. You have a background in medieval history: how does this contribute to your creative life?
I have adored the medieval time period since I was very young. I have belonged to the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA) for many years – this allows me to take on the personae of a medieval woman. I sew and wear medieval dresses. I participate in medieval dance and play medieval instruments. I ride horses. I have learned to fight with a medieval long sword and dagger. I’ve been to quite a number of medieval locations and castles to get a sense of what it was like to live there.
In my medieval stories, I always remember that there is a balance. A reader usually does not want a history lesson. They want to immerse themselves in another person’s life, if only for a short while. I use my knowledge of medieval food, drink, music, and other things in order to bring that world to life for my readers.
4. I know you love to travel. Do you set your stories in places you’ve been?
I feel strongly that an author should write what they know. This is the best way to bring a story to rich life. A person who lives and breathes New York City every day will bring it to life in a way that a person living in Siberia just could not do, no matter how many books and websites the Siberian person read. But the Siberian person could create the most stunning portrayal of Siberia that existed, and the world would thrill in reading it.
When I write my cozy zoo mystery series, I go to each zoo in order to capture the way the light falls across the statues and the feel of the petting zoo animals beneath my fingers. My Sutton Massachusetts mystery series is written a chapter-a- day as I explore my hometown. An environment comes to life due to its scents, textures, reflections, and other sensory attributes. These are things that shine when experienced in person.
We all have stories to tell and we all have locations we know intimately. That is where a story truly comes to life – when an author shares that insight into what makes a place special.
On this busy, busy Monday, this is Danny Kaye and me reminding you to always TTTR: Take Time To Read!
Happy Monday, y'all!
A few week ago, I was able to show you all a sneak peek of Bushor Photography's Witches photo shoot featuring my sisters and myself. In honor of Halloween this weekend (sort of!), here are a few more to set the creepy mood!
In the days leading up to the release of the new Narrow Street Films movie, Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness, we'll be showcasing one new character every two weeks. Get to know the cast and try to guess whodunnit!
Name: Michael Lawrence
Position: Homicide Detective
Played by: Dan Dovidio
Detective Michael Lawrence is a career policeman with a stellar reputation, a loving family, and a good future ahead of him - that is, until his life is upended by an accident that left his daughter in a coma and his wife in a state of grieving. Now, months into his ordeal, he's called upon to solve the murder of beloved Emma Gagnon, a woman who harmed none and loved all. Michael is drawn deeper and deeper into the case and finds himself sympathizing with Emma's bereft husband, Harry Gagnon. As the body count rises and the case takes on new and disturbing twists, everyone including Michael is beginning to wonder: has the consummate professional finally lost perspective?
Dan Dovidio is a martial artist, actor, musician, stunt worker, and fight coordinator. Trained in Boston, MA, Dan has appeared in theater productions like Murder in Hell's Kitchen and Guys and Dolls, and has appeared in many film and TV productions. He runs his own martial arts studio and appears frequently in Narrow Street Films productions.
Be the first to know all Michael Lawrence news: sign up here and you could win tickets to the June 2017 film premier!
In this series of reviews, Killarney tries to watch every John Wayne movie since Stagecoach and shares her finds with you.
Synopsis: The four sons of Katie Elder return to their hometown of Clearwater for their mother's funeral, only to find that things have drastically changed. Their father died under mysterious circumstances, the family ranch is now owned by a man named Morgan Hastings, and their mother, a saintly woman beloved by all, died in suspicious poverty after sending her youngest son to college. The Elder boys want some answers, but Clearwater wants nothing to do with them and Hastings has a vested interest in getting rid of Katie's sons.
The Sons of Katie Elder is western mystery that asks the question: once your reputation is established, can you ever recover? John Elder is a gunslinger, Tom a card shark, and Matt an unsuccessful hardware dealer, all of whom neglected their mother and youngest brother, Bud. While trying to uncover the truth about their father's death, they learn a few hard ones about themselves - and when Hastings sets them up for murder, their reputations might just be their undoing.
Sons is a wicked good movie about bad men learning how to be good ones - and wondering whether its possible to do so in a society that already knows you. Wayne already touched the subject in Angel and the Badman, but Sons carries it to a darker, more realistic place. Wayne's character is determined that his younger brother won't go the same route he took, while wondering if it's too late for him to lead another kind of life. It's serious subject is lightened by the brothers' rapport with each other, but the final act of the movie is intense. When the brothers are falsely accused of murdering the popular town sheriff and a lynch mob forms, Martin's character decides to kill the guard to escape, only to be stopped by Wayne's. "I ain't facing no lynch mob," Martin says. "You ran in New Orleans and that's why we're here," Wayne replies. "This time we face it. Katie's going to win this one." It's this test of character that will prove whether or not the brothers are worthy of Katie's faith in them. This isn't just a good John Wayne movie. It's a great movie period. Highly recommended.
Best JW Quote:
Bud Elder: I'm going with you. I can draw pretty fast. We can be famous -- like the Dalton Brothers!
John Elder: They're famous -- but they're just a little bit dead. They were hung!
Best Swagger Moment: John Wayne comes in to find a hired gun harassing a local and takes the man out with one well-placed two-by-four.
JW Wisdom: "This time we face it. Katie's going to win this one."
Surprising Guest Star: James Gregory (General Ursus from Beneath the Planet of the Apes) plays Morgan Hastings. A very young Dennis Hopper plays his son.
Writing is not for the faint of heart. Like distance running, Marine training, obstacle courses, or marathon sessions with your drama friend, it requires stamina, endurance, resolve, and a healthy sense of humor and balance. Here, then, are four things to keep in mind when you start.
1. It's not all buttercups and Mary-Higgins-Clark
It's easy to look at the success stories of Mary Higgins Clark and Stephen King and think, "Man, all I need to do is finish my zombie-end times-love triangle-coming of age-story and I'll be made!"
Yeah. Sure. Unfortunately for you, half the country is thinking the same thing and the market is glutted.
Stories of lucky breaks and amazing hidden talent are everywhere, but it's probably best not to bank on it. Your zombie novel rocks, but convincing anyone to read it is another story altogether.
The takeaway: Write and publish only because you like your story and you're already a winner - and if you happen to become an overnight success, that'll be a nice (read: really, really nice) bonus.
2. You will get feedback: all kinds
Announce that you write and you'll get as many different reactions as there are people in the room. While almost all your friends will be enthusiastic (if you find differently, you need a better class of friends), you'll get reactions from starry-eyed comparisons to Hemingway and Harper Lee to barely concealed eye rolls and 'How can you expect to make a living off of that'?
The takeaway: Keep it all in perspective. You aren't Hemingway (there was only one) and you aren't an idiot. Let the both the criticism and the compliments roll off your back and keep writing.
3. You will have down times
Writing can be tons of fun, especially when you've got a great story and your vision is clear. But there are going to be days when you look back on what you've written and think, 'I thought this was good?' and other days when you can't write anything at all, when you're convinced that you'll never write again.
The takeaway: This is normal. You're a human, not a machine and unless you've got a deadline, you can afford to take a break. Bad days are always followed by better ones, so just ride it out. If you're really stuck, take your work to your editor or a trusted friend and get their opinion. Nine times out of ten, they'll tell you that it's not as bad as you think.
4. Bad reviews
The nature of the business is that writing is done in private, shown in public. No one paints a landscape and then hides it in the closet. But showing your work involves risk and in writing, that risk is most often displayed as a bad review. There are as many different types of readers as there are writers and bad reviews are just part of the process. When you get one, don't panic: analyze. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Did the reader actually read the story? (Yes, I'm serious - sometimes they just post)
2. Did the reader understand what you were trying to do? (They were looking for Jane Austen and your zombie-end times-love triangle-coming of age is many things, but a sparkling British comedy it is not.)
3. Do they make any salient points about plot, narrative, or grammar? Or is this merely venting? (Occasionally the readers have a point: Guy B really should have gotten the girl, because Guy A was showed stalker/obsessive tendencies that you didn't notice. But this is rare and, anyway, your critique group probably would have warned you.)
If the answer to any or all of these questions is 'No', you can rest easy. This was a case of misunderstanding on their part and your work is still good.
The takeaway: You will get back reviews and some of them will really sting. If they make a good point, learn from it. But in the end, remember why you wrote the story in the first place - whether it was for a friend, to make a point, or just to get it off your mind - and you'll find that the bad review is only a small bump in the road. Just keep trucking.
To sum up, writing is a fantastically fun way to spend time, create worlds, and spread your creative wings, but it does require a certain amount of mental toughness. In the end, you aren't your project - you are complete within yourself, valuable and needed even without the pen in your hand. So keep writing and have fun.
To further drive the point home, here's some wisdom from Stephen King: "Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy."
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are and where you come from:
My name is Katie Harwood, I also go by Katie Louise and some others tbd haha. I grew up in a small town in NH and moved to California after finishing my first year of college trying grow up. Didn’t work out so well and ended up back on the East Coast after a brief stint of about 7 years meandering around the state of California and trying to finish art school. Finally made it back, grew somewhat up, got an art degree and went promptly to work in finance. The ultimate cliché.
2. When did you know that you wanted to be a musician/songwriter?
There’s footage of me somewhere at months old playing with a fisher-price toy piano. That was always my proof that is was there from the beginning. I used music to cope at an early age, but the development of songwriting started when I started realizing that there wasn’t always a song for me that fit my emotional state. I knew I wanted to write my own music when I got sick of playing classical piano and singing opera pieces that I usually only used to impress boys into thinking I knew how to speak a different language. It worked, until I finally met one that actually spoke Italian. There’s a song about that too.
3. What kind of music do you write?
The very first song I wrote was called “Die, Grandma, Die”. I was 7-years-old and had just lost my grandmother to cancer. I clearly write music mostly in a literal sense. Everything I put my hand to, has been in some way experienced, either by me or through others. The lyrics are meant to tell a story and I try and use them in such a way that puts them up for interpretation, but never something anyone has to try and figure out.
4. What inspires you?
Spontaneity. People experience things on a daily basis, but there is always that one moment when the realization of something hits you. For me, it can be a lyric, or a melody. Whatever it is usually comes at the most inopportune time, when I’m either sleeping or in the supermarket or shower. It sounds silly, but I have a notebook full of one-liners that I wake up from dreams with and an iphone full of horrible sounding voice bites. I am inspired by the strength of the people that surround me and of my own. It’s taken me a long time to be inspired by my own life, but with time, I realized it’s worth sharing as well and have been told it has provided support for others, which is, if anything, the one thing I always wanted to accomplish. I am inspired by a lot of late 70’s/early 80’s era rock, folk and country. I like things to make sense, whether it be chord progression or the flow of words. I think a lot of the old school bands like Boston, The Stones and Steve Miller Band, and random singers like Garth Brooks, Cat Stevens or Stevie Nicks. There is a wide array of things I listen to. Inspiration has come from as far off as metal and/or punk music, which is a whole way of life in and of itself.
5. What message or inspiration do you hope to pass on to your listeners?
Let things surprise you. Take chances. Really listen and take in what people are saying and find meaning in even the smallest things. Be inspired by yourself and the good things that happen as well as the bad. Don’t ever think timing isn’t for a reason.
Bonus Question: What’s next for you?
I have been working with a producer named Mike Davidson here in Boston and we just finished a successful crowdsourcing campaign that raised a little over $10,000. With that I’m on my way to head back into the studio to record my first album! I’m kind of just seeing where life take me right now based on that. I’m a free spirit when it comes to possibility. I have some other things in the works in terms of marketing and radio, but you’ll just have follow along to see where it goes ☺
Over the course of the past few weeks, I got a chance to interview Jenna Brooks, a talented author, awesome editor, fierce Mother’s Rights activist, and former homeschooling mother of two. "Unconventional" is a word that particularly suits Jenna: she couldn’t resist turning the interview on me a few times!
Jenna’s the author of award-winning October Snow, its sequel An Early Frost, and a new set of handbooks for survivors of domestic violence. Here, she discusses her new projects, her thoughts on evil and truth in the world today, and how her faith influences her writings.
KT: The obligatory first question: what started you writing?
JB: Dude. Really?
I'm not one for self-introspection. It can turn paralyzing (not to mention, boring) real fast. Best I can tell you is, it's a compulsion. Always has been.
C'mon. Go philosophical on me. Or maybe issues - let's give the reader something to talk about.
KT: Okay, challenge accepted: Here are two questions: Your books, October Snow and An Early Frost center on strong female characters and their friendship with each other, something that can seem a rarity in books and movies these days. How do you feel women are generally represented in books and movies today? And how do you hope your books and characters speak to women today?
JB: I don't believe that women are represented authentically at all in books and movies (or in any form of media, for that matter). Not these days, anyway. Generally speaking, I think the vapid, oversexed, emotionally over-dependent females that we too often see in art and in media are no more than the fantasies of a culture that has turned wholly contemptuous towards women, and we aren't portrayed realistically. It's an insidious kind of propaganda, designed to keep women silent - because the most powerful force of good known to mankind is a woman who knows her worth, and who has no problem with making her opinions known.
As for the second question: I hope I help women to remember their dignity. To find their voices. While this culture debates to death every evil (or what is perceived as evil) out there, we aren't talking about the main reason that this culture is circling the drain: Women have been silenced, and the primary weapon used against us is shame. It's now arrived at the point where the very things that shamed us into silence - porn, faux-feminism, abortion, all resulting in the "Jezebel" theology of far too many churches - have been fully mainstreamed into our society. They're accepted as being normal. And when you consider these facts: 1. Very few women were in positions of institutional, media, or judicial/legislative power when these aberrations were promoted and incorporated - for our own good, they told us - and 2. That women are now blamed for the results... Well, you have to wonder if the greatest scam of all time has been played against women.
KT: Dignity is a great word that you don't hear all that often. I notice that you use it a lot in After Awareness, your guide to helping battered women, which is based in part on your 10+ year experience helping domestic violence victims. What do you find is a major stumbling block to those who've lost their sense of dignity?
JB: I'll answer, but you go first. What do you think is a stumbling block to women's dignity? Or, do you not regard it as an issue?
KT: Wait, who is giving the interview here?
All right: the concept of dignity is suffering across both genders and I think a lot of it has to do with knowing who you are. Dignity means self-respect, a sense of pride in oneself, something that, by definition, takes time and effort to build. But how can your respect what you don't know or cannot define? We're largely choosing not to raise our children in religion, our families are scattered, and our national identity is being shattered. Even the concept of gender is becoming a fluid idea. If you don't know that you're a child of God, or your family, or if being patriotic is good, or whether or not you're even male or female, how can you know yourself enough to respect yourself?
Truth is being redefined to mean "what is true for me or you at this particular moment". We learn largely through trial and error - but if there is no error, no truth that we cannot reason or talk our way around, no good, no bad, no wrong, no right, and everything can change on a dime... How can you build anything, including self-respect, on shifting sand?
So, that is my two-cents and I turn the camera back to you: What do you find is a major stumbling block to those who've lost their sense of dignity? And how can they overcome it?
JB: Real quick, on your comments about truth: The truth is not a wide road, and it's not a free-flowing, individualistic narrative that's defined by one's personal experiences. It's a pinpoint of stark reality, never changing, created by God and no one else. And we either accept it or we reject it - and I believe that creating alternate realities is a factor in the emotional instability we see all around us.
I mean, I disagree with that famous quote about the definition of insanity - that it's doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If that were accurate, then no one is sane. I think insanity is indicated by the level of outrage a person experiences when the results are always the same. And we can tell the truth about how we feel, but when we term our feelings as the ultimate "truth" - and worse yet, deem them to be divinely inspired - we're tap-dancing all around the unpardonable sin. Just my opinion.
Okay, the biggest stumbling blocks to dignity: For males, I say it's fear of being a hypocrite - which, when you boil it down, is actually a form of cowardice. This culture has gone off the rails; yet instead of doing the required one-eighty and setting the example for our children, they tend to hide inside their shame. The only way to overcome that is through three little words: "I was wrong." And then make it right.
For women...? Okay, here's another question for you (and again, generally speaking): How do you think people react to a woman who thinks highly of herself? Who sets immovable standards for how she will be treated?
KT: People who act with dignity and self-respect tend to inspire a like response in others. Those who are easily threatened (bullies, the childish, etc) will probably react poorly, as they would when confronted with other good things in life.
As to your second question, in a free society (absent of slavery or serfdom) the dignified woman (or man) sets the standard for themselves. However, dignity is not determined by the treatment of others: it is both inherent and assumed by the individual. Since we're both Christian, I can comfortably say that God values us and it is from Him alone that we receive our worth. Being treated badly by others does not change our worth (because it has not that power) and need not change our self-respect: some examples of dignity maintained under fire would be Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa, Booker T. Washington, and Maximilian Kolbe. What bad treatment can do is blind us to our sense of worth - which is, indeed, a terrible, terrible crime.
Okay, back at you. Your books deal heavily with recovering a sense of self after abuse, both verbal and physical. What is a practical way a friend can help a recovering victim towards recovering her (or his) true sense of worth and self-respect? Or is this something that the victim can only do alone?
JB: I dunno, Traynor... I feel like you sidestepped (but only slightly) the issue of the response to women who display their dignity. But I'll let that go. (Yeah. That's bait.)
Last question first: Some women are fully able to recover on their own, but with no thanks to a culture and a court system that I believe is, at best, lukewarm about actually advocating for abused women. In too many cases, our institutions are actually allies of the criminal.
I suppose that's a whole other topic, though.
As for the first question: I have to take brief issue with the way you phrased it, because I don't agree with the notion that violence against men is even in the same universe as violence against women; if nothing else, the results are vastly different, as are the options for escape and subsequent rehabilitation. The determination to equalize the genders in all things is, on its face, a troubling cultural trend - and when it comes to DV, the results can be deadly.
That said, helping a battered woman can be a minefield. The first thing that caring people can do, and should do, is to get educated. Most people are badly misinformed about what's really going on out there, and there's plenty of research that blows a hole through the conventional ideas about DV and its targets. And definitely, everyone needs to get up-to-speed on the truth about the Family Court industry, especially if they still believe that the courts favor mothers. They don't, and abused mothers and children are often further traumatized by the system's acceptance of (alliance with?) the Father's Rights movement. (Anyone who wants to learn more can start here.)
After becoming fully educated - and having avoided the Father's Rights propaganda while doing so - there's a process to helping a target survive and then get back on her feet. I wrote that handbook that explains what to do and what not to do, but the best advice I can offer is this: Never lose sight of the fact that women who are terrorized have experienced trauma. Sounds obvious, right? Yet if we're honest, doesn't our society pin some of the responsibility for an abuser's felonies directly on the woman he battered? And after she escapes, if indeed she does survive him, doesn't our society treat her like she should be able to simply start her life over again - no problem?
Finally, do what you can to change the culture, because the roots of DV are now firmly planted within our lives. Again, I have suggestions for that in After Awareness.
KT: Yes, I agree that we tend to just want the victim to 'just move on'. I suppose this could be seen as a reflection of our collective guilt as a society. After all, most DV abuse happens right under our noses, to people that we see on the playgrounds, at stores, in parties, schools, churches, and book clubs, and yet often we're caught unawares.
So, we have your handbooks to learn more. Is there a place for DV victims and their friends to go to discuss the often overwhelming task of rebuilding a life and self?
JB: Not usually - not for what happens after a DV situation. That's why I wrote the books.
Are we going to talk about literature soon?
KT: Of course we are! Which authors or books have most heavily influenced you?
JB: My writing isn't influenced by other books, but my life is directed by The Bible, and I read non-fiction from authors such as Dan Allender and Charles Stanley. I keep Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning on my desk.
That said, I'm inspired by my interactions with people - and when I come away angry enough, I write.
KT: You need to explain that last comment.
JB: I think my anger is my most productive resource for my work. It motivates me. And I often wonder why so many people have turned tepid toward the evil in the world - how it is that they can look directly at the destruction of another soul and say nothing, do nothing. Or worse, find a way to blame the one who is being oppressed. Every time I think I'd like to go do something else, I'm reminded of a couple of people who were very close to me, whose lives was taken apart by violence. Not so much by the actual abuser, but by the ignorance and subsequent apathy of those around them. And I decide to stay in the fight.
I think I got off topic. Sorry.
KT: No worries! People have compared your books to Stephen King, though yours do not feature the supernatural. How do you feel about that comparison? Do you think it's apt?
JB: Stephen King? I don't recall that one. I've heard Gillian Flynn and Liane Moriarty, because my novels - especially October Snow - mess with the reader's head. I got a couple of comments referencing Hitchcock (not sure why that would be, though), but I haven't heard a comparison to King.
Speaking of Hitchcock, I so would put your books up there with his movies, but we'd have to also include comparisons to the great classic romances of that era. Like Necessary Evil - who would you cast as Greg and Maddie? Same for Summer Shadows: who would play Robert and Julia?
KT: Hey, I'm supposed to be interviewing you, not the other way around!
Seriously, I don't mind telling you who I'd cast in my books (though once you found out who inspired Gregory Randall, you'd throw something at me), but you're the subject, so I'm turning the question back on you: if you could cast whomever you'd like to play Josie, Samantha, and Maxine, who would play them?
JB: No idea. No, actually, I think Chelsea Noble would be perfect as Jo. The others... I haven't thought about that in a long time.
(And readers: Killarney told me privately which famous Hollywood actor inspired the character of Greg Randall. I LOVE it.)
KT: What future projects can the readers expect from you?
JB: I have three novels that I hope to launch in the next two years. Meltdown is Book Three of the October Snow series. It's a straight-up murder mystery, where Jack Seever turns up dead and the main suspects are the survivors from the first two books. I'm having a ball with this one. I never wrote a murder mystery before.
Ventriloquist is a bit of a mindbender. Actually, it's a huge mindbender, deals with stalking - and what happens when the tables are turned.
None So Free will come out in 2017. It's a tearjerker, and it may be my favorite project ever.
By the way, I'll offer the handbooks After Awareness and The Alienated Mother for free on the day you post this interview, so let me know when.
Know what? I'll price my novels at 50% off, too. I'll make an event out of it.
Thanks for the chat. It was a lot of fun.
KT: You can find Jenna's website at Jenna Brooks Online, and follow her on Twitter at @shesjennab.
When I was a kid, there was no one I wanted to be more than Catwoman - to be specific, I wanted to be Eartha Kitt, playing Catwoman. She was sassy, ambitious, driven and walked like she owned the planet. A lot to admire there (if you can look past the whole 'being a super-villain' thing).
Now, many years later, I still want to be Catwoman, but I've also grown to appreciate the wit and wisdom of the woman who played her with such sass and confidence.
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