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.
Booker T. Washington was one of my heroes growing up. I read "Up From Slavery" at least three times, and his biography a half dozen or more, and his wisdom, compassion, and courage inspired me, as it has many others. In honor of Black History Month, here are some words of wisdom from this survivor, educator, author, and presidential adviser.
In which Killarney attempts to complete her New Year's Resolution of watching all John Wayne movies made after Stagecoach, for no better reason than she loves the Duke and wishes she lived out west.
Starring: John Wayne, Jorge Rivero, Jennifer O'Neill, Jack Elam, and Christopher Mitchum. Directed by Howard Hawks
After the Civil War, Col.. Cord McNally (Wayne) searched for the Union traitor who betrayed his unit and caused the death of close friend. Helping him are two former Confederates (Rivero and Mitchum) and the three converge on the Texas town of Rio Lobo, where a corrupt sheriff is blackmailing and strong-arming his way into becoming the biggest landowner in the county.
For those of you not conversant in Wayne lore, Rio Lobo is the second variation of Hawks' classic Rio Bravo (the Duke's answer to High Noon), in which a small town sheriff stands against a superior force of outlaws. The first variation was El Dorado, - so close in story that it was practically a remake - which also starred Christopher Mitchum's father, Robert. Rio Lobo is the weakest entry of the three, but it still has it's moments. The opening sequence, where the Confederates, acting on the spy's information, hijack a train carrying Union gold, is intense, and the second half is traditional western fun, especially when Wayne and Rivera meet the spunky Shasta, mourning the murder of her friend by the town's corrupt sheriff and the independent Amelita, who harbors her own grudge.
John Wayne plays the older, gruff loner and there are lots of shout-outs to his older movies, but the younger generation are given plenty of time and action. The women are strong, but underused, and the bad guys are somewhat one dimensional, but over-all it's a fun movie and it looks like they had a good time making it. John Wayne, kinda like Jackie Chan, brings a lot of the same crew with him in every movie and this one is no exception: almost every side character I recognized from his other movies.
In short, not one of his best movies, but still a blast to watch.
Best JW Quote:
"Ketchum, we promised you in a trade. We didn't say what condition you'd be in."
Best Swagger Moment:
On his way to the final showdown, John Wayne trades the ordinary rifle he carries for his signature one with the modified lever loop, saying with a satisfied grunt, "That's better."
JW Moment of Wisdom:
(Talking to the ex-confederates about the gold robbery and the spy that lead them to it): "What you did was an act of war - what he (the spy) did was treason."
Most Surprising Guest Stars:
Victor French (aka Mr. Edwards from Little House on the Prairie) is the spy that John Wayne beats the tar out of. Plus, Santa Claus (aka: David Huddleston) plays the town's dentist!
And now for something completely different...
So I guess you know that I have to start with the usual question: Why do you write?
Sure! But it’ll be the same answer as always.
I write because I don’t have a choice. Seriously. I’ve been in publishing since I was twelve years old and there have been times that I thought it would be interesting to do something else, but it couldn’t ever happen because at the end of the day I have stories blasting through my head and characters that won’t let me sleep.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I am really interested in the reasons you wrote this particular book.
To be honest, I’m very frustrated with the lack of honesty in our culture today. We’re trained to behave a certain way, and that way curtails to pleasing and sustaining a select few while the masses suffer. No one is supposed to speak out and the prevalence, and acceptance, of silence encompasses most subjects, honestly. It drowns people.
I’m very rebellious. In my life and in my writing. And I’m uncompromisingly honest, but I can only express my own truth. I can’t speak for all the wrongs in the world, and I don’t claim to, but I can speak for the suffering of women crushed in the fists of misogyny. I’ve lived it. It’s everywhere and most of the time it’s so normal, or so subtle that women don’t even recognize it for what it is.
It was the normal, subtle things – the lies we are taught to believe and base our behavior on - that I wanted to point out. I wanted to show the undercurrent that creates a chain reaction in a woman who figures out the game and can’t take wearing the mask anymore. So she changes the rules and works it to her advantage.
It happened in my own life and I survived. In fact, I won the game.
I wanted to show how it happens, and why a woman would do a drastic thing to save her own sanity while drowning in misogyny, and the aftermath of her actions as her family, and society, reacts to her decision of destroying the silence and the status quo of what she “should have done.”
So why "Lights of Polaris"? That's an unusual title.
There is a wonderful story from Greek Mythology about Polaris, the daughter of Apollo. It’s detailed in the book, but it’s a story of love, tragedy and hope. It’s also about survival after obliteration and becoming something greater than you were. Polaris is also the North Star and the source of finding direction when you are lost, so she’s deeply symbolic in that as well.
How many of your real-life experiences are in this book?
Do I have to admit that? Uh, I really can’t because if I did the man I based Daniel on would sue me and win in court. Not all of it’s plucked straight from the pages of my own life, but I’d give it a solid ninety percent, as for Daisy’s experience. As for the rest… that was just my over-eager imagination working out subconscious issues.
You have a reputation for being "edgy". Is that a deliberate thing?
Not at all. I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime. Edgy’s just who I am, I guess. Other people say that, not me. But I get it all the time.
When I was a girl, in the environment I was raised in, being honest got you in huge trouble. Everything was premeditated and any sort of authentic response was unforgivable and punished far worse than the crime. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that didn’t work, and that kind of retribution and shame wasn’t going to serve me in life if I turned it on myself. I knew all it was going to do was keep me trapped in a destructive pattern, so I decided if I couldn’t be outwardly honest, I was going to be that way with myself. And then, when I left that environment and I didn’t have to hide my thoughts, I suppose I became what people consider abrasive, because I don’t pull punches. But I’m not mean. I don’t abide by cruelty. Ever. I don’t dish it out, but I won’t stand back and watch it happen, either.
On a scale of 1-10, how edgy are you in your personal life? Then give some details.
That’s hard for me to judge. I’m actually a really sweet person. I just have a low tolerance level for unkindness. This is what I think: everybody is set on this earth worthy of empathy and respect. Therefore, no one has the right to walk around suppressing and disrespecting another being. I’m the nicest person on the planet, but do not come at me with unwarranted insolence, because you have no idea who you are dealing with. I do not abide rudeness. Ever.
Obviously "Lights of Polaris" delves into some pretty deep issues. I've also heard from reviewers that it's is an unflinching look into what women tend to think, and how they interact with each other when they get real.
I really wanted to show how women truly are – what they think, how deeply they feel, and how the world around them affects their decisions. I wanted to show them damaged and frozen, and then the lioness inside awakening. It was really important, too, that the women in the book spoke and interacted like women actually do. There are no negligees or pillow fights in Lights of Polaris. I tried to avoid any stereotypes and be bold with the sacred truths that women hold – and too often keep secret because of the shame society places on them.
The main character, "Daisy Cade", was in your previous novel, Burning Down Rome. What made you decide she needed her own book?
It was funny, because as I was writing Burning Down Rome, there were background characters that had nothing really to do with that book. I mentioned three names in Burning Down Rome only once or twice – Cooper Thomson, Stuart Adkins, and Daisy Cade. But somehow I knew that all three had major stories. I just didn’t know they were connected to each other, or how closely.
Writing can be a very schizophrenic thing. I literally see visions and hear voices when I’m falling asleep at night. Daisy kind of haunted me. Kid Cade had five sisters, but she was the one who didn’t jump out at me. It was that quiet that I became interested in, and I couldn’t let the thought of her go, so I focused in and what I found was a deeply fascinating woman who reflected the strangulation and torture of what conformity can do to some people.
And then the other voices began…
She's a high-functioning autistic woman, which is an interesting choice for a main character. Why did you decide on that for her character?
Well, I’m high functioning Aspergers, so I applied that part of myself to Daisy so she could make sense to me, honestly. Because she’s weird. She’s a total oddball, but she’s also wonderful, warm and embraceable. But she’s often terribly misunderstood, too. I suppose putting a label on her was almost an easy way out for me to let the reader understand her sometimes unusual behavior.
Do readers need to read Burning Down Rome before Lights of Polaris?
I’d say no, but I’d also say it would help to absorb some of the depth of the story. The characters from Burning Down Rome are all in Lights of Polaris, so if you’ve read Burning Down Rome, you’ll know what happens to the kids from Cry Baby Jake down the road. It makes it a bit more well-rounded and interesting, but Lights of Polaris definitely stands alone.
About you, personally: if you could wave a wand and rid the world of only one problem, what would it be?
Ignorance. I really wish people would educate themselves and stop believing what they’re told. Open your eyes. I’d have everybody question everything all the time and realize that they are empowered already and don’t need permission to take control of their own minds and lives.
So here's the part of the interview where I ask: what about your next project?
It may be asked, but I don’t discuss upcoming projects. I will say I’m looking at writing a series, though, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever written before.
Well, I know you'll publish more novels, 'cause that's what you do. I heard that you recently turned down an offer to sign with agents. What made you decide to stay Indie?
Ouch. Yeah. That. Well, this is the thing. The traditional publishing industry likes to keep things in a bottle – a specific formula of plot versus character versus page count. I think that’s fine for a bit of light reading, or if somebody reads for entertainment alone. But I believe there are bigger books that need to be written and stories that shouldn’t be cut by 30,000 words because if they are, they lose their impact. Books can change lives. Some books have a soul of their own. Some stories are real. Sometimes fiction is more real than truth. And when that happens, an author has an obligation not to compromise the integrity of that work.
So I didn’t compromise. Maybe down the road, with the right agent and the right house, I can find a place that I feel won’t ask me to concede what I believe in. But I don’t know. I’m way too punk rock to want to cooperate a whole lot when it comes to my art.
Edgy, right? Yeah. I guess maybe I do live up to that rep sometimes.
Self-Reliance has been on my mind a lot lately - not just Emerson's magnificent essay, but the nature of self-reliance. What does it mean to be self-reliant? How does one achieve it? And is it worth the achievement?
At times it seems that society as a whole is moving away from this concept. Oh, we do not say this out-loud, of course, but the underlying movement is towards a community that supports, molds, contributes, and has a say in all efforts, personal and impersonal. And while I love the idea of a community that work with, plays with, and supports one another, I can't help but wonder if we aren't losing an aspect of our humanity - our self-reliance and, by extension, our personal pride - in the process.
So I turned to my old friend, Emerson, and was reminded, once again, why his wisdom is still quoted in our times. Here are some of my favorite quotes from his essay. Got a favorite of your own? Any thoughts on self-reliance? Comment in the section below!