Q and A with Author Rain Sivertsen

In this Q and A Rain Sivertsen answers my questions. Let’s learn a little more about her.

rain

Rain Sivertsen is a 25-year-old fantasy writer currently working on her first novel, a YA fantasy she intends to self-publish by 2019/20. She is also working on a darker fantasy trilogy about vampires. Everything Rain writes takes place in a fantasy world called Hurst where she spends most of her time, while her corporeal self is located in the beautiful city of Prague –which might be the ideal home for anyone writing fantasy, with magic hiding around every corner.

 

  1. What do you write? (genre etc.)

Fantasy. Everything I write, pretty much everything I read, is fantasy. Doesn’t matter if it’s epic, urban, YA. Anything with even a sprinkle of fantasy and I am there for it.

  1. Favorite book that you think is underrated?

You couldn’t start with an easier question? J I stare at my bookshelf and there are so many wonderful books that I wish were the kind everyone knew about and talked about. Kristine Cashore’s books Graceling and Fire are beautiful stories about strong women making the best of impossible situations, with love stories I can respect and admire, which I wish I saw more of. Ash and Huntress by Melinda Lo are lovely fantasy stories with queer women. Ask was the first book I ever read with a non-straight main character. It blew my mind.

  1. Favorite book from childhood?

I don’t remember much I read from childhood – mostly Norwegian books designed specifically to get kids to read more – but there was a series of five books called “Sofie and Kathrine” by Grete Haagenrud that I would borrow from the library almost every month. It’s about two young sisters during the war when Norway was occupied by Germany. Their family is forced to flee their hometown and travel through Norway. The stories were so funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and though my life was so different from Sofie, I could still relate to her and a lot of the things she went through. That might be the first series that made me properly fall in love with novels.

  1. Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Love, persistence and forced discipline (because discipline does not come to me naturally).

  1. Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

I never really choose where I get inspiration from. Sometimes I’ll try and kick-start some inspiration by looking at beautiful digital art or reading passages in my favorite books, but really it tends to come out of nowhere. It’s really important to me that I write even when I don’t feel inspired, so I’ve trained myself to do that and then be pleasantly surprised when genuine inspiration does hit. It’s the best feeling. I guess you could say that the idea of inspiration is what inspires me. Too complicated? 🙂

  1. Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?

Write. Down. Your. Goals.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see. If you write down your goals – both long-term goals and the smaller milestone goals along the way – you will be more motivated to work towards them. Put them somewhere you can see them every day so you never forget that you wanted this badly enough to commit it to writing. Writing down your goals helps to turn a dream into a plan. It’s pretty much the tip that helped me start taking writing seriously.

  1. As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)? 

Beauty. Beauty in anything – nature, music, art, architecture. Surrounding myself with beauty in all forms is what inspires me to create, to take all that beauty and try and make something magical out of it. That’s why I listen to epic instrumental music when thinking about my writing. It’s why I enjoy long walks in the most beautiful parks in Prague. I inhale beauty and hope to absorb some of it for later use in my writing.

  1. What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

I’m best at writing violent things, like fight scenes and torture, or just people being miserable. For the story I’m working on now, the MC spends a lot of time figuring out clues and working on solving a mystery. I’m not very good at that, at figuring out exactly which clues to reveal at exactly the right time. It’s why I could never really write crime and detective novels like Beth Green writes so brilliantly. I love to read them, but those details and clues… I’m better with the big stuff, less so with the fine print.

  1. What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Setting clear goals and working my ass off to reach them. Not just big goals like “finish this novel and self-publish it”, but goals that aren’t so far away. Milestones. When I’m drafting, my goal is to write 30.000 words a month, approximately 1000 words per day, and when I’m plotting and outlining I also have a plan and try to spend at least 1-2 hours daily working on that plan. If I didn’t set these goals and have a clear, achievable plan, I would never write anything at all. I’m one of those people who think structure is a good thing, and I thrive on it.

  1. How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Being a beta-reader helped me better understand the research I’ve done into beta-reading, it helped me see which parts of that research I want to keep and which aren’t going to work for me. It’s also super motivating when you’re drafting, to read someone else’s nearly-finished work. It’s a reminder that not too long ago they were suffering the same way, but look! They got this amazing thing at the end!


Where to find Rain:

Website

Twitter

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Another revision and another day

My current project, Lana Bong’s Shanghai Market, just underwent another revision. I cut something like 10,000 words from it and then added another 2,000. I’m more confident that the pacing is quicker and more urgent and that my character development has improved, but I still question myself. Most writers will tell you that they never really feel like they are finished with a project. I can’t dispute that. I still feel like I need to go back and double check that everything flows just right and that I didn’t take out any characterization important to the story.

This time around, I mostly took out flashbacks, long rambling scenes of one character’s genesis or defining childhood moments. I’m good at creating that backstory, but not all of it needs to be added into the project I’m working on. That’s why it’s so important to have beta readers and why I feel sorry for my early readers. There is so much more muck to wade through in my early drafts.

old-canal

Lots of muck to wade through . . .

I’ve already started sending query letters to agents, gotten a few requests for more pages, and sent those out. I felt confident in the pages I sent and hope to feel confident moving forward in the agents I’m sending queries to. Recently, that has become more challenging. I won’t name names, but there are a number of literary agents being called out for their predatory practices. It shakes my belief in humans and the publishing industry. I don’t get it, but it just goes to show that as a writer you have to go with your instinct. Really, with anything that’s all you have to go on. If something feels off, listen to that feeling.

In the next few months, I’ll be bleary-eyed and taking care of a newborn. I’m hoping to continue posting on the blog every so often and I already have a couple of posts scheduled for September. Look for the Q and A with the author, Rain Siversten.

Feel free to drop me a line anytime as well! I love hearing from people!

Creating, growing, & purposeful intention!

cup rest

Perfect cup holder!

I recently read this New York Times piece about rebranding motherhood. There were quite a few things I liked about it. One main thread is the story of the author of the piece becoming a mother, that naturally spoke to me. I have worried over this since we decided to try and get pregnant ourselves. I worried about timing and having the time to write after Baby is here (any day now!). I already have a full-time job and limited time to write. However, I make time to do the things I feel sustain me already so I’m not sure why that should change, though it could get more difficult for a time.

Overall, the piece talked about how motherhood has recently been put in a more negative light using words like sacrifice and that becoming a mother is losing a part of yourself. She also talks about how it’s a choice:

“Motherhood, parenthood, is a choice — like getting married, writing a book or choosing one city to call home — and like all those choices, it means forgoing other choices. So it’s unclear why this one choice has become synonymous with sacrifice.”

I love that. I’ve written two novels and one novella and it didn’t just happen. I had to work hard and create a schedule (not go out to brunches on weekends or hang out with friends at certain times) in order to follow through with what I most wanted to do. I feel confident in my ability to continue to prioritize and feel excited to bring a new little person into the world. These are not mutually exclusive things in my mind.

Of course, I know there will be difficult times but aren’t there those times now anyway? I mean, I was recently hit by a car as a pedestrian and had to get over that eventually. It was emotionally traumatic, to say the least. We all have difficulty in relationships from time to time, whether it is with family or friends. Even though our social media presence never shows the bad stuff, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The last quote I’ll share from the article is this one and one that I hope to be able to articulate once I am a mother.

“The joy and fun of motherhood are so deeply personal, so intimate and so selfish, there’s no way to explain it to the world, particularly our current social media heavy world.”

I understand the need to rebrand motherhood, but not for the purpose of creating more people or mothers. My feeling is that we need to be authentic about what the whole process is like and to talk about our difficulties, but not to focus on them. I’ve had both difficulties and wonderful experiences so far getting pregnant and then being pregnant (those I’ll save for a different blog post). Once I bring a child into the world I hope to be able to talk about both the good and the bad in a productive way.

Right now, I have to finish my revisions for my current novel in progress (I am finalizing everything for the last time, I swear!).

Birth and Book Accessories

I realized that I skipped blogging last week! This may happen more often in the next few months with my impending birth. I’ve been reading a bit too much about the whole birthing experience and while I’m not terrified, recent articles about how the U.S. is the most dangerous place to give birth doesn’t exactly put me at ease. I’ve been trying to lay low and finish a book I’m reading about pregnancy, but I’ll admit, I’m feeling a little unsettled despite trusting my doctor and feeling like I am getting extremely good care. I’m going to focus on the first sentence of this quote from a Newsweek article:

While most women give birth with no issue, “The Global Burden of Disease 2015 Maternal Mortality” study published in The Lancet journal and cited in the USA Today‘s “Deadly Deliveries” report, lays bare the startling disparity between the U.S. and other developed nations.

There is so much chaos in our world that I need to be able to wade through it and pick how I relate to what I see, read or listen to. For now, I can manage this. So, let’s talk about something a little less scary, right?

BOOK ACCESSORIES!

Yes, I stumbled across a few items that, while I don’t NEED them, it would be kind of neat to have them on hand. Particularly a book stand. This Book Riot article also has some wooden page holders that are cute, but I’m not sure if I’d use them. Etsy also has a lot of cute book accessories like bookmarks, pen holders for your journal, and bookends (which I am in the market for, but only if it is the right set). Do you use book accessories? What are your favorites?

Next week, is my Q & A with author & editor, Michael Mohr. Don’t miss it!

Books and pregnancy

Well, I finally went social media official about my pregnancy and thought I would do a post on this book I am reading, Like a Mother A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes. She is actually doing a reading at Powell’s at the end of the month. If I am not too tired and pregnant by then I hope to go to it. Ha!

Anyway, I am not quite halfway through and I am really enjoying it. My favorite chapter was about the placenta. Maybe I am one of the few, but I had no idea the placenta was considered and organ (one that my body grows specifically for the baby) and that it has 50% genetic material from me and 50% from my husband! I love biological facts of all kinds and the whole chapter just made me want to read it out loud to my husband! He had me mark it for him so he could read it on his own. I just kept interrupting him while he was reading his book and I guess that annoyed him…

Anyway, I recommend it to people who are curious about pregnancy and also the culture surrounding it. I might hold off if you are just a few weeks away from giving birth though. At least skip the chapter where the author talks about how her birth went. The message is great in the end, but it might freak you out.

Lately, people have started telling me their horror stories of their birth experiences. I need to find a way to stop them. I don’t want to feel anxious about that part of pregnancy yet. That day will come and I trust my body, my support system, my doctor, and my husband to help me through, even if it ends up a horror story!

Any book recommendations that include biological science for the everyday reader? Lay them on me!

Q & A with Author, Erin Kettle

I met Erin at The Attic Institute in Portland. We took a novel writing class with Whitney Otto that connected us and kept us writing. I’m so glad we’ve kept in touch and now you get to learn a little more about her.

Erin Kettle is an author of women’s fiction. Her career is also in communications and EPatterson_Photopublic relations, most recently as a spokesperson for NIKE, Inc. As a result, Erin has written countless statements, manifestos, and press releases. Prior to her career in communications, she wrote for several publications as part of their editorial staff including The New Yorker, BRIDE’S Magazine and GQ.

Erin’s last two books were chosen to compete in a variety of unpublished fiction contests including Writer’s Voice on “Team Coffeehouse,” Query Kombat 2016, WriteClub 2016, PitchWars Setting Critique 2017, Query Kombat 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017.

When not writing or consulting, Erin enjoys spending time with family and friends and trying to catch her two young girls and two dogs, as they run circles around her.

What do you write?

Ever since I was little, whether watching a movie or reading a book, I was enthralled with how they would draw me into this fictional world. I wanted to find a way to write that could make people feel so deeply and would often find myself thinking of different types of story ideas. I remember writing my first short story in elementary school just for the heck of it in my spare time and wanted to create a whole book concept to go along with it. After college, I started writing editorials for magazines, moved into public relations and strategy work, but it wasn’t until I began writing novels that I realized how much if fed the soul.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?

I have to say that even though they are short stories, “The Body” (aka Stand By Me) and “Shawshank Redemption” are two of my favorites. Yes, they are both amazing movies as well, but if you read the book, the dialogue is literally verbatim. Stephen King is an amazing author, but the way he creates these characters that come off the page are outstanding in all of their faults and glory.

Favorite book from childhood?

There are so many from Shel Silverstein as the first shock and awe, to my first book love, “The Hunky-Dory Dairy” by Anne Lindbergh (1986) where a young girl stumbled upon a farm with people that somehow time traveled from the 1800s. I was fascinated.

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Possibilities, dreams, survival

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

Inspiration is everywhere, and sometimes reality is crazier than fiction. Writing is a cross-pollination of ideas where you just keep pushing the narrative to see what could happen in a particular story. It’s exciting when it really starts coming together.

As a writer who/what is your muse (person, animal, vegetable or mineral)?

Sloth. Kidding! I just think they’re cute. I’d say I love snow leopards. I always loved their beauty as a child, and how stealth they were. That is until my mom told me they just wanted to eat me. At any rate, they’re unexpectedly interesting.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

To be honest, in my first coming of age book, it was the sex scene. I kept imaging my family and nieces/nephews reading it one day. I just had to let go of that idea and try to be true to the characters.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Relentless learning. I just finished up a five-week class last night at the Attic in Portland, Oregon. It’s not easy to go to class 8-10 PM every week, especially when life is so busy, but it’s so important to get out of your head and just try something different. I’m always reading, usually three books at a time as well: fiction, non-fiction and some type of writing book. I’ve realized the thought process I have when working through these books is really introspective as well.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Thinking about writing structure and character development, among other things, as a beta reader really helps to build up that writing lens to also dissect your own work.


Connect with Erin here:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram


Check out previous Author Q & As:

Beth Green, Crime Fiction Author
Karen Hugg, novelist

Solitary

 

I just discovered this website, Sad animal facts. I love it! This particular graphic reminds me how much writers are like bees. So much of our writing life is done as a solitary endeavor, mostly in our minds and through our fingers. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome to have a writing group or other writers to go to happy hour or tea with.

Recently, I got this old familiar feeling surrounding the fact that I’m a writer. A crawling and awkward feeling. I feel uncomfortable talking about my writing to new people. It’s something that I feel often. Sometimes they are writers and sometimes not. Overall, I think the discomfort is based on fear. Mainly I’m afraid they won’t understand what I’m talking about when I talk about one of my projects or they’ll look at me and nod, but inside they are judging me, not understanding how important writing is to my emotional well-being, not to mention my soul. It’s dramatic but true.

Sometimes I wonder if I even know how to talk about writing. By that I mean, can I talk about it without sounding dramatic or odd. It’s so personal, but at the same time when a short story gets published or a creative non-fiction piece, it’s out there for all to see, for all to judge and I want it that way because I want to share my world with others. Once it’s out there it’s for everyone else to decide how it is perceived. Oh, my! That is pretty scary…

In the end, I know it only matters how I perceive the writing and the response, and I also know that I’ll keep trying new things both in writing and talking about it.

What makes you uncomfortable?


Next week I’ll have the next aspiring authors Q and A with Erin Kettle, women’s fiction writer! Don’t forget to check it out.

Inevitable Certainty

This post is going to be a little scattered. I have a couple things on my mind and I want to talk about both of them. To be fair, the subject of each idea is linked closely together.

IMG_9680First, on Twitter, I follow Caitlin Doughty, mortician, activist and founder of the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death. I made a pledge to The Order of the Good Death a few years ago. I quietly advocate for a death positive existence, but I don’t push the topic on people. It means a lot of different things to different people. My main goal in life is to somehow “normalize” death for myself and to be able to talk about it in meaningful ways in my writing and to others. Some people are more receptive to it in conversation than others. I’m not a doom and gloom type of person, I can be serious, but overall I hope to figure out a way to deal with the overwhelming emotions that come with it, a practical response to an inevitable certainty. Granted, I fully believe that any reaction is appropriate to the death of a loved one. Emotions can’t be controlled, nor should they be. Doughty makes these conversations funny and serious at the same time. If you are interested, Doughty recently posted her 7 Habits of Highly Effective Death Positive People on YouTube. 

Now, there are many different ways in which the inevitable happens so it’s not about the actual event, but more about preparations before it happens. One way to do that is to make sure you have an Advanced Directive. Doughty has a Youtube series that talks about all kinds of things, but this is just one of many that are super important if you can wrap your mind around the inevitable. I will admit that I still need to get this done. I’m planning to sit down with my husband, make a living will and create advanced directives for both of us. I’m giving myself a deadline of two weeks from today. I’ll check in with you on the blog and let you know. It isn’t an easy thing to make yourself create. I get that.

Now to switch it up to a different but related event . . .

The second part of this post is about saying goodbye to a fantastic and well-known Portland-beloved writer. I was fortunate enough to attend the Literary Arts tribute to Ursula K. LeGuin a couple days ago. I was late to reading Ursula, but she sparked my interest again at an event about eight years ago. It was another Literary arts gathering called in conversation with Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin (thank you to Gina for giving me your extra ticket!). I’d long admired Atwood and that night I was struck by the vitality and wit LeGuin exuded from the stage. I’d only read short pieces by her. Soon after, I read The Left Hand of Darkness and then a friend gifted me her book, The Dispossessed. Both are fantastic. I also read a few books in her EarthSea series. Anyway, her willingness to be part of the literary community not only by participating in it but in supporting other writers gives me a lot of hope. Yes, we are living in scary times, but LeGuin has given us many guidelines on how to move forward through social justice and speaking out in whatever voice you call yours. I remain optimistic.

Drop me a line or comment below. What are your thoughts on death, Ursula LeGuin, or anything else?

 

Q and A with Aspiring Author, Karen Hugg

I love meeting new writers online and Karen is no exception. Last month I wrote about Beth Green, aspiring Crime fiction author.

Karen-HuggKaren Hugg is a writer and gardener living in the Seattle area. She is a certified ornamental horticulturalist and has an MFA from Goddard College. She’s been published in various anthologies, journals, and websites. She’s married to a very patient husband and has three kids, two dogs, and two cats. To learn more, check out her website at www.karenhugg.com.

What do you write? (genre etc)
Mainly, I write fiction. Last year I finished a literary thriller called The Forgetting Flower about a plant shop owner in Paris. This year, I wrote a New Adult novel about a young woman who can communicate with ghosts through plants. Occasionally, I write narrative nonfiction and short stories. I’m always writing for my blog, The Cultivated Life, at http://www.karenhugg.com.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?
This sounds weird but I think Les Miserables is underrated. A lot of people think it’s a boring literary book because it was written in the 1800s and is long but it’s actually a compelling thriller! Yes, Victor Hugo talks too much about politics but I encourage people to skim those parts and read the rest. It has nail-biting suspense and the most touching, sweet passages. Right now, as I think about Jean Valjean rescuing Cossette, I still get teary. He’s such a good father to her — and yet he’s hunted like an animal by the police.

Favorite book from childhood?
That’s easy. When I was ten, I read The Lord of the Rings during a summer and it blew me away. I wanted to live inside that fantastic world. It was so rich with mystery and beauty and darkness. The idea of Lothlorien, a city built among trees, was the coolest idea I’d ever heard of. At the time, I was in Chicago and Tolkien’s love of the natural world awoke my love for it too. It’s no wonder I later moved to the Pacific Northwest where we have giant trees!

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?
Plants. Dreaming. Sharing.

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?
From the natural world. I’m a professional gardener and I love plants. I want to bring the awe and wonder of plants into people’s lives. From a more practical standpoint, I draw inspiration to keep writing from husband, who truly believes I have talent, and friend-writers, who are also struggling to share their truths. I admire established writers too, especially the ones whose road to success took many years of perseverance.

Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?
I would encourage writers to write short pieces as well as long, and then try to get those short pieces published. You have to try again and again but when you get a hit, that small “yes” makes you feel like a million bucks. It means there is another person out there who does care about what you’re saying and thinks it’s worth publishing. It may take awhile but it’s worth the effort. Plus, it helps you build a list of publications to show off to an agent or publisher.

As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)?
Again, it’s plants. Plants are amazingly delicate and yet incredibly tough. They’re fascinating. They have little lives of their own and care nothing about us. They make their own food and don’t need us at all. Yet we think we rule over them. It’s a crazy dynamic. Without them, humans would be eradicated as a group.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?
I’d say generally the first scene of every novel is the hardest for me to write. I’m constantly wondering if I’ve backed up the tape in this character’s life far enough or come in too late into the scene, etc. I do begin the novel just before the inciting incident but how far before is always the question. There’s a lot of pressure on a novelist to land in the exact right place.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?
Reading beyond my comfort zone. We all have favorite writers or genres we tend to read but when I read a book that is very unlike what I would choose, I find I’m always changed by it more. My brain has expanded into a new way of thinking. I put sentences together differently. I write insights I never would have before. For instance, I love reading 20th-Century, Eastern European writers like Bruno Schulz and George Konrad. They are wild and absurd and amazing. The language travels like a scribble on a paper, going where ever the author needs to go and the result is a trippy dream.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?
Being someone else’s beta reader temporarily turns you into an editor and that’s a good thing. It teaches you how to nurture someone else’s vision rather than you just rewriting the book as you would have. It also teaches you how to approach a work from a distance. It helps you become a better writer because you can take the weaknesses or strengths in another’s manuscript and apply those lessons to your own writing.


Reach out to Karen:

If you like this post check out my other Q and A with aspiring author, Beth Green.