Hi Everyone. Firstly Happy New Year to all of us! I wish everyone a very successful and joyous 2018! Now on to the second part of my Blog series on writing Children's books. So you have decided that you are going to write a children's book based on the idea you had in the shower or wherever you got the idea from. It's easy to simply start writing. And if you do, good for you! However, I do recommend doing research regarding the book you are going to write first. You need to consider the following: - For what age is this book intended? - Do I simply want to write a fun story or is there something I would like children to take away / learn from reading the book? - Will it be a stand alone book or part of a series? - Why do I want to write this book and what is it that I want to share with my readers by writing the book? - Has this story been told by another author in a different book? The best place to start your research is at the local library or even your children's bookshelves (if you have children). Take a look at books written regarding the same or similar subject matter. Take note of authors who have written about the same subject as you and look at other works by those authors. Look how many times the books you believe are similar to the one you will write, have been checked out of the library. Ask yourself why. Ask the librarian if they can give an opinion on the books and it's popularity or lack thereof. Ask the librarian if they notice demand for any specific subject and what the popular books are for the age group and subject you intend writing for. You can also ask your children what books they like and why (if you have children).
Once you have a collection of books related to the topic you plan to write about study them and get an idea of the length of the books, the kind of language. Is it simple and short or is there a lot of text? How are the books laid out? Are they illustrated (most probably)? What illustration styles do you like and why? What are the illustration styles and text of the most popular books in your category.
You can also search for best selling books online in the age group and category you plan to write for. See what is currently trending and try to understand why.
Also, take note of all the publishers of the books you study. You want to start building a database of publishers that you could possibly submit your book to for publication.
Once you have this information gathered you will have a better picture of the type of illustrations, story, length and target market. Some of this may not be immediately relevant to your writing but it will be relevant later when you start to seek a publisher.
I hope that you find this information informative and that it helps you to write the next best selling children's book!
It's been a long time since I wrote a blog post but I hope that they will become more regular now that I have chosen to focus on the topic of writing children's books specifically for those of you who wish to write children's books.
Since I have written a few children's books and stories now and been through the process of self publishing two children's books too, I believe I have some knowledge to share with others who may be interested.
So where do you start?
For me the starting point is inspiration. What do I mean by inspiration specifically? I believe there are different types of inspiration but I won't go into the details of that right now. The inspiration I am referring to here is that "First Thought".
The idea that comes to you unbidden from something your children say, an idea in the shower, an idea from a song, an advert, an incident. Anything. From anywhere that inspires you to write a story about it. That's your "Gold". I do not believe in sitting down to write and having to think of a story. That's forcing creativity and I don't believe there are many authors that can write great stories from a place of forcing creativity.
So, having identified your "Gold", write it down. Else you might forget it and there is nothing more frustrating than letting your Gold slip through the cracks in your memory.
Perhaps considered as one of the most important factors for creative and artistic people. What inspires us? Where do we get our inspiration from?
I believe that inspiration, as important as it is, is very fluid and even abstract. It exists for all of us. Even those of us who consider ourselves to be less creative.
Inspiration is not a singular concept but has multiple facets. I have broken them down into three aspects which I am able to define:
1. Where does inspiration come from? Inspiration for me comes from different places. Quite often the shower. Some people sing in the shower. I have great ideas in the shower. The ideas I have are not always ideas for writing but ideas to resolve problems I am struggling with or even business ideas. There's something about the running water and the peace and calm it creates that stimulates the right spot in my mind.
Music and music videos. Often I will have an idea for a story or a scene in a story from the words of a song, a music video or a scene in a music video.
2. What inspires you? This is the second aspect to inspiration which I can define separately at this point.
The sources of inspiration are clearly different to this aspect. The sources of inspiration are the things and events which kickstart an idea or help push an existing story along. They may add a new facet to a story you are working on if you are an author. The sources of inspiration may help you break through writers block with a new idea or help you step up the level of your story if you feel like what you have been writing is not up to your own impossibly high standards which we authors often set ourselves.
So what inspires us? This is the aspect that makes us want to do what we love. It should simply be that we want to do what we love but until we achieve what we define as success in our minds, we struggle with inspiration simply being the fact of doing what we love.
I too believe that we are inspired by our environment, settings and circumstances. There are certain ideal circumstances for me in which I find that I can relax and focus on writing. Most important is my environment which generally needs to have a window with bright, natural light and which is spacious. Even better is a quiet place in the garden where you can be one with nature while writing.
Of course people inspire us too. We all have role models or famous people who we admire for one or another reason. Often hearing about other people's struggles and how they overcame them can inspire us to act or make a much needed change in our lives.
This tree was the inspiration for my children's book, "The Tickle Tree".
3. What is your inspiration? This is perhaps the most important part of inspiration but as a question is perhaps the easiest part to answer. It is quite simply your goal. What is it that you want to achieve, be or do?
There are many different things we want to be or do in life and our inspiration to do each of them differs.
What is certain is that inspiration is an important part of our lives. It is that part of us that makes us get up every day and go to work at the job we don't necessarily enjoy so we can save the money to invest in ourselves to achieve what it is we want to achieve.
It is not though, the actual act of going to work to earn money to pay the bills. Let's not mistake it for that.
I leave you with the question, "What is your inspiration and why?"
Thanks for reading. I hope this gives you food for thought and I welcome any feedback as always.
Raymond Feist is, in my opinion, one of the best authors in the Fantasy genre today. Since I was twelve years old and first read Magician, I have been spellbound by the world of Midkemia, the characters, and stories which Raymond Feist has shared with lovers of the Fantasy genre the world over.
I am thus truly honoured to have been able to connect with Raymond and ask him some questions relating to "Magician", the book which started it all for him, life as an author in general and interests outside of writing.
I trust that you will find this interview as enjoyable as I have.
Hi Raymond. It is a pleasure and an honour to be able to interview one of the world’s leading authors in the Fantasy genre.
The world of “Midkemia” in “Magician” was originally developed by you and some friends after becoming bored with the “Dungeons and Dragons’ game. Was this game the inspiration for “Magician”? Was there any specific idea from the game that inspired you to write “Magician”?
Not specifically. I started fiddling with concepts that ended up for the most part in King's Buccaneer, but along the way my gaming partner, Steve Abrams, suggested, "Why don't you tell the story of how the Greater Magic came to Midkemia?" I asked, "Greater Magic?" and he gave me the rough backstory. As that was a "back in history" part of our game, I evolved quickly into what I describe as writing historical novels about a place that doesn't exist.
You have created some more games relevant to your work and some of your work has even been published as comic books too. Can fans expect “Magician” or other books to be made into a movie at some point?
One can hope. We've been talking to various film and TV people since the mid-1980s. I grew up in the film/TV business--my father was Felix E. Feist, screenwriter, producer, director--and so the lure of a bad deal just because it's "Hollywood," isn't there. I've made a couple of deals along the way, but as anyone in the business can attest, there's no surprise when a deal "goes into turnaround," i.e. dies. I've actually made money on films that were never made.
In your opinion, what was it about “Magician” that appealed to readers to the extent that it became as successful as it did?
My best guess is something my dad said to me when I was very young. "You've got to give your audience someone to root for." I drop Pug into a world of hurt before anyone knows just who he is, and after he's rescued the reader is already on his side. At first he's a charming kid. Throughout the series he matures and evolves and becomes this iron rigid icon of principle, but at his heart is always that charming kid. Other characters also suck readers in, so there is no one character who is everybody's favorite. I have fans of Pug, Tomas, Arutha, Carline, Amos, Briana, Erik, Roo, and everyone likes Jimmy and Nakor. I especially have a large passionate readership who adore Lady Mara of the Acoma. She's personally one of my all time favorites as she does astonishing things without magic or super powers.
You recently provided the history of the publishing process for “Magician” on FaceBook which was most interesting. What struck me was that you had an editor who seemed to be as passionate about “Magician” as you were and who provided a considerable amount of input to help make “Magician” the story that readers came to love. How did you meet the editor?
I met Adrian Zackheim several times. He's a terrific guy and was mostly a non-fiction editor. He was editing Mickey Mantle's biography at the same time he was editing Magician. He picked one novel a year to edit just to keep "fresh," he said, and in 1980, that novel was Magician, to my everlasting good fortune.
Did you have an agent who represented you initially to get “Magician” published?
Yes, the legendary Harold Matson, who founded the Harold Matson Company in 1927. He represented authors like Thorne Smith, Robert Chester Ruark, Max Schuleman, a couple of Presidents, Ray Bradbury, and many others. I was honored to be the last writer he signed to his agency. He left us in 1988 and his son Jonathan took over effortlessly. We lost Jonathan last week. My life was blessed by two brilliant men, one of whom became one of my best friends.
You co-authored the “Empire” trilogy with Janny Wurts which was about the other world in “Magician”. Can you share with us how your co-author relationship was defined? Were each of you responsible for writing certain characters, scenes or parts, and how was it all combined into the final books in the trilogy? Did you act as editors for each other as well?
Originally, I was going to write first draft and Janny was going to rewrite, so she could edit out stupid guy stuff with Mara. I wanted Mara to be a pretty normal 19 year old girl when the book started, and never having been one, I thought a female writer would be a good choice to collaborate. One of my best decisions. I wanted a character who grew in power, but only because she was trying to protect her loved once, not any personal ambition. I based the start of the book on the life of Alfred The Great, who was literally minutes away from taking holy orders when word came from his brother that he was dying and Alfred would be the next kind. Neither Alfred nor Mara wanted the job. In the end, without Janny coauthoring Mara, I doubt I could have written Miranda, Sandreena, or my new character, Hava. Anyway, when we neared Mara's wedding, Janny said, "Let me do the first draft; I have some ideas!" After that we jumped leapfrog over each other, swapped pages, and did this and that. There are entire sequences that Janny wrote and maybe I cut a word or changed a semi-colon into a period. There are things that I wrote that have Janny's eyetracks on them. But there are huge sections of all three books I can not tell you who wrote what. Janny is not day at the beach to worth with; she was fierce in her work-ethic and challenging me. I'd want to knock off at 5 and she'd say, "Hey, we still have work to do!" We battled at times, but every time we did, our compromises turned out to be better than what either of us wanted.
Was Janny Wurts already an established Fantasy author at the time that you collaborated? What qualities did you see in Janny’s writing that made you want to co-author a book or series with her?
Janny was starting out like I was, and I had read her first book Stormwarden. We have very different approaches to storytelling, but I really liked how she handled her characters. She got the same results with a completely different approach. At the end we said, "There's a 'Feist voice,' and a 'Wurts voice," and a "Feist-Wurts voice.' All three are different."
In your opinion, how should a co-author relationship be structured in order to derive maximum benefit and achieve the intended end result successfully?
I had help from Larry Niven who said one thing: there must be a boss. As it was my universe, I was the boss. See above about compromise. I may have put my foot down and said, "We're doing this this way," but if I did I can't remember. But I was still the boss in case we needed to break the tie. Other than that, as I've worked with three other writers, each collaboration is unique. Every writer works in a slightly different fashion.
For new authors, getting published can be difficult. Can you briefly share the history of your publishing journey with us? Was there anything you did during your journey to becoming a published author which, in your opinion, was the tipping point between being published or not?
Not really. Life teaches you a lot about how to tell a story. Other than that, my publishing history is pretty unique. I dashed off a few silly short stories, but the first thing I wrote seriously to attempt to get published was Magician.
What advice do you have for authors who are seeking traditional publishers? Should they have their manuscripts professionally edited before submitting them? Should they have a cover designed before submitting their work?
I really have no advice. I'm a dinosaur when it comes to the business. When Magician debuted in 1982, 36% of my retail sales were through independent bookstores and Amazon did not exist. Online publishing did not exist. The only advice that still might apply is find a really good agent if possible, but remember no agent is better than a bad one.
As a successful author, what does a typical work day comprise of for you? How much time do you set aside every day for writing?
Mostly I'm a morning writer. I roll out of bed as early as 4:30-5, or sometimes as late as 8:30-9, more often the former. But as soon as I'm up and ready for the morning, the pot of coffee goes on. I check emails to see if there's anything time sensitive, read headlines, and then get my coffee. Then it's work until I feel the need to stop, read Facebook or more email or play a little WarCraft if either of my kids is online, until guilt sets in and I return to work. I learned years ago that if I get up and leave the computer it's 50/50 I won't be back the rest of the day.
You previously mentioned to me that you do not read when you are writing? Can you share with us why you have this policy?
There are two reasons, one of which is habit; other writer's voices can creep in when you're reading and writing, at least for me, so for years I didn't read other people's fantasy unless it was between books. I read mostly history, politics, and biography. Now it's also an age thing. At the end of the work day my eyes are tired. My body is tired. Heck, even my hair is tired, so i'll just make a drink, turn on the news and start yelling at the TV. Or if It's not news, I'll watch films, sports, or some TV shows I like, or because people I know are working on them.
What inspires you and stimulates your imagination when writing? Does your “writing cave” have an ambience which stimulates creativity? Do you believe that an author’s environment affects their creativity?
Habit. It's hard work, but it's the best job I've ever had. As for as imagination, I have book ideas that will never get written from 40 years ago, so ideas are never a problem. As for environment, it's different for every write. Janny managed to work in a tiny environment, 30 years ago. She had a bed that converted to a couch during the day, a desk, and an easel (pro painter as well, you know) and a separate kitchen (I slept on a roll out futon under the kitchen table when I would visit her to work). But all very orderly. Everything in its place. My office is bigger than her tiny apartment back in the day and probably twice as cluttered. I stack stuff ("I'll get around to sorting this out later") sometimes to the point of having to step over stuff. I have written on airplanes, in the back of cars, on trains, in buses. I can work pretty much anywhere that doesn't require ear protectors.
Which authors would you say have influenced you and your writing?
All of them. From Shakespeare on. If it was a good writer, I sucked down influence, even if I didn't think I was. I loved the historical novelists like Thomas Costaine, Mary Renault, Samuel Schellenbarger, etc. "Boys Adventure" books, like Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Howard Pyle, etc. Read that stuff into my early teens, then discovered science fiction. Got to fantasy in college.
Your website mentions that you are working on a new trilogy called “Firemane” which is set in a world other than Midkemia. Can you share some information with fans and readers about the story as yet? Very different world, cultures, politics. It's a different flavor, I hope, but some elements should be familiar. Young characters tossed into the fray of life. One the bastard son of a noble with no hint of his heritage, the other the hidden son of a murdered King and his two companions, the girl he loves and his best friend, all of whom have been raised to be killers. Tough bunch to love, but I'm trying.
You have attended author events in South America and South Africa. Is there a reason why you chose to attend events in these locations? Do you attend events in the US and Canada as well? Approximately how many events do you attend every year?
I go where they send me. Authors do not pick where they go, for the most part. A few attend festivals in places like India, Singapore, and other places just because they love to visit and they can write it off as a business expense. And some are also "fans," and regularly attend conventions. I go where my publishers request me. HarperCollins, my English language publisher arranges the US, UK, and the "export" countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa (I'm still waiting for them to send me to Bermuda or the Virgin Islands) and my Portuguese publisher sent me to a festival in Rio. I also get invited to conferences, like Singapore and La Jolla, and I drive myself down to the San Diego ComiCon pretty much every year. How many varies from 1 (SDCC) to maybe a half-dozen, depending on what my publishers want from me.
Many authors seem to change publishers during the course of their careers. Why is this? Is it a case of choosing the publisher who is best suited to publish and represent a book at the time or does the author’s agent have an influence in this aspect?
There is no one size fits all answer. In general a writer may follow an editor from one house to another, may leave for a better deal--sometimes the people who make you a star don't see you as a star--or any other number of possibilities. I've been with HarperCollins in the UK since they were Granada, back in 1982 and through leaving Bantam to follow my original editor, Adrian Zackheim to Morrow/Avon, then mergers and suddenly I'm with HarperCollins on both sides of the Atlantic.
Many may consider an author’s life to be quite sedentary considering the amount of writing they do, unless they stand and type :) What activities do you do in order to maintain your levels of fitness?
I try to do enough sets of exercises I can do in the privacy of my home to keep things from freezing, popping, falling off, etc. I do that because at my age I look silly in jogging clothes running from the neighborhood dog.
You mentioned to me that you are an aficionado of whisky. Which is your favourite brand? What other interests do you have aside from writing?
Glenffich is my go-to brand, but I have a bunch of others I like. I've pretty much tried every distillery in Scotland over the last 20 years (not every whisky, as they have some rare and expensive beasties they sell. I'll not be paying $5,000 per bottle for anything unless I win the Lotto first). Other interests are hanging with my kids, my friends, occasionally spending time with women far too young for me (hey, I can still look, right?), love movies, and love ice hockey, football from every code My UK side is Wolverhampton, Rugby is Osprey in the Guinness Pro12 and Dragons in the NRL, Lions (used to be Fitzroy but now it's Brisbane) in ALF, and until they moved to L.A. last week the Chargers in the NFL. I have seen every code live at least once.
Thank you for your time and agreeing to be interviewed. I am sure fans and readers will enjoy reading this interview!
You're more than welcome.
Raymond E. Feist’s Bio:
Raymond E. Feist (full name Raymond Elias Feist, though also known as Ray Feist), is a Southern Californian by birth and a San Diegan by choice. He was educated at the University of California, San Diego, where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts with Honors in 1977.
Hi there David. It’s an honour to be able to interview you for my blog. Francois, the honour is all mine, it is a real pleasure to be chatting here with one of my favourite Children’s Authors :)
Congratulations on winning the Readers Favorite Award 2016 for Inspirational Poetry Books for your book “Life, Sex and Death – A Poetry Collection (Vol. 1)”. I hope readers of the interview will have a new perspective on poetry and writing from this interview. I hope so too. Poetry is a magical thing to me, whether it consists of stark phrases of brevity or lush volumes of flowery prose, I try to keep my interests as broad as possible to appreciate how people write their poetry. To me, it is an incredibly intimate process when crafting a poem and I feel privileged to know what the process is like myself. I can empathise with what people are going through when they are concocting the verses layer by layer in their pieces. Poetry is such a sensual way to deliver encouragement, hope, kindness, sincerity and emotional contact through the medium itself, it speaks clearly to the soul in all of us.
When did you first start writing poetry? Was there a specific event which you were first inspired to write about in poetry form or have you been passionate about writing poetry since first discovering it? I have always been obsessed with song lyrics, specifically because I admire how songwriters get them to fit into the music of their songs. My poetry evolved many years ago from writing lots of song lyrics in admiration of lyricists and finding that I had too many words to fit into popular musical structures. However, there was a rhythm and musicality to my phrases, which ultimately developed into the poetry that I am writing now. I’m extremely passionate about poetry and find myself falling in love with it over and over again every time I read something new or rediscover a classic piece from the legendary poets of the past.
Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from for your poems? Are you inspired by situations, images or life experience? I can pretty much get inspiration for a poem from all of the things that you mentioned above. Sometimes I can even write a phrase or line that comes to mind and then build the entire poem from the ground up around it. It is the same with stories, they can start from very humble beginnings, seeded from a prompt or phrase to then take on a life of their own. I have been to many charity shops/thrift stores and bought games with prompt cards on a variety of topics. I probably have enough inspirational material to last me for the next ten thousand years! I believe that you can train your creative mind to use whatever you can find as a source of creative inspiration and would encourage people to take clippings from magazines, purchase writing prompt books, search Google for royalty free images to spark visual creativity, go and listen to conversations in coffee shops/pubs or spend some time soaking up reference books at your local libraries. Historical research I find is particularly a massive boon for firing up the creative juices, as there is so much that we can learn from the past to then incorporate into forms that we find in modern day, to the point where we are producing both familiar and original content. I abhor clichés but there are only a finite number of ways to do things, so I am keen to focus on finding new and exciting ways to express myself through the vehicles and tools that we have at our disposal. We live in an information rich age and we should be taking advantage of this at every opportunity we possible can. I regularly take part in National Poetry Writing Month every April and have successfully written all the way through the month because I find the prompts incredibly inspiring. The odd time that I have been unable to use the prompts has always resulted in me seeking out an alternative and I’ve found that providing you are resourceful, you can always find something to write about. A friend of mine asked me if I ever write for myself in a diary/journal and to be honest I don’t. I just use situations that I have enjoyed or suffered from in my life as further fuel for inspiration too. To me nothing is off limits. I might not name anyone in particular but I will certainly try to use positive and negative circumstances I’ve encountered and synthesise them into either a positive or cathartic poetic experience for people to relate to.
What conditions help you to write? Do you find that you are inspired to write more under specific circumstances and locations than others? How often do you write and do you have a specific time of day which you find suits you best to write? I definitely would consider myself to be a night owl. I’ve tried working early in the morning and I can do it if I force myself but I much prefer putting on some music to listen to then working late into the night. From 11pm to 3am is my core productivity slot, I can get a lot done because it is quiet along with there being no distractions. I feel like once I am done, I can then reward myself with a good night’s sleep once I’m finished. I write pretty often (not nearly as much as I would like to in terms of number of words but still every single day). It is good to have that level of discipline in your life. However, I also balance my time between writing and promoting myself. I’m dead against writing loads but not attempting to promote it properly because if you have put the time and effort in, you should be proud of your work. It deserves an audience that will need to be hunted down and relentlessly chased to read it! With regard to a writing location, I work from my home office in the loft/roof of the house. It is cosy up there and very conducive for writing. It allows me to squirrel myself away from the world and to get on with the task in hand. I believe everyone needs to find their happy place to go create and be free of distractions. I don’t have children but if I did I would immediately start creating the moment they fall asleep.
Many people have a fundamental idea that poetry is about rhyming sentences. But it isn’t. There is much more to poetry than simply rhyming. What forms do you use and why? I think you are very right, pure rhyming in every line and verse tends to suit pop songs and nursery rhymes. I tend to work on the sound of words and the flow of them. I’m hugely influenced by singer Mike Patton from Faith No More. There is some rhyming in my poetry but I am often fond of rhyming words that aren’t commonly paired together. I’m experimenting with a huge amount of forms when I write, especially when I am in the throes of National Poetry Writing Month! With regard to my own personal form favourites, I tend to favour alliteration as one of my main poetic weapons of choice. I’ve also been told that I write very funny haikus (Japanese poems of 5/7/5 syllable structure – they tend to lend themselves very well to editing and punchlines because of the small space you are working with, you are forced to get the message across in a very precise way) and I enjoy crafting lunes (another alternative haiku form that can use either words or syllable count but with a different counting pattern). I also tend to write a lot of sonnets, rhyming couplets (alternate rhyming schemes are a lot of fun), poetic duets (I’ve written many fabulous duets with other incredible poets) and prose poems that tell a story more than anything. If you challenge me to write it then I will give it my best shot!
What was the inspiration to write “Life, Sex and Death – A Poetry Collection (Vol. 1)”? I was inspired to create the volume Life, Sex & Death because after three years I had written a fair amount of poetry. I actually made a music album way before I started writing poetry called “Life, Sex & Death” that was never commercially released. I came up with the name by taking my name (Ellis D/LSD) and then transforming that into a three part story structure for our time here on this earth. It is meant to represent life (birth), death (take a wild guess) and as for the sex part, well that is everything in the middle! Put simply, we are born, we love and then we die. The fun part is what happens in the middle of this epic sandwich. After I began collecting my poems together, I was very enlightened to discover that on reflection the dominant themes that I use for my poetry are grounded in the realms of Inspirational, Philosophical and Love/Romance (sometimes all three crop up within the context of a single poem). From that point onwards, I was then able to divide them up into these categories and as a result, I had a poetry book that had clearly defined themes, which helps no end when it comes to promoting it alongside similar books!
Why is poetry important as a form of literature and why, in your opinion, do some authors prefer to write poetry as opposed to stories and novels? Poetry to me is extremely important because it can convey messages and movement in a few sentences what it can take an entire short story or even a whole novel to express. I don’t like to compare all writing mediums directly with each other because I have huge love of both short stories and novels as literary vehicles. What I would say is that in this frantic world we live in where time is of the essence, I can write poetry far faster than the time commitment I would have to invest into short stories and novels. From this perspective, I can totally understand why authors who have limited time to write would favour the art of poetry. However, given the luxury of time and the opportunity to fill that time, I would gladly embrace working on bigger projects such as novels. To someone like me I feel like poetry comes naturally and it will always be my number one choice when it comes to writing pieces. I’m sure there are many other poets who feel strongly the same way.
In your experience, what opportunities or channels are available to authors and poets to build their platform and gain recognition? What do you believe are the factors which have contributed to your success as an author and poet? I would encourage every writer to start a website/blog. There are so many tools that allow you to do this for free. The blogging community is very warm and welcoming, along with extremely encouraging. I believe in writers making friends with other writers, as I feel the best ones are the ones that are keen to promote the work of others, which I try to tirelessly do wherever possible. I would encourage you to submit to competitions and award contests often but only after you have honed your craft and impressed many people, along with becoming comfortable with heavily editing your work or having it edited professionally by editors. I started out in the blogging world admiring many people (who I obviously still do until this very day) and I never stopped aspiring to reach their level of commitment, professionalism and writing ability to enthral their communities. I kept writing in a focused way regularly too, to the point where I believe I have become someone also to be admired in the blogging world. This is important to me, as I am excited to be a source of inspiration for other writers and authors. To me this how I pay it forward being a writer, by giving back to the very writing community that helped me become the writer that I am today.
Do you write full time or do you have another career as well? What do you do in your free time when you are not writing? I used to be a Financial Software salesman, my career up until now has mostly centred around the Financial Services industry, having worked in it for over fifteen years. The work was well paid but I was made redundant recently (the third time in my life) and it has made me re-evaluate what is important in my life. Writing as a career is not particularly well paid and often necessitates a need to find some other regular paying work to allow you the freedom to write and create. I have never been concerned with chasing material wealth and am more passionate than ever about ensuring that my writing is my primary focus, whatever life throws at me from now on! In my free time (there is not a lot of it but I try to allocate some every so often, in order to remain sane), I tend to read, play video games and watch a lot of film/television. I’m really excited where TV shows are going right now and am becoming more fond of it than films because you can spend many more hours enjoying the characters, stories and action. Movies are fantastic but don’t tend to last long, whereas TV has a wonderful opportunity to go into much more detail and slowly reveal things in time rather than all at once in a film. Music is a big passion of mind too, right now I enjoy listening to retro/electronic music and indie rock.
You have authored two other books, “A Little Bit Of What You Fancy” which is a collection of flash fiction and short stories, and “A Blend of Tea Break Tales” which is also a collection of short stories. Can you tell us a bit more about these two books? “A Little Bit of What You Fancy” is a collection of short stories that I have personally authored. Most of them are humorous, with the odd horror story or sad tale thrown into the mix. About half of the material is flash fiction and the other half of the book are longer short stories that were previously printed in Kindle Anthologies and local newspapers. I enjoy the medium because you have to be focused with where the story is going, since the word count is limited. Every sentence has to be heavily edited and pared to the bone. It is another writing discipline that I enjoy very much, along with being one that keeps your writing both tight and focused. “A Blend of Tea Break Tales” is also a collection of short stories from a band of authors that belong to my local Writers’ Circle. I donated one of my stories (which crops up in “A Little Bit of What You Fancy”) for the collection and I collated all of the stories from the authors. There is a lot of diversity in the tales of this particular book, they are mostly all contemporary modern day fables laced with humour, romance and poignancy, with a couple of historical pieces also thrown into the mix.
You are donating all the proceeds from “A Blend of Tea Break Tales” to children’s literacy programs locally and internationally. What inspired your decision to support children’s literacy programs? How can we as parents and teachers encourage literacy in children? This was a joint decision from all of the authors who participated in the collection. Rather than deal with the nightmare of trying to pay out separate royalties to all of the authors, we thought of the very endearing idea to donate all profits to support children’s literacy programs. All of the people that I have associated with are extremely generous, this is their way of giving to something that is of massive benefit to us all in the long run, for if we encourage our children to read well then they will be better educated and better off all round because of this. As parents and teachers, I would advocate in making reading as fun as possible for children and try to encourage them to pick up a book instead of mindless internet surfing or playing of handheld videogames. Don’t get me wrong, I would never want to deny children the chance to play with such devices but perhaps they should earn their time on them by reading first!
Do you have a specific readership that you would like to reach with your writing or do you let inspiration guide you and identify the readership later? I think I’m very much a fan of the latter. Like all writers I would like everyone to enjoy what I put out there but am fully aware that this is not the case. However, I am lucky in that I do manage to appeal to a broad range of people who tend to ‘get me’ and therefore I am much in favour of letting inspiration lead the piece for it to then find an enthusiastic audience.
Much has been said about traditional publishing vs self-publishing? What are your thoughts on the matter? I would always champion going after the traditional publishing deal in the first instance. This might sound funny coming from somebody who has previously self-published but I am a strong believer in both publishing mediums/platforms for different reasons. I do believe however that traditional publishing has access to better marketing resources and why I would court them from the word go. My biggest beef with the traditional publishing model is that there are always going to be a finite number of slots available that everyone is fighting for and it seems completely reasonable to want to self-publish, in order to avoid having extremely long waiting periods when you don’t even know if your work will be accepted. I began self-publishing out of necessity (because my poems were previously published and the traditional publishing route was not available to me) and an incredible amount of hard work needs to be done to get yourself noticed when you self-publish. I remember something Chuck Wendig said (he is an incredibly inspiring author who writes useful advice by the bucketloads) and his take on the matter is to try at least half a dozen publishers in the first instance and if they reject you to then consider the self-publishing route. I think that you get more control in the self-publishing world, so you have to take on the responsibility when it comes to presenting your work in the best light possible. I personally would have no problem relinquishing control of the marketing/cover design/formatting/etc of my own manuscript if I was accepted by a traditional publisher/small press, provided of course that a good enough job is being done and my vision is not altered significantly from what was first submitted. If you prefer the level of control and freedom that you gain from self-publishing then I say embrace it wholeheartedly, especially if your concept is unique and does not immediately scream out for a traditional publishing deal. Traditional publishers will find you further down the line if you make a decent enough impression in your self-published sales and maintain a level of professionalism to catch their attention.
What projects are you working on or planning next? I have several things in mind right now. I really want to start a futuristic comedy detective novel that I have toyed around the concept with for the last few years. I also have a sequel planned for Life, Sex & Death, along with another different poetry book filled with poems directly inspired by pictures drawn by my father Arthur Ellis, who is a blind artist. I’m at a crossroads point too when it comes to wanting to make another music album that I will produce on a professional basis. Having received the accolades for my poetry has made me want to embrace the opportunities to try other creative endeavours/outlets. I also plan to write a book/videogame (with interactive choices to alter the story) and my passion for films/television means that this will be another area I will explore in the near future. I want to embrace all aspects of writing in the fullness of time!
You have some resources listed on your website to help authors with various aspects of writing which is great. I will be looking at some of the resources listed, thank you very much. From your personal experience and journey to becoming an Award Winning Poet and Author, what advice would you like to offer authors regarding writing and getting published? Always try to finish what you start. It seems obvious but I do find that the best way to get through something is to remind yourself constantly about how much you have already done/achieved and how much more you could achieve with just a few more steps and to push through to get to that point. And then once you are there to forget what you just did and try to do it all again. Before you know it you will have gone further than you possibly could have imagined! I would encourage all writers to ignore negativity when it comes to people who tell you not to be a writer, to view criticism only as something to listen to if what the person says makes sense (and you can tell that they ‘get’ your work) and that their views are echoed by other similar like-minded people. You don’t have to change your vision to suit the opinion of another individual but you can certainly use their information to enhance your writing or take what is useful from the criticism and simply ignore the rest. With regard to getting yourself published, I would say get your work professionally edited, the benefits will be immense and the cost will be worth it a thousand times over. Don’t be afraid to query agents (in the first instance) and publishers regarding your work if you have a finished manuscript and you have had it professionally edited. If your concept of a novel is too radical and rejected by publishers then consider self-publishing but only after you have tried a few traditional publishers that you have researched and who publish the types of genre that your book sits in. If you do choose to go down the self-publishing route then make sure your book gets formatted properly and shell out for a beautiful cover, these things are crucial if you want to avoid the stigma that self-publishing gets mainly due to sloppy workmanship that can be fixed with a bit of effort. Finally, if you do choose to self-publish then get your book reviewed by publications that focus on self-published works (unfortunately most of the publications that offer this service will charge a fee for a honest review but again if you are selling a fiction book it will be worth it). Editorial reviews are extremely important to put in your book descriptions, along with getting reviews from your readers too. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get people to review your book and the more honest they are about it (even if they only write a couple of lines), the better it will be when it comes to making your books visible to new readers. Oh and do as many interviews as possible with people like you and myself Francois ;)
Thank you again for taking the time to be interviewed by me. I have enjoyed this opportunity immensely and hope that readers will too! I have thoroughly enjoyed this interview Francois – I wish you every success with your writing too and I look forward to your readers appreciating your work further :)
Bio: David Ellis is an award winning author of poetry, fiction and music lyrics. He conducts author interviews on his website for any author that has published at least one book in any fictional genre.
He lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent in the UK.
David is extremely fond of cats and dogs but not snakes.
Indiana Jones is his spirit animal.
Visit his website to arrange an author interview. along with finding creativity tips, techniques and guides for artists and writers at www.toofulltowrite.com
I am honoured to announce that this week's post is by guest author, Karen Ingalls.
Karen is the author of three books, two of which have won awards.
Her first book, Outshine is about cancer (ovarian specifically) and was written to provide hope and inspiration. It is the winner of the Indie Excellence Book Award.
Novy’s Son is her first novel about a son searching for his father’s love and respect. Unfortunately he used anti-social behaviors of lying and cheating to get his father’s attention.
Karen's second novel, Davida: Model & Mistress is based on the true story of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and his love affair with his model. This book won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award.
Karen is also a retired nurse and has a master’s degree in human development. She has two blogs, is a member of Rave Reviews Book Club and Rave Writers International Society of Authors, and does public speaking.
Karen is giving away one of her books to a lucky reader who leaves a comment for this blog post. The lucky reader can choose which of Karen's books they would like to receive.
Karen has written a very interesting piece which will appeal to the author in all of us and hopefully help us to get a move on writing our first or next book!
WHERE, WHEN, & HOW by Karen Ingalls
I ask the question: where, when, and how do you write? It is interesting to read the different answers from well-known and new authors. The answers to these questions may inspire or have you re-think or say, “I am satisfied and happy with my answers to those questions.
Many of these places provide opportunities to observe people’s behaviors, the way they are dressed or interact with others, and to listen to their conversations. Other places, such as Grandma’s house can give you stories.
For me, I often go to the coffee shop, especially when I need to concentrate. I am away from home distracted by chores I should or could be doing. There I have my favorite chai latte, people watch to some degree, and enjoy the ambience of no music or television.
My biggest challenge is either finding or taking the time to write. Sometimes in the early morning hours, I creep out of bed attempting to not disturb my husband, and that is often a quality time to write. When activity in the house is quiet and doesn’t involve me, I am at the computer writing. Otherwise I must schedule myself for an outing to the coffee shop and just say to myself, “It is more important that I write than do laundry, shopping, cooking, or whatever.”
Author Haruki Murakmi states, “When I am in a writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours.”
Ernest Heminway is similar when he shared in an interview with George Plimpton, “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible.”
“I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast, work until 10:00….” This is from a letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to his wife in 1965.
In contrast to most writers, Maya Angelou said, “I keep a hotel room in my hometown and pay for it be the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath.” http://jamesclear.com/daily-routines-writers
Tied in closely to the when is how we each of us writes. I always have an outline, but not detailed, a list of characters, and a timeline. I write in Word finding it easier that using Scrivner. Then, I let my fingers go and not let my mind become cluttered with punctuation, spelling, or grammar. That comes after the first draft is done. If there are references I am using, I mention them immediately just as I have done here for this blog.
"Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear)." — Diana Athill
Quentin Tarantino “writes screenplays by hand. He buys a notebook and a bunch of red and black felt pens.”
The long and short of it is that there are many ways to write. The important thing is that the writer does it in a way that feels right for him or her. Writing is a beautiful and enjoyable part of my life. The where, when, and how I write is my own individual way. Explore what is best for you.
I wish to say a big Thank You to Karen for writing her article for my blog post this week. I am truly honoured to have Karen participate in my blog.
Karen's Books (Click on the cover image for more information about each book on Amazon)
So often we hear about literacy and literacy programs. I don't know if I have it all wrong but when I hear people speak of literacy I generally think of our children being able to read and write.
Is that as far as it really goes? I don't think so. Literacy explores to every aspect and facet of our lives. Sure reading, writing and counting are fundamental but there is a lot more.
We live in a world today where change is a given. Everything is changing. All the time. We hear talk of bees dying by the thousands. We hear talk of global warming and climate change almost daily. Technology is changing so fast we could be technological dinosaurs by the time we are thirty if we don't make an effort to stay technologically literate.
The word "entrepreneur" and all it's derivatives is now heard almost daily too. Millions of people have given up working for a boss and are becoming entrepreneurs because they want to make a difference and they can't do it as employees. But for all of this, what is there for our children that educates them in these areas?
- Do they learn about global warming now and endangered species in school? (Ecological literacy) - Do they learn about health as in depth as they should? (Health literacy) - Do they learn how to start and run their own business? (Business literacy) - Do they learn about technology other than watching movies and playing games on smart phones and tablets? (technological literacy). This is a pet subject for so many of us and would even cross over into Social literacy where children learn to interact with others and manage relationships - Do they learn how to manage their money and investments? (Financial literacy?) - Do they learn how to make a difference? (Charitable literacy)
We can't expect schools to teach children about all of these aspects to the extent that they would become experts, but if we gave them the required basic literacy they needed in these and other areas I have not even mentioned I have no doubt that they would leave school much better prepared for their adult lives and with a much better understanding of the goals and purpose of their lives.
Many of the aspects I have mentioned are addressed to some extent by existing curriculums, but are not referred to as a form of "literacy". This is fine. Its not about semantics. I do not believe that the depth of material covered is anywhere near sufficient to have a lasting effect on children for the course of their school career and life after school.
I recently read that Elon Musk has started a new school and his children are being taught at this school along with children of other employees at Space X. In an interview, Elon Musk stated that we should be teaching our children to take things apart as opposed to putting them together. This way they can gain a better understanding of how something has been put together but also at the same time they can find ways of doing it better. After all, doesn't improvement come from doing something which has already been done, better?
For the most part, driving this change right now is up to us as parents but perhaps we should be joining together to build better curriculums faster.
I also read an article recently which asked the question about how we as parents can prepare our children for jobs which do not exist yet but which will exist when our children graduate. That along with changing the curriculums are fundamental to building educational value which will truly ensure our children are prepared for the future as best as possible.
Some time ago we took our daughters to "Taman Safari" in Indonesia. "Taman Safari" means "Safari Park" in Indonesian. It's is an animal conservation centre and it's a really great experience as the animals are in enclosures, not cages, and people drive through the reserve to see the animals. Some antelope and zebra roam freely and you can feed them carrots from your car window and get some really great photos of the animals.
When we arrived at the enclosure for the giraffes and we watched them for a while, I noticed what an extraordinarily long tongue the giraffe has. I did not research it at the time but it became an instrumental part in the story of "Abbit gets Stuck", the second book in my "Junglies" series of children's books.
Recently I revisited my observation of giraffes having such long tongues and decided to research the reason why. I found some interesting information which is great for children to learn too.
1. Giraffes tongues are usually 18 - 20 inches long. That's not as long as their necks but it's still loooooooooonnnggggg!
2. Giraffes favorite food is Acacia leaves. Acacia trees have very long, sharp thorns and the giraffes tongue helps to reach the tastiest leaves which are often at the highest point of an Acacia tree. Giraffes enjoyment of Acacia leaves also makes it easier for them to get food in some ways since the majority of other animals cannot reach as high as giraffes to get leaves from a tree.
3. Giraffes tongues have a thick, tough layer which helps to protect it from being cut on the thorns of acacia trees. Being cut by the thorns is however not impossible and, in order to help when it's tongue does get cut by thorns, the giraffes saliva has antiseptic properties to help it heal.
4. Acacia leaves have a high moisture content and if if giraffes eat about 150kg of acacia leaves every day, they can go for days without drinking water. When giraffes drink from a river or lake they have to spread their legs wide and lower their heads to the ground which leaves them vulnerable to predators. Eating large amounts of acacia leaves thus helps giraffes to not have to endanger themselves so often in the act of drinking water.
5. Giraffes tongues are usually dark black, blue or purple in color. It is believed that the coloring helps to prevent sunburn of the giraffes tongue since it spends so much time every day eating leaves. Who would have imagined?!
The facts I learned by researching the giraffes tongue have been an education for me even at my age. Just goes to show - We never stop learning!
I hope you will share these facts with your children as I certainly never learned them in school myself. There is of course one other use for a giraffe's tongue and you can find it in "Abbit gets Stuck"!
In closing I would like to thank http://wonderopolis.org as the source of these amazing facts I have been able to share with you. For more interesting facts about our world around us visit the site. Images are courtesy of www.i1-news.softpedia-static.com and www.quora.com.
I was thinking about my book "Tiger Loses His Stripes" over the last few days and I got to wondering if there really are tigers without stripes. So I decided to do a bit of research and would you believe it?
There really is at least one tiger without stripes!
A female tiger named Fareeda was born on Christmas day in 2009. She has no stripes other than those on her tail. To add to her beautiful peculiarity, Fareeda is a white tiger. She has two siblings who have the distinct tiger stripes and she is the first white Bengal tiger born in Africa.
Fareeda was hand reared at the Cango Wildlife Ranch near Cape Town in South Africa in a breeding program which is focused on keeping White Bengal tigers alive.
It is important to note that White Bengal tigers are not albino. They have distinctive blue eyes and were found in North India before they died out.
Staff at the Cango Wildlife ranch stated that it is important to educate people about tigers and the importance of keeping the breeding programs going and they hope that one day the tigers can be returned to their native habitat to breed and survive in the wild again.
Only a few hundred White Bengal tigers are alive in captivity around the world today.
Let us hope that the species can increase in numbers and eventually be given a peaceful and safe home in the wild.
Images and information sourced from www.telegraph.co.uk and www.dailymail.co.uk
Francois is passionate about creating lives and worlds within the pages of books that inspire and encourage others to achieve self fulfilment and strives to live his life as an example of someone who has done so themself.