Ad Astra, Day 1: Writing when you have a day job

Panelists: Marie Bilodeau; Karen Danylak; Ada Hoffman; Joel Sutherland

AH: Scheduling your writing is like another job in itself.

JS: Now that I have kids, I use my time more efficiently. I writer on my lunch hour at work.

KD: I’m in a similar situation, but I can’t write at work. I have to carve out time elsewhere. I can’t write every day either. How many of you manage to write every day?

JS: It’s not always a possibility.

AH: Some authors say that you must write everyday, but I find that advice can’t apply equally to everyone.

JS: I get depressed if I can’t, though.

AH: I think the advice might be meant to counteract the people who claim to be writers but never actually write.

JS: I commonly do what I can do. I ignore everyone else while I’m writing. I once attended a reading by a single mom with seven kids who wrote her first book on her bus commute. [Mel’s note: Joel later supplied the author’s name: Martine Leavitt.]

MB: You do what you have to, especially when your publisher has a contract for two books with six month deadlines. I did my research. I used to write in the morning. Life changed and now I write in the evenings. I do write every day. It may not be much, but I write something every day.

AH: If I’ve been away from writing for a couple of days, it takes a while for me to get back into it. I try to write every day and I find I miss it when I can’t.

KD: I beat myself up for a while. Ultimately, you have to be accountable for your choices.

MB: I burned out after Heirs of a Broken Land was complete. I couldn’t write for a while after.

JS: Full time writers often have a rich spouse or some other financial supports to rely on. A friend of mine got a $25,000 advance and I was jealous until I realized how far $25,000 goes.

AH: And what about health insurance?

KD: So the plan is to marry rich. Bose noise cancelling headphones really help me to focus. I put them on while my three kids are in gymnastics. Yes I’m that person. You have to learn to write anywhere. Don’t let Mom Guilt get you. That’s the worst. I have to leave the house sometimes, or before you know it, I’m doing laundry. I made up a Tuesday night course so I could get out of the house and write.

AH: I set myself a goal. I have to write so many words before I get to do the laundry.

MB: Writing in the evenings is more difficult than writing in the morning.

KD: “Who dropped you on your head and broke your ‘NO’ button?” You have to learn to say no.

JS: It helps if you don’t have friends.

KD: What’s your Kyrptonite (outside the day job)?

MB: Zombie novels. Netflix. Anything shiny. I write by candlelight so I don’t get distracted.

AH: I’m in a long distance relationship. When my boyfriend comes over nothing gets done.

JS: Relationships. Kids, I love reality TV.

KD: Sometimes I binge-watch something, but I have given up TV in general.

MB: What about binge writing? I’ve written for three days straight before. You get ridiculous word counts. I go to a convent, a silent retreat. They provide you with meals but otherwise leave you alone. I talk to Giant Jesus. And one time, one of the nuns scratched my ass.

KD: Sometimes I binge write, like when I’m away a cons. I’d recommend Sherry Peters, author and coach. She has an ebook: Silencing your inner saboteur. Stay off social media.

[Mel’s note: After the session, I approached Marie, whom I’d met years earlier when she came to Sudbury. We reconnected and she said the nicest thing, that she was fascinated by my journey (!) Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet up with her again before the convention was over. Online stalkage begins!]

Sundog Snippets: Renny DeGroot launches Family Business in Sudbury

Renny reading

Renny reading from Family Business

After the Tweet chat and HVC, I shot downtown to catch what I could of Renny’s book launch for her novel Family Business at the Fromagerie Elgin.

I managed to be in time for her reading and to purchase a book and get it signed.

Renny signing a book for a fan

Renny signing a book for a fan

The afternoon also included performances by one of the tenors Renny manages, and a classically trained pianist.

Music feeds the writerly soul.

Artisan cheeses, fruit, and baguettes were provided.

Though smaller than her Toronto launch, the afternoon met Renny’s expectations and generated additional publicity for her novel.

You should really check it out.

 

 

 

 

Here’s what Amazon says:

Family Business

Family Business

Set in the Netherlands against the backdrop of the Great Depression and through World War II, Family Business follows the story of Agatha Meijer and her sons, André and Johan, as they build their textile business, a business Agatha is determined her sons will carry on, regardless of their own desires. Family tension comes to a head when the boys each take a stand, sending all their lives spinning in directions none of them would have ever anticipated, and making each of them question the true meaning of loyalty, love, and freedom.

 

Sundog Snippets: Workshop with Roz Morris, part the first

Yesterday was a busy day.

First up, I had a Tweet chat, followed by a Google Plus hangout video call (HVC), with Roz Morris, Lori Sailiata, and Amy Pabalan for @M2the5th.

This was the first in what will be monthly workshops which will lead up to the release of Roz’s next Nail Your Novel.

Here is the Storify of the Twitter portion: https://storify.com/LaraBrittWrites/mto5-tweetchat-roz-morris-hel?awesm=sfy.co_jg2A

RozMorrisStorify

I’ll let the Storify speak for itself.

We did adjourn to Google Plus, but were unable to lure more than our core into the video chat. This was not recorded, because we want to invite newer users into a friendly, non-threatening space :)

For those of you who may not know, an HVC is much like Skype, or Facetime, if you’ve used either service. All you need to participate is a video camera, microphone, and a Google Plus account.

Many manufacturers now produce video camera and microphone in one, specifically for this kind of situation.

I have a Microsoft unit, and it’s worked swimmingly so far *looks for wood upon which to knock*.

The next events will be set up for the first Saturday of the month, the next one being May 3, 2014. The time has to be early enough for Roz in the UK, and late enough for Lori in Hawaii. So we’ve set it for 6 am HST, noon ESDT, and 5 pm BST.

It’s difficult to set a good time for everyone with a 12 hour time difference and daylight savings time complications.

We’re just happy that Roz has agreed to continue her involvement. She’s a busy author/entrepreneur, but, as you may be able to tell, so generous with her time and talents.

To stay in the know, please join us on the @M2the5th Google Plus community (linked above).

Please join us for the next @M2the5th Tweet chat and HVC. I’ll probably post something to get the newly initiated started with HVCs later this month. Yes, more writer tech commeth :)

Ad Astra Day 1: Myth-information in modern fantasy

Friday night session: Myth-information in modern fantasy.

Panel: Marie Bilodeau; Chadwick Ginther; Jen Frankel; Stephen B. Pearl; Katrina Guy

How do authors incorporate traditional lore and myths into their modern-day fantasy settings? Is it possible to make a witch burning pertinent in the twenty-first century? Discuss these, and other inflammatory questions, in this panel.

Sadly, I entered this session a bit late because of my travel turnarounds and check-in delays (and the fact that my room was possibly the furthest removed from the convention centre it could have been :P).

But here’s what I caught:

CG: Manitoba is the province in which there have been the most reported sasquatch sightings.

JF: Native legends are such a rich source of material. The Six Nations Reserve. Hoodoos.

SBP: In Europe and specifically the British Isles, the legends are equally rich. Take the stories of the Bogart.

MB: Why do we, as writers, depend so heavily on mythology? Are we lazy?

SBP: We’re tapping into something universal. Joseph Campbell was a smart man. Think what you will, but look at Robert Jordan’s work, particularly Dragon Reborn. The protagonist is comprised of bits and pieces of multiple mythologies, including Christianity and modern (Superman).

KG: In Simcoe County, there is this swamp which is reported to be haunted. The story goes that a monstrous baby was abandoned there. His spirit now haunts the swamp.

SBP: From the European tradition again, the trope of the unbaptised child recurs. In one instance, the person he haunts names him “Billy Bones,” and it turns out that was all he wanted: a name. Once he was named, his spirit became content and he disappeared.

JF: Where does urban legend cross the line into folktale? When does folktale become myth?

CG: In Winnipeg, there is the urban legend of “the hanging tree” out back of one of the courthouses. This was supposedly where the criminals were hung, but it’s really just a tree where an old tire swing was hung. The rope burn in the trunk was all it took for another, darker story to take hold in the imagination.

Q: There are real figures, such as the Black Donnelleys, that have become legend, tantamount to myth. What is it about these figures that attracts us? Is it the drama of their stories?

SBP: You have to be careful when you draw from myth or legend to stick to the principle, but make the situation suit the world of your novel. For example, I used a Japanese legend, rokurokubi, a demon which is a disembodied flying head. My work is paranormal, and I changed the flying head into the astral projection of a flying head, sent out to terrorize victims.

Q: What about the prevalence of mash-ups in Canadian horror and fantasy? For example, Jesuit priests and vampires?

MB: Myth informs our stories. My educational background is in religious and cultural studies.

SBP: To look at a modern interpretation of classical myth, look at The Almighty Johnsons.

CG: Also the current storyline in Thor comics.

JF: Drawing on myth is about the impact is has on us. For example, “everything comes in threes.” The supernatural tells us something deep about human nature. Mine those lessons for impact.

Q: Is it a challenge to be “boxed in” by mythology?

JF: The traditional, Voudoun zombie has been totally lost in the more modern “plague” zombie, or Romero’s zombies. Authors writing zombie stories now are somewhat constrained by what other authors have done with the trope.

MB: With fantasy, some people say it’s tame. It’s not a political genre. Science fiction is supposedly the avant garde genre, but if you dig down, it still draws on the same material.

CG: Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey is cannon, if sexist.

SBP: The foundational myths go back as far as Aristotle.

KG: Fairy tales aren’t just Disney. I’ve visited a church where they have plaques from their sister church, half-way around the world, and stones from an ancient basilica. These are talismans as much as they are artefacts. We’re in touch with the fantastic every day. We walk past it and fail to recognize it.

JF: We can look back to connect the dots. The historical record. Why is “such and such” considered true? The writer translates this. What makes your character who they are? What makes us (humans) what we are?

SBF: The gift of perspective. Does the rabbit think the fox is “evil”? Extend that into your story’s mythology: is Dracula “evil”?

Q: What do you think of the trend of rewriting the classics with modern horror tropes? For example, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

CG: It’s a fun premise, but at the moment, it’s overdone.

MB: Let’s each give examples of our favourite authors who use mythology to finish off.

KG: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and the Kane chronicles. Tanya Huff.

SBP: Jim Butcher. The Time Life Enchanted Worlds series of books.

JF: 30 Indian Legends; Grimm’s Fairytales; Arthurian Legend.

CG: Gaiman’s American Gods; The Eddas; Song of the Vikings.

MB: The storytelling tradition, in all its variations.

Ad Astra 2014: The journey there (back again comes later!)

It’s been a challenging week. Having thrown my back out last Sunday, I was bed-bound Monday, but there was work to be done and I decided to go into work Tuesday through Thursday, hobbling like Quasimodo. I’ve blogged those lessons separately.

All week, I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Ad Astra at all. But here I am, and I’m having a great time.

I had booked Friday off work so I could travel down. The opening sessions weren’t until 7 pm, so I figured that I wouldn’t have to leave until 1 or 2 pm to get here in time. I’d be able to have breakfast with Mom to make up for missing our standing date on Saturdays.

Friday morning, we had a power outage. It’s important that you know this. It has an impact. Later.

At noon, after breakfast and puzzling, I returned home and was going to call the car rental place to come pick me up, and pack while I waited. Unfortunately, I had to wait out some physical discomfort first.

I ended up calling them at 1 pm and was told that they’d be able to pick me up in a half an hour. I packed, as I had planned, and waited.

Turns out the driver went to the wrong residence (we have a couple of apartments up the hill and everyone goes there first).

So I finally got the car, signed the rental agreement, and got it home. It did not have heated seats as I’d hoped. My back would have appreciated a little heat for the drive.
The only things I had left to do were to check the weather for the weekend and to print out my Google maps route.

The problem was that the internet was out. I went into the basement and tried to reset the cable modem. I gave it the magic three tries, in fact, before I gave up. By this time, it was 2 pm and it was starting to rain.

Since the temperature was hovering around zero degrees, the rain was supposed to turn into freezing rain before long. I did not want to be driving in that.

So I called Mom and her internet was fine, so I packed the car, went over, and printed out what I needed. Unfortunately, her printer was out of colour ink and wouldn’t print the maps in grey scale. Plus, Google kept giving me instructions that included pulling several U-turns. A map wouldn’t help very much with that.

At 2:35, I was off, and it rained steadily all the way down.

I’d never actually been in this area of Toronto, well Richmond Hill, before, and so I just trusted that the U-turns were errors on Google’s part and tried to follow the directions otherwise.

Turns out that if a turn is greater than 90 degrees, Google calls it a U-turn. Still, I made the journey in four hours and found the hotel largely without incident

It took me about an hour to search fruitlessly for a parking space (there was also a medical conference, a tennis tournament, and at least one hockey tournament here), check in, finally find a parking spot (next to the bin), and make my way to the registration area.

nicebutsmall1The room here is small, and set a half-floor down, but it has a heated bathroom floor and really, for one person, it’s all I need. I’ve just been spoiled travelling for my employer where upgrades are de rigueur.

I basically dropped everything at the room and hobbled.

 

nicebutsmall2nicebutsmall3

Registration was easy and I got a lovely little package of gifts including a book, Flashpoint trading cards (I think – it could be a booster pack for a game), and some consuite drink vouchers.

By then, I’d missed the opening ceremonies and the walking tour of the facilities. I attended two panels that night, saw, but did not approach Robert J. Sawyer (he was often talking with someone and I didn’t want to intrude), reconnected with Marie Bilodeau, who gave me an awesome compliment, and then had a very late supper while I listened to Klingon karaoke.

Just to be clear, people were not singing karaoke in Klingon, that was just the name of the event.

When I got back to my room, I discovered the microwave did not work. Another point against my sore back as I’d have to do without a warm wheat bag for the night. I got that fixed up this morning.

I’m going to begin blogging the sessions I attended, but only on the weekends. I have to go back to work next week, so I will not be spending my writing time with further bloggage. I’ve had to pace myself because of the back, so I shouldn’t be blogging Ad Astra forever. Just a few weeks. Probably enough to see me through to the next conference ;)

So that’s how I got here.

More fun to come.

Mischief managed: The M2the5th Twitterview with Roz Morris, March 29, 2014

For my second Twitterview hosting experience, I got to quiz Roz Morris.

Squeeeeee!

For those of you who don’t know, Roz is the ghost writer for some 12 bestselling novels.
She is also an editor and book doctor (are the two the same? Read the Storify linked below to find out!), and in recent years she’s self-published two novels under her own name and the first two books in her Nail Your Novel series, all bestsellers. She also writes articles all over the internet, teaches writing and self-publishing classes … the woman is amazing.

And so gracious with her time! When we proposed the Twitterview as the culmination of a month-long Roz Morris spotlight on the M2the5th Google Plus community, little did we suspect how engaged Roz would be. Lori Sailiata, Amy Pabalan, and I may have shared her blogs, videos, and articles, but she commented on every one, and we had some interesting conversations.

If you visit her web site (linked above), you can find out all about Roz, her consultancy services, her books, and everything else.

You can also read the Storify of the Twitterview (put together by chief Tweet wrangler, Lori): https://storify.com/LaraBrittWrites/mto5-twitterview-roz-morris

#Mto5 Roz Morris Twitterview Storify

#Mto5 Roz Morris Twitterview Storify

Yesterday’s Twitterview was a great time. It’s really a matter of controlled chaos, or mischief managed, if you like the Harry Potter allusion.

Not only is Roz a great writer and writing coach, but she also, as Amy learned, owns a horse, which boosted Roz’s cool quotient in Amy’s eyes. And if that wasn’t enough, Roz attended circus classes and tried out everything from juggling to the trapeze.

New Twitter friend Mark was active throughout the hour-long session, but other participants, including Porter Anderson, retweeted and shared some of Roz’s gems during and after the Twitterview.

And that’s not all!

M2the5th (Mostly Multicultural, Mysteries, Memoir, and Myth) will be holding weekly Nail Your Novel Tweet chats followed by video hangout workshops on Saturdays throughout April (except for Easter weekend). Join the Google Plus community for more details as they emerge.

We want to keep the Roz-love going because her third Nail Your Novel will be coming out this spring!

Wheeeee!

Brian Henry workshop, Sudbury, March 22, 2014

Brian HenryThis afternoon, I attended my fifth Brian Henry workshop.

This one, the third held in Sudbury and hosted by the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, was on “How to make your stories dramatic.”

These workshops are Brian’s bread and butter, so without giving too much of the content away, here are my notes:

  • The scene is the basic building block of your story.
  • There are two kinds: the dialogue-based scene, and the action-based scene.
  • Every scene must have a plot-related point. It must answer the question, “so what?”
  • Push and pull. The push is the point of view (POV) character’s need. The pull is what the pursuit of the need leads to (promise, twist, decision, new threat, etc.).
  • Your characters must be interesting. They should be unique, have their own interests, passions, a quirk, backstory (dole it out gradually). If two characters are similar, shoot one.
  • Readers, sadly, do not remember names.
  • Your protagonist should be a good “tour guide.”
  • Every character has her or his own agenda (the scene’s push). It’s better if they are at odds with one another.
  • Pick your scenes carefully. Show the important stuff. Tell the rest.
  • Don’t get to the point too quickly.
  • Scene = hook, hook, and hook.
  • Ford Madox Ford, “No speech of a character should reply directly to another character.”
  • Dialogue shouldn’t be smooth.
  • An action scene consists of set up, action, and wind down.
  • Set up = setting, background, tone, suspense.
  • Action = plot, character, relationships.
  • Wind down = the result, new information, what is gained or lost.
  • Dialogue is important, even in action scenes.
  • Make sure it feels exotic (most people don’t spend a lot of time fighting, in chase scenes, etc.)
  • Use internal monologue to your scene’s best advantage. No long-winded explanations.
  • You need to have some kind of surprise.
  • Have more than one thing going on at any one time.

We went through a few examples of dramatic scenes, one from Lawrence Block, one from George R. R. Martin, and one from Bernard Cornwell to look at the variations and interplay of action and dialogue. We also completed a writing exercise, for which I chose a scene (to that point unwritten) from Gerod and the Lions.

Since I’m always trying to learn and improve upon my craft, the workshop brought up a number of bits and pieces that I’ve learned over the years.

Emily Dickenson wrote, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”

Last fall at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I attended a Diana Gabaldon session where she shared her technique of driving a scene forward by raising questions in the reader, but delaying the answers for as long as possible.

I just finished reading Victoria A. Mixon’s The Art and Craft of Story, in which she describes “holographic structure.” This takes the basic three act structure of hook, development, and climax and breaks it down.

The hook consists of the hook and the first conflict, the development includes (at least) two more conflicts, and the climax consists of the faux resolution and climax.

In fact, breaking it down even further, each of these six elements contains its own six elements.

Thus, the hook part of the hook section contains its own hook, (at least) three conflicts, faux resolution, and climax, as does each of the remaining parts.

If this seems confusing, please read Victoria’s book. She explains it at much more length and much more clearly than I do.

Suffice it to say that the ultimate breakdown is at the scene level, and each scene, in keeping with its overall purpose within the story, has its own hook, three conflicts, faux resolution, and climax.

That’s all the insightful I have for you today, my writerly peeps.

Until next time.

My first twitterview as host (with Jamie Raintree, for @M2the5th)

Last night, I hosted an @M2the5th Twitterview with Jamie Raintree, author of women’s fiction.

I was a little nervous, but it was a blast!

For those of you who missed it, here’s the link to the Storify: http://storify.com/LaraBrittWrites/mto5-author-twitterview-jamie-raintree (lovingly created by Lori).

You can get an idea about what a twitterview involves and how much fun it can be.  The point of a twitterview? To help the twitterviewee engage her audience, promote her work, and develop her online platform. I hope we managed to do all of the above for Jamie last night.

I would never have survived without the support and assistance of Lori and Amy, the @M2the5th dream team. They have the twittervew down to a science. It’s awesome to have professionals on your side.

Here’s a little bit about Jamie:

She lives with her husband of 7 years and is a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) of two daughters.

She started writing fan fiction in middle school and finished her first novel length manuscript during NaNoWriMo 2008. She’s been hooked on writing since.

What interests Jamie: the strength and depth of the female spirit, who we fall in love with and why, what tears us apart, what little things can help make love last.

Jamie also has a YouTube channel and has produced two videos: one discusses balance in your day – how she balances her creative life and her family responsibilities; the other discusses happiness in the context of what inspires her to write. Jamie has promised there will be more to come.

Here’s how you can keep in touch with Jamie online:

Now that Jamie has an agent, we’ll be eagerly awaiting her first traditionally published novel! No pressure, dear ;)

Jamie Raintree

Review of Lifeform Three by Roz Morris

I subscribe to Roz Morris’s newsletter, and when she announced that her second novel, Lifeform Three, was about to be published, and that she would pass along free ebooks for honest reviews, I jumped on the opportunity.

I am a slow reader these days, but Lifeform Three has carried me along fairly briskly, and I have to say I loved it. LOVED.

What Amazon says

Lifeform Three‘Beautifully written; meaningful; top-drawer storytelling in the tradition of Atwood and Bradbury’ League of Extraordinary Authors

Misty woods; abandoned towns; secrets in the landscape; a forbidden life by night; the scent of bygone days; a past that lies below the surface; and a door in a dream that seems to hold the answers.

Paftoo is a ‘bod’; made to serve. He is a groundsman on the last remaining countryside estate, once known as Harkaway Hall — now a theme park. Paftoo holds scattered memories of the old days, but they are regularly deleted to keep him productive.

When he starts to have dreams of the Lost Lands’ past and his cherished connection with Lifeform Three, Paftoo is propelled into a nocturnal battle to reclaim his memories, his former companions and his soul.

Includes an appendix of suggested questions for reading groups.

‘An extraordinary novel in the tradition of the great old school literary sci-fi’ – NYT bestselling author Joni Rodgers

My thoughts

Welcome to the Lost Lands of Harkaway Hall, intrepid guests! The Lost Lands is one of the last nature conservancies in the world. See life forms in their natural habitats. Like them, even name them if you wish. Our helpful bods will sing and dance for you when they’re not keeping the Lost Lands in pristine condition. Want a rainbow? Our bods will make it happen.

Roz Morris has created a wonderful fable with Lifeform Three. The protagonist is one of the aforementioned bods, or robots, but there’s something different about him.

While the other bods desire nothing more than to redo, or clean, racking up scores as if poovering (vacuuming animal waste from the lawns) was a video game, Paftoo has other likes, ones that he must keep secret.

Paftoo (all the redo bods are paf-number, and while it’s never stated in the novel, paf could be an initialism standing for personal automation form or something similar), does not shut down at night like the other redo bods. He dreams. He also has memories that fight their way back into Paftoo’s consciousness despite sharing.

Sharing is a form of bod maintenance and the other bods crave it like a drug while Paftoo fears sharing will rob him of what he holds most dear: his memories of riding a life form three, a horse, his horse, Storm.

Morris asks questions with her tale: what makes us different, unique? Does being unique mean that we can never truly be part of a community? What happens when our uniqueness is threatened? What happens if our memories are taken from us? Can enforced conformity change who we are?

There are other issues woven through the tapestry, as well: what happens if humanity’s waste of natural resources continues unchecked? What if nature becomes a commodity, a property to be bought and sold, tailored to the tastes of its users? It is said that history is written by the victors of battle, but what if those victors are corporate heads, rewriting history continually based on what will sell best?

Lifeform Three is a tasty novel, reminiscent (for me) of the works of Ursula K. le Guin, or Sherri S. Tepper.

My highest recommendation.

My rating

5 out of 5 stars.

About the authorRoz Morris

Roz Morris’s fiction has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, although you won’t have seen her name on the covers as she ghostwrote for high-profile authors. She is now writing acclaimed fiction under her own name. She is a writer, journalist, fiction editor and the author of the Nail Your Novel series for writers. Her first novel under her real name was My Memories of a Future Life.

Six questions with Renny deGroot

I recently made Renny’s acquaintance (formally) at a meeting of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.

She let us know that she had recently published her first historical novel, Family Business.  Another Sudbury Writer? W00t! Of course, I had to ask for an interview :)

______________________________________________________________________

Renny deGroot

Renny deGroot

Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. She is a published poet and song lyricist, with Family Business being her debut novel. She studied English Literature at Trent University. Her strong Dutch roots continue to influence her while the love of her Canadian homeland with its beauty and freedom, flavours all that she does.

Renny lives in rural Ontario with her Great Pyrenees, Chocolate Lab and very old tabby cat.”

My parents were somewhat ‘citizens of the world’. My mother lived in England for a period after the war, before moving to Indonesia where she met my father (who was there with the Dutch military). They immigrated to Nova Scotia (where I was born) before settling in Ontario. This spirit of adventure influenced their three children (of whom I am the youngest). I’ve lived in Ireland, hung out in the south of France for a bit and  go ‘back’ to the Netherlands regularly to spend time with family and soak up my heritage, before always coming back with a sigh of relief, to the best and most beautiful place in the world – Canada.

_______________________________________________________________________

WG: Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Renny!

RdG: Thank you! I’m really pleased and honoured that you’ve invited me to participate.

WG: How did you come to the writing life? Give us the origin story of Renny deGroot, author :)

RdG: I’ve always felt artistic pulls. While my sister was sent to Brownies and my brother to Navy cadets, I was sent to art classes. Unfortunately my drawing skill set didn’t live up to my desire, so I turned to writing as an outlet. As a teenager I wrote the usual angst-ridden poetry, some of which found their way into community newsletters and school yearbooks (my mother was a faithful ‘sender-outer’ of my pieces J ). Lots of encouragement at home and from great English teachers drove me to take creative writing classes and work on my degree in English Literature.

WG: What inspired Family Business?

RdG: Well, simply put – family stories. One evening a couple of years ago I was visiting my family in the Netherlands. My uncle Jan (the youngest of my father’s six siblings) and his wife, Marja, were telling me of a certain situation with my great grandmother, and when he finished I said: ‘wow – there’s a book in that.’ My uncle looked sceptical, but they are such a great support and when I really started writing the story they did everything they could to help me with background, details and encouragement. Of course, it isn’t at all intended to accurately represent the family thing – it just was the starting point – as you say – the inspiration.

The end result is a story about a young man who struggles to learn the meaning of freedom amidst family conflict during the depression years and World War II German occupation in the Netherlands. The notion of freedom on a macro level (for a nation, race, community) and a micro level (our own individual right to choose and determine our path) is timeless and a topic that I’m passionate about. When I’m not writing, I manage an Irish tenor (http://jimmycartonband.com). Being so immersed in the Irish culture and music has been a huge contributing influence on my interest in the topic of freedom.

I’ve read that every writer could come up with ten stories based on family stuff, and I believe it. I don’t know if I just happen to have a quirky family, but I know that there’s inspiration for a few more still sitting there waiting to be harvested.

WG: And what about your new work in progress?

RdG: The working title is After Paris and it opens in spring of 1916 in Paris. World War I changed the world forever and, like Family Business, it isn’t a war story, but I’m interested in how people manage the massive changes that come into their lives both during and after these huge events. The role of women changed with WWI, for some more than others. I’m also very interested in personal development – emotional vs. intellectual. These are some of the things I want to look at, but of course rolled up into a great story.

WG: I love when writers talk about their process :) Would you care to share a part of yours?

RdG: I can get pretty distracted so I need to set targets for myself – generally a page count per session and I tell myself I won’t finish for the day until I’ve done three pages or five pages, or whatever is realistic based on where I am. The beginning is the hardest so if I can get two pages done, I’m satisfied. I generally go through several pots of tea before the day is done.

After that, I love writing outside. I have a large screened-in deck and a pond with a waterfall. I’m surrounded by trees – so I am most productive when I sit out there with the sound of the wind in the trees and the music of the waterfall in the background. I’m afraid I’m less productive in winter, but do enjoy being by the fire, either reading for background, or doing a bit of writing.

When I’m in the groove, I don’t worry about grammar or phrasing too much. I want to get the story down and then I go back to start the revisions and editing. With Family Business I edited the finished story several times before hiring a professional editor and then we worked together for three full rounds. It was a great learning experience and of course I’ll incorporate those lessons into the writing of After Paris.

WG: You have a lovely Web page. Are you active on social media? What role has “platform” played in getting your work published?

RdG: I’m afraid I’m not great with the technology side of things and am learning as I go along. I guess I have to admit that I’ve only just set up a Facebook page – on the tenth anniversary of Facebook, I accept it’s here to stay, so I’ve climbed aboard, albeit somewhat reluctantly. I am more comfortable with the website for sure. That gives me the opportunity to give reign to my creativity and I see it as a spot , not just to provide information for fans, but to really interact in a virtual ‘book club’ environment. My book is for sale via my website, so it’s handy for that as well of course. Publishing and book buying/selling is a whole different world than it was, even five years ago. Amazon.com and other on-line retailers have opened up the world to make it accessible to writers like myself, who probably wouldn’t get the attention of large traditional publishing houses, and have done a great service to the reading world – as people can choose for themselves what grabs them versus having their tastes steered by the large publishers.

WG: What’s coming up for Renny deGroot and Family Business?

RdG: I am really excited about the next few months. It’s such a long process to get a book published that I feel like I’ve stepped away from Family Business for a while as I’ve become more involved with the outlining, research (including a trip to Paris last summer!) and writing of After Paris. It means putting Paris on hold for a bit, but I’m happy to be ‘back with the Meijer family.’ I have the official Book Launch in Toronto on March 1st at a wonderful downtown spot called The Hothouse Café. It’ll be an afternoon of wine, food, music and of course a reading and book signing. After that I’ll be doing a launch tour which I’m still firming up, but will certainly include Sudbury in early April, and various other spots in Ontario (looking at Port Perry, Bowmanville, and Mississauga, with more spots in Toronto, Brampton and Brantford to start with.) Then, in the summer I’ll be looking at the Maritimes – definitely Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and probably Newfoundland.

I’ll be updating my website regularly on the ‘Events’ tab, as well as Facebook – so I hope that your readers will join me, and even suggest other places that might like to host a book signing. I’m open to ideas. One idea that I really like is participating in small ‘house-readings’. I’ve been to a couple of house concerts (I first saw/heard the Good Lovelies at a house concert) and I think it’s a perfect setting for a book reading/signing/discussion. I’m really excited about these events as I get to travel, meet people and share some opportunities for storytelling.

WG: Thanks for a wonderful interview, Renny. Break a pencil in your future writing endeavours!

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Family Business

Family Business

About Family Business:

Set in the Netherlands against the backdrop of the Great Depression and through World War II, Family Business follows the story of Agatha Meijer and her sons, André and Johan, as they build their textile business, a business Agatha is determined her sons will carry on, regardless of their own desires. Family tension comes to a head when the boys each take a stand, sending all their lives spinning in directions none of them would have ever anticipated, and making each of them question the true meaning of loyalty, love, and freedom.

For sale at:

http://rennydegroot.com (Canadian customers who would like a print copy)

http://www.amazon.com/Family-Business-Renny-deGroot/dp/1494233231/ (U.S. customers who would like a print copy)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/401486 (eBook)

Various other Amazon affiliates also have the print copy available for international customers (.co, .UK, .fr, etc.).

Also – Amazon.com will sell to customers in Canada, but as it comes from the U.S., shipping is much more expensive – so better to buy through the rennydegroot.com website.