The thin veil that is diversity
I come from a family of travelers. Through our history, we have migrated from one part of the world to another, and each generation has adapted and adopted to new locations as they went. Our family is the very meaning of diversity. I like to include my own traveling experiences into my writing, bringing forward knowledge of different locations and cultures. And I was wondering recently if the world was to end and they recorded the different ethnicity, languages, and cultures; would they list writers and authors in their own group? Would those with a talent for the written word, get their own label? Are we not, as the writers and recorders of life and all its potential, the very antitheses of a mere group, or do we still qualify? Since, our thoughts and words are the recorded truth for only one person. Our version of reality, or creation of illusion, is the lasting effect on mankind; but it is a singular record. One person's truth, if you will. But does that make us diverse or the same? I will leave you to ponder that.
This month's authors:
Sylvia is our first German author, and she kindly answered my questions about being a cross-cultural author. Thank you Sylvia!
Do you find it difficult to write in both English and German? Do you translate them or write them in one language only?
I don't translate the books myself. Even if my translator always tells me, that my English is very good, I don't see it like that. English is not my mother language and restricts me to the vocabulary known to me and in style. I believe you can achieve quite a knowledge of a language over time, and you can improve, but I think you are never as virtuosic as in your own language. But doing marketing in English is quite unused to me. So is this interview. I love English, the sound of it, yet I always feel like a stranger.
When you are writing a story, how do you gather character ideas?
Character ideas just come to me. It is like going to bed and waking up in the middle of the night hearing to characters talk to each other, finding out about there likes and dislikes, character traits, friends, relations, etc.
Who do you feel is your most inspirational character, and why?
In the case of the "Song of a Falling Star," it was Dave. After I started the book anew after I discarded the first try, I could not figure out, how to make it special. There was something missing that connected the now-plot line with the four years ago- plotline. Throughout the novel, we are introduced into many perspectives, following my protagonist on their way into a strange world, while they have to figure out a riddle and a crime, that took place in the human world years ago. It sounds a bit complicated and it is. It is built up like a labyrinth revealing only one part at a time. Dave is connected with both worlds and both timelines. Also, he is not human and possesses a gift, which allows him to discover what had happened back then even if he wasn't present. While struggling to find a new start, it all came together, once Dave revealed himself in my head and after this, it was just writing.
Having now written several books, what did you wish you knew when you wrote your first book that you now know?
Yesterday I think I would have answered differently, but by now I discovered, that not knowing how things work can be a blessing. It makes you unaware of what other people consider impossible and you just do it. For example: starting out as a new author with a book-series rather than a single book. If I had known things or listened to people who told me, it's not gonna happen, the English version wouldn't exist.
Sylvia's favorite way of engaging with her readers is via her website http://eruiwp.layeredmind.de/allgemein/song-of-a-falling-star/ I hope you can take a moment to support him by taking a look at his work, and I extend my Vielen Dank to Sylvia for being interviewed!
Bill is a Canadian suspense and thriller author, but he is a man of many skills and has a long history of writing. Here is what he had to say about his art:
Do you think that your experience in journalism helped to strengthen your writing?
I'd have to say my days as a columnist were very instrumental in helping me tackle writing a novel (or three.) It was an evolutionary process. Initially, I was just a prolific writer of letters-to-the-editor. (Yes. One of those.) Eventually, I reached a point where I felt that I could contribute better work than some of the other local and national columnists. So, I drafted three pieces and submitted them to the managing editor with a proposal that I supply one a week. This forced me to improve the caliber of my writing and adjust my style. At the time, the paper had a great on-line commenting board, which allowed me to engage my readership, both the critics and the allies. (An aside- Eventually they moved from Disqus to a Facebook plug-in for that. My personal observation is that the Facebook plug-in is a death blow to any comment board. But, I digress.) One of the things I worked hard at was crafting a nifty turn of a phrase. For my particular "brand", this was quite beneficial. My run lasted 7 years, and 8 years on I still get the odd comment from customers and acquaintances (I sell industrial equipment in order to have money for nice things. Like food. And a home.) about how much they enjoyed my work. But, I learned that the quality of one's work is vital, and I ran into a patch where the work was not up to par so they dropped my column. It was the loss of that creative outlet that led me to decide to turn a plot outline, that had been rattling around in my head for decades, into a novel. I knew going in how I wanted it structured, and I had a few key scenes well thought out. I just had to make them fit the story, much like how you take a key point for an opinion column and make the rest of the column fit around it.
What process do you like to go through when you prepare a story?
Well, my stories are plot-driven, and I try to build them around a plausible plot. So, the first step is exactly that- The Plot. By then, I will have a Main Event that occurs within The Plot. Then I have to tie the two together. I spend a fair amount of time making sure that The Plot is reasonably plausible, and then trying to figure out which plot holes I will have to fill in order to keep it plausible. For example, in Montrose County, it was important that Sabrina Murdoch was somewhat isolated as a human being, without her being a person who sought isolation. I was able to draw upon the realities that many service personnel experience when they return from a war zone. In her case, being forced to forced into a firefight as an Army Reserve Medic left indelible scars that were magnified by family break down when she returned from Iraq. A good chunk of the book examines how the assassins she ends up confronting get into the USA. Again, I tried to make that fit within a very plausible framework by invoking the cigarette smuggling that goes on between Canada and the US, and the illegal immigration along the southern border.
Google Earth is also my friend in that regard. It helped that my wife and I had actually driven through Montrose County, Colorado about a year before I had even thought about that book. When I was looking for the right setting, I looked back at our journey across Colorado and into Utah and realized that was the right place. In Buffalo At The Gates, which is my most recent, I again used Google Earth as a plotting tool, and fashioned the plot around the US-North Korea tensions. The whole thing is underscored by an important hard fact: the Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River is a completely unique dam in its construction, and some engineers feel that it has a very dangerous flaw that, if exploited, could precipitate an economic and ecological disaster stretching from Montana to Mississippi. In Buffalo At The Gates, the two main characters also spend a lot of time driving across the American West, and I tried to convey the size of the place by having them take three days to get from San Diego, California to Glasgow, Montana traveling at a pretty good speed. Just as a lot of people don't grasp the size of Australia, even a lot of North Americans don't grasp the span of the Great Plains and the western states. So, to build the book, I had to build The Plot. That was easy, as it was both derivative of a plot from a book I read almost 40 years ago and my own original idea. In the book, I read years ago (I've searched but can't find the title or author), eco-terrorists cause the failure of the Mica Dam on the Columbia River in British Columbia, and the book follows the destruction as the rush of water crashes down the Columbia Valley. I made the reason for the destruction of the Fort Peck plausible, and then tied it to The Main Event. I had also wanted to give two characters that I created for Afghanistan and fleshed out in Montrose County a book of their own. From there, I just hunt and peck at the keyboard and hope a good yarn materializes.
What’s do you feel is your most inspirational character, and why?
I think my most inspirational character is Marina Tverdovsky. Marina plays a key role in my very first novel, Afghanistan. Marina's life has been marked by betrayal and family dysfunction. She was born and raised in the tail end of the days of Soviet rule in Russia. Like many Russians of her generation, she was raised in a family that deferred family ties to the state. The communists had a three-to-four generation run. People were taught to subvert family loyalties to loyalty to the state and to the Party. As a result, she had a sister that she was a stranger to, and was only beginning to have a normal relationship with her mother. Her former husband was a philanderer, and she finally abandoned him. Despite being intelligent and beautiful, love has not been kind to her. But, she's a diligent investigator, and when her inquiry into corruption related to the theft and sale of Soviet arms leads her to a more unspeakable reality, she's forced to ally herself with people that her government tends to treat as enemies. In doing so, she finds the possibility of love and confronts that possibility head-on in a fashion that I think a lot of people like.
Having now written several books, what did you wish you knew when you wrote your first book that you now know?
What do I know now that I wish I knew then? I'm not sure. Not a lot really. Maybe that success at writing would not come as easily as I'd hoped. But then, maybe I wouldn't have written them, and I think I'd be the lesser if I hadn't.
Bill loves to engage with his readers, just not really on social media. So if you want to get in touch and share ideas with him, you can check out his Goodreads page at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15077073.Bill_Greenwood I hope you can take a moment to support him by contacting him, and I extend my thanks for being interviewed!
This month's book challenge - To win yourself a $10 Amazon gift card, this month I would like you to send in a review of a book you have read recently that you enjoyed. Each month our winner will have their review published in my next month's blog and get the gift card information emailed to them. So send me your review - any book, any genre, let's see what you love to read! I wish to thank you for taking the time to read and engage with me! Happy reading everyone! VK Tritschler