Wednesday, March 30, 2011
As a writer I’m always on the lookout for people with which to populate my novels. Many of the characters I create are conjured in my own imagination, but the seeds were planted there by those living, breathing people I come in contact with every day.
There’s the twenty-something who lives with his grandmother, standing there in his robe at 11:30 in the morning with a Rally soda in one hand and a cigarette in the other bragging to me about the Balckberry he just bought.
Or how about the bed-ridden Catholic scholar all alone in a grand house with no one but his manservant to keep him company.
Or the woman in a run-down, cluttered and filthy trailer sitting in front of a massive LED TV with her laptop and iPhone.
Then there’s the poor woman who has no one in the world, depressed, lonely, contemplating suicide. She says, “All I have is this trailer and my stupid dog.”
Or the boy with cerebral palsy and a heart of gold who just wants to walk again.
These are the people who inspire me, who plant seeds in the fertile soil of my imagination. Those seeds will grow and become ideas, characters, people who live in the stories in my head. I’ll give them names and histories, struggles and triumphs. I’ll get to know them and understand them. Some will be folks readers love, others will be villains the readers love to hate.
The crazy thing is, I never know how it’s going to turn out. I never know what is going to sprout next. But while I wait for those ideas to germinate and come to life I’ll continue to talk to people, to observe them, to learn their intricacies and quirks.
I’ll continue to gather seeds.
Do you get inspiration from the everyday people you rub shoulders with?
Monday, March 28, 2011
I own a 1897 Sears and Roebuck catalog. In that book, there are a number of formulas available for order. And the nursing bottles are quite interesting. There is one shaped like a banana. Others are teardrop shaped clear glass with writing molded into the side. I've chosen to use the teardrop one to fit with the tears over the loss of the mother in my Love Finds You book.
And they even had three different colors of rubber nipples in that catalog.
I love the way that research leads me to so much interesting information.
What are some of your favorite historical novels?
Friday, March 25, 2011
I love researching my Regency era novels. For those of you who haven't ventured into this kind of research yet be warned: it's addictive. Of course you have to love history or it might not have the same effect on you.:) I'm a counselor by day and have worked in the mental health field for years so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm fascinated by books like: Undertaker of the Mind: John Monro and Mad-Doctoring in Eighteenth-Century England (Medicine and Society) by Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull and Customers and Patrons of the Mad-Trade: The Management of Lunacy in Eighteenth-Century London, With the Complete Text of John Monro's 1766 Case Book by Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull.
Roy Porter wrote my kind of books: Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine, The Cambridge History of Medicine, Quacks: Fakers & Charlatans in Medicine (Revealing History),Patients and Practitioners: Lay Perceptions of Medicine in Pre-industrial Society (Cambridge Studies in the History of Medicine), Medical Fringe & Medical Orthodoxy, 1750-1850 (Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine). If you've never heard of him just go to Amazon.com and look up the volumes of books this guy wrote. I think he wrote something like 80 before he died at age 55 not long ago. Porter is an incredible resource.
While researching information about the origins of the stethoscope I discovered via Porter's book and the internet that the stethoscope was invented in 1816 by Rene Laennec.
Dr. Laennec had been trying to listen to the heart of an obese woman and because it was necessary for him to put his ear to her bare chest he didn't want to be inappropriate, so he rolled up a newspaper and listened to her heart that way and voila it worked well. He could hear the sounds of the heart more clearly and the history of medicine took a new direction: the development of the stethoscope.
THE MONAURAL STETHOSCOPE
The movie Miss Austen Regrets depicts a jealous Jane Austen silently fuming over the attentions paid by a young doctor to her 22-year-old niece, Fanny Knight. The doctor, Charles Thomas Haden, is portrayed by Jack Huston, with Olivia Williams as Jane and Imogen Poots as Fanny. http://www.jstor.org/pss/25407454
There's so much more I wanted to share with you, but it will have to wait for another post. I hope you've enjoyed this post today and I look forward to sharing more in the future on the subject of fascinating historical medicine.
My novel, Secrets of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Book One will debut on May 3, 2011 and is currrently availabel for preorder at most online bookstores. You can read the first chapter on my website Jillian Kent
Questions: Do you like doing research? Have you ever discovered a historical fact that just blew you away? What historical novel, romance or other, have you read lately that delighted your spirit?
Sunday, March 20, 2011
I enjoy meeting, mentoring, and encouraging other writers. Oftentimes newer writers will ask me where they should begin. How should they start unpeeling the layers of their hearts, captivating energy and emotion? I reply by suggesting they write what they know. Sounds cliche, I know. But allow me to explain.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Should writers find a niche and stay there? Conventional wisdom says yes. Me? I'm not so sure. I while back, in a short post entitled Specialization and Books, blogger Becky Miller pondered this trend toward "niche-ing" (or is it niching?) in contemporary fiction. At some point, a writer is asked to identify their niche, what genre they write, and where their stories fit in the market. Nowadays, this is Writing 101. But Becky reflects upon the inherent deficiency of that demand:
In the effort to target an audience, we lose some who don't know to look in a niche they do not necessarily identify with. Perhaps this communication problem is why so many books take on a dual tag: romantic suspense or adventure thriller or science fantasy. Are the tags helpful? I don't really know.
I haven't seen bookstores expanding their sections to include the new dual tags. Christian books, even in Christian book stores, have yet to be sorted into sub genres. And I find the niche concept confining. I love fantasy, but I also read mystery, romance, even mom-lit, though I am not a mom. I don't really fit as a niche reader.
While authors are typically encouraged to find a niche and work it, I happen to find "the niche concept," like Becky, "confining." I mean, I don't read that way, so why should I write that way? For instance, I'm currently splitting reading time between Inferno by Dante Alighieri, Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, Bohoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas, and Godric by Frederick Buechner.
Question: Is this unusual? Do people tend to read all over the map? Or are readers, for the most part, "confined" by genre?
For the aspiring author, the question can be very confusing. On the one hand, the novice novelist is told to write what they want to read, write what drives them, ignore trends and follow their heart. On the other hand, we're told to find a niche, a genre, a market brand, and build a base of readership. And, according to market experts, you can't build readership by being all over the map.
So which is it? If, as a new writer, I aim for a specific genre and target the market, I may end up writing something other than what I really want. But I'll gain readers who will, perhaps, follow me into uncharted terrain. Yet if I write what I want to read -- what my heart tells me to write -- I may feel satisfied, but I'll potentially undermine the opportunity to build readership. So which is it?
My first novel is "niched"; it's a supernatural suspense. But my current novel (the one in process) is wigging out. It keeps veering into other genres. Of course, I keep trying to steer her back into her "niche." But, to my dismay, the story has a mind of it's own.
So what should I do? Follow my heart or the market? Follow my story or conventional wisdom? Are you a "niche reader," or do you tend to wander all over the map? And does writing for a niche audience have a downside? Or does being "confined" ultimately pay off? For an author, do niches become ruts or runways?
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
So, my question for you is: What has your writing journey been like?
Monday, March 14, 2011
I actually prefer interviews to reviews.
A review is so subjective. The Potential Consumer is reading another person's opinion of a certain product and therefore base their opinion, not on the product in question, but on another person’s interpretation of it. That seems really detached to me.
I’m not generally one who pays attention to reviews. Most of the movies I like are critically panned and would never, ever grace something like the Oscars. Don’t get me wrong--I’m eternally grateful for everyone who has reviewed my book and recognize that there are those who buy a book based on a trusted opinion. A good review is a wonderful thing, I’m just not--as a consumer--personally invested in reviews.
What I am interested in are interviews. Here’s a prime example, so prepare to be enlightened:
Folks I present to you...
Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
Yes, that’s a real movie. No, it’s not a very good movie. It’s ridiculous, cheesy, low budget, and to most, would fall in that “so bad it’s good” category. But, you know what? I’ve watched the commentary and the interviews with the makers of it--three brothers (the Chiodo Brothers) who are passionate about this project. To many, Killer Klowns might be considered a waste of film, but to these guys, it’s a boyhood dream come true, a love letter to their childhood. Listening to their intentions, their heart, their struggles to get it made, to see the care they took in crafting this movie, the unbridled joy and satisfaction they felt as they realized their dreams--suddenly I love Killer Klowns. I’m moved by it, in fact, because their passion for it has covered the blemishes of the imperfect movie and now I see art (though, I’ll admit it’s still not a “good movie” :p).
An interview, to me, is a product in and of itself. Only, in this case, the product is Me: The Writer. But instead of forming an opinion on my book secondhand--like they might from a review--the Potential Consumer can form their opinion of me in a very personal, one-on-one way. Maybe they’ll like me, understand my heart. Maybe that will prompt them to buy the book. The stories I write are usually scary and full of monsters and many have told me "That's not my kind of book." But, as they get to know me and see where I'm coming from, they give it a shot and discover that it is their kind of book, they just didn't know it yet. And, to me, that's the strength of an interview.
So, that leaves me curious how others feels. A question for readers: When considering purchasing a product (book, DVD, etc), what influences you more--a review or an interview with the creator/artist/whatever?
And, likewise to writers: Recognizing both are important, which do you prefer in regards to your own work--reviews or interviews?
Friday, March 11, 2011
The world of television news is nothing like that. For one thing, there is no script. A producer goes to work every day with no idea what is going to happen. But the more challenging thing for me was there was no way to know when you were done. Life kept happening. After my show was wrapped and ready to air, news continued to break, daring me to ignore it and go to broadcast without it. Believe me, I tried.
The first day I soloed as a producer was in my mind to be an Emmy worthy production of timing, topic, and flow. Everything was ready. Then ten minutes before going live on the air, Elvis Presley died. Yes, I know how old that must make me. When the news director came tearing into the control booth with the wire about Elvis and how we were going to be the first in our city to break the story, my reaction was "Sorry, it will have to wait till ten o'clock. My show is done." Needless to say, if I had not adjusted by attitude, my first solo newscast would have been my last.
Writing fiction is a lot like producing news. As the characters come to life, they tend to insist on going their own way regardless of how I imagined it in the beginning. Against my personality bent, I have learned to set them free to take the story wherever they will. Sometimes, I cannot wait to see how it ends.
What about you? What things in your past make you a writer today?
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Yeah, right. In a perfect world, maybe, but as you know all too well, ours is a far cry from a perfect world.
So how does the author, the artist, the creator, keep that spring of creativity flowing in a world of distractions and interactions?
First, we have to acknowledge that it is not a perfect world, that it is the rare author who gets to hide himself away in a seaside bungalow for three months and focus on nothing else but his craft.
Interruptions exist. Now, by interruptions I don’t necessarily mean to convey that they’re always negative. We have a new baby in the house. Her arrival has interrupted the flow of my writing a new book, but it is in no way negative. It’s a part of life. Family interrupts a writing schedule, but they are never to be considered negative. Work breaks my creative flow every morning, dams that spring at 6:45 a.m. But that’s not . . . well, okay, sometimes that is negative.
The fact is, for the creative type the spring does constantly flow, it just doesn’t always have an outlet readily available. I’m constantly in creative mode, mulling over story lines, plot options, character traits, descriptions. But whether I can put those ideas to paper or not depends on what’s occurring in the world around me.
Perspective helps here. I understand that I am not solely a writer. In fact, I’m not primarily a writer. My roles as husband, daddy, friend, employee must come first. I must direct that spring of creativity around and through the landscape of my life. It must adapt and change as my life changes. And sometimes, as is the case now with our new arrival, I must dam it for a season, slow it to a trickle or let it pool altogether.
Sure, it would be nice to live in a perfect world and have a seaside bungalow as an escape, a place to allow my creativity to fully express itself. But the joy of writing, of creating real characters living in a real world, is not found in seclusion, it’s found in mucking through this life with everyone else, dealing with the interruptions and obstacles and pitfalls and mountaintops.
So how do you deal with interruptions? In writing? In life?
Monday, March 7, 2011
I'll tell you honestly that James and I don't usually go to see R-rated movies, but we'd heard so many good things about this indie, low-budget film. Then it won the Oscar for the Best Movie and Colin Firth received his first Best Actor Oscar. After talking to people I trusted who had seen the film, I decided that the reason it received the rating was intrinsic to the story, not things thrown into the plot to gain the rating.
I'm glad we took the chance. Yes, there were words I don't like to hear, but they were only used enough to make the point they needed to make, and the director/writer/whoever didn't belabor the point.
The acting was superb, by both Colin and the man who played his speech therapist. And the cinematography was beautiful. I loved the costuming and seeing the lovely old English buildings. We came away with a deeper understand of the problem faced by so many people. So my mind had a rest and we enjoyed the ride.
Have you seen The King's Speech?
If you did, what did you think of it?
If you didn't, what is your most recent movie experience?