Author Spotlight --Carla Buckley
I have always wanted to be a writer. It wasn't until my first child was born, however, and I decided to stay home and raise her, that I allowed myself to pursue my dream. Over the course of a dozen years, I wrote eight novels. Along the way, I signed with a literary agent, and although we came close several times to selling one of my books, we remained unsuccessful.
I almost gave up. We had three children, college tuition was looming, and we’d been on one income all this time. Then my husband got a job offer and we moved our family to central Ohio, where we knew no one. At this time, the news was filled with dire warnings about how scientists were worried that the H5N1 flu strain in China would turn into a pandemic--which meant that the flu would spread quickly and certainly across the entire globe. This particular strain was killing half of everyone it infected, and I began to worry: what would I do if a pandemic broke out? How would I protect my children in a city where I had no family, no friends, and barely knew my neighbors?
One night, I had a nightmare. The flu had broken out, people were dying all around me, and my neighbor knocked on my door to beg for a favor. My decision in my dream was a terrible one, and when I woke the next day, I was haunted by it. I decided to set aside the novel I was about to embark on and instead, take up the story of an average American family in an average American city, confronted by a devastating flu pandemic. The nightmare I’d had became the midpoint of my story.
Because it was important that the science in my novel be as accurate as possible, I did a great of research, interviewing scientists, preparedness experts, and food industry specialists, and reading everything I could find on the 1918 Great Influenza Pandemic. The story poured out of me, and a few months later, I signed a two-book contract with Random House. The story I had written, The Things That Keep Us Here, has been nominated for awards, sold to a number of countries, and selected as a Random House Reader’s Circle book club pick.
My next book, Invisible, will be released this December. It’s about a sister who returns home after a long absence to find her sister dying and others in her hometown stricken by the same mysterious illness. And, I recently went back to contract with Random House for my third book, which I am currently writing.
One of the things I like to tell aspiring writers is to never give up!
I love connecting with readers, and regularly attend ThrillerFest in New York and Bouchercon (held this year in Cleveland.) I do plan to tour when Invisible releases, although my plans have not been finalized. Otherwise, readers can contact me through my Facebook fan page, Twitter, and my website: www.CarlaBuckley.com.
The Things that Keep us Here is our April Nomination for the Canyonland Reader's Choice Awards in September. Remember everyone will need to vote for their favorite in the poll in September!
By: Amy Durham
If you’re like me, most of the time you have no trouble finding books to read. But there are those occasions when I find myself at a loss. The to-be-read pile has dwindled to nothing; my Kindle is full of books I’ve already finished, and I just don’t know what to look for next. If you’ve ever found yourself in that situation, or if you’ve just wanted to look for something different from your regular reading material, I have a few suggestions for you.
- Amazon “also boughts” – Think of a book you loved… one that you thought about long after you’d finished reading it. Find that book on Amazon.com and scroll down until you see the phrase customers that bought this book also bought. Here you’ll find various books purchased by other readers who also bought the book you loved. Many times I’ve discovered a new author or a book I hadn’t heard of while browsing this way.
- Goodreads – If you haven’t joined Goodreads.com, it’s a great way to discover new reading material. The process is pretty simple. Add books that you’ve read and enjoyed to your virtual shelf. Rate and/or review them. Goodreads will recommend books to you based on the books you have on your shelf. Additionally, you can ask other Goodreads members to recommend a book to you by simply asking. With such a huge number of readers gathered in one place, you’re bound to find something great to read.
- Genre-hop on the bestseller lists – This is one of my favorites! Head over to Amazon.com or BN.com and choose a genre you don’t normally read. Find the bestseller lists in that genre and take a look at the top sellers. This is a great way to venture into a new genre with some quality assurance. This is how I discovered “The Hunger Games”. Need I say more?
- Ask for recommendations – When all else fails, or you just don’t want to go searching on the internet, ask someone for a recommendation. It could be a friend who’s also an avid reader. It could be a librarian or local bookseller. It could be a coworker, or even someone standing in line with you at the grocery store. Sharing information about books you love is a great way to get to know someone, and word-of-mouth is the most powerful tool readers and writers have.
What is a Muse?
by Sarah Baker
Hi, my name is Sarah Baker. I make my living as a writer. When my daughter was born, I listed my occupation on her birth certificate as “author.” I get paid by people to write every day. So, my choice of occupation is pretty set, and has been verified by others.
And I have a terrible confession to make. I don’t have a muse. Some of you are probably asking yourself right now... WHAT IS A MUSE? If you are friends with any writer or have tried your hand at writing, you might recognize the word. The dictionary's definition is: A poet's inspiration or genius. But most writers I know consider a muse their best friend.
I read my writer friends’ blogs with envy, as they discuss how their muses whispered into their ears. Muses supply snappy dialogue. They help you work through a difficult plot point. They offer an inspired ending. Often, they speak to my friends without warning, at the worst possible moment.
Muses are fickle. They go on vacation without so much as a by-your-leave. Muses are capricious. They kidnap plot lines and take them in entirely new directions. Muses can be snobby. They won’t speak when spoken to. My writer friends are slaves to their muses’ whims, often unable to write a scene for days until “the muse speaks.”
I must admit, I feel a little left out. And, perhaps, the teeniest bit inauthentic as a writer.
The first “big” project I wrote was in college, a paper on one of my favorite books, Jane Eyre. I so loved the source material, and so admired and feared the professor that I came up against a brick wall in my writing. I could not even type a title page, I was so blocked. In fact, I was so stuck that I finally visited the professor to confess—I didn’t think I could complete the assignment.
She sat back in her chair, eyed me carefully, and said, “When I grade this paper, I am not grading Sarah Baker. I am grading something that Sarah Baker wrote. There’s a difference.”
With that, my writer’s block vanished, and I was able to write the paper. I think I ended up with a B+. Not my best effort, but better than turning in nothing at all. Then I went on to write more, and better, papers. After graduation, I began freelancing as a ghost writer. I wrote for doctors, dentists, insurance salespeople, lawyers—anyone who wanted web content and had neither the time nor the inclination to write it themselves.
When it came to ghostwriting, I had no time to rely on a muse. People were paying me money to write, and to write fast. So any thoughts of living the stereotypical writer’s lifestyle (brandy on the desk, crumpled sheets of paper, an antique typewriter) fled as I wrote thousands of words per day, to specification and on time.
With that training under my belt, and my professor’s words echoing in my head, I branched out and started writing fiction and non-fiction. Always on time. Never delayed, not even by cross-country moves or miscarriages. Sure, if I had trouble with a chapter and needed a break, I would take one. But I never depending on someone or something else to goose me into producing a story.
Since I’ve been published, I’ve had a lot of friends and acquaintances tell me that they, too, want to write. But then they smile apologetically and shrug, saying “I guess I don’t have a muse.” My answer to that is—that’s OK. Sometimes writing isn’t about inspiration. Sometimes, it’s about sitting down for some period of time, every day, and writing. The artistic life doesn’t have to rely on whims, but it does thrive on practice.