New Year New Writer Insight

One of the joys of teaching a writing class now and then is meeting aspiring writers and encouraging them along the way. My Story Sparks each month is about encouraging people to seek their life paths, find their bliss, step over the rough spots and make new roads. Perhaps my novels are about that journey as well. I'd like you to meet Jess Flower, an aspiring writer who attended Beachside Writers a few years ago. I thought it would be fun to see "the rest of the story" about how this young writer keeps himself writing.

What are you passionate about when it comes to writing?
First, I'm passionate about story. How do I want the story to go? What do I want to happen? It's that thing that flares in your heart when you're reading a book, watching a movie, or hearing someone spin a tale that says, "Oh! What happens next?!" It's also that little spark that ignites when something in the story…maybe…doesn't go right, and you discuss it with friends later saying things like, "You know what would have been really good," or "Here's how I think that should have ended." Story is king, right? Second, I'm passionate about character. If something is wrong with my characters, I get almost depressed. The book I'm writing right now is a great example. I love my two main characters. Then I thought, "Well, I had better give my hero some friends. You know, like Harry Potter has friends." Ugh. My worst mistake. I spent so much time trying to manufacture these characters, that they quickly became wooden and unbelievable. I just didn't like them. I wouldn't hang out with them. I would find an excuse to get away from them. So I erased everything and just started over with the two that I loved and went from there. Finally, I'm passionate about getting something important that I have personally learned into the writing. This part is pretty easy for me, because it is almost natural. Writing is cathartic in a way -- isn't it? We write sometimes to work things out in our own souls. The Reverend in my book Daisy Hill had some major faith issues, because…well…I did.

The parts of Daisy Hill I was introduced to reminded me of a good western. How would you describe your genre?
I'm a goofball when it comes to genre. I never know what to say. My stories are listed under a different genre on every conceivable website! Daisy Hill (and my first book that will stay hidden in my desk drawer, thank you very much) was a thriller. But I don't think that's even accurate because there are only a few parts that are "thriller-esque." However, even my YA book (or Middle Grade) that I'm working on now has some thrilling moments in it. Even a lot of my short stories tend to have a little creepy element to them. Daisy Hill has a nice little romantic section in it, but it's not a romance for sure. Then again, almost always there are paranormal elements to my writing as well. Like I said, I'm a goofball when it comes to genre.

Do you write full time or have a day job, too?
I have a day job. I'm an account manager for a staffing/recruiting company by day and a ninja writer by night. The goal is to write full time, though.

That's a great goal. I didn't quit my day job until I'd had published more than ten novels.  Needed that day job! As a new writer, what do you find the most frustrating?
Honestly, the whole catch 22 of it. You can't be published until you're noticed. You can't get noticed until you're read. You can't get read until you're published. I always knew it was a long haul, and I've heard the statistics….blahblah. However, I have a firm belief that I can do it given the opportunity. So finding the right people at the right time that will like my writing is the most frustrating -- probably because it is something that I can't control. Eesh. That's an ugly thought!

That is an ugly thought! But you do still have things you do control. Like sitting down to write, right? Do you ever have writer's block? What do you do about it?
Boy is this going to be an unpopular answer. (He gulps.) I don't believe in it. Trust me, I've had times where nothing is coming to me. The well is dry. The muse is silent, sleeping, or hanging out at Sizzler. I sit down to the keyboard and suddenly I want to do anything but write. For me, it's not writer's block. It's laziness. I just don't want to do it. Facebook, Twitter, or a kitten video on YouTube pulls me away. It's not the "muse's" fault. It's not God sucking my creative juices out of my head because I didn't do something right. It's just me not wanting to dig in and go for it. So how do I deal with it? I force myself to write something. Anything. Even something completely different. Just enough to get the gears turning, the fingers clicking, and the rhythm cranking. I almost always find myself cranking back into the story at hand after that. Last resort (and full disclosure) -- music will really get me out of a lazy jam. The Wailin' Jennys produced quite a few moments in Daisy Hill when I was staring at a blinking cursor.

What harpies (negative voices) keep you from writing or sending your work out or self-publishing or meeting with editors and agents at writers conferences? I honestly still remember your workshop on harpies and have exorcised my fair share of them since! Many of us creative "types" hear those same terrible thoughts: Your work is drivel. You'll never be good enough. No one wants to read it. It's not as good as YOU think. It will just be another rejection. They are all lies. Knowing those are lies has honestly helped me more than anything. I try to read as much as possible. There is garbage out there. And it got published. I know I can write circles around that stuff. So if that junk made it…so can I.

Jane teaching at Beachside
How did we get connected?
I went to a Beachside Writer's Conference put on by Bob Welch and you in Oregon. It was my very first writing conference and I wasn't sure what to expect. What I received was some really fun exercises, amazing workshops, and I made friends with people who all were going after the same thing! Talk about an encouraging! One of the evenings we all read aloud from one of our works, and you were nice enough to give some helpful feedback and encouragement about my selection. I have hounded you, bugged you, pestered you, spam emailed you, and Facebook blitzed you ever since! Thank you.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
The best advice that I have ever heard was from Stephen King. "Read a lot and write a lot." Perfect. You may read some really bad stuff that inspires you to do better. But I've also read some amazing pieces that made me honestly say, "I will NEVER be able to do that." But you know what? The latter almost inspired me to write more than the former. I wanted to at least try to be as good as that. Finally, this is something I plan to do for my own career, so I'll advise the same: We can't give up. Ever.

Thanks for joining me today in this New Year of 2014. How can people connect with you or track your writing career?
My website -- though it is very new.
I'm also on Twitter & Facebook.
And of course my first ebook, Daisy Hill is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble (currently only $0.99).

Thanks again for hosting me!