Thursday, 17 April 2014

Author Interview Series – Charles McGarry

This week I have the pleasure of hosting author (and ex-pastor) Charles McGarry. A few months back,  I reviewed his book, Breaking the Mold: Confessions of a Hippie Ex-Pastor, and really wanted to have him for the AIS. I'm glad he accepted my invitation.  Just like his book, his answers were short but insightful. Without further ado, Charles McGarry.

Information about the giveaway will follow the interview.

Have you always written or is it something that came later in life?

I did some writing in my early teens, but nothing of much substance.  My real drive for writing sprang up within the last few years, although I have always been a creative type.

Your book Breaking the Mold: The Confessions of a Hippie ex-Pastor is a very personal (and short) piece of non-fiction.  Is this a genre you prefer?  Are you interested in writing fiction?

My main interest is writing fiction.  While I am open to writing more non-fiction, the majority of what I write will be Fantasy fiction.

Painter Chuck Close Once said, "Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just shows up and gets to work." How do you "get to work?" Do you have any ritual or specific requirements to get the juices flowing?

I like to do my writing at Starbucks.  Believe it or not, I like being in a hub of activity and distraction to get my juices flowing.

Are you working on a new book at the moment?

My current project is a book of short fantasy stories that I plan to have published by summertime.

If you could sit and have a chat with any writer that has ever lived (or is still alive,) who would it be?  What would you talk about?

J.R.R. Tolkien, no doubt about it.  I would ask what he thinks about the literary phenomenon he started.  He really is the father of modern Fantasy after all.  I would also ask his advice for writing Fantasy, specifically for creating something uniquely original in an age when fantasy literature has permeated the market.

What is the one advice you would like to share with aspiring writers?

Never let anyone tell you how hard it is to become an author, and never let anyone tell you what you can’t do. The possibilities are endless if you stay true to yourself.

Our last guest, swing dance instructor (and so much more) Owen Hortop would like to know: How do you think people find or lose faith? Is it circumstance, or do they follow internal patterns?

Some would say it’s circumstance, but I really think that circumstance only serves to clarify what a person was oblivious to before.  In my case my circumstances caused me to search deeper within myself, and I discovered that so much of what I believed and taught was so different than what I knew to be true in my gut. My circumstances set me free from my religious mold, so that I could hear what my inner self knew to be true all along about the universe.

Our next guest is Andrew Sauvageau, baritone and actor.  What would you like to ask them?

What is most challenging to you personally when preparing for a performance, and what do you do to rise to that challenge? 


To win a copy of Charles book, leave him a question in the comment section.  Whoever asks the best question wins!  Giveaway ends on Tuesday April 22nd 11:59PM ET.  Answers to the questions as well as the winner's name will be announced on Thursday April 24th.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Review Wednesday – Blood Sister

Even if you're not a History buff, chances are you've heard of Henry VIII, the infamous 16th century English king who married six times. Ever wondered what were the reasons behind his actions (other than his immediate pleasure)?  Some believe he was a bit crazy by the end (watch this awesome documentary for more on that,) but chances are his reign was greatly influence by his grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, who against all odds, managed to come out victorious of the civil war we know as the War of the Roses.  If you want to know more about that war, Marguerite Beaufort and the other women who fought to defend their right to the throne, then Blood Sisters is for you.

Gristwood starts her narrative with a rising Marguerite of Anjou and ends it with Marguerite Beaufort's death.  The book follows the chronological order of event – as is customary for Historical non-fiction – but sometimes she goes back or forth in time to illustrate the influence of a specific event.  This is done skillfully which prevents the reader from being confused.  However, the overwhelming presence of Margarets and Marguerites can be a bit confusing.  The family tree at the beginning of the book comes handy at such times. 

Not only does the author paint a vivid portrait of the different event that unfolded during the war she also has a real talent to bring those long dead historical figures to life.  She often reflects on the feelings this or that woman might have feel at different points in time.  She also uses many different sources in order to create a picture as accurate as possible of the different women (as much as the remaining historical documents allow.)

Personally, I am fascinated with English history so I really enjoyed reading this book. I have read historical non-fiction that was much more drier;  Blood Sisters doesn't read like a textbook at all.  Also, the different sections as well as the chapters' division make it easy to put down and pick up the book without losing track.  I believe this is an essential read if you want to understand the Tudor dynasty.

Although the series is not as accurate, I would recommend watching the BBC's The White Queen before reading the book.  It really helped me figure out who was who and conveniently put a face on the different names.  

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Blog Hop!

Things have been a bit slow on the blog side so what better than a fun blog hop to bring things back to life!  I was tagged by Canadian author Christine Miscione (see my interview with Christine here.)  Here goes nothing!

Yay for bathroom selfies!
What am I working on?

I am currently working on a novel that differs a lot from what I usually write.  It’s a love story. *GASP* Don’t worry, no cloying harlequin format for me.  This story – or at least variations of it – has been on my mind for a really long time and is dear to my heart.  I believe this will be some kind of cathartic experience.  I need to get this story out, even if no one ever reads it or if it gets rejected a million times.  I also have two other books on the back burner, one non-fiction book about my life in Japan and a detective novel set in 1890 Montreal.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The fact that I’m the one writing it?  To be quite honest, I don’t really know.  Usually, I write science fantasy and historical fiction.   I would say that being an introvert gives a certain angle to my stories, but many authors also are introverts.  I guess humor is what sets me apart.  I seem to manage to write funny situations without really wanting to.  If I think about my current work, I guess the fact that it takes its root in my personal experience will make it unique in itself.  

Why do I write what I do?

As I said earlier, my current work is deeply connected to me.  I feel I need to write this story to get over some things that happened to me in the past.  Strangely, this story has nothing in it that has happened to me. As for my other work, I write it because those are the stories I want to read.

How does my writing process work?

I've experimented a lot with different writing processes and the one that seems to work  best for me is to write the first draft with a general idea of where I want to take the story then, once that is done,  look at the result and fix what needs be.  Then, come the countless revisions and modification.  Right now I’m trying a new process where I write by hand in a notebook during the week then type everything up on the weekend. I really like the act of writing by hand, there is something romantic about it that definitely inspires me.

Next week:

(I was supposed to tag two people but it seems everyone I know has already been tagged!)