Musings, author interviews, book reviews etc,: a platform for writers to exhange ideas.
|Posted by Pat on November 1, 2014 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
JOHNNY WORTHEN grew up in the high desert snows and warm summer winds of the Wasatch Mountains. He graduated with a B.A. in English, minor in Classics and a Master's in American Studies from the University of Utah. After a series of businesses and adventures, including years abroad and running his own bakery, Johnny found himself drawn to the only thing he ever wanted to do -- write. And write he does. Well versed in modern literary criticism and cultural studies, Johnny writes upmarket multi-genre fiction – thriller, horror, young adult, comedy and mystery so far. “I write what I like to read,” he says. “That guarantees me at least one fan and a hectic job for my publicist.”
Please join me in welcoming Johnny to our site!
Your recent work, The Unseen (Eleanor), recently won the Gold Quill Award for Best Young Adult of the Year from the League of Utah Writers. Congratulations! Can you tell us what each of its three volumes is about?
ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN is a young adult paranormal romantic horror character study. How’s that? Genres are slippery and it’s difficult to place books like this one since it is literary and genre, adult and adolescent, strange but familiar.
It is the story of Eleanor Anders a sophomore girl who hides in plain sight at Jamesford High in a small drive-by Wyoming town. With senses far keener than ordinary human’s and the ability to mimic animal cries, Eleanor’s instincts tell her it’s safer to blend in. Only her mother, Tabitha, shares her secret and knows the full extent of her gifts – the true nature of Eleanor’s abilities. But Tabitha is close to death from cancer and Eleanor is petrified of a future alone. When David, Eleanor’s childhood friend returns to Jamesford, Eleanor is drawn to him and her strange talents emerge erratically and threaten to expose her as the inhuman thing she is.
ELEANOR is a stand-alone book. It’s complete and rewarding. A great read. However, Eleanor’s story continues through two more volumes if the reader cares to carry on. THE UNSEEN BOOK 2 is called CELESTE and that’ll be out next June. After that comes DAVID, THE UNSEEN BOOK 3, probably half a year later. I don’t want to spoil them but it’s safe to say that after the end of BOOK 1, Eleanor’s troubles might just be beginning.
How do you think your writing has evolved from your earlier works, The Brand Demand, for example? What is the most important thing you have learned?
THE BRAND DEMAND, a mystery coming from Cherokee McGhee publishers next April, is actually one of the first books I wrote, but it was my sixth sold. That’s kind of how it is. The later books came out easier since my craft is better. Less second guessing. More confidence. THE BRAND DEMAND needed more tinkering to get where it needed to be but I was patient and kept at it until now it’s ready to mark my debut into yet another genre. That it is so tight now is a testimony of all the work I’ve done. That’s the thing I learned – do the work. A writer writes. My mantra is “write another book.” Every word I write is better than the one before, so I keep writing.
Why do you think the ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN stood out to the judges? What do you think they liked about it the most?
It’s a moving story. It’s literary and full of layers. A Trojan horse dealing honestly with mature human issues. Though it’s been called a romance, a paranormal and a horror, it’s a deeply personal emotional story about a flawed character struggling with loss and survival. It gets you in the feels. The fantastical elements are metaphor and not the central problem. It’s a human tale about the pains of change. Everyone can relate.
If you were walking down the street in Jamesford and ran into Eleanor, what do you think she would say to you, her creator? What would you reply?
She’d not speak to me. She’d fear me. I know her secrets and she’d be afraid for that. But if perchance I managed to catch her eye and she was particularly strong that day, and we were alone, I might say, “You are lovely Eleanor.”
She would answer, “Why did you make me this way? I don’t want this.”
“Then make yourself as you would have you.”
“Why so much trouble and sorrow?”
“The dark against the glorious light, Eleanor. The cold so that you may love the warmth the more.”
“What am I?”
She’d get frustrated with the riddles, all creators have to talk like that, but she’d mull on it and eventually, with the help of Tabitha and David, she’d come to understand.
You were also selected as Utah Writer of the Year. What have you learned about writing and yourself from receiving this prestigious award?
It’s all about giving back. I believe that the only way to achieve a dream is to help other people achieve theirs. I am as active as I can be in the writing community. I love the craft and come alive with people who love it like I do. I’m lucky that way. I’m an extrovert. It’s important to reach out to peers and friends. Writing is personal and private. Isolating. Connecting with other writers keeps you sane.
As for me, having come a little ways in this strange self-defeating, masochistic career, I have a little insight I can share in how it’s been. I like the idea that others can learn from my failures and experience. Writing is not a zero-sum game. We can all succeed. The Writer of the Year award was more for my efforts at sharing and putting myself out there than for my books. Don’t get me wrong, my books are awesome, but they’re just part of what it means to be the author I want to be.
Johnny is known not only for his heavy-weight contributions to the writing community, but also for his ubiquitous, vivid tie dye shirts. So I had to ask …
Johnny, your signature is a tie dye shirt. It’s important and we’d like to know: what is the deeper meaning of tie dye?
Tie dye is art. I don’t wear mass-produced shirts. All my shirts are hand-made by talented artists. They’re beautiful. Keep in mind that when I wear tie dyed shirts, I don’t see them. I’m looking out over them. Other people see them on me. You wear tie dye not for yourself, but for your friends. It goes back to the Grateful Dead shows I went to. Vibrant color is alive. I also use it as a symbol of my writing to signify that I am not a single thing. I write many genres: YA, horror, mystery, comedy, political satire, religious, romance…. I am complicated and beautiful like the shirts I wear.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us!
Since you’ll want to know more about Johnny and his writing, you’ll need his website address:
www.johnnyworthen.com. Go There.
By the way, I’m reading The Unseen Book 1 now and the beginning is fabulous, just fabulous. Stay tuned for the review!
|Posted by Pat on November 1, 2014 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Pat on November 1, 2014 at 3:25 PM||comments (0)|
Obviously, I have not rushed to be an early review of this now familiar novel. That’s because I don’t read erotica; I prefer thrillers. So why am I it now, especially when it is so widely described as trash? Curiosity finally got to me. How could it be so bad and so successful at the same time? I wanted to unearth the mystery of Terrible Writing With Astounding Success.
It took a while to read, because the book was so seriously bad I put it down for weeks at a time. But ER did do a number of things right. She created an engaging protagonist: a beautiful, smart, naïve college girl, ostensibly normal until she met Mr. Grey. ER also created a murky, unreadable protagonist who had sympathetic qualities (good looking, smart, successful, abused, needing and feeling love) yet who could not control his darker side. Then she made the protagonist irresistibly drawn to things dangerous and destructive. Moth to flame, Ana could not stop herself from making choices that were bad for her, she could not pull away. We can all relate in some way: the sugary donut, that last glass of wine we didn’t need, a spontaneous purchase $$$, whatever. We all make choices that are bad for us, so we empathize.
All this was under laid with reader curiosity about what weird sexual act Mr. Grey would perform on Ana next, how painful it would be and whether she would be horribly damaged as a result. There was more than physical danger involved; this bright young innocent played in the minefield of depravity, diminishing self-worth, shattering ability to choose and suffocation of her will. In this way, ER created a huge amount of tension on almost every page. Not bad.
That said, the book was just damn irritating. Whenever something would happen, Ana would say “Oh, my”, “Holy cow,” or “Holy shit,” again and again. If that weren’t bad enough, she had an “inner goddess” who “looks like someone snatched her ice cream.” Indeed, she not only had an inner goddess, she also had a subconscious which would occasionally rise to consciousness and have conversations with her inner goddess. It was like the diary of a schizophrenic; the reader ends up with a vicious migraine.
Do I recommend that you read 50 Shades? No. Not unless you don’t mind your heroine having an inner goddess with pom-poms. On the other hand, the book represents some sort of bleeding edge where sexual tension and danger escalate enough for readers to plow through bunches of crap to save the heroine. There just has to be some sort of lesson there for all of us. My guess? Mix a moral theme in with your characters’ physical danger, make them deeply conflicted then put them on a mutually destructive path. The formula is certainly popular with fans.
|Posted by Pat on October 24, 2014 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
Lehua Parker writes (among other things) young adult fiction taking place in Hawaii. She recently presented on the subject of social media at the Utah League of Writers Fall Conference, and shared with us the rather amazing and horrifying statistic that less than 1% of books are sold through social media. Yes, and she has verified this carefully. Those of us attempting to learn the business at various conferences and such have been repeated admonished that you must constantly update your website, and your Facebook page, and your accounts with Twitter, Instagram and Google - Plus, in addition to blogging on everyone else's site whenever given the opportunity. We writers pale at these demands, wondering how anyone could ever do all this and still have time to write.
Lehua does not pretend that writers can happily ignore all social media and focus exclusively on writing, but she does give some stunning and joyful advice: you can reduce time spent on social media to around 15 minutes a day and go back to writing. Ha!
You must have a website so your prospective agents and publishers can find out more about you. Your site can also connect you with other writers, and these connections can lead to valuable opportunities, such as speaking engagements. Lehua has me convinced that the best road to success is writing more books.
So if you're like me, an average of 15 minutes a day for social media is a darned interesting concept. Obviously such an approach means you have to be well nailed down in terms of organization and priorities. So here's what Lehua suggests:
Update your Facebook page, once a week is minimum, three times a week is better but two times a week is okay. Use your blog post when you have a new one.
Blog at least two times a month. Need subject matter? Do a book review or interview an author. Or maybe interview a character from your book or someone else's. Put cool facts and pictures on your blog, things people would not ordinarily know or see. Know what your blog is for. Is it to help other writers? Or is it an extension of yourself? Put some of your fiction in there. Talk about what interests you. The blog post should be about 300 words and should have lots of tags so folks can find you.
You can always do more. If you write for teens, you'll need to have accounts with Instagram and Google+, but since they view Facebook as outdated, you can adjust your time accordingly. You only need to go onto Pinterest if your work is heavy into style issues, like cooking or decorating.
Lehua is my new heroine. You can find her blog site at www.lehuaparker.com. Hers is the best news I've had in a long time about writer platforms. We love you, Lehua!
Whew! Now to go write something...................
|Posted by Pat on||comments (0)|
The League of Utah Writer’s Fall Conference is a gathering of uncommonly talented writers. The field is heavy with fantasy and science fiction authors, but a smattering of folks who write thrillers, memoir, horror and other genres make the group diverse and interesting.
A recurring theme was the importance of story structure. We should start in the middle of our stories, build an arc into every relationship, hide the problem from the protagonist, strain relationships and never let the final plan lead to the final solution. Betrayal is always good. We should view our audience as a particular person and write for him/her.
More pointers: conversation is always combat, in every single line. The stakes become more complicated as the story intensifies. For example: the press learns, the victory is not pure, a dog or child becomes involved or the protagonist must choose who will die. Moral dilemma is wonderful.
The conference has sessions of the business of writing as well. Did you know that Amazon has a Kindle Scout Program to surface and highlight new books? They will give you an awesome start if you are selected.
Blogs do not sell books. Facebook, Facebook parties and responding every time you are mentioned do help. You can buy ads in Book Bug or do a free promo in Bub. E-reader News Today also has ads.
Another tidbit: bankruptcy clauses in contracts are totally unenforceable. Publishers will insist on them, but it’s silly. Publishers commonly get a first right of refusal on your next book, though it can be restricted to a certain genre. If you decide to publish independently, it’s recommended you start an LCC.
In other news, I won my first writing award in the rather intense writing competition. I’m told that now makes me an Award Winning Writer. How cool is that?