Welcome, everyone, to your Thursday installment of Voices to Pay Attention To!
This week, I'm bringing you someone I've worked closely with over the years, a mentor in many ways, and someone who is an absolute treat to call friend. She's past-president of Heartland Romance Writers, she works her tail off in her real life, and even when life throws her curveballs she always manages to make someone laugh.
Welcome, G. Aliceson Edwards
What were some of your first experiences with writing?
GAE: You sometimes hear the term, “It came to me as natural as breathing.” That’s what the art of storytelling in both the verbal and written forms are to me. I was raised in a small rural community in a town that featured two main streets, no stop signs, and could be cut off from most of the rest of world if the creek was out. My teachers in the art of storytelling were my “sly as a fox” overall-wearing family members and the men who sat on benches outside the feedstore or bank that you passed by on your way to the post office or grocery store for your free candy bar. Our town never had much true excitement. Somebody’s new truck or relatives from out of town, or the burning of a barn were our town’s big events and they had to be presented in such a way as to spellbind the listener. And I was. Spellbound.
I must stop here. Everybody back up and reread that paragraph. In one brief introduction, she's painted an incredible visual. If I could write like that...
I hate you, G. :)
Why did you decide to become a writer, yourself?
GAE: My childhood dream was to become a reporter and travel the world. However, when I reached the age to do this I was married with two small children. Instead I became an English, Speech, and Theatre teacher in the public school. I loved this profession because it enabled me to use my storytelling abilities to travel the world with my students through literature.
I will be around fifty when I can retire from teaching. I want to find a career allowing me to continue working with books and literature. I thought of writing.
I have always loved the art of writing. Like other true writers I have dabbled throughout the years. I have the requisite old notebook with my first and only handwritten romance novel. You know the kind where love burgeons between the “handsome, displaced corporate city dweller” who finds he cares for the “raised in the country and proud of it” school teacher. Did their romance make it? Yes, right under my bed in a storage box never to see the light of day again.
But I have been writing some works during my years as a teacher. Homecoming skits galore and plays for my students to perform. I even went through the “angry at the world” blogger phase, published a more entertaining travel blog about my trip to England, as well as, maintaining a blog to keep my bi-costal family up to date with pictures and written summations of our lives here in Missouri.
One day with retirement options still looming I realized I had to commit to writing if there was to be a future in it for me, so I searched online, found a local writing group, and resolved to attend a meeting.
Then what happened?
I sat in the car in the parking lot the day of the first meeting as I tried to convince myself to go inside. Yes, I can face down over a hundred eighth graders daily and work in a job never fails to get this response, “You couldn’t pay me to do what you do!”, but I very nearly drove away those big, bad writers!
Finally I shakily gathered myself together and went in the building to my first meeting. How relieved I was to find friendly and welcoming people who were willing to share their knowledge on writing craft and publication. Then I went to another meeting and another and starting working with some critique groups.
That floors me, G. Of all the people I know, I never would have thought you were that worried... I'm so glad you've become a leader for the rest of us.
Other than getting in the building the first day, what were some of your other challenges or successes?
GAE: The all too real specter of self-doubt has been my greatest nemesis. I am very self-assured in my work and with my family, but I suffered terribly from fear that I was not a good writer. Additionally, I think I was typical of new writers in that I wasn’t too patient with myself as I was learning the process.
I also had to learn to say “no” to protect my writing time. I still struggle with the demands of my life interfering with the joys of my writing.
I consider the opportunity to travel to conferences over the past years to have been tremendous boost to my personal motivation and to my writing abilities. Once I meet actually my favorite authors at conferences and get over my fangirl hyperventilating, I have found authors to be very helpful to the novice writer.
Yes, they are. Many were to me, and that still amazes me so many people with so many obligations were willing to listen to a newbie.
What do you write?
GAE: After trying unsuccessfully to write a humorous suspense novel, I decided to tackle what I know best-The Young Adult market. After twenty six years in the classroom, I know what students want in a book and do not want. Recently there was the focus on paranormal and fantasy, but I have noticed more and more students are interested in mystery or suspense novels. This genre has always been a favorite of mine since I read Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall in fifth grade. I still read quite a bit of this genre and recommend books to my students frequently.
The book I have out on submission is a middle grades/young adult thriller, Mirror Images, based on the life of Marty Jamison, who along with his twin brother Max and his girlfriend Kayla, is simply trying survive high school. The lives of these teenagers prove the point that being young is much more stressful than adults remember. They are dealing with death and desertion and alcoholism and the true minefield of the teen years…Dating! When a serial killer begins drowning the little girls of the town and one of these three characters is accused of the crimes, loyalties are tested and hard choices have to be made.
One unique technique I have used is to start each chapter with a short except of what is going on in the killer’s mind or testimony from other individuals about the crimes. These excerpts give insights and foreshadow upcoming events. I have seen this technique used before and it heightens the reader’s need to keep going forward in the book.
Sounds interesting--really very interesting. Well, actually, considering I've read some of it, it's terribly interesting and the tactic works wonderfully. Could you share an example?
GAE: Sure. This is how Mirror Images begins.
This one was harder to kill than the others. You would think a skinny little second grader wouldn’t be so hard to drown. I mean really! The other ones it was just hit ‘em in the head with a rock, smear a little blood, on the pool’s edge, and then roll ‘em in the water.
None of this fighting to the top stuff. And I can’t be waiting around forever. Sun’s coming up and I need to get home before I’m missed.
Time to take the plunge. Literally.
That IS intense, but what would you say to parents who might object to such a dark subject as serial killings?
GAE: I would say parents have every right to object to any book topic for their own child. I consider it to be the responsibility of every parent to review what their child reads. If they feel my novel is not appropriate for their child, then take it away from them.
However, I would also point out that my novel, Mirror Images, doesn’t glorify the serial killer. I wanted this novel to help the teens who do read it to realize that even though they are sometimes thrust into difficult situations not of their own making, they ARE able to make choices.
Sound advice, and really the truth of teen-life. So many get caught up in not standing on their own two feet. It's great to have someone bringing that to the forefront of YA Minds.
What are you working on now?
GAE: I am currently researching and plotting for my next YA work tentatively called, Pretty Little Monsters. In it a group of students are learning to deal with a variety of tragedies that have left them with missing body parts, disfiguring scars, or other visibly transforming illnesses.
I got the idea from my own students who have had to learn to live with unplanned and unpleasant transformations that have left them struggling to find their place in a group of people who focus on having perfect bodies. I hope I find a way to communicate some the inner courage I have seen these students exhibit over the last twenty six years. Many of these students could have given up, but instead, chose to live useful, vibrant and happy lives.
Another focus for me right now is setting up some writing events for both students and adults to help support them achieve their writing goals for next month’s Nanowrimo contest. People can check out a free joint writing and creativity event my colleague, Julie Brunner, and I have planned at my blog, http://thewritewaygalicesonedwards.blogspot.com
NaNoWriMo is an excellent opportunity to feed the creative mind and inspire authors. Excellent job, G.
Finally, what is your favorite part about being an author?
GAE: I would have to go back to a quote I often hear in conjunction with teaching. It involves the idea that people touch more lives than we ever realize. To me, this is what books do. Everything I read is an example of how someone had an idea and put it into words to share with others. Then someone shared those words with others or used it for a basis to write their own words. That exchange of and building of ideas is what makes me spend hours in my recliner, dressed in my pajamas, glass of tea at my side, and computer on my lap. I want to continue to touch the lives of those around me, and being an author gives me that opportunity every time I tap the keys.
I love that--once again you've inspired me.
Thank you so much, G., for stopping in and talking to us about YA, about your projects, and sharing your insight. Do come back when Mirror Images is published!
Welcome, everyone, to your Thursday installment of Voices to Pay Attention To!