Friday, June 28, 2013

Dianne Lynn Gardner Interview

On a beautifully cloudy day, like you only find in the Pacific Northwest, I gathered up my notebook, bus pass and a copy of Dianne Lynn Gardner’s book Deception Peak, and took an hour-long ferry ride across Puget Sound to meet with this remarkable author and artist. We picked each other out at the Ferry Terminal without a problem and set off for a nearby Starbucks to talk about writing.

Welcome, thanks for meeting me today to talk about your work.

1. What was the inspiration for the Ian’s Realm Saga? I’ve just started reading the first book, Deception Peak, and am enjoying the adventure. As readers of my blog will know I have a weakness for dragons.

I really wanted to write a book for boys. I always loved the adventure books like Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland, and others like it. I wanted to write something in the fantasy genre, with adventure, troubles, etc. I have 9 grandsons and sadly they don’t read a lot of books as there just aren’t that many good YA books out there for boys.

I also wanted an excuse to paint a dragon. I painted a large panel of the dragon then added two more, one on either side. Each panel shows the cover of each book in the trilogy. The entire painting measure 9 ft by 4 ft.

While painting the dragon the story and Ian came into my head. The books grew from there. 

2. You have an uncanny ability to get into the skin of a teenager. How do you do it?

Maybe I never grew up. I love teenagers and I have teenage grandchildren, 9 of them are boys.
I can get into boys heads. Some part of me is a tomboy. I feel a deep compassion for young boys. I can see that struggle in them of the boy wanting to be a man, but not being quite ready yet. Their task is to prove to themselves and to the world they’re learning. It’s a struggle.

3. You are also an accomplished and award-winning visual artist, how does one feed the other and vice versa?

I studied art longer than writing. Art taught me about ‘seeing’
daVinci said: Art is knowing how to see.
So in my writing I can explain things with an artist’s eye. It adds a layer of richness, I think.

4. Your books are available through a small independent publisher, Hydra Publications, what has your experience been working with them?

Hydra has been great. It’s almost impossible for a new author to get into a big publisher. Since I’m in my 60s I didn’t want to wait another 10 years to get a book published. I also didn’t want to self-publish as that does still have a bit of a stigma attached to it. With a publisher, and an editor, you get validation that someone is backing your work.
It’s been a very positive experience working with Hydra and they published 4 of my short stories and 3 of my books.

And now a few of my standard questions that are designed to help other writers and give an insight into the business. 

5. ebooks vs. traditional publishing?

Ebook is the best way to start these days. If you wait to be picked up by a traditional publisher you’ll find it can take a long time. Epublishing offers a great way to hone your craft while building an audience.

6. Pen & paper or a computer?

Computer, but I always start with pen and paper to draw a map of the story or book since I’m a visual person. The only time I hand write is in the car if I have a thought I want to keep (obviously not while driving).

7. What do you think is the most important thing a writer can do, aside from write well, to increase their odds of a successful career?

Blog, use social media, get the word out. Have an online presence. I had a blog before I even began writing. On there I started blogging about wanting to write and how that process developed.


8. What secret talent do you have, which everyone reading this blog will keep secret, and does it help in your writing? Or what is the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of research for a book or artwork?

I’ll take the second part of that question:
- I learned all about yurts and blogged about it from my friends who do historical reenactments.
- Explored a mile-long lava tube near Mt. Saint Helens which would make a perfect dragon’s lair.
- Had the opportunity to sail on the Lady Washington which gave me a lot of information.

Thank you and happy writing! Now I’d better go catch my ferry back before the weather gets bad.

I've included one of Dianne's book trailers below. Enjoy!
Dragon Shield Trailer

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

I know what you’re thinking, guilty pleasures must mean sex, drugs and rock & roll, or at the very least chocolate. But you’re wrong. For me a guilty pleasure is reading old superhero comic books.

Yep, Superman, Batman and the Justice League. Preferably from the 1940s and 1950s and some from the early 1960, with an occasional one from the early 1990s.

I do branch out into the Martian Manhunter, the Flash and others as well, but Superman and Batman were the first, and a girl never forgets her first.

For me they continue to provide a cultural history lesson into this country I choose to live in. The early stories of both Superman and Batman were started in the 1930s at a time of great economic uncertainty and much social injustice, not just in the US but across the world. The rise of Nazi Germany created another opportunity for superheroes to flex their superhuman muscles to protect the innocent and the downtrodden.

Throughout the stories you can see the progression of ills befalling society that require clean up. The old stories so clearly illustrate the desire of young men (they wrote and drew these stories and also read them) to believe that there might be someone out there, a little different, a little stronger (okay, a lot stronger), and with unshakable moral convictions of what was right and wrong, who could make their lives better.

For example it’s been speculated that one of Superman’s powers, the fact that bullets can’t hurt him, was put into the story because one of the creators of the hero lost his father to gun violence. (Superman was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, high school students living in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1933.)

But the actual super powers are less of what draws me to the stories. The earlier stories show me a country in turmoil trying to find its identity in a world teetering on a precarious cusp between good and evil. The stories, as they progress, show me how America found its place in the world, for better or worse. From almost cowering isolationism, to -initially reluctant - hero of WWII, to ebullient economic super-power. With the launch of the space program stories joined in and added more threats from outer space.  I’ve not read many of the more recent comic books as the extremely exaggerated muscles and profusion of blood and gore are a bit of a turn off, and a distraction to the story for me.

The recent movie trilogy of Iron Man has made me curious about the progression of his story, so I shall delve into those starting at the beginning. Time permitting of course.

Of course, reading these books is also a great way to stay connected with my offspring.

Monday, June 10, 2013

June Book Review

Inferno: A Novel Cover

Inferno by Dan Brown
(spoiler in the last paragraph)

I wanted to like this book, I really did, because I enjoy puzzles and mysteries and the symbolism found in Renaissance Italy. The idea of traipsing through Florence and seeing some great art and architecture along the way should have been icing on the cake.

This cake however was underdone and overdecorated.

The pace of the story, a basic race against time, kept getting slowed down by the endless, detailed explanations of every bit of artwork, building and mosaic the narrator passed by.

In addition there is considerable repetition of information, as if the reader won’t remember what was said only a short chapter or two before. It reminds me of the admonishment brandished by my favorite writing teacher, “Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your reader. Don’t explain what should be obvious from the previous sentence.”

Ultimately the book feels more like a long lecture on the dangers of overpopulation with endless history and art-history lectures woven in. It feels like maybe it should have been two separate books. Two very different, separate books.

I was left with the impression that perhaps Mr. Brown feels some considerable sympathy for the actions of his antagonist ... to randomly sterilize one third of the world population to eliminate future population growth. I suppose in that sense the book succeeded in that it made me think about the perils of population growth that face our fragile planet.