Interview with author, Irene Frances Olson

We’d like to welcome Irene Frances Olson to Nurture Your BOOKS™. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed today.

 

Please tell us about yourself. 

My name is Irene Frances Olson, author of Requiem for the status quo. In my 60s, I kind of started my life all over again, at least in two aspects of my life: I took up the sport of hiking and I started to write my first novel.

I have lived in beautiful places: California, Hawaii, and Alaska, but the Pacific Northwest (Washington State to be specific) is the state that got me lacing up my boots and hitting the trails. The sense of accomplishment one feels having hiked a dozen miles in a day and hiking up a mountain with over 2000 feet elevation gain can’t be compared…unless you’re comparing that to having your first book published. And I did, by Black Rose Writing, on July 20th, 2017.

 

Most difficult part about being an author?

Getting published is of course the most difficult part. Requiem for the status quo, my debut novel, was rejected by over 100 agents. The impressions I received from them were that they didn’t want to handle the subject matter of my novel: the impact of Alzheimer’s disease’s on families.

Fortunately, after querying all those agents, I submitted my novel to a couple independent publishing companies and approximately four months later, I actually heard from one of them and they picked up my novel. Such a delightful day that was.

 

My writing process.

It took me three years to write Requiem and let me tell you it took major renovations to get it publishable. First of all, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Up until that point I had only written non-fiction on my blog, Living: the ultimate team sport.

My novel’s first draft was 140,000 words in length which equates to approximately 560 pages. Now I am painfully aware that I’m no Stephen King, Ken Follett, or James Michener, so I knew I needed to slice and dice that first draft, and I did. I cut it by 38% and the manner in which I did so was to realize that even though everything about the subject matter of this novel that was dedicated to my father is extremely important to me that doesn’t mean all of it should be included within its front and back covers.

For this debut novel, that was my writing process: outlining every scene that might be included, assigning characters to those scenes, then determining the order in which those scenes should appear. Because the medical subject matter of my novel is Alzheimer’s and related dementia, I decided I would introduce just a few of the disease’s variants through the characters I created. I narrowed the field to the following variants: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s dementia, vascular dementia, lewy body dementia, and traumatic brain injury syndrome. I know, that still sounds like a heck of a lot of content to write about, but the manner in which I did so truly creates a story that every reader will feel comfortable delving into.

 

How do I choose the names for my characters?

This is my absolute favorite part of writing. I scour the internet for common – or not so common –  first and last names and I try combinations of those names on for size to see how they flow within a sentence. My most favorite name in Requiem is Pilar Madrigal. Doesn’t that just flow off your tongue and make you want to discover more about her? Good. You’ll be excited to meet her in Chapter Four.

 

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I am. I have participated in two NaNoWriMo events (National Novel Writing Month) and my 2nd novel is in final edits – if there is such a thing – before I start sending it out to agents and/or publishers. Back Seat Driver, commercial contemporary fiction, captures the dilemma between vulnerability and pride. There is no easy way to say it: when a magnifying glass is placed in front of a person, it is virtually impossible to ignore the imperfections and scars it reveals. It is what one does with those revelations, however, that marks the true essence of a person.

I guess I succeeded in getting my point/plot across with this new work because a beta reader of mine – who also used to be a friend – was so impacted by the message, she accused me of writing the novel about her and claimed I was being critical of her ethics and beliefs. Score one for hitting the nail on the head, I guess.

 

The subject matter of Requiem for the status quo was the reason I started to write.

Here’s my bio, to give you a peek into my story.

Irene Frances Olson is an author who writes from passion and experience. She was her father’s caregiver during his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Having previously worked in memory care, she was not new to the disease, nor was her family immune. After her father’s death, she worked as an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator and was a long-term care ombudsman (advocate for adults in long-term care) for the State of Washington, USA.

5 years after my father’s death, back in 2012, it seemed that what I experienced as my father’s caregiver was meant to go further than my heart and knowledge. As William Faulkner said, “If a story is in you, it has to come out.”

In closing, I reveal to you the horoscope I received on December 29, 2012. I had been outlining my novel prior to that time with the intent of starting the actual writing after the first of the year. Well, after reading this horoscope, I started my novel on December 29, 2012.

Now is the perfect time to start a new writing project; no need to wait until next year. Put down your thoughts without worrying about form, one word at a time.

If you were planning on writing a book and received that same horoscope, what would you have done?

Exactly. I started writing.

 

Thank you for joining us today, Irene. To find out more about Irene and her books, please visit her website, blog or follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

 

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Interview with author, Jesse Frankel

We’d like to welcome Jesse Frankel to Nurture Your BOOKS™. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed today.

 

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Toronto, Canada, a good long time ago and grew up there, graduating from the University of Toronto with a BA in English Literature and Political Science. After that, I went to work in a customer service position for about three years. It was sheer drudgery, but it paid the bills.

At the age of twenty-six I got the wanderlust. I ended up in Japan, taught ESL there—still doing it, by the way—and married a lovely woman from Osaka. We have two sons who love to eat, so I have to work and make enough to feed them!

As for writing, I got into it very late, at the age of forty-eight. I didn’t take it very seriously at first, but by 2014, I decided to do my best. Since then, I’ve had over twenty novels published, with more on the way.

 

Which authors have influenced your writing style?

No one, really. I admire Robert McCammon, Neil Gaiman and N.K. Jemisin, but I could never hope to ape their style and don’t want to. I did take the late Elmore Leonard’s advice, that being to trim the excess wordage away and leave the ‘meat’ of the writing. My style, therefore, is quite minimalist, with just enough description to give the readers a basic idea of what’s going on and no more. The dialogue and action take care of the rest.

 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Watch movies and YouTube vids, listen to music, and try to sleep. Writing late hours as I do, I am very sleep deprived.

 

Please share an excerpt from your latest release:

This is from The Undernet, a YA Suspense novel with overtones of horror and some action. This scene is where our protagonist, Milton (Milt) Edwards, meets his contact for the first time.

Three o’clock came and went, and I found myself standing outside a Fat Boy’s Donuts shop in downtown Omaha. The sun shone down, making me sweat. Glancing around, I wondered exactly who I’d be meeting. Omaha was a nice city, and I’d been here before, but that was to check out some internet cafés and game software shops and not meet some computer expert.

Fat Boy’s Donuts had a ramp leading into the shop, and I peered through the window to check out the patrons. Five men, three women with kids, a fat guy in a wheelchair, and a couple of elderly people all sat at tables eating donuts and drinking coffee. No contact happened. What was going on here?

During the bus ride over, an attack of the nerves hit me. My nervousness grew exponentially as the seconds ticked by. What if this guy turned out to be a creep? All the horror stories I’d heard about hook-ups and such, this was taking a big risk. People surged around me, everyone a stranger, and everyone potentially dangerous. A sense of paranoia grew, and I glanced around at anyone who might be a possible axe murderer. Cool it. You’re just here to meet someone. Things like this happen all the time. Relax! 

It was easy to think those thoughts, but I couldn’t quell the roiling feeling in my gut and jumped back a step when the door to the shop opened. One patron emerged. It was the fat man in the wheelchair. He rolled down the ramp and stopped in front of me. He might have been thirty or sixty. Wearing a pair of black pants with stains on them along with a short-sleeved yellow shirt a size too small and which didn’t hide the rolls of flab, he looked like a beached whale. It was hard to tell how tall he was, but I figured him to be around five-ten. His weight, though, had to top out at three hundred pounds, if not more.

A cane sat in his lap along with three boxes of donuts which he cradled lovingly. “Are you the kid who emailed me?” he asked in a surprisingly high-pitched voice—the same voice as the guy in the video. This was my contact? Sunlight reflected off his bald dome, and he shaded his eyes to squint at me. I made out a pair of black orbs through the folds of flesh. He sort of looked like the guy in the video, but in the flesh—and there was a lot of it—he resembled a mobile blob. Well, not everyone was built like a bodybuilder.

Somewhat disappointed, I answered, “Uh, yeah, that’s me. You said to meet you at three. My name is—”

“Not here,” he interrupted and pointed straight ahead. “Follow me.” We went along the street, him in the lead, and when someone didn’t cooperate in moving aside in time, Melendez used his cane to poke them in the back and then commanded, “Move it!” They did, usually giving him and then me a dirty look.

Finally, we arrived at a small, nondescript and somewhat decrepit two-story house in a quiet residential neighborhood. Only a few people walked by, and none of them bothered looking in our direction. “This way,” he said and waved his hand toward the garage. “I never use the front door. It’s just for show. I, uh, I can’t climb the stairs.”

Peeking through the grimy window, the downstairs was empty save for a few bookshelves with nothing in them. Dust coated the floor and the shelves, and it looked as though no one had lived there for a long time. “I don’t live down there,” he said, underscoring my assumption, and pointed with his finger to the second floor. He fished around in his pants pocket and brought out a remote. Clicking it, the door opened, and inside the garage, I saw a service elevator. “I use this to get around.”

The elevator creaked and rattled its way to the top. Once we reached the second floor, the door opened into a large room with wood flooring and dirty white walls. It housed a small kitchen area with a refrigerator, and one small window allowed the sunlight to stream in.

Five desktop computers sat on two large tables with one old wooden chair and a video camcorder. Man, talk about hardcore! The dude had five top of the line computers, and they all had to have huge memory capacity. This would have been gaming heaven for me. I spotted a small door at the back of the room, but outside of a few waste cans, there wasn’t much else except a sagging couch near the table. Oh yeah, a lot of empty pizza and donut boxes were strewn around the room, and the air smelled of body odor, pepperoni, and a few other aromas that made my nose hairs wilt. Stealing a glance at the window, it was shut. That figured.

I coughed, cleared my throat, and waited. “I sleep here,” he said by way of showing me around. His version of showing me around meant he waved his fat arm at the small window. Going over to it, below us, I saw a tiny backyard and one stunted elm tree. Opening the window a crack, I breathed in the fresh air.

“Over here,” he said in a voice that brooked no dissent. It seemed he liked giving orders… but I didn’t know if I wanted to take them. Still, he said he could help me, so I sat down on the lone chair and waited. He took his time before talking to me, opening the donut boxes and smelling each one as though they were priceless. His paw dipped into one box and withdrew a chocolate-strawberry combination.

With a flourish, he shoved the whole thing in his maw and swallowed it in one gulp. Not bothering to wipe the frosting off his lips, he asked, “Were you serious about wanting my help?”

Be polite and humor the fat guy. I can outrun him. Oh, wait, I can’t run, but at least he can’t walk. “Yes sir, I am.”

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I’m editing another YA Fantasy, entitled Ether. Call it the story of a young reject and a wind sprite. That’s all I can say for the moment.

 

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

As mentioned previously, I was forty-eight. Before that, I’d never considered writing anything. It just never hit me. However, my older son said something to me about talking trees. He’d seen a cartoon on television about it, and that triggered something in my mind. Right away, I started writing something, and that turned into The Tower. It failed to set the world on fire, but it lit a fire under me. I’ve been writing ever since.

 

Please tell us how your books are different and why readers will love them.

I think my novels offer a good blend of action, romance (in many cases) humor, dialogue, and sci-fi adventure to please anyone. I keep the dialogue and narrative ‘clean’ for the most part, keep a fast pace, and try to make each novel as ‘cinematic’ as possible. That’s what one critic called my first Catnip novel—like a movie in a book.

I do love movies, and every novel I’ve ever written is like a movie yet unmade. I see the action like on the big screen and write about it. It must be working. I keep getting published!

 

What do you dislike most about writing?

Editing! I love the writing process, love the dreaming/creative process, but editing is a chore and an evil, although a necessary one. No one wants an error-filled book, least of all me, so I check and recheck things, and then my editor goes over it again with me to make sure it’s the best it can be.

 

Do you have any tips to share with inexperienced authors?

Lots, but I’ll give the basics. One, you’re going to make mistakes at first—a lot of them—so worry less about the errors and more about getting your thoughts down. You can’t fix empty paper. Two, limit adverbs. They’re not the devil, but they should be used judiciously. Three, use the best grammar possible in the narrative. In the dialogue, go wild and feel free to use slang and sentence fragments, but the narrative should flow smoothly. Finally, don’t wait for your muse to find you. YOU have to find your muse.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us today?

Just to say thank you for giving me this interview. It’s very hard for a relatively new author to get any sort of attention, so it does my heart good to know that people out there will help the newbies along the way.

 

Thank you for joining us today, Jesse. To find out more about Jesse and his books, please follow him on Twitter & Facebook.

 

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