Friday, March 29, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fellow Cool Author Interview: Wendy Storer

Wendy Storer is my runner-up buddy in the Mslexia children's novel competition.  Lu Hersey won the competition (yay Lu!), but both Wendy and I were that close.  Since finding out we missed the win by a hair's breadth we've exchanged a few e-mails, tweets and I read her book, Bring Me Sunshine.  The book is not my usual fare of dark paranormal for an older YA audience.  It's for a slightly younger crowd and is realistic fiction. Had I seen it on Amazon before knowing Wendy I may not have picked it up.  Which would have been a mistake, because the book is emotionally engaging, well written, and uplifting.  It's a mistake I don't want YOU to make, hence the interview here: 

  1. Could you sum up Bring Me Sunshine in a few sentences?
Bring Me Sunshine is essentially a story about Daisy, a teenage girl, whose dreams of being a drummer and running off into the sunset with the gorgeous Dylan are thwarted by her Dad’s deteriorating mental health. She finds herself looking after her dad and little brother, and her own life is put on hold.

2.  What was the inspiration for writing this novel?
I heard someone use the phrase “ladder to the moon”. It conjured up all sorts of images about the impossibility of putting a ladder up to the moon, and I got to thinking about how I could use it in a story. I came up with a plot about a boy who needed to find a way to be happy, despite the impossible circumstances of his life. The first few drafts were called Ladder to the Moon, but somewhere along the line the story evolved into something slightly different. The main protagonist changed from boy to girl, a little brother was added, the narrative changed from past to present tense, a ‘first love’ story emerged, Dad developed dementia, Mum died, a long lost uncle was added to the mix… and so on. But despite these changes, the core of the story was always the same. It was always going to be a story about a child caring for a member of his/her family and finding a way to live with him/herself, happily.

At about the same time as I was developing the dementia story line, I read a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which answered an eternal question for me, about how we find happiness. Tolle’s belief is that “In the Now, the present moment, problems do not exist. In the Now, we discover that we are already complete and perfect…” and it seemed to not only provide an answer for my young protagonist, but the theme of ‘being present’ also enhanced the idea of Dad having Alzheimer’s, which is a very ‘in the moment’ kind of illness.
And the other big inspiration, is the town where I live; Kendal. In early drafts, the story was set in a fictitious place, but after a few drafts I thought, this is a story about real life events, why not set it in a real live place? Kendal was the obvious choice. If you came here, you could find all the places mentioned in the story, you could go to the Torchlight Procession (featured in the opening chapters), you could go to the school, the college, the castle… They are all real places.
3. What was most difficult about writing Bring Me Sunshine?

f I had to say one thing, I would say it was researching Alzheimer’s Disease. Watching videos of AD victims was very very sad, and I cried many times.
4. Have you learned anything from writing this book?

I volunteered with my local branch of Young Carers for two years and got to know a little more about how the issues that arise when you are a carer. I suppose that what I didn’t expect was that these kids, for the most part, do what they need to do without complaint. They just get on with it. But just because they don’t complain or moan about their lot in life, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Society expects a lot from these young people and I think we owe them a huge debt of gratitude and a large dollop of understanding. I firmly believe that carers (of all shapes and sizes) make the world a better place.

I also learned a little bit about Zen Buddhism and how to apply it to every day life, and something about drumming technique, famous drummers, and the Zen of drumming. The drumming research was by far the most entertaining piece of research I have ever embarked on, and I had such fun finding the right song to name each chapter after.
5. Is there a particular aspect of writing in general that you find challenging?

The middle of a book is always hard; all your plot points are up in the air and you have to keep the story moving without letting anything drop. It’s easy to feel over faced and want to give up at this point. I have more than one manuscript lying in a drawer, half finished, abandoned!
6. What else have you written?  And can you tell us about your current projects?
Where Bluebirds Fly – a story about a girl who gets sent to a residential school for girls with ‘problems’ and discovers a secret which changes her life forever. 
Available now from Amazon UK   And Amazon US 
And I have another book which I am about to publish called How to be Lucky, about friendship, luck and taking chances here… This should be available before May.
7. Where can we buy Bring Me Sunshine?
You can buy Bring Me Sunshine from Amazon UK 
As well as Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Waterstones… and me!
You can also read my blog post – 11 Things You Didn’tKnow About Bring Me Sunshine 
 Find out more about me at
Twitter @wendystorer

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Paranormal Activity
Something happened last weekend.  Something...uh...strange.

I love reading paranormal novels. And writing them.  In interest of authenticity (and out of curiosity), I decided to investigate this world that so captivates me on the page. 

I spent two days in a channeling workshop.  Yep, that's right.  Channeling. Like mediumship, only (and I just learned this) with higher beings.  Imagine this:  Six students and a workshop leader, sitting in a room looking out onto a forest.  Quiet music playing.  A sense of safety.  Like a warm cocoon.  Our leader guides us through deeper and deeper meditation, inviting those she calls "spirit guides" to come to us.  To communicate through us. To use our bodies and our voices to speak so we can hear them.

And the crazy part?  It happened.  Something very paranormal took place.

I listened to my friends' breathing change rhythm, saw their bodies jerk.  I heard words that wouldn't normally come out of people I know coming out of people I know.  And while I wasn't able -- or possibly even willing -- to get that far myself, I did feel my entire body tingle, my heart rate kick up, and a...a...presence surrounding me.  At one point a bubble of pure bliss encased me and I burst out laughing.  The smile lingered on my face for hours afterward.

The whole thing freaked me out.  And yet it was kind of cool. 

Ask me about my belief system and I can't give a straight answer.  I'm still working out if I'm spiritual or religious or even atheist or agnostic or all or none of the above. I don't talk about energies or angels or prophets or ghosts or past lives -- at least not outside the pages of my manuscripts. Because, until last weekend,  not much had ever happened to me that's considered outside the realm of what we call "normal."

I'm still digesting the events of the weekend. I'm not worrying about whether I believe it or not, or  whether I'll do it again, or what the meaning of it all is. In the end, that's not really important.  What is important is that I had a new experience, saw things from a different perspective. It was a discovery for me -- and isn't that what life is about?

I'm not quite sure how to classify my channeling adventure.  But if I had to put a label on what I did last weekend, it would be:  Wow.  That was freaky cool.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Words of Wisdom

“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don'ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.” — Philip Pullman

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Power of (Swear) Words
Okay.  This week has been the week from hell.  Let's just say there's been stress or...uh...issues in every single facet of my life.  I do stress okay.  But I don't do multiples stresses well. And who are the people to deal with the backlash?

My family, of course.  Because I love them.  So I can be myself with them.  Even when that's BAD.

But it works the other way around, too.  I see the worst of them.

You can see where this is going.

It had to happen. The entire volcanic chain of the Hayoz clan erupted, sending bright colored sparks and searing hot lava all over the place. And the biggest eruption of all came from me.

In almost eleven years of parenting, I have never sworn at my children.  I've screamed, cried, or done the freaky low voice thing, but I have never put a four-letter word out there.

Until now.

Because of the week I've had, because of the week the kids have had, because of the sheer exhaustion of trying to get someone to listen, F*** was really the only word that fit what I needed to say.  It has a power behind it, like the POF! of a punch meeting its mark.  It embodies all the anger and frustration and disgust and fatigue I've been feeling, all in a compact box of four letters.

So I used it.  I put all the force of my voice behind it and hurled it at my kids.  Call me a bad mom.  A horrible person.  I don't care.  It's something I don't do regularly and so it has impact.

My girls' mouths dropped open and their eyes got wide.  And then they started bawling, big, blubbering sobs that washed out all volcanic activity, but that had enough force to flood us all.

Oh, f***.

I guess I won't be doing that again.

Monday, March 4, 2013