"Writer Wednesday Q&A with featured author:
Alyse Michelle Gardner."
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I'm a rambling, blunt, honest, curvy short redhead. Haha! I'm a writer and been doing it the majority of my life. I went to college for four years with a major in Creative Writing and two minors, one in Psychology and the other in Women and Gender Studies. I used to want to be an English teacher, up until I was a senior in high school, but the reasoning behind the why I wanted to teach is why I would like to help others in some way. I'm also an auntie, and am the youngest of four. I love my friends and family with all my heart. I am a jar brimmed full of emotions that's often cracks. I love books, film, tv, art, traveling. Background...? I was raised in the middle of nowhere on a Meat Farm and my dad was in the military up until I finished high school. I support our soldiers, but I'm not a fan of the military. I hate politics. I'm a feminist. I'm for human rights, gun rights, love. I'm a bundle of variety and find it hard to "describe" my background unless guided by specific questions. Attempt to sum me up: I'm a sharp tongued, big-hearted, peace-loving, determined, fighter, caring, sassy, yin-yang balance striver. How's that?
What were you like at school?
That's a tough one. In high school, I guess you could say I wasn't very adventurous, even though I dreamt of it. I was much more uptight and wasn't into risk taking. I think I judged some, somewhat hypocritically. I hate to admit it, but it's true. I wanted to go out more, but I always ended up putting my schooling first and was afraid of what my parents would say. I never wanted to disappoint anyone, especially my family. I feared being a disappointment and strived to be perfect in many ways I suppose. I found ways to have fun of course though, but they weren't big hurrahs. I kept my head low, myself in line, my nose clean...your typical good girl. Hell, even if I liked a style and felt it was me, I didn't do it really because I was judged and I cared what others thought. Oh, and I was much more into romance I suppose; you know, the kind that would make me gag and roll my eyes now as an adult. Typical teenager in that respect.
I was into school and worked hard for my grades. I was considered smart but still had to put in a few extra hours than some of my classmates in order to gain my good grades in both high school as well as college. I think that's the only similarity between how I was in high school compared to when I was an undergrad striving for my Bachelors. That, and the fact that I was honest, loyal, and cared about others. I lightened up a lot in college, cared less, learned to focus on myself and my own thoughts and feelings. I opened up to exploring. Stopped preaching, took more action. Took more chances. Trusted less, discovered more. Found things that truly inspired me and learned that it was best to listen to myself...whether it be my own gut, heart, or mind, instead of others. I mean, yeah, I listened to others to be there for them and to expand my knowledge, but...I didn't look to others for approval. I became more outspoken. I became more independent. I was more random. And more often that not, even though I was now a young adult, I learned to let the kid in me out. So I got older and wiser, but also became carefree.
I love who I was in college! Don't really care for who the person I was like in high school. I don't regret how I was though back then, because in my opinion, it's still a segment of my life that makes me who I am today. I grew into myself.
Were you good at English?
Yes! Haha. Is it sad that I kind of jump to answer that? I was the student that my friends envied in my early teens because I wouldn't care about the papers or the books really, breeze through the novels expected to be read as well as the papers, and get high nineties for the grades. When it was time for me to start my junior year, I started taking A.P. English because I was tired of the breeze and knew I wanted to take English in college, so if I was going to do well later I had to be challenged.
I'm still happy that I took that step, because even though it hurt somewhat in my brain each time I got below a ninety, even if it was just an eighty-nine, I found a way to be proud of that grade. I actually had to work for my English grades just like in my other classes finally. I still did well, but unlike the years before, I actually LEARNED. Haha. And the teacher I had for my A.P. classes those last two years for it was wonderful; he was the best adult male figure for me at the time that was actually around considering my dad was overseas most of that time frame. He's my favorite teacher from high school, and he supports me still. I'm extremely grateful to have had him as a teacher, and consider him a blessing, both for his character as well as his push to make me better. Actually, both teachers that were my favorite from my hometown were English teachers: in both middle and high.
Funny how that works.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I would like to be published more of course, but I also want to continue to educate myself in it and grow. I was often told by my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Lawless, that you should learn something new everyday and I am a firm believer in that. I would like to publish collections of my poetry at some point, have some artists perform my song lyrics, finish my novels and publish them as well as more short stories. I've also considered getting into writing scripts someday. Needless to say, my ambitions are endless for my writing career, and that's only a piece of the pie.
Which writers inspire you?
Going quick off the top of my head: J.R.R. Tolkien, Sarah Dessen, Libba Bray. Not going to let myself over think this since that's a bad habit of mine and you'd end up looking up at least thirty authors.
So, what have you written?
My most recent piece that I've written that is published is "Bite to the Heart" in the short story anthology Slayers, put out by 7DS Books. It's expected out sometime this spring. It's kind of my first "big" step. I mean, my first piece where people worldwide can read that isn't my work on my blog. Oh yeah, that's another thing I've written: my blog. Haha. I post poetry and lyrics that I've written on there, and sometimes excerpts from pieces in progress and if asked by other author friends, I'm happy to post cover reveals or things along those sorts.
In regards to other pieces I was first published in my college's literary magazine, Jigsaw, for my poem "Jenn" in 2011, and they published me again two years later for my poem "In Bed With The Devil" as well as an excerpt from one of my novels in progress.
Hmm...a few months after I first started actually networking and after I started my blog to showcase my work and share it, I was a guest blogger for author Dixon Rice's blog "Wredheaded Writer.
In regards to awards or whatnot, I won third place in 2012 for the Emma Lazarus: Voice of Conscience Poetry contest for my poem "Missing the Shooting Gun." And in the same year, I received an honorary mention for the Jennifer M. Lloyd Women and Gender Studies essay prize, for a research essay I wrote in the style of a short story called "Sex Slave."
Where can we buy any online or in stores?
The book is going to be available via Amazon and the 7DS Books website as far as I believe, in both Kindle and hard copy formats.
What are you currently working on?
Since I graduated last year, I've been working on editing short stories of mine from the past and sending them out to various pubs. Other than that, I jump between projects: either rewriting some old, unfinished pieces, jotting down scenes that come in my head, or working on sections of two of my novels. And I am almost always coming up with poetry. I've always been all over the place for what I'm working on, and I doubt that'll ever change. Believe it or not, I work best that way....less over thinking allowed and I feel more creative that way.
How much research do you do?
It typically depends on the piece. Or if I have a giant urge to research something. When that happens, it often becomes a research tangent that is almost on borderline obsession.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I was seven.
Why do you write?
To get ideas, thoughts, and feelings out. To tell truths, to tell images and dreams. Be rid of nightmares. Expression. Love. Frustration. Irritation. Pain. Reveal and share fragments of the soul. To survive. To be sane.
Where do the your ideas come from?
All over. Sometimes random images or people will trigger something in me and then it goes from there. Or an event will happen, or a dream...memories creep forward. My ideas are a hodgepodge and medley.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I hate outlines. In the large picture, I suppose I see where the idea takes me for a piece. My writing is messy-organized. I write down things I definitely want, the questions that come to mind as they rise to the surface in my brain, and brainstorms. Sometimes I have arrows or numbers next to the bullets to come forward with an order.
There's often times where I write in separate sections, and then I piece them together in what makes sense and clicks to me as right, almost as if the story is a quilt. I've tried writing in order instead of the quilting style, and it drives me bonkers. I feel zapped out of the creativity and it's harder for me to decide if I'm actually giving the work the proper life.
One of my last completed pieces I did the in order style first, and I absolutely hated the piece, but still loved the idea. In order for me to fix it at all and create some balance to it where I could at least look at it without crying from internal screams, I broke it down by where it broke into new segments, and each segment became a new document. It helped my mind and the piece. Like I said, I'm messy-organized when it comes to writing. Haha!
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Focus! That tends to be my hardest obstacle.
In school, believe it or not, it wasn't hard to focus on it even though my time was often crunched or stolen, where I'd be writing scenes and dialogue in notebooks, on scrap pieces of paper, and going as far as covering my forearms and backs of my hands in pen. That last part wasn't always great, because you had to pray that the ink didn't smudge or wear, and the fact that often, ink doesn't come off my skin easy even with scrubbing. There'd be times where I'd still have black or blue dye on my skin two or three days after scribbling on it.
Seriously though, focus is the hardest thing about writing for me. Either because I've too much that demands attention, or my family intercedes instead of leaving me to work. I need sound when I work for instance, so I often have nonsense television on in the background, or music. Preferably the television though, because I tend to want to sing along to tunes. Having actual people around me, talking? That's a nosedive. Boom! Deserving of a get out glare. Unless you're going to help me somehow, either progression of the piece, feeding me, or offering to take up some of my to-do list in a way that I won't want to re-do it...then go away please and leave me to work two to five hours at least, alone. Trust me, I sometimes wish to send certain family members, or others, some howlers via owls.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Well, for the story I wrote for the book that I'm a contributor to, the hardest thing was the editing and re-writing process. I was nervous! This is my first official published piece that isn't connected to college. And I didn't have much else going on in my life at the time to keep me busy and mix things up, so I was completely involved in the story. Naturally, I over thought, and since it was all I was doing, it was harder to see the problem areas. Once I could though, and friends helped the fog clear...I beat that thing with a stick. I made it my piñata...I just hope the little bit of candy that comes from it is enjoyed by the readers.
I know I will grow from this, and just keep in my head that this is what it is: my first. It's not going to be a masterpiece, but I did my damndest to make it a good piece. I learned from it, that's for sure. But the nervousness....yeah, it's still there and when I think about it, unless it's to talk about the positive parts, I'm a little nauseous. Don't let this keep you from reading it though. Trust me, it's changed greatly since it's first draft, and as Ernest Hemingway once said, "The first draft of anything is shit." And it's true. I moved forward from that first draft, and even though I may be nervous and nauseous, I'm still proud of myself and don't regret it. Not one bit. I'm still starting out, no one can be perfect. I'm sure there'll be times twenty years from now that I'll be publishing story number fifty and still have those same feelings, but maybe with a little more confidence. As a writer, your story is a piece of you, a child created from someplace inside...it's natural to feel this way. Or so I've been told.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Easiest? Think think think...yes, I'm getting my Pooh Bear on. Easiest would be the ideas and brainstorms. I love the high I get from it all.
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
Sure do, and it always likes to come either when I'm in the height of a piece, actually have time for it, and all conditions are near perfect. Or when I've deadlines. Deadlines and writer's block liked to do the bowchicawowow with each other whenever it was an important piece or essay for a class in college.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Walk away. Find a distraction. Do something to kick start the brain or heart. You know cars without keys? The driving is blocked...pull a Stitch (Experiment 626), grab the "wires," rub them together and pray for the spark. Just think, if you get rid of the writer's block that's plaguing you, you can then jump right back in the story with the mindset of "Oh good! My dog found the chainsaw!" Surprisingly, what I've noticed with writer's block is that you sometimes just need your own version of a good mental kick in the rear or a personalized refresh button. Just keep pressing it. Repeat until results are found.
For your own reading, do you prefer e-books or traditional paper/hard back books?
The traditional. I'm a hardcore traditionalist for the way I read. I can see the pro's of e-books, I mean I have a kindle app on my computer that I use once in a great while myself, especially if my eyes are tired, but nothing beats the tactile feeling of the weight of a book in my hands, the smell, the memories when you open up the exact copy of a paperback you've read before. I used to work in a library, and I remember how I'd fall upon a book I remembered reading, and it was like greeting a friend (or foe) with fondness. It's like that if I see any of the books I've read somewhere. And the thrill of buying an actual book in hard copy! I hug them like prizes and treasures, hard teddy bears full of pages and worlds. You can't do that each time you download a new "book" onto your reader. And come on, who can compare the smell differences and perfume of the pages of random books to a piece of hardware? I literally inhale each new book I come into possession of...even if I get odd looks from my family members and friends. Come and get it, fresh perfumed stories hot off the presses! Like I said, in this respect, I'm a traditionalist, but to each their own. For me, I'm in love with paper/hard back books. The one love you can guarantee that I've had since I was tiny until the day that I die. And to those who ever help me move around from one place to the other down the road, my apologies. I'll find a chiropractor to refer you to.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I am currently reading Ironside by Holly Black. I first read it about five years ago, and decided to revisit it. And I've also been reading segments from one of my old Human Sexuality books from my college days. The one chapter I've been on deals with the psychological and sociological aspects of relationships. Hmmm...after I'm done with Ironside, I plan to move onto (I think) Abandoned by Meg Cabot.
How do you relax?
That depends on what vices are available, my mood, and who's with me. Some favorites: a nice cold adult drink, a cold coke, a hot mug of tea, a good book (go figure), sketching, watching a film or tv marathon, music. Surprisingly, I've also loved to relax by watching a horror flick (and I ain't into those as a rule of thumb) with a friend if they're the kind of person that calms me with their presence. Oh, and if I'm with one of my best friends, when she gives me a massage, I melt like butter under the pressure and my brain goes to sleep...so long stress!
What is your favorite motivational phrase.
First thing that comes to my mind: Never give up.
What is your favorite positive saying?
Hmmm...I've often mentally referred to "Fight like a girl." Sounds weird, but it's the truth. It's a song by Bomshel. I think of that phrase, and the song comes straight to my mind. It ends up reinforcing never giving up for me.
What are your top ten favorite books and why?
You don't want to get me started. As Drew Barrymore said in Ever After "I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens" or something like that.
What is your favorite film and why?
Okay, that's a really hard question for me, just like books, I can't really choose one favorite movie. May I just list a few...?
All of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films that were directed by Peter Jackson. Why? I LOVE Tolkien! And they were absolutely fantastic. For the most recent film for those, I sat in the theater, my eyes wide with stars in them, my mouth agape, and was absolutely thrilled like a besotted small child. I'm surprised I didn't bawl with joy.
Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. The way that film showed me the love between Lizzie and Darcy, as well as into their characters, unlike the other versions and even the novel, I felt was magical and real. I feel the intensity every time I watch it.
The Neverending Story. I want to ride a luck dragon and have a fling with Atreyu.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast. If you don't know why, review this interview.
The Princess Bride. To the pain! As you wish! The sword fight...oh la la!
Walk the Line. Come on, Johnny and June are icons.
Grease. I blame this for the reasoning behind my type of men. Damn you John Travolta.
Pathology. I love Milo Ventimiglia, he's my favorite actor. I admire him so much. He also makes my knees weak more than any other actor. But for real, I'm not into most thrillers, but I can watch this one on loop.
Dirty Deeds. Another Milo movie. I'm really trying to narrow this down. Every time I've watched the movie, I have laughed my ass off. I have to keep from spilling what each deed is whenever someone watches it with me for their first time. I love it even more after I saw my dad let out his own version of cackling laughter for a certain deed involving a morgue. That's a good sign!
Okay, I'm going to stop listing now, otherwise I'm going to be divulging my entire movie collection.
Well, maybe not the entire collection, but still.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don't let others get in your way. If something feels wrong, it is. You can do anything you set your mind to. Be yourself sooner and don't let anyone make you feel differently.
And fight for love...if it comes sooner than others expect for you, or doesn't fall in line with what they want for you, don't let yourself give a shit. If you feel it's real, and it's strong, don't step to the side...at least not immediately. If you think it's best for the other person to make them happy, okay, but don't put the chance for your happiness aside just because of rules and expectations, because it may be real and that's never going to go away no matter what your betters try to tell you or how much you fight against it. So accept it, and fight for it. Love is important and is going to change you kid.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don't aspire. Do.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
They are always welcome to chat with me via my Facebook like page or via Twitter. I've also a youtube page as well as my blog.
Links to Alyse Michelle Gardner :