Friday, November 19, 2010

Interview with Kristina Riggle

Today's author interview is with Kristina Riggle.

Kristina Riggle is a novelist and published short story writer from West Michigan. Her debut novel, REAL LIFE & LIARS, was a Great Lakes, Great Reads selection in 2009. Her latest novel THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED was honored as an IndieNext Notable pick by independent booksellers. 
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you have been writing? 

I'm a recovering journalist and I've been writing as long as I can remember. I started writing fiction seriously with an eye to publication in 2003, and my first book deal was struck in February 2008. 

Do you have a regular writing schedule or place where you write? 

I do my most focused writing four mornings a week, always on my laptop, which is usually in my office, though if the weather is pleasant enough I move out to my deck.

Why did you decide to write your books? 

Any given book has a different motivation, but speaking generally, I write the kinds of books I like to read: stories of complicated personal dynamics with a big cast of colorful characters and a vivid setting.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while writing? 

Same as for any writer: making the time and keeping your back up straight when rejections beat you down. But I carried on so as not to waste all my previous efforts. If I'd have quit, what would it have mattered, all those earlier hours and struggle? 

What was most enjoyable about your writing process?   

Creating fascinating people, putting them through their paces, and watching what unfolds. I basically play Let's Pretend for a living. 

Have you ever received advice from another writer that influenced you or that you still remember? 

My good friend Eliza Graham (a very talented British writer) told me once not to reveal too much, too soon. Now when I'm ready to let the reader in on a secret, I usually make myself wait and it's always an improvement in pacing and tension.

What one piece of advice (or maybe two) would you give to other writers? 

It's a learn-by-doing business, so get writing and keep writing. Learn to take an honest critique without defensiveness. When you get knocked down, wallow for a day but get back up. I have this quote framed on my desk: "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." Richard Bach.

What are the titles of your books and where can readers find them. 

REAL LIFE & LIARS and THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED are available in bookstores and online. My next novel will be out in June 2011, called THINGS WE DIDN'T SAY. 

Thank you very much for this interview, Kris. Since I've already read your first two books, I'll be looking forward to reading your new book in June of next year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prompt, First Line & Question

Is anyone using these prompts and first lines?  Are the questions making you think?  It's lonely here in blog world.  Is anyone out there?

Without further ado:

Today's writing prompt:

You can go back in time.  Where, when and why?

First line:

The cat was peeking through the mail slot.


What do you do to get yourself out of writers block?


Monday, November 15, 2010

To Adverb or Not - a case for, mostly, and against, somewhat

Here is a guest post by my friend and writing group member, Lee.  She is a retired teacher so she knows a thing or two about those rascally adverbs. 

Adverbs are words that add to the meaning of verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. They answer the questions,  how? when? how much? and to what extent?
            The adverb in the sentence He played valiantly would be inappropriate in a sports news article but would be a useful setup for a sports columnist who would then explain the statement with factual back-up. The adverb in the sentence He played yesterday is probably necessary.  The adverb in the following sentence, He played football often in his spare time, lets the reader know that the game was important in the person’s life. 
            In her book Salt, Monique Truong describes the famous Paris apartment of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. She writes dense sentences enhanced by her use of adjectives and adverbs. 
            Paper-white narcissuses, one hundred bulbs in shallow pools, moistened pebbles, their roots exposed, clinging, pale anchors steadying the blooms as they angle toward the sun. The windows are never completely closed because the sweet, powdery scent would be unbearable. In those corners where sunlight is an unfulfilled promise, there are bowls of varying sizes holding hydrangea clusters, dried, the color of barely brewed tea. With no water to weigh them down, the blooms rattle against their china vessels whenever a draft sidles through the garret. The petals scraping lightly against the bone-enriched walls sing the song of a rainfall. I choose to remember these things only. The rest I will discard.
            An argument could be made for the necessity of each of the four adverbs used in this excerpt; although, they could be deleted and the sentences would still be readable. The last adverb needs no such argument.  The last two sentences and the word only  send the reader careening into the next paragraph.
            Don’t forget about conjunctive adverbs, words and phrases that can join two thoughts; such as, such as, for instance, and therefore. They need the help of a semicolon and a comma in order to have the power to join entire sentences.
            On the other hand, are adverbs overused? Definitely.  Certain words become trendy, then overused until they mean next to nothing. That’s why adverbs such as really, truly, and very should be avoided. One more instance of adverb use to be avoided is in the identifying part of dialog. “Shut the door!” she yelled loudly is an instance in which the adverb is unnecessary and redundant. 
            I would go on about adverbs, but I’m finding this topic to be not just boring but very boring; however, I hope that some of this information will be useful to you. Be sure to thoughtfully consider each adverb in your sentences--to adverb or not.

by Lee Bradley