Guest Interview: Stuart J. Whitmore

There are few short stories that I wish had been turned into a novel; No Fanfare by Stuart J. Whitmore is one of those short stories that I wish had been longer. This fantastic well-told story  presents us a topic with so many questions that leaves readers wondering about the endless possibilities. But Stuart not only writes short stories, he’s also written novels and non-fiction. I was lucky enough to interview this talented author and I’m certain his answers will inspire many aspiring writers.

– Tell us a bit about yourself. For instance, how did you start writing?

My interest in writing was mostly sparked by winning first prize in a classroom writing contest when I was about eight years old. The prize was $2.00 in cash, which (adjusted for inflation) would be about $10 in today’s dollars. I’m not sure whether the prize or the teacher’s praise mattered more at the time, but I see that as the start of my writing. I wrote my first full-length novel (first draft) when I was 14-15 years old, and another when I was 16-17 years old. I put my writing on hold for awhile to pursue a non-writing career and start a family, but NaNoWriMo helped bring me back to it.

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– How did you come up with the story idea for “No Fanfare”? Would you consider writing more about this topic and even turning it into a novel?

I like to play around with “what if” questions and see what stories I can generate from various answers. Just this morning I wondered, “what if cats could smell memories?” I give full credit for that strange question to the strange behavior of our cat! While I don’t remember the specifics, I’m fairly sure No Fanfare started in a similar way. What if someone was sent on a secret mission to another planet, and then everybody forgot he was there? (Or, what if someone thought that had happened to them, even if it hadn’t?) I also have a long-term interest in Mars exploration and colonization, which previously inspired my children’s book (Two Boys, Two Planets).

I haven’t given any thought to writing more to the story. It was always intended as a vignette focused on the initial “homecoming” experience. I tried to offer enough uncertainty that the reader might wonder what to believe. On the other hand, I realize that some readers prefer a more concrete resolution, so I might someday write a follow-up to No Fanfare.

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– What do you enjoy most, writing short stories or novels? Do you write short stories with the idea they’ll become short stories or do you usually decide this during the writing process?

Short stories are fun to write, but I love writing long, complex novels. I love all of the world- and character-building that I can do with longer works. Usually when I write a short story I intend for it to be short, although sometimes I’ll start a story without a particular goal for how long it will turn out. With short stories I often want to get a reader to start imagining things about the story I’ve started, with the hope they’ll enjoy filling out their own ending, but sometimes I get in trouble for leaving things unanswered!

– What is you ideal place for writing? Do you have a special process to get inspired or get in the writing mood?

I’m very flexible about my writing. I’ve written on public transit, in doctor and dentist waiting rooms, on a bench in a busy shopping mall, as well as quietly at my desk at home. Some writers develop a process to get in the mood for writing, and I often tell myself I should try that, but I never seem to get around to it.

– Besides the Dan Starney series, are you looking to work on another novel?

With luck, I’ll be releasing several more novels this year, as well as some novellas. I have four fantasy novels that are shaping up nicely, plus I have a detailed outline (rare for me) for a novel in a different genre, and a concept for a novella series in yet another genre. This year I’m exploring the use of pen names to keep the different genre works separated, although my fantasy novels will still be under my own name. I also plan to write a third book in the Dan Starney series to wrap up that storyline, although I don’t have a timeframe for when that will be released.

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– You also write non-fiction, what topics do you most enjoy writing about? What differences do you find between writing fiction and non-fiction?

So far my non-fiction writings have been fairly short dabblings in topics, and I haven’t found one where I feel comfortable yet. I like to be able to share information and ideas with people, things that can be useful in the real world, which is the appeal for me in non-fiction. I finder greater joy in writing fiction, but that is perhaps because it is a lot like daydreaming for me, and I am an incorrigible dreamer.

– What would you recommend aspiring writers? Any tips or writing recommendations?

One of the biggest obstacles that I see in aspiring writers is getting past the “I’m going to” stage and actually doing. While I enjoy talking about writing as much as anyone, being a writer means actually doing the writing too. There are many ways for people to start writing, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and I would encourage aspiring writers to seek out those opportunities — contests, anthologies, sites like Wattpad, etc. — and start producing words. This is especially useful if it is done in a way where complete strangers can read those writings. Reactions from people outside of family and close friends can help highlight what works and what doesn’t. To develop as a writer, it is important to learn about writing and read what others have written, but it is even more important to just write, write, write!

For more information about Stuart J. Whitmore:

Website: http://www.stuartwhitmoreauthor.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5623681.Stuart_J_Whitmore
Google + https://plus.google.com/+StuartWhitmore
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Crenel
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StuartWhitmoreAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stuart_whitmore_author/
Snapchat: stuart_whitmore

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Reading with writer’s eyes…

Being a writer is not easy at all, being a reader who writes neither it is. Reading and Writing are my biggest passions. But as I try to merge them into one world, I realize the challenge increases.

In order to write, you have to read. This is the most common advice you’ll receive from writers, books and courses about writing. And there is no bigger truth. Once you decide that writing is you want to do for the rest of your life, reading will come attached as a twin sister. I don’t believe in writers who don’t read. I just can’t. It won’t matter how many a good ideas you have, if you don’t know how the world of books work, and the only way to know is by getting up close to what’s out there.

But one must read all types of books out there:

Reading classics – They are classics for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that they usually show great command of the language. They display high-quality narrative that has been awarded and well appraised by so many. What works in these books? What made them classics? You need to find out by for yourself.

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Reading Best Sellers – And it includes the highly criticized dystopian YA. But why are they so popular? Why are their writers the ones that can actually make a living of this? I usually hear many people chastising these books. Finding them with “my favorite books” tag in intellectual circles of writers would be almost impossible …. But guess what? They do sell! They have “the formula.” And yes, writing-wise they may not be the best example, but they can certainly grab readers.

Now, you may say: “Well, it depends on the reader.” And usually not all teenagers are the most loyal parameter of quality reading, but they are a wide popular profitable target market. Despite these books might be cheesy and corny, we realize many adults do also enjoy them. The key, I believe, is to find a balance between what is good writing and what sells. Let’s face it, we all know that deep in our hearts, we would really love to make money of our writing. So reading this literature we must (my Yoda dysfunctional personality)

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Reading all genres – I’ve heard tons of advice saying that you must read in your genre. True! But it doesn’t end there. I’ve learned to read in all sorts of genres. And I believe that it’s not fair to say you aren’t used to an X genre because you don’t read in it. All genres are writing; all of them teach us something. Romance teaches us how to create romantic tension between characters. Thrillers teach us how to insert adventure and movement in your plot. Mysteries teach us how to grab readers until the end of the book. Sci-fi teaches us through setting description how to create fantasy worlds. Memoirs teach us how not to lose the essence and spirit of your book… and so on…. All these elements usually coexist in a book.

People read not only because the plot was so exciting that they couldn’t let the book go, but also because they cared about the protagonists; they found allies or inspiration in them. I’ve read a couple of action-packed thrillers that got me bored easily. I reached a point where I was just so bored about the extensive description of a fight scene; a slow motion punch described in pages. It reminded me of those movies where half of the movie is shootings and guns and no interesting plot. It also happens with books.

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If you’re like me, with preference for Thrillers for example, then you have at least to care about one of your characters. We want to know that the CIA spy of a book has a family with a sick child, that if he doesn’t do the job, his son will die. We want that CIA spy that when he’s about to die, we will keep reading and pray that he doesn’t. If he’s just a random handsome spy with great muscles, involved in a cat and mouse chase during the plot, it gets boring…Thriller writers need to read romance and memoirs too!

As a writer, I try to read with a different eye. I try to see all elements in a book, how dialogue flows, how settings and actions are described, how writers show and don’t tell. I assess why the plot gets exciting, how chapters end, and what makes me go to the next chapter. I evaluate those setting descriptions that are just too long for me to care. I write down when I find words and expressions that work so well that I could use them in a further work (one of the advantages of kindle reading, that you can highlight words without actually damaging a book.)

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This is a new way of reading, different from what I was used to, but satisfying nonetheless. It’s not only about finding refuge in a book while resting on a reading corner, but also investing time in my long-time dreamed goals.

If you’re a writer, do you find yourself with this different perspective of reading?

Guest Post: Juni Desireé – fellow blogger and writer

When you enter the blogging world, not only you start communicating with the people that follow your blog, but also you start following other blogs you start connecting with. In my blogger journey I had the chance to meet many wonderful people whose blogs I love to read, one of those persons is Juni Desireé, a wonderful blogger and writer who has always struck me with her honest words and her openness to the world. She writes from her heart and she’s very passionate for everything she sets her mind into. I totally recommend following her blogs and checking out this interview for her future projects.
Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Juni Desireé (aka JD). My blog is called JD on a Page (http://jdonapage.wordpress.com). It’s a blog where I share my stories and the lessons I learn, in the hope that it offers something good to people. I also have a writing blog called Write to Wrestle (https://awrestlingwriter.wordpress.com).
I’m currently studying a Master of Writing and Literature and I’m working on a book about what I’ve learnt this year when I moved from Victoria to Queensland.
I love dogs! Everyone should have a dog; they make life better. And my favourite food is fish and chips with tartare sauce.
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How did you start writing?
My first memory of writing is when I was in my first year of primary school. We had to write a diary each week. I loved it and have been writing ever since. I started journal writing when I was eleven when my mum bought me a journal.

Writing helps me to be sane…

This is a continuation from my last post (Once I forgot the typewriter, I forgot how to live) and final part (I promise):

From those writing experiences and my relationship with my typewriter in my child years. I sadly left the writing world, and forgot about my dreams. Many years later, I started to pay attention to other things in life, and stopped writing until I was probably out of college, or even after I had finished some postgraduate studies.

I studied a career that was never meant for me, so when I read about a short-story local contest in the newspaper, I heard a voice calling me again… I didn´t win anything, but being more mature this time, I acknowledged that writing was truly a passion for me.

For many years, I had several jobs in a career that I never liked, and a life situation where I was always unhappy. Finally, I decided that I had to find what I really wanted to do in my life and shout it to the world, and I did.

Now, I´m a writer, even if I don´t write that well yet, or even when I have so much to  learn, I consider myself a writer, because writing helps me to be sane, it helps me communicate with the world, and it helps me discover a life where I feel everything is possible.

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Image source: archolatheatre.com

I have started writing this year, and I chose to do it in English (because all the books I read are in English and writers tend to write according to what they read) and I feel absolute and totally happy and satisfied with my life, because for the first time I´m acknowledging who I am, what I want to do for the rest of my life, and I´m totally confident that I´m working hard on it.

Once I forgot the typewriter I forgot how to live…

(This is a continuation of the previous post: How to make your kid an avid reader/writer)

I still remember when I was little, no computer yet in my house (I got my first computer when I started University) but we used to have a typewriter (well, we still do, it´s there forgotten somewhere in a dark place of my house). I had read in the newspaper about a writing contest, sponsored by the government in my city, and I thought it was a hell of opportunity for me. I was no more than eight years old, and decided to enter this contest for ‘novel writers’. I´m convinced that it was just for adults but I didn´t pay attention to it. I just wrote with my typewriter a wonderful story (that shamefully I never kept a copy) of a fantasy world. Since typewriters didn´t allow you to make mistakes, my presentation was extremely awful. Being a kid, I wasn´t conscious yet about having to redo a whole page whenever I had a mistake on the typewriter, I would just use an eraser and type over the mistake.

Image source: site.xavier.edu
Image source: site.xavier.edu

When I was done, I begged my Aunt Nancy, who used to live near the post office, to put the papers in an envelope and submit it to the P.O. box of the contest. Of course, I never won or anything and the writing must had been really embarrassing, but I was just eight years old! Nevertheless, having such a wonderful imagination (that I still have fortunately), the story in itself must had been a lot of fun.

At that age, I felt there was no limit for me and no barriers to achieve whatever I wanted. What a shame, I was never encouraged to follow these dreams. I wrote short stories for my mom and some members of my family before I was 10. I have a couple of them stored in a box, and of course the writing is terrible but the stories, the creativity, the characters were great. But what I remember the most is that I always felt fulfilled whenever I wrote those stories.That sense of fulfilment shouldn´t be forgotten, we should live our lives with the intention of feeling always like that.

However, I did forget it… and it was shameful because it led me to years and years of an unsatisfied and unhappy life….

P.S. will continue…