Wednesday, December 13, 2017

History, Myth and Legend - A Thrilling Combination!

The three young people are off on yet another adventure. They have to find all of the seven stones of power before evil claims them for evil gains. Adam and Justin, cousins, and their Aunt Isabel’s ward, Kim, are on a mission to find the third precious stone of power. Like their adventures in Scotland and Egypt, this third book in the “Chronicles of the Stone” series takes the young people to Mexico and the land of the Aztec and Maya. With a mixture of adventure, fantasy and history, the plot unfolds with the same excitement as the first two books, this one beginning with a plane crash in the jungle. Left to their own devices, the stranded young people must find their way to a lost Maya city, where they believe the third stone is hidden. Dr. Khalid, the evil that has plagued their adventures so far, has once again cheated death and is hot on their trail. 
And, if myth and history and fantasy succeed, the reincarnation of two important Aztec gods will rule again. Tezcatlipoca a powerful Aztec god, ruler of the night sky and a dark god of sorcery and war, has shattered the isolated groups of Maya descendants who continue to live in the jungle, kidnapping many of them for his own personal gains. His name, which means Smoking Mirror, continues to instil fear. It is the power of fear that allows him to take control of so many people and make them his minions. His complete opposite, Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent, god of the wind and the star called Venus, is the embodiment of good. Red-headed Adam bears resemblance to Quetzalcoatl. With his ability to see things, to have visions, and, even though still considered a child, his ability to do the unexpected, makes him a powerful force against evil.
Fiona Ingram’s “The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper” is a powerful, exciting story full of adventure and knowledge. The history and mythology of the Aztec and Maya people is thoroughly researched and presented in a compelling way to attract readers, young and old, to learn more about this ancient civilization. The author weaves thoughtful considerations into her characters: the importance of family, of heritage, of friendship, as well as the power of working together as a team. As good and evil project the plot forward, so, too, does the depth of characterization strengthen the bonds. The three young people, plus their new native friend and guide, Tukum, are only as strong as their ability to work together, as is seen over and over again in this story. Conflicts amongst friends are resolved with patience and understanding, creating stronger bonds in the process, as is seen between Tukum and Justin, who seem so much at odds throughout the story until Justin saves Tukum’s life. 
A story which both educates and entertains. What a great combination!

Fiona Ingram - An Amazing Author of Middle Grade Novels




Today I would like to welcome from sunny Cyprus, an award-winning author of several spectacular Middle Grade novels. Though, personally, I wouldn’t restrict these gems to just the Middle Graders. Adults will love them, too. I certainly did. With the recent release of her newest novel in the Ancient Stones of Power series, I had the privilege of not only reviewing her books, but also interviewing the author. Welcome, Fiona Ingram.



EJHO: Tell us about yourself, Fiona. What really started your writing career?



FIONA: As a child, I’d entertain my four brothers and their friends with stories, usually about a group of intrepid young adventurers (us, of course!) involved in dangerous exploits. These included vampires, monsters, ghouls and skeletons. I had a long running serial horror story called Gruesome Gables! I’d also write swashbuckling plays that we would act out for my long-suffering parents. They were very patient…



EJHO: Fiona, you write stories about history and historical personalities, intertwined with fantasy and adventure - how did this start?



FIONA: I love history and have done so from childhood. One of the first nonfiction books my parents gave me was from the Time Life history series, Ancient Egypt. I think this sparked my interest in the ancient civilisation of Egypt, and since we also got books like Ancient Rome and Classical Greece in the series, that was the start. I find the past absolutely fascinating, past events, people, inventions, and achievements.



EJHO: Why is writing so important to you?



FIONA: I don’t know. It could be because I love reading and thus I love creating material for people who share the same interests in reading. For me reading and writing stories is so intertwined that it is hard to have the one without the other.

EJHO: Do you keep a diary? If the answer is yes, does it help with your writing and how? If the answer is no, why not?

FIONA: I used to keep a diary as a teenager and into young adulthood, but I only wrote down what I would now think of as youthful angst. I don’t keep a diary now, but I make lots of notes, all the time, about my book series. I have a big notebook filled with ideas and “must remember” notes to myself.

EJHO: What works best for you: typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

FIONA: I start every book with copious longhand notes in my big notebook, scribbling notes for scenes, sometimes writing important scenes down. I name characters, write their back stories, make notes of links to future books, my “breadcrumbs,” as I call them. I have to start each book that way. Then I work on my computer.

EJHO: When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

FIONA: I don’t think it ever really dawned on me consciously. From telling my brothers and their pals tall tales of adventure and derring-do, and writing plays for us to perform for my parents, it seemed a natural emergence and progression to the love of writing.

EJHO: What inspires you to write?

FIONA: The series started with Book One: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, that came about from a trip I took to Egypt with my mom and my two young nephews, then aged 10 and 12. From the time the original short story became an award-winning book and then an award-winning book series, I think my path was set. The idea of young heroes having to find seven Ancient Stones of Power, and all the adventure and derring-do that can happen on each trip is inspiration enough.

EJHO: How often do you write?

FIONA: As often as I can, given that I have a day job, I also teach online novel writing, and there’s always the ravenous monster called “Marketing” demanding one’s time and attention.

EJHO: Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

FIONA: I write when I get the proverbial gap, but I spend time every day thinking about the story I am working on; often creating scenes in my head while doing something quite mundane. Then when I am ready to write, I dive in. I find I have to create the whole story in outline in my notebook, back up everything with my research, and a lot of thinking about the various scenes. So, there’s quite a lot of preliminary preparation, then I just go for it.

EJHO: How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something new?

FIONA: Not hard at all. By the time I have done the groundwork, the writing is easy. But I like to do my research, so I feel confident that if I describe something, I have seen images, maps, and done my homework.

EJHO: Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

FIONA: No, it doesn’t work like that for me. I aim for story. It might be a short but compelling chapter, or something quite different and long.

EJHO: What do you think would constitute an important attribute to remaining sane as a writer or as an artist or as both? Or do writers and artists really want to remain sane, if such a condition even exists?



FIONA: Is anyone completely sane? People are generally all a bit eccentric, that’s why they do such odd things. I find writers are that bit different, but with something that enables them to see just a little more through the open door into the next dimension. I teach novel writing and it has taught me that the most unlikely people have a gift for creating something quite extraordinary. So, I guess we all must have a tiny touch of madness…



EJHO: What inspires your writing and your stories?



FIONA: History, ancient civilisations, events of the past.



EJHO: What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?



FIONA: I love writing so there’s no real “hard part” for me. The research is paramount, so I tend to go overboard, checking I did not miss something vital. A boring part for me is the endless editing/rereading, going over my editor’s notes, and then reading the whole thing yet again once the designer has laid out the book. Then reading it umpteen times again.

EJHO: What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

FIONA: Jumping into the story and just writing.

EJHO: Why historical/fantasy fiction?



FIONA: Again, I love the mystery of history, the past, the secrets we have not yet uncovered, the whole appeal of people, events, discoveries etc.



EJHO: In The Chronicles of the Stone, you chose Mexico as the destination and the ancient civilizations of the Aztec and the Maya as the source of adventure. The previous books had the young people in Scotland and Egypt. Why did you choose Mexico for this third story?



FIONA: One thing about being a writer is you get to choose to write about all the things that interest you. I have always loved reading about the Aztecs and the Maya, and the achievements of both these great civilisations. Basically, the adventure quest, as a whole, takes the young heroes to all the places I’d enjoy exploring and all the things I am interested in.



EJHO: Where does book four lead the young people? Is there a complex cryptic map that determines how the young people forge each new adventure?



FIONA: In Book 2, there is a “map” called the Mystic Star which is a map of images, signs and symbols to guide the heroes on their quest for each stone. It’s quite complex to explain here, but the web site www.chroniclesofthestone.com delves into the quest and the clues very deeply. Book 4: The Cabal of the Ouroboros has one of my favourite themes – the Knights Templar - and the location is the catacombs of Paris.



EJHO: So far, the Stones of Power have been found in countries of the western world. How about the Far East? Do you plan on having one or more of the stones of power lead the young people on an adventure to China, Japan, Russia or India? How about Australia or South Africa?



FIONA: It’s not all western world locations. Book 1: The Secret of the Secret Scarab is set in Egypt; Book 3: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper is set in Mexico; Book 5: The Eye of the Indian Idol is set in India; Book 6: The Curse of the Cup of Jamshir is set in Turkey; and the seventh book is a bit of a mystery at the moment. It is the culmination of the entire quest and I’m still a bit in the dark, waiting for my young heroes and the quest to show me the way. I also found that the book series arc has, in a way, determined the path of the quest, as well as finding various real historical figures to feature in each adventure. To my great surprise, this has not been a problem. So far, an ancient and important figure has surfaced with each book.



EJHO: How important is research to you when writing a book?



FIONA: Research is absolutely paramount. It is the most important part of my writing process. I find the most amazing and incredible information, details, poems, curses, spells, so much that, honestly, I could never make it up out of my own imagination.



EJHO: Do you have a favorite story amongst all that you’ve published? Why this one?



FIONA: I must confess that my favourite is always the one I am working on at the moment, but of course Book One has a special place in my heart because that’s how I saw Egypt, through the eyes of two young boys, and felt their wonder, awe, excitement and enthusiasm.



EJHO: In the age of increasing technological advances in the methods of entertainment, where do you feel your books fit? Do you believe that the growing number of non-readers is a threat to the book industry? Are you concerned?



FIONA: Kids love adventure. Adults who are kids at heart love adventure. The kind of adventure where you jump in, boots and all. The kind of adventure that’s real. When someone says, “Think Indiana Jones,” everyone gets excited about the idea of an adventure. Adventure isn’t defined by mobile phones and computers, and most kids don’t expect technology. I mean, it isn’t a real adventure if you can text someone for help. An adventure means you do it yourself, without gadgetry. Kids love books, in fact, most kids prefer real books. The age group I write for, Middle Grade, sees the adventure and the experience as more important than having a gadget to read from, or having the latest whatever in their hand. I don’t think kids are reading any less. I think kids are reading more. Publishers are still printing books so there must be someone wanting them. No, I am not concerned.



EJHO: What advice would you give to a would-be writer of this age when readers are becoming fewer and fewer by the day?



FIONA: I don’t think readers are declining. I think quality in book writing is declining, if anything. People are forgetting that the reader today is picky. There’s so much to choose from that it’s no good just tossing your story down. It must be well written, structured, properly edited, with a great cover.



EJHO: Are your books self-published? P.O.D.? Or published by a big name traditional publishing house? Why did you choose the publishing route that you have followed? Would you advise other writers to follow the same direction in their publishing career?



FIONA: I did everything all backwards because I didn’t know any better. I was rejected by 35 traditional agents in the UK, two of whom encouraged me enough to continue writing. I self published, spent money but learned lessons along the way, started winning book awards, finally worked out how to do things properly, found myself a great editor, a great artist, and a great book designer; plus, a great distributor. Then I was picked up by a traditional publisher in China and one in Japan – so I guess I am what they call a hybrid author. Advice to authors – just for the exercise alone (even though you might also have a few rejections) try the traditional route. You never know who will like your book. It took my Chinese agent (who found me, by the way) three years of trudging to every children’s book fair imaginable in the Asian market before he struck gold. If you feel confident, make sure you have an A-Team of experts behind you and go the self publishing route. There are many hybrid authors now who enjoy both routes and the benefits they bring.



EJHO: What other interests/passions dictate your daily schedule? How do these interests/passions affect or influence your writing?



FIONA: I am interested in things that do feature in or influence my writing – travel, art, music, history, the environment, culture, movies, animals, theatre, books/writing. I see a lot of myself and what I like in my books.

You really do need to check out this author. www.chroniclesofthestone.com

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Queen Mary's Daughter

There are so many possibilities that affect the course of history. One change, one small item overlooked, can make a world of difference, not only in a person's life, but in the history and well-being of an entire nation. And then there are those multiple scenarios of what if? What if King James VI of Scotland​ didn't succeed in amalgamating Scotland with England? Would Scotland have remained free and independent and a nation of its own well into the twenty-first century? And would Scotland, this independent version, make its own decision to join the European Union when its southern neighbor was choosing to pull away?

And, what if there was another heir to the Scottish throne?

"Queen Mary's Daughter" presents another plausible timeline, one that incorporates both historical fact and fiction with the endless possibilities of time travel.

To be released as an ebook March 2018.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An Interview With Ottawa Author, Ruth Latta



 

What started your writing career:

 

As a child I loved stories. Growing up I wrote stories and poems and had the occasional one published, but writing essays for school took much of my time. 

 

My writing career got a huge boost almost forty years ago when I married my husband, Roger, because he has supported it in a great many ways.

 

How did you start writing historical fiction?

 

I studied history at university (M.A., Queen's, as Ruth Olson) and I've always been interested in how the past has shaped the present.  Actually, though, Grace and the Secret Vault is the first novel I have written about historical figures.  My two earlier young adult novels were historical only in that they are in the 1950s. Most of my fiction takes place in the present or recent past and involves characters that are primarily the product of my imagination.  I have written three books that fall into a broad definition of history, but they are non-fiction.

 

 

Why is writing so important to you?

 

It's part of human nature to create, though we don't all want to create the same things.  At my age, writing has become a way of life and a pleasure because I've gotten reasonably good at it over the years.

 

Do you keep a diary? If the answer is yes, does it help with your writing and how? If the answer is no, why not?

 

I don't keep a diary but I sometimes write "Morning Pages" as recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way. Morning pages are a way of sorting out one's thoughts and concerns at the beginning of the day, and they often lead to an idea for a story or poem.

 

What works best for you - typewriters, etc.?

 

I start out in longhand and at some point get it onto the computer.

 

When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?

 

As a young child I liked making up stories. When I learned to read and write I liked writing them out in little booklets.

 

 

What inspires you to write?

 

Often other writers' work delights and impresses me and I'd like to think that what I write may have that effect on other readers.

 

When Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women was first published, I was inspired to get back to writing fiction.  In making everyday small-town women's lives the substance of literary art, Munro affirmed that I had material around me that could become the starting point for fiction.

 

 

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

 

I write every day but the time of day or the amount of time I spend depends on how well the idea is working out and what other things must be given priority.  It isn't an ordeal for me to sit down and write because I'm doing it to please myself.

 

I try to write at least three 8 1/2 by 11 pages in longhand every day but don't always do so. Sometimes I write more. Other days I type things on the computer and revise things.

 

What do you think would constitute an important attribute to remaining sane as a writer or as an artist or as both? Or do writers and artists really want to remain sane, if such a condition even exists?

 

The experience of getting absorbed in the process of creation and feeling the excitement is what keeps most writers positive and sane.

 

What inspires my writing and my stories?

 

My fiction often begins with a seed of actual experience and then blossoms into something beyond the original incident or observation that inspired it.

 

 

The hardest thing about writing?

 

A good idea that fizzles out for whatever reason.  Other people who think I've been wasting my time.

 

The easiest aspect of writing?   

 

The pleasure of working through a puzzle and getting absorbed in the process of creation.

 

 

Why historical fiction?

 

Grace and the Secret Vault is my first work of historical fiction that involves real-life characters/historical figures. (The other two Y/A novels, set in the 1950s, involved completely fictional characters.)

 

I decided to write Grace and the Secret Vault following the death of a friend and collaborator. Joy Trott and I co-authored a biography of Grace MacInnis which was published in 2000. It's now out of print. When Joy died a couple of years ago I remembered the fun we had doing the research for the biography. Then I realized that I could revisit part of Grace's life, the story of a pivotal event in her childhood, and make it a young adult novel.

 

 

In Grace’s story, you focussed the plot development towards a climax of establishing the ‘secret vault’. Why did you choose this particular story, which from your Afterword, you reveal that it is a true story, as the focal point for your story about an historic figure? Did the ‘secret vault’ in some way define who Grace was and who she became later in life?

 

The secret vault doesn't have any symbolic meaning. It's not a metaphor for anything. It's just a term used by the two young girls in real life.  I tried to choose a title with a hint of mystery to entice readers.

 

Grace's experiences when she was thirteen going on fourteen had a profound impact on her views, and pointed her toward a life in politics, although she had other plans for her life at the time.

 

You wrote in the Afterword to “Grace and the Secret Vault” that “As a student at Queen's University during the early 1970s, I admired Mrs. MacInnis…” What was it about this woman that you so admired? Was she one of your professors? A guest speaker? Did you have a special academic or personal relationship with her? Tell us about your connection to this amazing woman.

 

I never met Grace. As a student at Queen's in the early 1970s, I would often see her on the news on TV.  She was a Member of Parliament and was outspoken and progressive on so-called "women's issues", which included such things as consumer matters, pay equity, child care, educational opportunities and freedom of reproductive choice. Not only did I agree with her views, I also was astonished and delighted that a woman of her generation, especially one who looked so sedate and proper, would have advanced views. (At least, they seemed advanced in the early 1970s!) I admired her for having the courage of her convictions.

 

In writing Grace and the Secret Vault I was in touch with one of Grace's nephews, who was a helpful source of information.

 

It may seem a bold act to interpret a real person in fiction, and it's a challenge to stay true to what you know about her while shaping a story. But authors do it all the time. For instance, Paula Maclean, in The Paris Wife, for instance, wrote about Ernest Hemingway through the heart and mind of his first wife. Young adult author Kit Pearson wrote a wonderful book called A Day of Signs and Wonders from the point of view of Emily Carr at ten years old. So I'm in good company.

 

How important is research to you when writing a book?

 

Research for this particular book was very important, but I had done most of it already for the biography of Grace written by Joy Trott and myself.

 

Most of the domestic anecdotes that I have included in Grace and the Secret Vault are stories Grace had already told in her biography of her father and other papers and speeches. An essay by one of Grace's brothers, which her nephew provided to me, was the source of more childhood information.

 

Do you have a favorite story amongst all that you’ve published? Why this one?

 

My favourite novel is always the one I'm working on. My collection of short stories, Winter Moon, stands out for me because it won the 2011 Northern Lit Award from Ontario Library Services North.

 

 

In the age of increasing technological advances in the methods of entertainment, where do you feel your books fit? Do you believe that the growing number of non-readers is a threat to the book industry? Are you concerned?

 

I worry about the growing number of non-readers. Too many people are missing out on the kind of engagement with another consciousness that we experience when we read. It can't be good for culture or civilization if reading becomes something people do merely for work or to gain information.

 

On the other hand, I much prefer the computer to the typewriter, I couldn't do without email, and love certain TV series. I published one of my books on Amazon Kindle. I have read books on Kobo although I prefer a traditional book, printed on paper.

 

 

What advice would you give to a would-be writer of this age when readers are becoming fewer and fewer by the day?

 

Write for children and young adults. People want children and young people to read to develop their skills, so kids/YA books are still in demand.

 

Write non-fiction.

 

Write part-time while making a living in other ways. Writers have been doing this for centuries and some have produced great works of literature.

 

 

How are your books published and why did you go that route?

 

Three of my books were published traditionally. One was completely self-published.  The rest have been published by a P.O.D. company in Ottawa. 

 

Like most writers I would prefer it if my books were being published by one of the five (or is it three, now?) big multinational publishing houses. When that doesn't happen, a writer has to consider other options.

 

I like print-on-demand because of the do-it-yourself element, including the choice of cover art. I have used my husband's paintings in the cover illustrations.

 

If I were a young writer, however, I would start out on the traditional route and try to find a publisher who would pay for all aspects of the publishing adventure. I would set a time limit, say ten years, and after that, if I hadn't made it into the major leagues, I'd consider some form of self-publishing.  E-books may be a good idea.


Grace and the Secret Vault (Ottawa, Baico, 2017 ISBN 978-1-77216-092-5 is available for $20 from Baico Editions, Ottawa, ON, info@baico.ca  and from Ruth Latta at ruthlatta1@gmail.com.

An Interesting Look at Canadian Political History




Grace is a well educated young lady. Only thirteen, she has the passion for languages and education, adopted from both of her parents, her mother a teacher and her father, a former Methodist preacher and a strong pacifist with a passion for social justice. She was the oldest of her siblings and she took responsibilities for their care in an effort to help her mother who was now a grass widow, teaching during the day, marking papers and making lesson plans at night, while her father was off working the shipyards in Vancouver or on speaking tours across the country. The family lived in Gibsons’, or, as they called it, the ‘Landing’, along the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, just north of Vancouver. The year is 1918; the Great War is just over, but political strife and fear of the growing Labour Movement, an uneasy trend that had its roots in the new Russia, a country evolving after the deposition of its royal family. The rising power of the working class was linked to news from Russia and the growing influence world-wide of “The Bolsheviks, who now called themselves "Communists".”(20) Grace was familiar with the rumblings around her. She listened to the conversations amongst grown-ups and she shuddered with worry when her mother’s job and the family’s source of income was threatened. Meanwhile, Grace’s fear was more personal, closer to home. She feared for herself, her parents and her siblings.  

Grace Woodsworth MacInnis (1905-1990) was a political force of realism in the mid to late twentieth century. But her story, Grace’s story, begins with her own foundations, her childhood experiences in 1918-1919, when her father was speaking for worker’s rights and the country was resisting any possible sign of the Bolsheviks threat. This is Grace’s childhood story, one that centres its focus on the theme of a secret vault, what it contained and why it was such an important secret.  

“Grace and the Secret Vault” by Ruth Latta is a coming of age story, not just Grace’s coming of age, but also her country, Canada. Just emerging from a horrific war in Europe, one that in effect defined for all time the meaning of being Canadian, one that unified the country from one coast to the other, Canada was also just coming of age. A country set on British social values, it was also a country that feared changed, feared the effects of making its mark on the twentieth century.  

The author paints a vivid portrait, not only of a young girl, but also a young country, both set on becoming the best they can be in a world that never has regained its stability. This is a powerful and important story about one of Canada’s great female leaders. A story well written with a passion for the main character and a sound knowledge of the times, the people and the places. A great read. Five stars. 

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, award-winning author of “Gerlinda”.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Dickens' Special, But Not a Dickens

It's not often that a book really stands out as something special. But this one did for me. I had the privilege and pleasure of reviewing it for readersfavorite.com
 
 
  

Sit back, put your feet up and immerse yourself into the world of the nineteenth-century. Here’s a story to take you back to Oliver’s London, written in the compelling and descriptive narrative style of Charles Dickens himself. It’s Jack Dawkins’ story this time, not Oliver’s. Jack, Oliver’s childhood buddy on the street, accomplice in crime, the infamous Artful Dodger of Fagin’s nefarious crew. And, he’s just returned from Australia where he’s served his time. There’s none of Fagin’s old crew remaining, but that doesn’t bother Jack. He’s a mind to elevate himself to a higher station in life, to seek his rewards in most genteel company. But when he reconnects with his childhood friend, Oliver, Jack realizes, to his surprise, that he actually has a conscience and, whilst the pickings might be good, there is yet a certain element of honor amongst thieves, at least for this thief. And, when a lad goes missing, kidnapped from his upper class home, Jack finds himself once again in his old haunts, only this time more the hero than the villain.

Charlton Daines’s novel, “Jack Dawkins”, is a fast actioned mystery set in Victorian London. Complete with the popular characters of Dickens’s “Oliver Twist”, namely Oliver and Artful Dodger (Jack), this story reads like a Dickens’ story. The narrative is concise and descriptive and the characters are both believable, compelling and capable of all kinds of emotions, including a bit of humor. The wide diversity between the classes in this era is evident and the knowledge that one can actually bridge that gap with little more than a new set of clothes and good command of the Queen’s English. Artful Dodger, aka Jack, seems to straddle the two extremes of society with great ease, until, in the end, he finds his place on one side of the river and decides to make his mark there permanently. A great telling of a story that Dickens left untold. This is indeed a classic, or perhaps I should say a continuation of a classic.

Reviewed for Readers' Favorite: https://readersfavorite.com/search.htm?searchword=jack+dawkins&searchwordsugg=&option=com_search&searchphrase=exact

Friday, September 16, 2016

CATINA NOBLE, AUTHOR AND ARTIST



Today, I’d like to introduce you to Ottawa author and artist, Catina Noble. The first time I met Catina, she was taking a memoir writing course through the National Capital Region Canadian Authors Association. I was running the workshop. There were a dozen seasoned and new writers in the group, but Catina stood out as one who would blossom in the years to follow. And she did. With some poems and short stories published, her biggest undertaking, her memoir, “I’m Glad I didn’t Kill Myself” (https://www.amazon.com/Im-Glad-Didnt-Kill-Myself/dp/1534893865/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466876240&sr=8-1&keywords=catina+noble), was released earlier in 2016. She is just releasing her first collection of short stories, “Vacancy in the Food Court”, an intellectually sensitive collection of random notations on the fragility, unpredictability and strangeness of life. Here’s what Catina has to say about her writing, her art and her life as a creative person.

EJHO: Tell us about yourself, Catina. What really started your writing career?

CN: Over the years, I had sent in a poem or two to try and get it published but wasn’t really getting anywhere. At that time, I was volunteering for a community newspaper Riverview Park Review, writing articles about different events taking place. I started getting serious about my writing in April 2013 when I was notified by Chicken Soup for the Soul that my short story Moving Forward was going to be included in the 20 th Anniversary: Readers Choice Edition coming out in June of that year. Once I held that book in my hands, things changed for me. I felt as if I had been validated. If I got published once, perhaps it could happen again. Maybe I would get more stories or poems published, maybe someone else would enjoy my words. Within a month or two of the Chicken Soup publication, I also published my first chapbook of poetry titled Pussyfoot through The Ontario Poetry Society, of which I am still a proud member.

EJHO: Catina, you write stories about a deep inner self, almost spiritual stories, how did this come about?

 CN: I have a fair bit of life experience, considering my age. That’s how my stories come about, through threads weaved from my own adventures.

EJHO: Why personal/reflective stories?

CN: During an interview, a reporter once described my work as ‘raw’ and I believe that word is appropriate. I want readers to take away something from my stories. I want readers to know they are not alone; we are all just human. We make mistakes; we get rejected; we have embarrassing moments; we have pee-your-pants funny moments, but no matter what, perhaps we just want to know that we do matter.

EJHO: What made you write this story? Do you believe it will be helpful for others who might be suicidal?

CN: I had wanted to write my story for years, over a decade, but just couldn’t seem to get past the first few pages. A couple months ago, I woke up earlier then usual and started pulling out all my old journals. I tag the outside of all my journals so I know what year they are from. I pulled out all the journals that were tagged 1993, 1994 or 1995, ages 15-17 years. I started going through them and over the next few weeks I just kept going and going until it was finished. I do believe it [my story] is helpful to others on different levels, for people that suffer from depression and anxiety, people having trouble fitting in, low self-esteem and so on.

EJHO: You are also a visual artist, tell me something about your art. Does your art heal, console? Or is it a means to relieve the tension of life?

CN: My art encompasses all three of these. However I generally use art mostly to relieve stress from my life. I am a single parent of four children between the ages of 15 and 20 years old. Plus we have 3 cats and a dog.

EJHO: Tell me something about your collection of short stories, “Vacancy in the Food Court”. These are deeply insightful stories and I see the artist in you coming through your written word.

CN: This is a collection of 13 stories. They are all very different because they don’t abide by a theme, but stand on their own.

EJHO: I think there’s a metaphor reference in the title, can you enlighten us.

CN: One day I was sipping on tea in a food court inside a mall while writing in my journal. The couple sitting beside me at a table on the left got up and walked away. I thought: this table is now vacant, but soon it will be occupied, just like so many other things in life. That is how I came up with the title for this collection.

EJHO: Why is writing so important to you?

CN: Writing is important to me for few reasons. On a personal level, looking back through my journals, I can see how far I have come. In a way, keeping a journal is like having a good friend around. There are always a couple of ideas floating around and after awhile, if I don’t write them down, more and more ideas add themselves on until I can’t seem to concentrate until I write a few down.

EJHO: What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

CN: Not everyone likes reading novels. Some people prefer nuggets of words (a.k.a short stories) instead. I like writing short stories because my characters don’t have as much time to compete and it’s easier to try new things inside the scope of a short story.

EJHO: Do you keep a diary? If the answer is yes, does it help with your writing and how? If the answer is no, why not?

CN: I have kept a journal since I was 15 years old and still do. I find it does help me with my writing on different levels. Along with personal anecdotes, I also jot down different ideas for stories, or key words from an experience that just happened.

EJHO: You use the written word in your visual art. What is it about the written language that is so important to your creative output?

CN: I like using the written word in my art because it keeps it simple and I think it is also a good way of tying my love for writing and art together.

EJHO: What inspires your writing and your stories?

CN: Every day little things inspire my writing and stories. For example, I was walking over a bridge carrying groceries when I suddenly spotted a bunch of crows gathered in a parking lot. From this I wrote “Counting Crows”.

EJHO: What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

CN: I think the hardest thing about writing is to remember it is a process, not every single story or book, you write is going to be your best piece. I spend way too much valuable time criticizing my writing when I should be just actually writing.

EJHO: What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

CN: For me the easiest part of writing is right after I get an idea. I take a few minutes to jot down notes, experiences and feelings that I might use later on.

EJHO: Do you have a favourite story amongst all that you’ve published. Why this one?

CN: I don’t believe I have written my favourite story yet but I do like “Counting Crows” and “Gently Used.” I like “Counting Crows” because the story (after spotting the scene in the parking lot with the crows) just seemed to unfold by itself. I like “Gently Used” because it’s different kind of story.

EJHO: In the age of increasing technological advances in the methods of entertainment, where do you feel your books fit? Do you believe that the growing number of non-readers is a threat to the book industry? Are you concerned?

CN: I believe there is still room for my books. I don’t mind reading books on different devices but my favourite is reading from an actual book. I love the weight of the book in my hands, the sound of the pages turning, using a book mark and seeing it move forward. I do believe the growing number of technological advances and non-readers are a concern. It seems inevitable that eventually print books as we know it will become extinct. I hope that doesn’t happen during my life time.

EJHO: Thank you Catina, for sharing your insights on the art of writing as well as art itself.

Catina Noble, Author & Mixed Media Artist


“You ever get the feeling that everyone is laughing and somehow you know they are laughing at you? I hate that feeling and I seem to get it often and what everybody doesn’t understand is that it hurts deep down inside. It hurts a lot. Just when you think you are balanced WHAM it hits you like a ton of bricks.” – Excerpt from I’M GLAD I DIDN’T KILL MYSELF by Catina Noble (Published by Crowe Creations)
 

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