The Music Girl

Kain Fairbrooks cover

“Music is what feelings sound like,” wrote an unknown author. In Kain B. Fairbrooks’ new release, The Music Girl,” a victimized child kept in isolation by her own parent not only discovers that the timeless power of music holds the key to express her emotions but also to facilitate her freedom. At just 20 years old, Fairbrooks is a newcomer to the writing scene but has made the inventive decision to ignore many of the conventions of fictional storytelling and write The Music Girl as a poem.

Interviewer – Christina Hamlett

**********

Q: For starters, tell us a bit about your journey as a writer and what (or who) inspired you to pen your first story?

A: Ahhh the one who inspired me was my mom. She used to tell me and my sister stories only using her imagination. And I absolutely loved it to death! She would even encourage us to tell stories back to her and this started my whole “I wanna be a writer” when I was five years old. In first grade, the principal of my elementary school noticed that I wouldn’t go out for recess but I would spend my time writing inside. I showed her a short story I wrote and she loved it and got it published. It sat in the school library for years while I was attending there. After that I played around with my writing, improving it- learning more techniques until the end of high school where I started getting…haha somewhat serious!

Q: Did you read books before bedtime as a child?

A:Yes I did! Just quite a few, though.

Q: What are some of the titles we might have found on that childhood bedside table?

A: The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter was one. The Road To Elyon, Dr. Seuss’s array of stories, a bunch of fairytales, Mother Goose, and newspaper comics!

Q: So what might we find on your bedside table these days?

A: Haha nothing! I know, it’s weird.

Q: One book at a time or multiple books?

A: One book at a time. It tastes better that way.

Q:  Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert and what influence does that have on your creativity, energy levels and response to feedback about your work?

A: I would think I’m an extrovert. Sometimes my creativity runs really high and boosts up my energy causing me to write multiple stories at once. Especially when I’ve had a social interaction.

Feedback can either make me go “I like your criticism! Let me get started on that right away! Oh! I can even do [insert a bunch of random things]” or “gbvaghvbdhbj why did I even start writing this- I’m a horrible being.”

Q: Tell us what The Music Girl is about.

A: The Music Girl is about a young lady who went through ten years of abuse and neglect from her envious mother who locks her in the attic. In the attic, she realizes that she wasn’t alone. There stood a very old piano that still worked and so she began learning how to play. Crying out her pain through music. One day, she escapes her mother’s wrath by killing her mother and burning down the mansion she was held captive in. She throws away her name and all that she is and begins her musical journey, learning how to play various instruments from people off the streets and professionals.

Q: The choice to craft The Music Girl as a poem story is an interesting one. What governed that decision for you?

A:  There was this story before The Music Girl that I wanted to write in the fashion of a poem but tell a story. Though, my inner thoughts told me that people wouldn’t like it- I shouldn’t try it- what if people don’t get it? So I dropped the idea, now regretting it horribly! But a few months later, I thought of The Music Girl and went…maybe it won’t be so bad? What’s the worst that can happen? A few chapters later and I absolutely loved writing in such a strange way. Also the people on Figment* helped me see that this was a great decision to write it like this, so I kept it!

(*Interviewer Note: http://www.figment.com is an online forum where writers in a multiplicity of genres meet, create, share and connect with one another.)

Q: Did you work from an outline or just allow the scenes to flow spontaneously?

A: I let the scenes flow naturally. Though sometimes I wished I used an outline.

Q: Writers often spend a lot of time editing, editing, editing. Did you do your edits as you were writing or wait until the entire thing was finished?

A: I edited as I was writing it. Because I posted each chapter on Figment every day, I had to make sure that it was on point or else my conscious would get to me. ‘Why did you post that crap?’ it would say.

Q: Was there anything significant you ended up editing our prior to publication?

A: I’m pretty sure I ended up doing the opposite and adding more in than editing out.

Q: Who’s your target readership for The Music Girl and what would you like them to take away from it by the time they reach the end?

A: Probably adults who had a horrible past and couldn’t let it go. I wanted to show people that things happen, horrible things, and it’ll try to pop itself up back in your life and make you afraid of the future. But you can’t let it do that. You can’t let it ruin you. Something like that, I suppose.

Q: The choice to self-publish has become a popular one for today’s writers, especially insofar as the desire to control one’s intellectual property and move it on to the market as quickly as possible. What are some of the things you learned during this process and what are you doing to spread the word that your new book is available?

A: Some of the things I learned are that there are people willing to help you spread the word but also to do your research beforehand. I ran into a lot of free promotional things while trying to spread the word. People do free postings on Facebook, tweets from Twitter, and give your book a read and make a blog post about it. Even book tours. It’s really incredible!

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m in the process of publishing two illustrated children’s books by Light Books and working on a horror novel called Thy Broken Mind which you can vote for online!

Q: What do you do if you come across a dry spot in your writing or hit the all-dreaded writer’s block?

A: I usually walk away and go hang upside down on the couch while looking at Oblique Strategies on my phone. Or play video games! Depends how bad it is.

Q: Ever have a bad day? If so, what gives you strength to get through it?

A: Yes I have! Laughter and music. Sometimes when it rains, it pours hard and you forget to laugh.

Q: Morning person or evening person?

A: Evening!

Q: Cats or dogs?

A: Dogs all the way!!

Q: Boba or Cheesecake?

A: Oooh….cheesecake. I’m sorry my beloved Boba.

Q: Movies that make you laugh or movies that make you cry?

A: Movies that make me laugh.

Q: The most favorite thing you have in your closet?

A: My Alucard cosplay coat that I got autographed by Crispin Freeman, an English dub voice actor!

Q: Pandas, polar bears, koalas or grizzlies?

A: Pandas!!

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: That I enjoy raves!

Q: Where can they learn more about your work?

A: Probably the best place is my Figment page, which has all the rough drafts of a lot of my writings, Basilica Press, and Twitter!

Advertisements

Tales From The Family Crypt: When Aging Parents Die, Sibling Rivalry Lives

CoverDebbyEbook-3

What happens when sibling rivalry goes awry? As challenging as it is during one’s formative years when it’s an ongoing quest to prove via Mother’s Day gifts, handmade cards and good deeds that “Mom likes me the best,” fractious relationships with brothers and sisters tend to escalate in adulthood if a deceased parent’s final wishes are neither written down nor carried out. In her latest book, Tales From The Family Crypt: When Aging Parents Die, Sibling Rivalry Lives, Deborah Carroll serves up an entertaining and insightful retrospective of dysfunctional family dynamics as seen through the lens of personal experience.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

**********

Q: It’s often said that truth is stranger than fiction. Would you say that’s an apt label for the vitriolic interactions that transpire(d) in your own family tree?

A: Let’s put it this way: My family tree is so screwy, even monkeys are frightened! I leave it to the reader to decide if our story is stranger than fiction but I surely think it is. If what transpired wasn’t so bizarre, I’d have had no tale to tell. In a way it was easier than fiction to write because I didn’t have to create the plot or the conflict, I just had to live it. (Okay, maybe that part wasn’t so easy after all.)

Q: At what point either growing up or becoming an adult did you and your husband start to see that your respective siblings were teetering toward dysfunctional? Was there an inciting incident, for instance, that ignited a succession of destructive behaviors toward one another or did such behaviors actually exist all along and become more pronounced with the passage of time?

A: We thought we had normal families growing up. In retrospect we were forced to conclude something must have been rotten in Denmark (or on Long Island and in Philadelphia, respectively) for things to go so horribly awry. Kids know no reality other than their own, though, so perhaps very few find out early in life something is amok in their families. When my husband and I were young marrieds and beginning our life together, we began to notice things which didn’t quite fit our vision of happy family, though. When my sister-in-law had children – the first in the family to do so – she chose to have her kids call her friends “Aunt” and “Uncle” but they didn’t call their actual aunts and uncles that. My mother- and father-in-law were afraid to ask her about it. That began a lifelong pattern of people in the family not communicating honestly how they felt. When my sister inexplicably stopped talking to me and refused to say why, that was a red flag too.

Q: What prompted you to write a book about these unsettling experiences?

A: We didn’t see these difficulties coming and my husband and I are analytical people, so we’ve spent years discussing how the whole family saga played out. We wanted to understand our part in it and even more so to make sure we did things differently with our children. When the last of our four parents died and the drama reached astronomical levels of dysfunction, it was such an interesting story I thought it worthy of sharing. Maybe more importantly, the number of people who have similar craziness in their own family is astounding. Reading about how we dealt gracefully with the adult sibling rivalry and the isolation from our family could help others know they’re not alone and maybe learn strategies for dealing with this dysfunction.

Q: I take it that their reaction to your decision to publish was less than pleasant?

A: OMG! I didn’t use anyone’s real name or any identifiers so no one would have or could have known who our family members really were unless they told them. So, they could’ve just kept quiet and no one would’ve been the wiser but if our siblings were that smart, we might not have had a problem in the first place. Nope, they didn’t keep quiet. First they wrote scathing reviews of the book on Amazon. My brother-in-law wrote under the screen name MISC. I think he meant ANON as in anonymous but he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. It was obvious it was his review from the things he said. Not only did he write a review (which started with “Hitler wrote a book justifying his behavior too.”), he began commenting on every review. All were 4- and 5-star reviews and there were about 20 or so fairly soon.

On every positive review he’d write:

Misc says:

I happen to know this is one of the authors (sic) friends and this review along with most of the other highly rated reviews is bogus.

Christ 1 star

Hitler 5 stars”

He’d add other abusive remarks and direct them to me personally. My favorite was, You and your husband Ned Carroll have once again crossed a line but this time it will not be tolerated. The real truth will be revealed and this fantasy that seems to play out in your head which you call a book, will soon be obliterated. The best is yet to come Debby and Ned Carroll.”

I was pretty curious to see what “best was yet to come” and what the “real truth” was because honestly I lead a pretty boring life so if he was going to say something juicy about me I wanted to hear it. Alas, he revealed nothing. And eventually Amazon deleted his comments (And then he’d write another comment about how I was deleting his comments but they deleted those, too.) but they did leave his “Hitler” review and you can see it if you check out the listing on Amazon.

My sister-in-law employed a different strategy. She and her daughter wrote nasty reviews, not of the book but of me, referring to me as “evil, controlling, egomaniacal and nasty.” They hired a lawyer who threatened to sue me. Ultimately, he had to admit there was no case and no lawsuit would be forthcoming. I think he advised them to delete their reviews or maybe Amazon did but both reviews are gone and I haven’t heard from them since I spoke to their lawyer and let him know he failed at scaring me because I knew I had a legal right to tell my story. My niece also Googled my name and contacted other places my work (unrelated to the book) appears to trash me and threaten them for publishing my writing. I sent her a few emails telling her what she was doing constituted defamation and eventually, after their lawyer told her to stop, she did.

Q: The argument could be made that certain things which happen in the privacy of one’s home shouldn’t be aired publicly. What are your own thoughts about that?

A: Believe it or not, there were anecdotes about our siblings I did not share. I included incidents germane to the family dynamic but left out personal aspects of their lives that would embarrass them but not add anything to the story.

Q: The book is defined as “narrative nonfiction memoir.” Why did you take this particular approach rather than penning it as straight fiction with just enough separation of personality tags so as to keep the wrongdoers from going ballistic?

A: I could have written this book as fiction. Many people suggested that would be a kinder and gentler way to go, rather than to present our family members as they are in real life. I opted for nonfiction because I thought if I made up characters who did the things our siblings actually did, readers would not find them believable. My story reads like fiction but I thought it important for readers to know every word is true. I felt the story was more powerful because it was real. Seriously, if you read a fictional work about a character who sued her sister over, among other things, 8 plastic corn cob holders, wouldn’t you reject that plot point as exaggerated and ridiculous? But it happened. As to the wrongdoers going ballistic, I suppose I just didn’t care anymore. None of our siblings speak to us anyway so I had nothing to lose. Readers fully understand why that estrangement is in many ways a gift. These are not people anyone would want in their life.

Q: Okay, let’s say that Hollywood comes calling and wants to make a movie about Tales From The Family Crypt. Who’s your dream cast or would you go with an ensemble of unknown actors so as to make the story more relatable to an audience?

A: I love this question and this is the first time anyone has asked that. Unknowns? No way, I want big names! My husband has to be played by Richard Gere because he’s always thought he looked like him. (No comment, I prefer to stay married.) Me? Young me should be played by Jennifer Lawrence. She works and plays well with crazy based on her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” and she can shoot to kill based on “The Hunger Games,” so I think she could handle our crazies. Older me? Susan Sarandon. We have similar hair.

Q: What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

A: The end. I try to look back and see where it all went wrong. It was painful and difficult to figure out but for the book to be an honest account, it had to be done.

Q: And the easiest?

A: My father’s death chapter. It was (and yes I know this makes me sound a bit nuts) beautiful to live through, to witness his graceful and peaceful transition from life to death. He died in my home with my husband, my three then-young daughters, and me. He lived his last few weeks surrounded by love and died the same way. It was my honor and privilege to take care of him.

Q: Did catharsis enter into the equation during the book’s development?

A: I’ve counseled others repeatedly – if you live through something like this and you are holding on to anger, to grief, to guilt, to unresolved issues, write it down so you can let it go.

Q: Litigious society we live in these days, did you consult an attorney prior to moving forward with publication?

A: I didn’t speak to an attorney but I researched the laws carefully. While I could have legally used their real names, I chose not to in order to have an extra measure of privacy protection for my siblings.

Q: Let’s step back to childhood a moment. There’s been no shortage of psychological studies on whether the influences of a dysfunctional home life will cause children to either repeat those patterns when they become parents themselves or do a complete reversal (i.e., a son whose father was frequently absent will subsequently want to be a very engaged “pal” to his own offspring). What was the case for you and your husband in terms of raising and guiding your children?

A: We have three amazing daughters, all of whom have grown up to be teachers, a lovely reflection of who they are. Our experiences with our families absolutely directed the parents we were and the way we raised our daughters to love and respect each other, to value the family and to understand that strong relationships require work and begin with love and honesty and trust.

Q: What is your family like today?

A: We are so grateful. We laugh together, we’ve worked together and played together and now it’s passing to the next generation as we have the most awesome two-year-old grandson who pretty much rocks the Carroll family world. I think the dysfunctional family made us treasure what matters most – each other. In a way we felt like it was us against the world at times and we came through it stronger.

Q: If you had life to live over, what would you do differently to change your family situation?

A: Hardest question ever… I’d implore our parents to communicate more or at least some and to be honest with all of us, something they were woefully unable to do. Maybe I would have tried to understand the siblings better earlier on. They are challenged people. I used to see some of them as evil. I’ve come to understand they’re not evil, just a mess.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I’m not as nice as I’d like to be but not as bad as my siblings would have anyone believe. On a lighter note, I run 4-5 miles a few times a week. It helps me process and write.

Q: There’s nothing that can tear families apart faster or uglier than estate issues, especially in cases where beneficiaries assume a level of entitlement that doesn’t necessarily mirror reality. Is there anything people can do to prepare for – as well as avoid – the types of infighting, inheritance battles and rivalries that erupt when parentals pass away?

A: Absolutely! The power lies mostly in the parents’ hands, though. Communication is key. The battles can largely be avoided with open talks about end of life care and wishes, about death and money, three things people are loath to talk about. We need to tear down those taboos if we are to avoid the fighting. Newsflash: you are going to die, talking about it won’t make it happen and not talking about it won’t stop it from happening. But talking about it can make it easier on the dying and the living.

Q: Why should people read your book and what do you believe is its strongest takeaway value?

A: Read it first because it’s a good story, well told. (If I do say so myself. But then reviewers say so, too, so it must be true.) Second, it may help you deal with any family issues you might encounter and if you are like most people, sadly you may encounter them so forewarned is forearmed.

Q: Is this the first book you’ve written? Will it be the last?

A: I’ve written two parenting books, published by Penguin and Berkley Books in the 90s. I even appeared on Good Morning America with one of them. (One of the most embarrassing events of my life. If you meet me, ask.) I’ve just updated and self-published that one, “Raising Amazing Children: While Having A Life of Your Own.” It’s on Amazon. I’m currently working on a children’s book, “Real Grandparents: From A-Z, Everything A Grandparent Can Be.” I’m writing that one because I don’t love the way grandparents are portrayed in children’s books. They seem to wear nightcaps and knit (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and spend a lot of time rocking and not in a good way! My grandparent friends are vibrant and active people. We run, we play hard, we work hard, we’re creative and talented. I think it’s time for an image upgrade for all of us grandparents out there redefining aging.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: If you read my book, please consider reaching out to me to let me know your thoughts. I’m so grateful to readers and especially to those who take a moment to check in and share their reactions.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: I’m blogging at talesfromthefamilycrypt.wordpress.com

Twitter @thefamilycrypt

50 Ways to Murder Your Fictional Characters

Sue+Colletta

I find it endlessly fascinating to “meet” other writers and discover more about them, their work, and what makes them tick. Today I’m introducing you to an exciting new crime fiction writer, Sue Coletta, who writes great murder mystery stories. I couldn’t resist poking around inside the mind of a crime writer (Castle, anyone?), and Sue generously shares her thoughts and insights freely. Join me in welcoming Sue to the spotlight!

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

**************

Q         As a crime writer, you must think about how to commit the perfect crime or murder all the time. How do you plot the crimes for your books?

A         I’m a big proponent of Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and Story Physics. For those who haven’t read these craft books, basically I plan the important milestones– Hook, Inciting Incident, 1st Plot Point, 1st Pinch Point, Midpoint, 2nd Plot Point, 2nd Pinch Point, All-is-lost Moment, Resolution– on index cards. I include theme, concept and characterization and think: What’s the worst crime that could happen to that character, one that strikes at her inner demons? I pose this question as a “What if?” And then work from there. Usually the “What if?” question will lead to more “What if?” questions, thus writing the entire book. Did I answer your question or did I get totally off track? LOL

Q         What is it about crime and mystery writing that draws you in and holds you?

A         I’ve always been fascinated by how a killer’s mind works. What makes someone want to kill? Is it money, passion, or a fantasy they’ve had since childhood? And by people’s inner demons. What drives them? What happened in their life to make them into the person they are today? And the big question; why would one person turn to murder where another wouldn’t? I guess the short answer is psychology.

Q         Who is or was your greatest mentor, either personally or professionally, and why?

A         Again, I’d have to say Larry Brooks. He’s an amazing person and a talented storyteller/teacher and writing coach. His writing is crisp, clean, with a voice that deeply resonates with me. I’m glued to the pages of his books, both craft and crime thrillers. I dissect them like a surgical intern curious about how the body works, and then take what I’ve learned and use it in my work. I’m very fortunate to call him a friend.

Q         You wrote a piece on Molly Greene’s blog about going after the traditional publishing package, which is where you and I “met”. What do you think the future of publishing will look like for writers? (I’ll include a link to that article)

A         Contrary to what some believe, I don’t think traditional publishing will ever die. Or that e-books will be the norm above paperbacks or hardcovers. There’s something uniquely special about the smell and feel of a physical book, and I think too many people feel like I do for the industry to shy away from printing. I do, however, think there will be more hybrid authors that have an agent, continue with traditional publishing, and then self-publish books that don’t fit neatly on a shelf. That’s the best of both worlds, if you ask me, and my ultimate goal.

Q         What is the most difficult part of writing for you, the beginning, middle, or end, and why?

A         That first line is always a bugger to figure out. Really, the first paragraph, trying to encapsulate the protagonist, genre, voice, and characterization, all in one fell swoop. However, since I’ve planned my book in advance I don’t really have much trouble after that. Although, during the planning stage it’s always the big twist ending that I think on the longest.

Q         What is your advice to new writers regarding marketing and building a platform?

A         Start a blog now! Don’t wait. Don’t worry that you think you’ll have nothing to say. Just do it. While you’re at it, implement an email list with a giveaway to lure people into signing up. Everyone loves to get something for free. It can be a short story, a writing tool like my “50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters” (see how I got that in there?), something that peaks interest. I also think it’s important to gear your blog toward your brand. Brand; meaning you, the author, not your book. That’s your product. For instance, when you click on my site it screams crime because that’s what I’m passionate about and write about. When you gear your blog this way your passion shines through, it becomes infectious, and leads others to want to hear what you have to say. It’s magical, really, when you think about it. Give people a slice of yourself, be genuine, help other writers, and you’ll do fine.

Q         People have been fascinated by true crime and mysteries for centuries. Why do you think that is?

A       How much time do we have? I think it boils down to “the forbidden”, “the taboo”. What makes killers tick? What’s the worst thing you can do to another human being? Kill them. Of course the crime writer in me can think of worse things. 🙂 But let’s say “to kill”. Then it becomes what kind of person does this? What pushed them over the edge? And when we hear about killers that had a great childhood, a good marriage, successful children and a high-paying job, we are totally baffled. Again, it’s the psychology of it, I believe, that drives people to want to know more. Sure, some are probably motivated by the gore, but I don’t think that’s the norm. It’s like when you drive by a car accident and can’t look away. You want to know, what happened? Why? Who’s to blame? Because human beings are curious creatures, we try to put logic ahead of madness, and sometimes the two aren’t separate issues. Sometimes the reason, or lack thereof, is simple– because he wanted to see if he could kill and what it felt like. And that’s frightening to think about, because it means we could end up the next victim.

Q         What kind of research do you do for your novels?

A         It depends. I have a few police consultants/coroner/firearm experts I turn to when I need a quick answer. Otherwise, let’s say I’m writing more of a police procedural and I better get my facts right in case a detective reads my story. On my site I have a menu option entitled “Crime Writer’s Resource“, where I’ve listed links to forensic sites, homicide crime scene checklist, writing sites, craft books, writing tools, etc. Each link leads to more links. There are pages and pages of information I’ve gathered over the years, including former detectives who answer questions for writers. All are welcome to use it, by the way.

Q         What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness, and why?

A         My greatest weakness is also my greatest strength, and I’ll tell you why. I love supporting other writers. I love the writing community as a whole. But when helping someone means I can’t get my own work done, it’s a problem. I have a terrible habit of putting others’ needs above my own. That’s not to say I ever want to stop supporting other writers. I just need to find balance. Does that make sense? I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. Put another way; if I can’t achieve my own goals, how can I help someone else achieve theirs?

Q         If you could interview any writer, living or dead, who would it be and why?

A         This is easy. Edgar Allen Poe. I wish I could crawl inside his mind for just an hour. What a fascinating yet disturbing place that would be.

Q         Crime and mystery writing can take both the writer and reader into some pretty dark places. Have you ever had to wrestle with a character or scene that challenged you to examine your own sense of right and wrong? If so, how?

A         Ooh, good question. I’ve definitely given myself nightmares on more than one occasion, where I was stuck in my fictional world and couldn’t get out. I’ve cried when I’ve had to kill a character I loved. I’ve laughed at other characters. Writing is magical that way. As far as wrestling with my inner demons, no. I’ve never had fantasies about taking a life. When someone pushes me to the breaking point, I just go home, turn them into a character, and then kill them in unspeakable ways. Sure makes me feel better.

Q         What’s next for you, Sue?

A         Good question. Who knows? That’s up to the literary gods, I guess. I’ll keep writing and keep journeying toward my dream. I’m working on two projects now. One is based on a question that’s haunted me for years; what lengths would you go to spend one more day with a lost loved one? And the other is based on a true story; how an undercover operative befriended a serial killer to take him down. Since I’m working with a confidential informant, I can’t say more than that, except that it’s exciting, clandestine stuff.

Find Sue here:

My website/blog: http://www.crimewriterblog.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/@suecoletta1

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/suecoletta1

Author’s blog: http://www.auniqueandportablemagic.blogspot.com

Contribute to: www.venturegalleries.com and www.marciamearawrites.com

50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters giveaway: http://bit.ly/1HlrCrC