Yesterday I posted my review of Hellfire & Damnation today is the author interview along with an ebook giveaway.
The giveaway is below the Q&A next to the book cover.
Connie (Corcoran) Wilson graduated from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and has written for five newspapers and seven blogs, including Associated Content (now owned by Yahoo) which named her its 2008 Content Producer of the Year. She is an active, voting member of HWA (Horror Writers Association).
Her stories and interviews with writers like David Morrell, Joe Hill, Kurt Vonnegut, Frederik Pohl and Anne Perry have appeared online and in numerous journals. Her work has won prizes from "Whim's Place Flash Fiction," "Writer's Digest" (Screenplay) and she will have 12 books out by the end of the year. Connie reviewed film and books for the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa) for 12 years and wrote humor columns and conducted interviews for the (Moline, Illinois) Daily Dispatch and now blogs for 7 blogs, including television reviews and political reporting for Yahoo.
Connie lives in East Moline, Illinois with husband Craig and cat Lucy, and in Chicago, Illinois, where her son, Scott and daughter-in-law Jessica and their three-year-old twins Elise and Ava reside. Her daughter, Stacey, recently graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, as a Music Business graduate and is currently living and working in Australia.
Connie's Website: www.ConnieCWilson.com
Connie's blog: www.WeeklyWilson.com
Joy Renee: When did you know fiction writing was something you wanted to do? Once you had decided that you were going to write stories, what obstacles did you have to overcome to make it happen? (circumstance, personality emotion, relationships, craft/industry knowledge etc.) Did you seek any formal education for fiction writing?
Connie: I decided to explore writing fiction in 2003 after writing for newspapers (and blogs) since 1955. (And teaching writing for 33 years.) There are many obstacles, but many of those (i.e., the need to have an agent, etc.) have more-or-less disappeared. I do have an agent (in Chicago), but self-publishing is now much more commonplace. I have attended classes within the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, (although I mostly audited them under the Journalism number 19), and, since 2003, I have taken classes at the University of Chicago as an adult in both novel writing and short story writing. I also attend classes at conferences, when someone like Gary Braver (Goshgarian) is teaching it.
Joy Renee: What does your work routine and environment look like? Is it respected by friends and family? How about by yourself? Is it a struggle to acquire and maintain self-discipline? Do you listen to music while writing? If so what kind? Did your writing career predate word processors and if so how have they changed your work habits, productivity etc?
Connie: I write in a condo in Chicago that I originally bought to be my daughter's college "dorm" (although she ended up attending college in Nashville, Tennessee). As I look out the window, I see the head of the fake dinosaur in front of the Field Museum and part of Lake Michigan. I am a night owl, have no routine, and write till I'm done, often. I wrote each ghost story book in a week, but they were pretty short and had to be "G" rated for that publisher. I shut myself up in Chicago in what I refer to as my Writer's Lair and sometimes don't leave for days, if I'm behind on getting a novel completed. It is always a struggle to write rather than fruit-loop around and go have a good time (dinner and a movie come to mind). Fortunately, my husband of 45 years is very understanding. I get a lot done when I get away by myself, so I can concentrate. I don't listen to music while I am writing. I learned to type on a manual typewriter in 1962 (250 wpm) so, yes, my writing career predates word processors, but I was hired to write a book on a WANG PC in 1985, [before Al Gore had invented the Internet], by a New Jersey company, and I've adapted and adjusted to computers rather than typewriters, since I've been forced to learn to use them and write on them over the past 27 years. I also maintain my own blog (www.WeeklyWilson.com) and Twitter myself (the link Ms Wilson provided here was broken JR) and use Facebook. Plus, I have an author site (www.ConnieCWilson.com).
Joy Renee: Are you able to support yourself with writing only yet? If so, when did you reach that milestone? What jobs have you had besides fiction or freelance writing and how have they impacted your writing life and/or your stories?
Connie: I definitely could not "support myself with my writing" if, previously, I had not been the founder of 2 successful businesses, which I sold in 2003. Today, I cashed out $103 of profits, and it was a good day. I've had 19 jobs over a rather lengthy working career, most notably as a teacher of 7th and 8th graders at Silvis Junior High School from 1969 to 1985, as an educational writer for Performance Learning Systems, and as the founder and CEO of two businesses, established November 15, 1986 (Sylvan Learning Center #3301) and in 1995 (Prometric Testing Center). I sold both businesses in 2003 and began writing fiction. My initial investment had increased ten-fold. That's how I ended up with a Chicago place, too. I had been the Film and Book critic for the Quad City Times for 15 years prior to that (part-time work), and I conducted interviews for the Moline "Dispatch" with local celebrities and wrote a humor column ("The Write Stuff") as well as interviewing a variety of famous authors for online and print publications, including Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Perry, Frederik Pohl, David Morrell, William F. Nolan, Joe Hill, John Irving, Jane Smiley, r. Barri Flowers, and Eric Bogosian. I also taught writing and literature at 6 IA/IL colleges as adjunct faculty. I do have an agent, but if you're a freelance writer, it's pretty tough to make a living at it. With something like 12,000 books being published daily, I believe I read, I'd just be happy to break even with income from writing "long," as I call it. I actually make more, right now, as a Featured Contributer to Yahoo, [which named me its Content Producer of the Year (Jan., 2009) for politics.]
Joy Renee: How did the encountering of story from earliest childhood to the present inform your own storytelling? From oral stories told by family and friends, including religious stories, to stories read to you before you could read on through your own reading experiences and video, TV, song lyrics and theater? Which of those stories and which of those formats do you think had the most impact on your sense of story? And concomitantly how do your years of experience at writing story influence the way you read/view story now? When did you first begin telling/writing stories out of your own imagination?
Connie: [Whoa! You said a mouthful!] All I can tell you is that I've been a movie fan since I was old enough to fight my sister over the armrest at the Saturday matinees and I've continued to love film ever since. I'll be covering the Chicago Film Festival from October 11-31, so check out my articles on Yahoo by signing up for "notices" and sign up on www.WeeklyWilson.com if you like movies. I never wrote fiction at all until 2003, (although I've been writing for pay for 57 years) but no less an authority than William F. Nolan (author of "Logan's Run") told me, "You're a born storyteller." I hope to prove that he's right. Jane Smiley said, "All writing is gossip," so you may be on to something with that statement about "oral stories told by family and friends" part of your question, but I honestly am not aware of any "oral stories" I was told by families or friends inspiring or even showing up in any stories of mine. Most come out of experiences I've had as a child or an adult, interesting articles or tid-bits I've read, or from my teaching experiences, in the case of "The Color of Evil." Since 5 of my students ended up on Death Row in Illinois, and I taught in a pretty "rough" district, as well as growing up in an Iowa town with the largest Mental Health Institute in the state (of 4) and then moving to a town with a mental health institute that has been transformed into a prison, someone said to me, "Whoa! You were just born to write horror, weren't you?"
Joy Renee: When stories begin to form in your mind which of the senses is primary--visual, auditory, tactile etc...and how hard is it to include the ones that aren't present in the beginning in the final product?
Connie: I think the best answer to that question would be to tell people to read the "From the Author" portion at the back of "Hellfire & Damnation II," and, if your readers say, "Well, I don't want to BUY it!" tell them it's FREE for 5 days leading up to Halloween as a Kindle download (October 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31). You can download it on your computer and there's a program that will allow you to read it on your computer, if you don't have a Kindle. If you DO have a Kindle, so much the better. Now, as for "which sense is primary: visual, auditory or tactile," I'm thinking of a story within the collection entitled "The Champagne Chandelier" which starts with a phone call. So, that would suggest that a ringing phone is the trigger for that story. I've been working on incorporating the olfactory senses more into my plot-filled stories after interviewing Audrey Braun, but nothing is more boring, to me, than reading 15 pages of description of something like a bicycle leaning against a wall, (which one famous author actually did include in her work) or people going on a picnic with NOTHING HAPPENING. My stories will have some description, but expect the emphasis to be on plot and character development in equal measures. I hope that answers that question, although I'm not really sure that it did. Mea culpe.
Joy Renee: What do you believe is the source of creativity and the best way to tap into it? I'm assuming that with so much published you no longer, if ever, subscribe to the notion that writers are at the mercy of the muse--must wait for the fickle inspiration. Do you have any creative hobbies besides writing and if so how do they impact your story telling? Or in other words, how do you see creativity in one area spill over into others--or not, as may be?
Connie: Much of creativity is a gift from God. It's like singing. Some people cannot carry a tune in a bucket and others are ready for"American Idol" or "The Voice." In my own experience, writers often have many different creative talents. For example, if they write fiction, they often are also musical or artistic. ( Stephen King, for instance, plays in a band). I am musical, as is my daughter, and play 4 instruments, and sang in a group called Old Gold Singers all through college at the University of Iowa. I like to read, and, in reading, I often come across intriguing articles or concepts, which I attempt to save, remember, and use in stories. William F. Nolan advises keeping a notebook always ready to record such ideas, but that would require me to be far more organized than I am. One story within "Hellfire & Damnation II," for instance, was inspired by reading about the black market for organs in the Philippines. ("The Bureau"). I do think that there are times when a writer is less "creative" than at other times. I'm not sure I'd call it being "at the mercy of the muse." What I would say is that personal issues and situations can put a damper on your writing output. I remember reading David Morrell's ("First Blood") heart-wrenching story of how difficult it was to write after the death of his teenaged son from a rare form of cancer. I found it impossible to write humor when my own mother was dying. Other hobbies you can list for me are traveling, playing trivia, music and swimming. My husband and I are planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand in January, in fact, because my daughter has been there since last February working.
Joy Renee: Having read your essay collection Laughing Through Life I know of your interest in politics and social issues. How if at all do these interests contribute to your understanding of character--psychology, motivation etc which is the root of all story? And how, if at all, did they influence the inspiration for specific stories. Do you find it at all difficult switching back and forth between writing fiction and nonfiction?
Connie: I enjoy "politics as a spectator sport." My involvement in things political began when my dad ran for Buchanan County, Iowa, County Treasurer. I was about 8 and we went out and stapled posters to telephone poles. I remember him saying, "Con, politics is a dirty business. Don't ever get involved in politics." He lost in a heavily Republican county, but his opponent (who won) died before being sworn in. They came to him and offered him the job, saying, 'John, your opponent died. Do you want the job?" He was re-elected to four consecutive terms and then founded a bank (Security State Bank of Independence, Iowa) in 1941, which is still going strong today. The one "political" story within "HELLFIRE & DAMNATION II" would be "Oxymorons," which was an attempt to both use straight dialogue to carry an entire story, to have some funny oxymorons within it, and to weave a compelling and believable tale that incorporates and weaves together some of the biggest (and most recent) political scandals of the day. I don't find it difficult at all to switch back and forth between fiction and nonfiction. I actually make more money writing nonfiction, so far, so one wonders why I bother knocking myself out writing an 80,000 word novel that probably will only be read by 2 people in a closet somewhere. But, hey! I want to leave my mark for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and a book lasts longer than a blog article. I continue to write short. I'll be covering the Chicago Film Festival from October 11th through October 26th and Opening Night has Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Julianna Margulies and Alan Arkin in a film directed by Chicago native Fischer Stevens, so I'm looking forward to being there with Press Passes, as I have been for the past several years. My articles will be displayed on my own blog (www.WeeklyWilson.com) and, also, on various Yahoo outposts. Sign up to "follow" me on my blog or on Associated Content (Yahoo absorbed it) and you'll get a notice when I publish something, which should be a lot during that period of time.
Connie: I've always had cats. As a child, we had a black Labrador from the pound named Blackie, but we didn't have him long because we lived in town. My first cat was "Newcomb." The second cat, a Siamese, was Sam. Then, there were Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane. Fraidy was the first cat for my then 10-year-old son (Scott) and, later, Kitty Kelley, for my daughter (Stacey). Right now, we share space with Lucy, a 17 lb. black-and-white cat that adopted us from our ravine. (Picture of Kitty Kelley attached, picturing her looking evil, which she sort of was, according to my spouse.) One memorable Thanksgiving she scared the crap out of a roomful of teenagers who actually jumped up on couches and screamed as she hissed at them and growled at them. I went and got MITTENS to pick her up. (What was I thinking?) She probably would have bitten me, too, but, as my husband pointed out, mittens would have done no good at all. I think I meant to get leather gloves, but people were screaming and jumping on the furniture at the time, so I sort of grabbed the first pair of hand protective items I saw in the top of our closet. Kitty Kelley has shuffled off this mortal coil and is now buried in Paw Print Gardens with Fraidy Cat, our other calico cat, and now we have this 17-lb. behemoth who goes in and out whenever she feels like it and looks nothing like our other cats did. (All were calico cats and looked alike.)
Hellfire & Damnation II
by Connie Corcoran Wilson
Publisher: Merry Blacksmith Press, August 1, 2012
This collection of 11 short stories in the horror genre is organized around Dante's 9 circles of hell in the Inferno--limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, political corruption, and treachery.
The book is available for giveaway in ebook only, and thus open to international entrants.
Deadline is October 28 at NOON Pacific Coast Time
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