Interview: Alex Bledsoe

I recently spoke with author Alex Bledsoe about balancing life as a writer and parent, hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, his upcoming novel, and the Shetland Islands. The following are excerpts from the full audio interview:

AH: What character have you had the most fun writing in your career and why?

AB: The most fun character would be Eddie LaCrosse because I’ve written five books about him and some short stories and at this point I can drop right into his voice and go.

AH: Can you explain some of the ways your background has influenced your writing?

AB: I started out in newspapers, which teaches you to write fast and clearly and to a deadline. And once you’ve been a newspaper reporter with those deadlines, book deadlines don’t scare you at all…I deliberately took a lot of jobs so they wouldn’t interfere with my writing. That was why I left newspaper work…I moved into photography and into editing so that I would have the energy and inspiration to write my own stuff around that.

AH: Has moving from Tennessee to Wisconsin influenced your writing style in any way?

AB: Actually, it’s interesting. I’ve lived in the south for all of my life since I moved to Wisconsin. It’s actually made me more conscious of the “southerness” of my writing. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that because a lot of my stories are set in the south but it’s become a lot more prevalent in my thinking now that I’m not surrounded by it every day.

AH: What more can we expect to see from the Tufa in your upcoming sequel in Wisp of a Thing?

AB: Wisp of a Things takes place a little bit after The Hum and the Shiver and introduces a new main character named Rob, who was a performer on an American Idol type show and he is coming to Cloud County which is the place that the Tufa live in search of a magical song that heals broken hearts. In his quest for that, he connects with a young lady who is under a curse and if the curse isn’t lifted by a certain point, it will become permanent. I don’t want to give too much away because that is there the story starts.

AH: If you could visit any country in the world for a writing vacation, which country would you go to?

AB: Scotland. I’d go to the Shetland Islands. I became fascinated with the Shetland Islands about five or six years ago.

AH: What are the easiest and hardest parts about being a published author?

AB: The easiest is that I get to do this for a living. After a long time of wanting to be in this position, being in it is great. I try to treat it like I would any other job. I get up early, I work for a certain amount of hours, I have deadlines…the hardest thing is that I’m also a stay-at-home parent to two little boys and that as you can imagine can kind of get in the way of the other…but parenting and writing are things that need both of your attention.

AH: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved with The Triumph Over Tragedy anthology?

AB: The editor of the anthology contacted me, described the anthology that he was putting together and asked me if I had anything I’d like to contribute. He was willing to take reprints, or older stories and that was good because I was right in the middle of a deadline…The reason I didn’t even hesitate is because I used to live down in Mobile, Alabama and when you live on the gulf coast for any amount of time you get extremely sensitive to hurricanes. I was living there when a hurricane hit Pensacola, which is only about a 45 minute drive to the east. With hurricanes, that distance is almost insignificant. It could have just as easily hit Mobile. It did tremendous damage to Pensacola, which was a place that I went to all the time. Then of course, when you live on the gulf coast, you go to New Orleans all the time. Everyone goes to New Orleans, once a month is not unreasonable. And when Hurricane Katrina hit there and destroyed all of these beautiful places that I knew, that I had been to…I can’t even describe how that felt…so when this happened in New Jersey, I felt for them in a way that I might not have…this one spoke really directly…

My story is very short. It’s only five to six hundred words so I can’t really tell you much about it or I’ll tell you the whole story. It’s sort of a gothic, love crafty, and horror story set in Arkansas and it’s called ‘Wrap’.

Alex Bledsoe is the author of the Eddie LaCrosse Novels, The Hum and the Shiver and more. His upcoming sequel Wisp of a Thing comes out June 2013. Find more information at www.alexbledsoe.com 

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NaNoWriMo Aftermath: Make a Killer Pot Roast

Photographed by Julia Freeman-Woolpert and Madaise, respectively. Used with permission.

Now that I can finally see my feet because my distended belly from all the turkey and general holiday goodness has gone down, I have a chance to convey my mostly positive feelings about National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo.

They are summed up in three quotes* about writing:

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” -C.J. Cherryh

“I firmly believe every book was meant to be written.” -Marchette Chute

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”-Colette

This is also what I’ve come to judge my own writing by. I don’t know of anyone who simply tosses words on paper and serves them up to a publishing company ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered to readers. The movement itself is a fantastic idea, but any good thing can be—and sometimes definitely is—taken advantage of.

When I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I thought it was the name of an ancient Native American burial ground. Wisconsin is full of cities and towns based off of Native American names, so I had reason to believe it might be connected with one or the other. Try saying Waukesha, Oconomowoc, Wauwatosa, or my home city, Milwaukee. Maybe you can—they have a tendency to roll right off the tongue.

Before I was inducted into the secret society that is NaNoWriMo, I thought of book writing as something organic, like making a nice pot roast. Seasoning it (writing the words, taking a break), trimming any fat, putting it in a pot, browning it (revising, editing, taking another break), and finally finishing it with garnish and serving (prepping for publication or recreational reading after more revision, then selling).

Everyone has a different way of making pot roast, meaning you use vegetables or maybe you choose a different type of seasoning. But some of those steps are vital. If you skip putting it in the pot or trimming the fat, you’re going to end up with a hot (or cold) mess.

Sometimes this is what happens after NaNoWriMo—skipping the trimming and vital preparation to go straight to garnishing and serving. Instead, participants should see NaNoWriMo as a starting point and a huge head start to a wonderful book.

That said, NaNoWriMo is a movement that I am excited to join the ranks of again soon. Whether participants actually do finish their 50,000 words is one thing, but knowing that people across the globe are toiling the same way you are, pushing out pages like gasps between labor pushes, has a certain allure.

It is a source of fragile inspiration welded together with iron determination to reach a goal. I find myself wishing that I could fully devote myself to participating this year and anticipating next year when I’ll probably have a chance to.

According to the NaNoWriMo history on its website, which reads almost like a novel laughing at itself during the process, NaNoWriMo started in 1999.  It quickly took off and grew into a hugely successful movement.

I can admire the spirit of the twenty-one creators who quickly matured from idealists into entrepreneurs. If they hadn’t risen to the occasion, the movement would probably never have the momentum it does now.

Part of the reason why NaNoWriMo is so successful is that the movement continues to operate out of the same idealistic and creative spirit it started with. The history examines the trials, pitfalls and adjustments the creators had to make, but for the most part, the vision has remained relatively unscathed. That alone is commendable because it’s difficult for many movements to achieve.

However, the freedom, raw natural talent, and inclination to cast off limitations, albeit within a limited deadline, has continued to make NaNoWriMo a success. The trade-off has spawned thousands of novels, a few of which have been published by major companies.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo last month, invest in your literary pot roast. You will probably feel just as fulfilled as if you made an actual pot roast and ate it with family.

*quotes are used with the permission of logicalcreativity.com

Lingerie and Football


By Alexandria Harris

As Boromir would probably say “One does not call an interception a touchdown. It is folly.”

I couldn’t resist this. 1) because Boromir is only foretelling what is to come 2)  because it’s the Packers  and I have an excuse to talk about Wisconsin. My state can’t stay away from drama–it just follows her. The pri madonna is at it again!

But first, I did promise you that I’d explain what memes were when I showed you the first Packers meme.

If you are not familiar, a meme is basically an image or a video that has the potential to go viral. A common one is to have a picture of a cat and with text, like the following:

You can make memes out of anything and for any reason. Politicians, cartoons, McKayla Maroney’s frown at the Olympics have been fairly popular memes. Possibly my favorite one is of the President and First Lady with hilarious facial expressions.

But this is really about the Packers. 

You’re probably wondering, “Ok Alex, but what does lingerie have to do with football? Get to the point already!”

Hold on grasshopper, we’re almost there.

Anyone who watched NFL Football this week knows about the upset between the Packers and Seahawks. I’m not going to rag on the Seahawks because everyone watching knows it wasn’t their fault.

They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The real culprits, who are already being burned at the metaphysical stake of media, are the replacement refs.

Wisconsin is in full Hulk-SMASH mode. Seriously, scratch the green and yellow, we’re all just seeing green.

From the alleged $1 billion lost in game bets, to talks of the replacement refs ruining the NFL’s brand, these men in black (and white) have caused quite a stir.

But who are they, where did they come from, and why are they here *ahem* being used in the first place? Typically questions you would ask during an alien invasion.

But while the conspiracy theory of refs being taken over by aliens is wrong, there is something far more sinister at work here.

I almost died laughing when I read it.

Fox News had an article about the origin of these replacement refs. And they didn’t come from a planet far, far away.

No, they came from Planet Lingerie, located right under the earth’s crust. That’s right, there is a Lingerie Football League. I’m not going to go into too much detail (because you either know about it or that link is to the omniscient Wikipedia for your convenience). However, I do feel like these women are like a Powderpuff league on botox about to bust into a rendition of “Oops, I Did It Again.”

The article goes on to say that the LFL fired five to six replacement refs due to poor calls and bad officiating.  Mitch Mortaza, commissioner of the LFL, even threw down the gauntlet at the NFL, saying “At our level, being in our infancy, we appreciate our credibility and the integrity of the game is on the line,” he said. “If we appreciate it, I’m not sure why the NFL can’t appreciate it.”

However, the LFL clearly had a ref takeover also, so our origin story does not start there. Normally referees make about $150,000 a year for their services in the NFL. According to the article, most have full-time jobs on top of that.

The aspect of the dispute that I find interesting is that no one is budging. Yes, there are talks about how the owners are making concessions and want to rapidly bring the lockout to an end. However, I have a feeling that we’re going to be seeing a few more games with the replacement refs.

Safety is a big issue, (I stopped counting how many times poor Aaron Rodgers got sacked) and the question now is will other teams start to take bigger risks just to see what they can get away with? Hopefully, however long the reign of the replacement refs lasts, everyone stays safe.

Or we will cry alien invasion and not be held responsible for our actions in self defense.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The One That’s Not About Politics

By Alexandria Harris

As a general rule, I do not discuss politics with people I like. Or I make an attempt to avoid them altogether. Sometimes it’s the easiest way to turn friendships or agreeable acquaintances sour.

And Wisconsin apparently is the drama pri madonna of the political sphere. We just can’t help it apparently.

You would never go to someone’s house and immediately start talking to them about politics, but people who don’t know anything about each other, much less some of the political topics they’re talking about, find it necessary to turn everything into a debate.

One of my quirks is that I love reading articles or watching videos and then scrolling to the comment section. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. Whenever you have a notion that people are generally good at heart, I dare you to scroll to the comment section and in ten comments or less people will start arguing about religion, race, or politics.

It’s hilarious but at the same time horribly pathetic.

This past weekend I was in the mall with my friend and she got wheedled into doing one of those surveys where they trap you in a room for about thirty minutes and then give you three dollars with a smile like they didn’t completely waste your life.

Being the good friend that I was, I went with her. This particular survey involved watching the trailer of an upcoming movie and telling the survey people if we would watch it in theaters and how much we liked it. Unfortunately for me, the most interesting movie they had was a political thriller starring Mark Wahlberg.

Now I adore  Mark Wahlberg, but even he couldn’t tempt me to go to the theater to see this movie on opening weekend or at all.

Why you ask? Two words: political thriller.

I’ve never been that interested in watching movies about politics because real life provides way too much material. I could actually see our government today doing half the things they do in movies based on politics and sometimes the movies are based off of something that actually happened.

Now a political comedy like “The Campaign” I would watch because we have to find some way to (keep from crying) laugh at this.

Real life politics is too much like a soap opera gone wrong.

This is also why I don’t read political blogs, listen to politics on the radio, watch Sunday morning debates, etc. And many of you may say ignorance is ignorance it’s not bliss and you’re right. However, politics is a system based on money and people saying they’re going to do something and then not. Then it all goes down a rabbit hole from there.

Yes I’m jaded, I completely concede this.

By now you may know (and if you didn’t, John spilled it in his last post) that Paul Ryan was chosen as Romney’s pick for Vice President. As of now, people (from the less politically minded side of the pool) are honestly debating whether he is attractive.

Really? Why is that a question we’re concerned with? Maybe ‘would he be a nice addition to help run our country’ should get thrown in there? Everything is biased, everything is skewed and slanted and politics is a picky, hot button topic.

Rarely do we find an unbiased source to educate us on the important matters. The amount of mud slinging is ridiculous. I bet if we took the millions we spent on political ads and put it back into education or job creation, American would be slightly better economically.

I said slightly because let’s face it, we’re in trillions of debt. I’ll get off my tiny soap box and put the megaphone away because I’ve succeeded in attempting to touch the topic of politics with a lukewarm, ten-foot pole.

And let’s be real, some of you were probably thinking it.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

50 Shades of Controversy

 

By Alexandra Harris

 By now, you may have heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book based off the doe-eyed interactions of Stephenie Meyer’s Bella and Edward in the Twilight Series. Whether listening to Ellen attempt to record an audio for it or skirting around the buzz of celebrities attached to play the main character Christian Grey in a five million dollar budget movie, this book has prompted controversy and broken ground for changes to the publishing world as we know it.

 I’m not going to attempt to give a summary of the book or rate it, because you’ve probably already heard enough about it, but I wanted to highlight some major aspects.

 
1) The concept of fan fiction. 
 
 Some argue that individuals who don’t intend to make a profit from their fan fiction are participating in a wonderful writing exercise and paying the highest compliment to an author. Others argue that it is plagiarism because the ideas and basis for the stories already came from an author. There are some authors who are flattered by fan fiction (J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer) and others who are adamantly opposed (Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin). Meyer does weigh in on Fifty Shades  but the larger question of fan fiction remains murky among literary circles.
 
2) Opinions about Erotica/Mommy Porn
 
 Everyone has their own reading preferences and this is one of the aspects which makes the literary world so diverse. Many YA books cross over and become adult favorites as well, however Fifty Shades will not have the same effect because of its explicit content. No matter how many teenagers borrow their mom’s/aunt’s/sister’s copy, Fifty Shades will not be talked about much in the YA world.
 
3) Changing tides of books + merchandise
 
 Big YA book tiles like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games market jewelry, bed sheets, and toys based off the books and now Fifty Shades is doing it as well. It will be interesting to see how much revenue this will generate and exactly how many people are going to trot into the supermarket and pick up some Fifty Shades bed sheets or shamelessly wear t-shirts promoting the book.
 
4) Success with Self-Publishing
 
 This is a huge one. The publishing world has changed so much even in the past six months and Amazon is basically considered one of the big six publishing companies. As an aspiring author, I am especially interested in this. The author E.L. James published the book on her website and then through a virtual publisher in Australia before Fifty Shades became a hit in the United States. 
 
 So whether you hated the books, were freaked out by the books, or loved them so much you immediately ordered Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed online (unless you were bold and marched into your local bookstore) E.L. James has definitely provided food for thought for the literary community.
 
Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin