Welcome to the twenty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with speculative fiction novelist and privacy / civil rights campaigner Irene North. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Irene. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Irene: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I had a tough high school English teacher who I learned more about the written language than any college professor that I had. Although I didn’t major in English in college, I took almost all the creative writing classes I could. By the time I finished college, I knew I wanted to write, but never took the initiative until about 8 years ago due the strong desire to work for money to get food.
Morgen: I was like that only I didn’t know it until six years ago. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Irene: I have written a speculative fiction novel (http://www.thegaven.com) and I also maintain a blog that covers privacy and civil rights issues.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
Irene: Currently, my novel is unpublished, but I am actively “shopping” it out to find an agent and/or a publisher. I also maintain a blog called Loss of Privacy (http://www.lossofprivacy.com), which I have written for the last 5 years. I also am a contributing author to The Daily Censored (http://www.thedailycensored.com). If you know about any of my work, it’s because I have done all the marketing, which is quite difficult sometimes.
Morgen: The not-so-fun definition of ‘shopping’. Do you think agents are vital to an author’s success?
Irene: I think that, while agents are becoming less vital as we move to a more digital landscape in publishing, they are still relevant as they know more people, have connections, and can help get your foot in the door.
Morgen: Absolutely. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Irene: I have my novel available to download as a PDF for free (http://www.thegaven.com/index.php/read-the-entire-novel/). It’s an older version as I’ve made some revisions, fixed typos, etc. since I first put it online. If you’re familiar with bittorrent, you can down the torrent (http://h33t.com/details.php?id=7b7211b71b38dab41b91308e20d9a967f517a1b7&hl=%2Bthe+%2Bgaven) as well. I do read eBooks, but I still prefer paper copies. There’s just something about paper that I enjoy more. I usually use eBooks for rarer books you just can’t get anywhere else. I have to admit, they are much easier to read than10-15 years ago. I absolutely hated reading anything long on a computer back then.
Morgen: I think many of us had little to do with them that long ago (I vaguely remember my brick of a first laptop) . What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Irene: I’m still waiting for that illustrious day, but I suspect that, if I’m too happy, I might scare the neighbors.
Morgen: If they know you write, they’ll hopefully be delighted for you and join in. We’ll have a virtual party instead. So I assume you’ve had some rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Irene: I have had roughly 40 rejections. I stopped counting after 26. I usually swear at the rejection and then move on. I wrote my novel for people to read and enjoy, not to become a millionaire. Although I would like to get paid a liveable wage so I can keep writing.
Morgen: That’s how I feel; it’s all about the passion not the cash (although both would be lovely). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Irene: I am seriously considering a sequel as many folks who have read The Gaven have commented that they want to see more and see what happens.
Irene: I am currently attempting to fashion together a sort of memoir of my journey from being a Christian to an Atheist as well as writing about my daily life working in a public school systems.
Morgen: Memoirs are incredibly popular and they sound particularly interesting (OK, I may be a little biased). Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Irene: I do write every day. Usually it’s a post for my blog, but I always have a notebook nearby to jot down ideas and notes that could possibly be fleshed out later. A typical day, I write about 2 pages. On a day like today, when items in the news are pertinent, I can write much more.
Morgen: A little bit adds up to a lot in a year. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Irene: When I do suffer from writer’s block, I usually start reading the news. There’s usually something there that makes me angry enough to start writing. Then, I write and attempt to take all the anger out of it. I find that once I do that, I can get back to my novel writing without a problem.
Morgen: Distractions do sometimes have their uses. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Irene: It depends on what I’m writing. In The Gaven, I had all the ideas plotted out and a rough idea of where everything was going to go. For the non-fiction memoir, I’m just writing essays to get everything down and will assemble it into a more coherent fashion once I’m finished.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Irene: Probably my poetry. Although I did have one piece of poetry published in the mid-1990s, I don’t write it any more and no-one will ever see it unless they come to my house and pull the notebook off my bookshelf.
Morgen: That’s pretty much how I feel about my poetry. I say to my writing group (which contains two incredible poets) that I don’t ‘get’ poetry which really is no excuse. I should go on a course for it and see what it’s really all about although I’m not sure it would get me to write any more (one of my more personal ones is on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/my-writing so readers can judge for themselves). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Irene: I like that I can write what I like to write about and no one is handing out assignments of what you “need” to write about.
Morgen: I’m tempted to be pessimistic and say that may well change when you get an agent but I won’t.
Irene: The least favorite is that I don’t get paid and that, as a shy person, it’s extremely difficult for me to market and be out in front of people.
Morgen: Talking money is hard. I’m fairly rubbish at it. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
IN: Keep plugging away. You may one day be an “overnight sensation”, but there are actually years of hard work behind that.
Morgen: Like a lot of the more mature musical artists (and look at Howard Jacobson only now coming to serious acclaim because of his Booker win), and invariably they’re better off for it (as we are because we’ve had all those years’ practice and experience). What do you like to read?
Irene: I’ll read just about anything, however, my favorite topic in non-fiction is History and in fiction is any dystopian novel. As an American, we don’t get a lot of detail in our History classes so I spend what time I can learning the details of the basics I received in school. Dystopian fiction just appeals to me. I enjoy reading about how things could be and take them to be lessons we should learn or else we’ll turn those societies into reality.
Morgen: I don’t read enough. I’ve cancelled plans tonight (two writing-related events… tut tut) because I’m interviewing crime writer Adrian Magson (in the flesh) on Monday and still have 1/3rd of his book to go… not through not wanting to but struggling to find the time. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Irene: The only place I generally check out is the sub-reddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/writing) on writing at reddit. The users will usually point me to something good.
Morgen: Thanks Irene. I’d not come across that before but it looks really interesting and the forums not dissimilar to the LinkedIn ones we belong to. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Irene: I am based in America and I find it more a hindrance than a help because so many people are trying to do the same thing as me and it’s easy to get lost in the din of too many voices. I’ve heard the slush piles are gigantic with little help of getting anywhere unless you know someone in the publishing world.
Morgen: The old ‘who you know, not what you know’ (again both would be great). Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Irene: I am on LinkedIn, which I just joined last week. I’m still feeling my way around there, so it wouldn’t be fair to make a judgement on the site just yet. I am also on twitter. My personal account is lacking as I tend to spend more time on my twitter account (http://twitter.com/LossofPrivacy) for my blog (http://www.lossofprivacy.com). I have found twitter to be very good to me. I’ve made connections there and increased my blog’s presence online a lot since posting there.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Irene: I think I’ve plugged every place I am online already. Would it be overkill to list them all again?
Irene: I love to travel and, if you ever ask me about it, I probably won’t shut up for about three hours or until you hit me. Whichever comes first.
Morgen: I’m not a violent person (unless it’s aimed at my computer; which I don’t so much having bought a Mac last summer) so I’d be happy to sit and listen although I can talk for England (as the saying goes) so if Germany, Cyprus or Brighton come up in conversation you may have met your match. Thanks Irene for taking part and I wish you all the best with getting an acceptance.
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