Welcome to the three hundred and fifty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with Anishinaabe culture and fantasy YA author V R Janis. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, VR. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
VR: Hello, my name is VR Janis and I live in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I am an Ojibwe tribal member and try to use my culture and language in my writing. I have written short stories, poetry and plays since I was a young girl, but I started writing my book about five years ago.
Morgen: I find short stories easy, poetry less easy and plays hard so I take my hat off to you. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
VR: I usually write young adult fantasy. I have considered writing language books for children in Ojibwe.
Morgen: That sounds lovely and I would imagine (although I have no clue) that not many people would be doing that so there may be a nice? What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
VR: I have published Hidden Powers Book 1 of The Hidden Magic Trilogy to-date, it is an unique blending of Anishinaabe culture and fantasy. VR Janis is my pen, artist and photographer name.
Morgen: Photography and art is really handy for book covers. Have you had any rejections?
VR: I am a self-published writer so I have not had to deal with rejections. I decided early on that I want to self-publish so that I would have a great say in what happens with my books.
Morgen: That why I went eBooking although it would be lovely to see my books on the shelves. Are your books available as eBooks? Being self-published, presumably you were involved in that process. Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
VR: Yes, my book is available on Kindle. I was involved in every aspect of my book, including loading it to eBooks. I find it funny to admit since my book is available as an eBook, but I am a paperback girl all the way. I love relaxing on the couch with a good book.
Morgen: Most authors I’ve spoken to do, myself included although being fairly new to Kindle, I’m enjoying both. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
VR: I have tried to use all the social networks that I can, but I can say that sometimes it is hard to keep up with everything. When I do a book signing I work with another local author and we advertise together. Marketing is one of the harder aspects of being a self-published author.
Morgen: It is and many interviewees least favourite aspect. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actors?
VR: I love the characters in the Hidden Trilogy, I can relate to most of them. If Hidden Powers were to be made into a movie I would want Tinsel Korey to play Papakoosigun (the main character).
Morgen: I’d not heard of her but then I’ve not seen Twilight so have clearly missed out. She’s a good singer too (her website has three of her tracks). I mentioned books covers earlier, presumably you choose your title / covers of your books, how important do you think they are?
VR: I made up the title myself and then made changes to it until I was happy with the end result. The same could be said of the covers. I drew and painted the cover for the book and it took many tries until I was happy with the end result. I think that the cover and title can make a book so they are very important, they are a character all to themselves.
Morgen: They certainly can be, can’t they. What are you working on at the moment / next?
VR: I am working on Hidden Magic Book Two, a whole new series, and a poetry photography book.
Morgen: One thing that I’ve heard often from agents and publishers is how popular series are; if someone gets attached to a character they want to know more about them, have them doing other things and so they become a brand in their own right in some cases and I did hear recently that readers remember characters’ names easier than the writers. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
VR: I honestly try to, but I do not. I write as much as I am able. I do not tend to have writer’s block, but I do not want to say I never had writer’s block so I do not jink myself.
Morgen: I say I don’t but I do get to a point in some stories where I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Take for example doing the Tuesday Tales, we get the prompts six weeks’ worth at a time so I start them all. If I get stuck with one I move on to another. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
VR: I usually start a story but I do an outline of the main thing that I want to happen in each chapter.
Morgen: That’s a good idea then you also know how many chapters it might be. You mentioned Papakoosigun earlier, do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
VR: I do not have a method for creating characters they are born to the story. The names however, come from my language and have a meaning. I think my characters are believable because I base them off of people in my life, and some of the situations they get into make me laugh.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
VR: As I write more my stories seem to advance, I do have to edit though. Who doesn’t right?
Morgen: Indeed. Even top authors must do or need editing. Do you have to do much research?
VR: For the next series I am doing I had to research sailing. I had to put it in my book and I have never been on the sea. I need to find an expert in the field.
Morgen: LinkedIn is a great place for queries like that. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
VR: I did one series in third person and starting another series in first person. As a reader I enjoy first person writing because I can lose myself in the story.
Morgen: As you imagine you are that person. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
VR: No, I think my pieces will see the light of day. It just may take them a little longer to grow because I am nurturing certain ones and leaving others for a rainy day.
Morgen: What a nice image. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
VR: My least favourite aspect is dealing with the marketing of my book, it sometimes takes away from writing new books because I have to try to get people to notice the one already out there. My favourite aspect is when I have so many ideas coming that my hands hurt from trying to keep up with my brain. Everything has surprised me about this, but I have learned something new every day so the surprises are not always bad.
Morgen: They’re not, thankfully, and we learn from the ones that are. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
VR: Don’t think negative, that can kill the passion faster than anything else. When all the frustration comes and trust me it will, remember the joy you got out of getting your story on paper.
Morgen: Absolutely. For me there’s nothing like it. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
VR: My favourite word is respect. My favourite quote is “When you see a new trail or a footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing.” – Uncheedah (Santee Sioux)
Morgen: I love that. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
VR: I have a blog that I try to keep up on. janisvr.blogspot.com
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
VR: I paint, read, bead, and do artistic photography.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
VR: I am on twitter and I do not use this to the fullest capacity that I could. I am on Facebook and have an author page, this one is where I put most of my updates. I am on LinkedIn and am just learning about this one. I find them valuable if a little time consuming, I would rather be writing.
Morgen: Wouldn’t we all? (this would be the golden opportunity to plug my blog-building service for writers but I’ll resist) What do you think the future holds for a writer?
VR: I think the future can hold anything the writer wants it to. I think that we will find more independence and hopefully respect as self-published authors.
Morgen: I do think reviews will show how good a writer is (although mine on Goodreads are very mixed but great everywhere else, which is a shame). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
VR: I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share my work with others. I would also like to thank everyone for reading the post.
Morgen: You’re so welcome, and I’d like to thank all the readers too – we love hearing from you.
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