Welcome to the one hundred and thirty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with poet and novelist Franki deMerle. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the authors further.
Morgen: Hello Franki. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Franki: I started writing poetry in my early teens in my sleep. By my late teens I had transitioned to writing while awake. That led to writing short stories, and of course, writing down my dreams in a journal. Eventually, I realized I had enough material to write a novel using actual events mixed with all the fiction, and Deception Past was born. Then, as therapy for dealing with a sudden disability retirement, I wrote Dragonfly Dreams. Now I’m hooked, because it’s so much fun.
Morgen: Yay! 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Franki: I still write poetry, but my novels are reincarnation stories.
Morgen: A popular theme. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Franki: Ripples on the Surface is a collection of poetry that raises money for women in Uganda with HIV / AIDS (all author’s proceeds go directly to Global Partners for Development to help start businesses for the women so they can become self-sufficient). Deception Past first appeared on the shelves of Barnes and Noble in Huntsville, Alabama, where most of the story takes place. But I think I was even more excited when it showed up in my local library in Vancouver, Washington. Dragonfly Dreams takes place mostly in Oregon and Washington state with a chapter in Scotland.
Morgen: Ah Bonnie Scotland. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Franki: I have no idea if competitions help with success, but I’m not competitive, have no interest in competitions, and believe success means somebody read something I’ve written and it meant a lot to them. Based on reader feedback, I feel successful.
Morgen: That’s what we all strive for. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Franki: No, I use my own name. I’d get confused otherwise.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you have an agent?
Franki: I’ve never had an agent.
Morgen: Me neither. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Franki: Dragonfly Dreams is available as an eBook. The demand has changed so fast in recent years, I wasn’t even aware of eBooks when Deception Past was published, and it wasn’t an option when Ripples on the Surface was published. I hope someday to remedy both, and my next novel and collection of poetry will definitely be available as eBooks. I believe I’ve sold more eBooks for Dragonfly Dreams than printed copies.
Morgen: It does seem to be the way things are going and I’m all in favour of it (although I love both formats).
Franki: I don’t read eBooks YET as I have shelves of printed books to read and a well-used library card, but someday I suspect I’ll change over simply because it’s the way the business is headed. Saving trees, not having to carry the weight of books around, and lack of storage space for many are undeniable advantages. But my family still shares printed books, and it’s hard for me to imagine a room in my home without them.
Morgen: Me too. I’m pretty sure I still have enough books to last the rest of my life (I’m not kidding!) but would go with the eReader for journeys. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Franki: With print-on-demand available and becoming more popular due to artistic freedom, less delays, and other benefits, it’s no longer necessary to let big corporations dictate what and how a writer gets published or what’s available to the readers. It’s time for the market to be dictated more by the readers instead of only letting them choose from what big publishing houses decide to present. And it’s time for writers to have more control over their work.
Morgen: It is and I’m so looking forward to being part of it. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Franki: I’m currently writing a three-part historical fiction of group reincarnation. All the characters and the basic plot of their lives are real, but I have a sixteenth century group of five women reincarnate as a nineteenth century group of five women. When they reincarnate in the twentieth century, I use anagrams for their names, because I believe the reader will be able figure out whom they are / were.
Morgen: It’s funny what readers do and don’t spot – in my latest writing group’s critique session I guessed an ending of another’s story but one of the group didn’t (the others didn’t say) so I guess you’ll always get some who do and some who don’t (or don’t want to try). Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Franki: I write when I write, which is most days. I have no idea what’s the most I’ve written in a day. It is what it is.
Morgen: It is. 🙂 What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Franki: I’ve never had writer’s block, so I have no opinion. When I first realized I was going to write a novel, but before I actually started, I bought a book called “No Plot, No Problem”. I figured if I ever encountered writer’s block I would use it. I still have it, but I’ve never read it. It’s my “ounce of prevention”.
Morgen: Keeping it at bay… good plan. A question some authors dread, do you get your inspiration from?
Franki: I believe fact really is stranger than fiction, so that’s what I use. One reviewer described Deception Past as “a bizarre story”, but most of what happens in it happened to either me or someone I knew. And the dream scenes were all taken from my own dreams. So maybe reality is bizarre, but it works for me.
Morgen: I love bizarre, the quirkier the better. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Franki: I have a definite plot in mind when I start, but the characters often demand alterations. I try to listen to my characters. It’s their story, after all.
Morgen: Don’t they just… do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Franki: I take characteristics from a few different people I’ve known and mix them together into one character. And of course, all of my characters have some of me in them. In Deception Past, the main character’s name is explained early on. Its symbolism ties her to the friend that “stole” her past life identity. In Dragonfly Dreams, all the characters have names related to their symbolic animal natures. I believe their all too common human flaws make them believable.
Morgen: Characters have to have flaws otherwise they’re too perfect, dull and two-dimensional, there’s no challenge there. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Franki: My sister at first, but now I’m in a writers group, so they get first exposure.
Morgen: Me too, before my editor. Speaking of which, do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Franki: I can never edit enough. I love having a good editor to suggest more improvements so I can rewrite the whole book and make it better. And then it needs a lot more editing. Nothing is set in stone until it’s published. And then, no matter who you are, there’s bound to be a typo that got overlooked. Sigh.
Morgen: But that’s the great thing about eBooks, they’re much easier to tweak (so I’m lead to believe anyway). How much research do you have to do for your writing?
Franki: Research is essential when the story is set in the world we live in, and my stories are. Some research is experiential, and some is reading, but if I don’t know enough to put myself there in the place and time, I haven’t finished researching.
Morgen: What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Franki: Usually I think of things when I’m doing something unrelated, like gardening, bathing, dreaming. I’ve learned to make mental notes so that when I sit down to write I remember. Sometimes, I actually write myself a note. Some of my best ideas have popped up when I was sick and medicated.
Morgen: Oh dear… this is where I should say that I (of course) hope you don’t get sick too often… you say you make notes, do you generally write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Franki: I prefer the computer, but paper’s my backup.
Morgen: Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Franki: I prefer quiet, but with three cats and a parakeet and inevitable interruptions of life, I do my best.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Franki: The prologue and epilogue were essential in Deception Past. If it works, use it; if not, don’t.
Morgen: Another good plan. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Franki: My favourite part is when the characters reveal themselves, the plot holds true, and I can see it coming together.
Morgen: Isn’t that great. 🙂
Franki: My least favourite is dealing with the business end of it.
Morgen: Ah yes, a lot of the other interviewees have said that, most of them I think. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Franki: I’ve learned a lot about myself through my characters, but the biggest surprise was when a friend called me, crying, to thank me for writing the book she’d just read.
Morgen: Ahhh… 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Franki: Write what you know and like to read, but don’t stay on the surface. Weave different threads of plot and symbolism together to give the story depth.
Morgen: What do you like to read?
Franki: I like historical fiction and nonfiction. I recommend reincarnation authors on my website, http://www.reincarnationbooks.com. But if I start recommending authors in general, I won’t know when to stop. My favourite story of all time is The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono.
Morgen: I love that title (titles do it for me) but not heard of Jean so thanks for that. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Franki: Yoga, play classic guitar, sing in English and Spanish with my parakeet, cuddle and play with cats, Scottish country dance, kayak, garden, read a lot, and yes, I can read Tarot cards (symbolism is used in Deception Past, but no readings are done in the story). I also tweet most days @frankidemerle.
Morgen: I can see why you say that life interrupts. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Franki: USA: I certainly hope this doesn’t hinder people from learning about my work, but poetry and reincarnation are not the most popular genre here. I email stores in other countries, and books and eBooks are available online. Probably, timing and current economic conditions are the biggest hindrance.
Morgen: But they have to get better? 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Franki: I’m a member of the Independent Authors Network, and I find it invaluable. The authors help promote each other. It’s very supportive and a good source of information.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Wow, what a list. 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Franki: Many surprises.
Morgen: Hopefully mostly good ones. 🙂 Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Franki: Of course, I don’t know how many books I’ll get to write, but it’s a privilege to be able to share with others.
Morgen: Thanks Franki. Is there a question you’d like to ask me? 🙂
Franki: Do you read poetry? Does the genre of reincarnation novels interest you? Are printed books still selling across the pond? Do you know why the riots are happening in the UK? Do other countries also believe the US Congress is riddled with personality disorders? Will the US ever get over itself and its macho military cowboy image? Is it possible to send fundamentalists of all religions to Antarctica where they can fight each other and leave sane people alone, but where would the penguins go? Have you ever had a premonition or met someone you believe you knew in a past life? Do you have any pets? Am I the only one who thinks knitting is a form of binary code? What’s your favourite flower? Is use of the Chicago Style Manual by US publishers annoying to anyone besides me? Have you ever died in a dream before you woke up, and who started that ridiculous rumour that it’s not possible?
Morgen: My goodness… er, OK, poetry – sadly not. I like easy-to-understand and comic poetry but tend to read novellas, anthologies or novels which leaves little (no) time for any other reading. I have some Pam Ayres audio CDs which are fun. I’ve never read a reincarnation novel but have a friend who does (I think) and enjoys them (I think)… sorry very vague. Yes, printed books are selling here but not as many as eBooks apparently and bookshops are in trouble here – Waterstone’s is pretty much all we’ve got left especially as the supermarkets like Tesco and Asda (whose books are mostly £1 ones) also sell them. Re. the Congress, I can’t say for the rest of the UK but I’d say where politicians are involved personalities are certainly disordered. I like the cowboy image of the US but then I would say that being over here. Re. the penguins, maybe they’d just stand (or waddle?) and laugh. I’m not sure I’ve had premonitions but I do feel déjà vu sometimes. There was something interesting that happened to me a while back (I’m pretty sure my mum doesn’t read my blog); I’d been driving my brother back from a party we’d been to in Manchester and it was winter so had the heating on and the music low because my brother was sleeping and I fell asleep, hit the central barrier (luckily going really slowly) then limped the car to a layby. It was 3am but I phoned a friend whose house I could almost see in the distance and just before her phone rang she stared at it, knowing it was going to ring. Pets; yes, a nearly-11-year-old (on Boxing Day) Jack Russell dog. I’m no maths expert but yes, knitting does look very logical. 🙂 Favourite flower, easy: gerbera. The Chicago Style Manual doesn’t annoy me but then I don’t use it. 🙂 I don’t know who started the rumour but it wasn’t me – I can’t ever remember dying but think I’ve come pretty close and I do remember falling horizontally in my bed one night then read the next day that a woman had been in bed and her floor had collapsed sending her (and the bed) down a floor… I remember that to this day (clearly). Thank you, some wonderful questions!
I then invited Franki to include an extract of her writing:
Emily Dickinson burned with the desire to be loved. She felt somehow that her feverishness was merely a manifestation of her yearning to be freely accepted for who she was.
To be free …
She craved acceptance after so much rejection, indifference, and isolation. Everywhere there were judgments. Always other people had their judgments. Emily was too unconventional. She didn’t follow social protocol. She longed to be accepted in the same way she had opened her heart and warmly accepted Nature just as she found it. No man-made conception of “perfection” was required. No judgments or changes were necessary when you truly loved. But she hadn’t found that love from any male human being. The true love of her life had rejected her for someone more appropriate for his status in life. Yes, she had loved deeply in this life, but only Nature reciprocated that love.
Judgments were a way of life for “civilized” humans. How could a person be judged by the relative shade of their skin pigments? Yet masses of humanity had spilled rivers of blood over just such a concept—as if it actually made any sense…
Franki deMerle is the author of Dragonfly Dreams, Deception Past, and Ripples on the Surface. Her name is on the Wall of Tolerance at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Alabama, and at the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington, DC, as a founding member of the Build the Dream Foundation. She was born in Memphis, Tennessee, raised in Huntsville, Alabama, and lives in the US Pacific Northwest.
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