So, I was on my school tech team a few months ago, and I created a magazine titled Novella for my project, a litmag. And for this magazine, I interviewed an author, Anne Marie Gazzolo. I’ve decided to post the interview here for you all to see!
How did you get into writing? When did you start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I like to say that I came out of the womb doing it. That is not much of an exaggeration. I started in childhood and don’t recall the first story I wrote or who inspired me first. I have a vague memory of my mother telling me that my kindergarten teacher told her that I would be a good writer. Later on, I wrote much Star Wars fan fiction and later, Lord of the Rings fic as well. I wrote a few original fantasy/sci-fi novels as well. Currently, I have a fantasy series partially complete, and another series that is anxious for me to begin.
Do you have any character development tips?
I write from the point of view that the people in the story do not come from you, but you are the one they chose to tell their story. I do not like to say ‘characters’ because it sounds like they are not real. They are, and if you do not believe that, they will not live on the page or in the minds and hearts of the reader. Let them tell you the tale. They lived it, and if they honor you as their voice in the present, you must honor them in return, and retell what they tell you or while you walk beside them on their adventurous journeys and write down what happens as it occurs. The voyage of discovery is so much fun!
Do you like self-publishing or traditional publishing better?
I have only published one book so far and that was self-published. I have lots more books inside me, and for the next one, I will likely try a traditional one who have already published several essays of mine.
What is your favorite thing you’ve written?
I love many of my stories, but some stand out more than others. “Knighthood Betrayed” is a Star Wars fanfic of Obi-Wan Kenobi and his doomed apprentice after Anakin turned to the dark side. Of The Lord of the Rings, “Worth Fighting For,” “A Secret Gate,” “The Letter,” “Till We Have Faces” and an epic 4-part series called “The Measure of Love” are among my favorites.
How many interviews have you done?
Five, including you. 🙂 Where can I purchase Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings?
The best place would be from the publisher, WestBow Press – http://ow.ly/ez2dT
Where do you get book ideas?
I read a lot of fantasies in the past. A couple years ago, I joined a writing group and decided to dust off a novel I first wrote 20+ years previously. For some reason, I had held onto it all these years. Something Gandalf would say was meant to happen, both joining the group and deciding to revive the story. Two people in the group gave me great ideas to improve it. As I discovered more of what really happened, the ideas just grew and grew. It is now part of a series, along with another fantasy that was originally unrelated. As I think there will be six books in all, I have a lot more to find out. Fun, fun! The magnificent BBC series Merlin sparked an interest in the Arthurian world and, of course, a long time ago in this galaxy and the one far, far away sparked many stories.
What is your favorite book?
The Lord of the Rings, of course, is a favorite, and The Hobbit. Last summer I read Guy Gavriel Kay’s trilogy, The Fionavar Tapestry, which moved me deeply, especially the second and third books, where the story really rocks. My heart ached especially for one of the people in the story, and I felt awe at the accomplishments of another, which you felt the author shared. Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw, the first in a series about Sir Gawain of the Arthurian legends, filled me with joy. I look forward to reading more of her. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which takes place in Germany during WWII, blew me away. The narrator and the writing style is just so wonderfully done.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Wish I was writing! Or reading or Pinning… 🙂 But as I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.
How did you get inspired to write Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings?
I signed up for a class years ago at a community college about finding your voice in writing. It was canceled due to low enrollment, and I used the refunded money to buy books on the spirituality of Middle-earth. As I read them, the thought came to me, I could do this myself! Definitely the Secret Fire was behind it all.
What do you prefer writing on (handwritten, computer, iPad, etc.)?
For my stories, I used to write everything longhand and then transcribe it onto the computer. I couldn’t do it straight to the computer. My brain would just freeze up. But some years ago, as I wrote a fic of excerpts from the journals Frodo and Sam kept for each other after Frodo went to the Undying Lands, the words just flowed out. The two heart-brothers knew what they wanted to say, and I was just the instrument/conduit to receive the words and put them on the screen. After that, I had little problem writing at the computer. I still get blocked sometimes, but that is rare. For my non-fiction pieces, I still write out my research notes and transcribe them later.
Do you want one of your books to be made into a movie?
If done right, the fantasies I have in mind would be fun to see. Asa Butterfield would be great for one of the people.
What is your favorite genre to write?
Aside from my published non-fiction book and another I am at work on about Frodo and Bilbo’s journeys, my stories are fantasies. Do you have advice for young writers like myself on any writing subject (publishing, grammar, things to avoid, etc.)
A sure way not to get blocked is to let the story write itself. Don’t force anything. You will know what works and what doesn’t feel right. But don’t discard anything either. With my fantasies, I have had a lot of ideas that I thought would work, but they haven’t all in the way I thought they would at first. Still I think they must fit somewhere. I just have to figure out what really happened, and all the pieces will fall into place!
Have others read your stories too. They will see things you don’t. Don’t rely on someone who will only say, “That was good. I liked it” or “I didn’t really like it” and not tell you why. You need to know in detail what worked for them and what didn’t. Fresh eyes will see plot holes, typos or other things that you and/or spell check haven’t caught. Pick someone who will tell you honestly what is right and wrong, not one who would not say anything against it for fear of hurting your feelings. Take all their comments seriously, and do not be hurt by any of them, but you do not have to change anything just because they say so. As everyone sees life through their own lens and experiences, which will likely not be in total agreement with yours, and which will influence how they like or do not like certain aspects of your story, do not change anything unless you see that their opinion/view/complaint is valid.
Also vital is once you finish your story, lay it aside for a couple weeks at least, and then read it through again with fresh eyes. You will see things yourself that you hadn’t before. That helped me a lot in editing my LOTR book.
Read like crazy other books in your genre. Don’t copy them, but let your own voice shine as you spin a different spin on the themes you see. Being as you are a fan of Middle-earth and a writer, I recommend reading The History of The Lord of the Rings, which gives fascinating insights into the creative process as it unfolds, and Tolkien moves from his original ideas through to discovering what really took place. Read also The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien; the essentially autobiographical short story “Leaf by Niggle,” which speaks of the trails and tribulations of finding time to pursue your passion amidst many other responsibilities; and the delightful essay on fantasy and sub-creation called “On Fairy-Stories.” You can find the last two in The Tolkien Reader.
Do you like to research?
I love to research! I was one of those weird people who loved getting term papers in high school and college just so I could do research on them. In fact, I started my Master’s Degree online in 2012, so I could go back to school and do more papers!
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I usually just smash a bunch of letters together and see what works. Strange, I know, but it works for me. I still have to figure out the name for one of the people in my fantasy series. She is still just called ‘the woman.’ Names come other ways too. My wizard and apprentice were first called simply Wiz and App. I was so anxious to get the story down, I didn’t want to wait for the names to come. I still remember the evening at a bookstore that my dad came up to me and told me App’s name. The wizard had a cat who never had a name except Cat. The only name I could think of for him was Sebastian, and he let me know that was definitely not his name. A young man that I had a lot of plot bunnies for before I knew his name was just ‘the guy’ until I finally asked out loud what his name was. He spelled it for me immediately, but he did not pronounce it. I think I have it right though.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Definitely I fly by the seat of my pants on writing, waiting for the story to unfold and enjoying the ride. I have a lot of ideas of how I think things happened, just as Tolkien did, but, like him, I always have to wait to find out what really did, as I discover more of the story. Plotting the whole thing out ahead of time, as if I am the orchestrator of it all and the people in the stories are just puppets entirely under my control, does not work for me. I prefer the organic approach of letting the story and the people within it breathe on their own and tell me what happened. To me, it is a far more natural way of coming to the truth.
Where is your favorite place to write?
On my balcony during the summer months. Heaven! Otherwise in my bedroom.
Thank you so much again to Anne Marie for letting me interview her for this magazine!