Author Interview, Marie-Jo Fortis

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Interview #77, with satirical thriller French writer, Marie-Jo Fortis!

Hi Marie-Jo! Describe yourself in 5 words:

Hi Jess! Okay, here goes: Determined, with sense of humor.

Cool! Share a short blurb of your work (10-100 words):

chainsaw_jane

“Fortis has a marvelous character in Chainsaw Jane…”
~ Kirkus Reviews

Now, for the excerpt, just a little sentence that describes Chainsaw Jane: “With her staccato gestures, mud-covered baggy jeans and clodhoppers, she looked like a barrel drunk with its own wine.”

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

From Balzac’s Le Père Goriot: “Holding this book in your hand, sinking back in your soft armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me. And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy. But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true.”

I chose this because I do think that great fiction, the one that gets to the core of things, is truer than what we call reality.

I agree! Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

The writing is just plain fun while the publication process is woooork! Kidding! It’s all fun and sooo easy! Okay, kidding again. Non-writers believe that writing is a simple, amusing activity, an entertaining choice. To these people I want to say, don’t choose writing if writing does not choose you. Writing is as much an addiction, a dependence, as it is a passion. Of course, you can argue that passion is a dependence. You write because you cannot imagine life without it. There are moments when you want to free yourself from it, but as soon as you take some distance from it, it calls you back. It is a love made of pain and pleasure, a mental sadomasochistic adventure. It is also work, work, work. Hitting your head against the wall every time you get a rejection slip. That’s why so many take matters into their own hands and self-publish. But that alone belongs to another discussion. This said, nothing compares to the heights of creativity, when you have found that beautiful sentence, that expression that just clicks, this “mot juste.” Nothing compares to that.

As for publishing, you have to wear a different hat, don’t you? I was the publisher of a litmag years ago, so I have a little experience, even if the publishing world has changed tremendously since. The publication process is about image and marketing. This means that today’s writer needs to double as a business person. Produce a brand. You have to act as a humble peacock. If this sounds like an oxymoron, it probably is. Let me explain to the best of my abilities. You have to show off as much as possible (that’s the peacock part) while thinking of yourself as simply a product. I don’t know many fiction writers who like to see themselves as products, so that’s the humbling part. But to market a book in today’s world, one must market oneself. The left side of my brain gets it; the right one is still pissed off. So there is still training to do on that side.

Very eloquently expressed. I’m a fan of Tarot cards, so the mention of them in the product description for Chainsaw Jane certainly caught my attention. How did you develop an interest in Tarot?:

During one of the trips my husband and I took to Lily Dale, the famous mediums village in New York State, the psychic who gave us a reading recommended Tarot as a way to develop psychic abilities. Since I am a native of France and raised to rely on rational thinking, I thought…mm…okay…whatever. But I am also very curious. Not to mention a Basque; and the Basque Country still has a number of operating “witches.” So I ordered a Tarot set and started studying it. It became a habit to the point where I started reading Tarot to family and friends. Now they come to me and ask for readings. It has basically become a reflex these days. When I am confused about a problem, I use both Tarot and reasoning. I don’t feel the right and left side of the brain are, nor should be, mutually exclusive.

You list some very interesting and eclectic influences on your Goodreads bio (Balzac when it comes to psychology; Voltaire for the bite and satire; Agatha Christie for the structure of the novel). Which of their works would you recommend to readers who would like to try reading them for the first time, and why?

For Balzac, it’s difficult to recommend just one novel from the Human Comedy, as he created one masterpiece after another. I fell in love with him when I fell in love with reading, when I was twelve and when my older sister handed me Le Père Goriot. It’s a poignant story about a man victimized by his daughters. It’s a novel about cruelty, rapacity, as many of his novels are. Balzac depicts his predators like dehumanized machines or marionettes; his victims are poetry. Cousin Pons’ main character is one example of this poetry, and the novel has powerful moments about art collecting, the love of art, the love of beauty. And then there is The Magic Skin, one of his philosophical novels and a dramatic reflection on the meaning (or lack thereof) and brevity of life. In general, the way Balzac portrays, say, the greed of bankers and 19th Century nascent capitalism, pretty much shows that society in its core has not changed.

I love most of Voltaire’ satiric tales, but Micromegas is my favorite. It announces sci-fi, as it is an interplanetary story. There, Voltaire makes fun of human arrogance. A very good lesson told with the philosopher’s customary bite and wit.

For Agatha Christie, I have grown to prefer her Hercule Poirot novels over her Miss Marple ones. To the point that one of the main characters in Chainsaw Jane is actually a parody of Hercule Poirot. Poirot is both an absurd and brilliant character, and I believe the simultaneously absurd, vain and brilliant side of him translates a little better into our world than Miss Marple, although she can be a comforting grandmother. Okay, grandma a bit on the sly side. But still, only when she’s detecting. This said, once I started with one Agatha Christie novel, I had to get another one—Miss Marple or no Miss Marple. She became an addiction. But if you only want to read just one Agatha Christie novel, read what I consider her masterpiece, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

I have a short story collection by Ms. Christie that I like a lot ;) Please share your #1 tip for writers:

I’ll repeat what Gwendolyn Brooks once told me: “Revise, revise, revise.” At the time, I was very young and thought this was the end of the day, the poet was tired or had fallen on her head somewhere, and therefore she didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. But years went by and I know now that “revise, revise, revise” is one of the best pieces of advice any kind of writer can receive.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

www.mariejofortis.com

www.mariejosvoice.blogspot.com

and of course, you can find me at Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook; Book Country on occasion. There are others, but I won’t mention them until I start visiting them more often myself.

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Much thanks to Marie-Jo for stopping by — do visit Marie-Jo’s Website for more info on her projects!

MARIE-JO’S SHORT BIO (in his own words):

mj

Marie-Jo Fortis had to fight many odds, make many sacrifices, in order to leave France and cross the Atlantic with the man she loved. She could hardly speak English when she reached the US, but that did not stop her. She attained a Master’s in English literature after studying at l’Ecole du Louvre and La Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. Her work has been published nationally and internationally in Freedom International, Poésie Première, Talus & Scree, and other periodicals. She also founded Collages & Bricolages, a literary magazine she edited for fifteen years, which received accolades from the US and abroad.

Website | Chainsaw Jane on Amazon

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Author Interview, Daniel Clausen

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Interview #65, with the author of “The Ghosts of Nagasaki”: Daniel Clausen!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Hopelessly romantic coffee drinker.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Inoue

This is the first paragraph from my upcoming novel, The Ghosts of Nagasaki:

The long backward perspective one gets from the angle of a word
processor some years later is a tricky one. As a connoisseur of
biography and autobiography I know that there is nothing less reliable than someone writing about his or her own past from his or her own perspective. And for the general welfare of those who look for the bare facts of the matter, I am obliged to stamp on the very first page, in the very first paragraph, in bold italics: All fact-seekers beware.

* You can join the emailing list for this book at: ghostsofnagasaki.com

* If you would like a free paperback or PDF version of the excerpt
“Silence” from this book, you can email Daniel at: lexicalfunk@gmail.com

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

Not my favorite book, but one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami.

I actually don’t have any copies of my favorite books, as strange as that sounds. Here is something from Kafka by the Shore.

The massive bank of thunderclouds crossed the city at a lethargic
pace, letting loose a flurry of lightning bolts as if probing every
nook and cranny for a long-lost morality, finally dwindling to a
faint, angry echo from the eastern sky.

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

That’s tough. A great deal of books on book marketing will tell you to begin your writing process with a target audience in mind.
This is counter-intuitive for most writers since most writing comes
from a desire to communicate something deeply personal. In other words, most authors start their books thinking about themselves, not their audience.

Even if you do decide to write something deeply personal, make sure
you get a good editor. Make sure you have an advertising
strategy that is practical and coherent. Make sure your book is the
best physical product you can have. And hopefully, the germ of your
inspiration to write will survive this process…there are no
guarantees.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

I’m not sure what good writing is, but good fiction should aspire to
be more truthful than real life. Good fiction can reach for honesties
not captured by the world most people know.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

There’s no pot of gold, just the joy of doing good work. Doing good
work is difficult, so when you do it, it’s very rewarding.

Ah, diligence :) Your websites/blogs/etc:

ghostsofnagasaki.com

I just started the website, so please join the emailing list. If
you’re not sure how, just email me at: lexicalfunk@gmail.com

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Much thanks to Daniel for stopping by — do visit his website for more info about his project!

Author Interview, Kristopher Miller

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Interview #62, with unorthodox/quirky/persistent author: Kristopher Miller!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

kristopher miller

Unorthodox, quirky, persistent, morbid, and knowledgeable.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

mazes_amulet

From The Maze’s Amulet:

Elza shouted, “Vargas tull!”

Then the vagrant opened his eyes with a weak gasp. He turned from a tough guy to a scared urchin at the cloudy, bestial face that hissed at him with infernal green eyes. This creature was no longer the woman he and his friend planned to mug and rape. This was an animal with a phantasmagorical mane of hair and a twisted feline face belonging to a lion from hell.

The thug with the knife stumbled back and he dropped his weapon. Elza heard the knife hit the cement with a clatter ringing with the rain but she did not care as she stepped forward.

The thug shouted, “No! Get away from me!” He ran across the street, leaving his friend behind to face the shocking apparition Elza turned into. A car screeched to a stop in front of his friend as he fled the scene.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

This is from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere:

Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were killing time. Mr. Vandemar had obtained a centipede — a reddish orange creature, almost eight inches long, with vicious, poisonous fangs — and was letting it run all over his hands, watching it as it twined over his fingers, vanishing up one sleeve, appeared a minute later after the other. Mr. Croup was playing with razor blades. He had found, in a corner, a whole box of fifty-year-old razor blades, wrapped in wax paper, and he had been trying to think of things to do with them.

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

For me, the writing process was challenging because I originally had one idea in mind, but the length of that idea needed to be expanded. That required several drafts, several readjustments, and several revisions to get it down to the “right” design and feel. The writing process is often made “easy” by some authors being interviewed, but it is a technical process that requires a lot of steps — and teamwork from editors — to succeed. At the same time, the writing process is rewarding once you realize that an element in the story, whether it be the plot, character development, or the in-story universe’s mechanics, turn out to work the way you want it to and the way that it is conveyed easily to the audience. The writing process is very rewarding because you are able to put your vision on paper. Sometimes it turns out differently than what you expect, but sometimes it is for the better!

As for the publication process, I can say that was easier because we live in an era where people can self-publish their work without having their work being dictated to what a publisher might think would be “marketable.” Self-publishing my work without a publisher would be challenging in that I would not have a lot of promotional resources but then I would also have full control of my work. I’m also a guy who cares more about writing as an art form as opposed to a commercial medium. My stuff is not everyone’s cup of tea, but all I care about is getting my work out there and continuing to make more material that I enjoy creating and what people enjoy reading. This is because writing is a difficult, frustrating, enjoyable, and a highly rewarding activity to partake in.

I love the full control “self-publishing” offers too ;) And it’s always nice to hear about people who aren’t solely motivated by “what $ell$.” What is your definition of “good writing”?

Good writing is writing that a reader can access without having to stumble upon mechanical mistakes and some logic issues that would otherwise ruin a good story. Yes, a good plot is needed, but moreover, the plot with a decent structure, character design and concepts are needed to mesh well in that the reader can access it. But moreover, I think good writing comes from how the author lets these plot and character elements run around before editing them for polish. Good writing is experimentation and taking chances with these elements, but good writing is also making sure that the experimentation works, especially on the readers’ part.

I reject other writers’ notions that the writer is the audience (Cough, Stephenie Meyer, Cough, Mary Sue…) because if it is only for the writer’s entertainment, then it is not really for the reader and this process of writing for the writer’s sake really hinders enjoyment on the reader’s part. I for one have read works in which authors have written for themselves that people have enjoyed but all I wanted to do was bash my head against a wall. One of the most rewarding things about the writing process is creating something that people enjoy and really getting a kick out of their reactions from the manuscript you spent many hours on.

It still takes time to do something worthwhile. In the greater scheme of things, I suppose it also depends on the writer’s motivations (and the type of audience they wish to target). Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Read, read, and read some more. Read stuff that you aren’t familiar with. Read stuff you don’t even agree with. Then write, write, and write some more. Write several drafts of that idea down. Overall: read and write. Rinse and repeat. You will understand how the writing mechanics work when you look at other people’s work.

Yes, it’s important not to stagnate (one of the deadly sins is “sloth,” after all…). Your websites/blogs/etc:

Kristopher Miller’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/catacombsbookshelf

The Catacomb’s Bookshelf, Kristopher Miller’s Official Writing Blog: http://catacombsbookshelf.blogspot.com/

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Much thanks to Kristopher for stopping by — do visit his website for more info about him, his views on writing/publishing, and his books.

Be sure to also check out his guest post for tips on Standing Out as a Self-Published Author!

Update: Primal Scream

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bdsm

20% through with my BDSM-themed s.story collection (-_-‘!)

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I think the BDSM article I wrote over at jessINK sums up most of what I’d like to do/explore with BDSM in erotic fiction (I am basically taking a more subtle/implicit > violent/explicit route).

I’m going to title the full anthology, Primal Scream (full erotic anthology = step relations, BDSM, and “factual fiction” content). I’m not sure what I’ll title the BDSM-themed short story collection yet [either Primal Scream (BDSM), one of the individual BDSM short story titles, or something else].

I’ve spent most of the past week planning outlines and doing some writing, for two and a half of the remaining four stories I have left (I’ve only completed the first story — first in the above image). The stories were/are tricky to handle, because of the subtle complexities involved in the dynamics of a BDSM relationship/lifestyle…but I’ll do my best.

I’d like it to be one heck of a deviant (but not legally obscene) anthology ;)

Tentative deadline: By June 2011.

Author Interview, Jerome Parisse

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body_swap

Author Interview #26, with author/playwright/management consultant Jerome Parisse, who grew up in France where he developed a love for language, literature, and good food!

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Hi Jerome! Describe yourself in 5 words:

I love a good laugh!

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Here’s a short blurb of Body Swap:

William and his friend Pat receive a text message plea from cyberspace from a girl called Stephanie, who pretends to have exited her body during a coma! When William ends up trapped in Stephanie’s body and shut out of his own, the two boys find themselves in their worst nightmare. And time is running out…

Here’s an excerpt from Body Swap:

William had never spoken with the dead before.

He hadn’t had an out of body experience either nor met a person other than through their body.

In fact, he hadn’t even tried. And if anybody had asked him whether he wanted to, he would probably have said: ‘Thanks. But no, thanks.’ William believed that the disembodied are dead — and because they’ve shed the body, they’re not there to talk to any more. You may as well try to forget them and move on with your life.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“You’re not taking this seriously,” whispered her daemon.
(The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman)

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

Writing and publishing are two sides of the same coin: I write because I want to share stories, ideas and ramblings with others, and publishing is the process that allows me to do just that. I like both writing and publishing as they both offer challenges and rewards. Many writers seem to hate the publishing process, but I find that it brings me closer to my readers and allows me to interact with them, which is what I ultimately want.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

For me, good writing is writing that:

1) Doesn’t draw attention to itself

2) Supports a story

3) Makes you want to read more

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Read, read and read some more! Not only in the genre that you write, but in all genres.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Personal website: www.jeromeparisse.com
Blog: www.alivewithwords.com

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Much thanks to Mr. Jerome Parisse for the chat! Visit his website for a look at some of his work, including a play, My Sister’s Choice, that makes extensive use of sign language.

PayPal Censorship

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* UPDATE (2012): PayPal revises their policies to allow legal fiction.

* UPDATE (2013): A quick post on why “erotica” isn’t “porn”!

In the meantime, I’ll be working on a couple of psycho thrillers.

My original post from early 2011 is left below (unedited).

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ORIGINAL POST (March 2011)

In December 2010, Amazon started banning/deleting incest-themed erotica from their website. Several of my erotic stories/collections are thus not on Amazon.

In February 2011, some of the “sample buttons” on my books at B&N went missing (some are still missing, as of this date). Several other authors were hit (especially those writing erotica/erotic romance) — while many of their books’ sample buttons have re-appeared, several of my books are still missing the sample button. No reply from B&N yet There was/is a technical glitch at B&N, which they are currently working on.

I recently launched my “indie publishing division,” jessINK.com (thinking I could sell material directly from my website, via E-Junkie).

On 7 March 2011, I wanted to buy the following item from Etsy.com:

bdsm_collar
(Item = Vintage dark style red collar necklace with dangling star charm with red enamel on the back. Pretty, no?)

But I couldn’t purchase the item at checkout, because I had “limited access” to my PayPal account.

When I logged into my PayPal account, I saw the following message:

paypal_limitedaccess

Mar 5, 2011: We recently asked you to stop participating in transactions that violated our Acceptable Use Policy.

(Your case ID for this reason is PP-001-231-349-997.)

I don’t recall being asked, as I received no prior email or warning about how exactly I had violated the guidelines.

This is what I can and cannot do with a limited access PayPal account:

paypal_limitedaccess_2

Due to the limited access of my PayPal account, I am currently unable to receive money via PayPal, or make any purchases using my PayPal account.

After some clicking around, I got to the “PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy” page, which states:

paypal_acceptableusepolicy

(e) items that are considered obscene, are not allowed (highlighted in red)

After more clicking around, I found the guidelines for what is not allowed on eBay (which utilizes PayPal for transactions):

paypal_ebay

“Obscene materials, while not easy to define, aren’t allowed on eBay. For some guidance, we prohibit items depicting or describing bestiality, necrophilia, rape, scat, and incest (real or fictionalized).”

Isn’t the splattering of blood and guts via stylized explosions also obscene, whether real or fictionalized? Also, according to the above guidelines, Anais Nin’s books (classic literary erotica) should not be available for purchase on eBay. For the record, her books (I’m a huge fan!) are available for purchase on both Amazon and eBay, and her books do contain pedophilic, incestuous, as well as other deviant types of erotic content.

Since I have not had a reply from PayPal as to whether their eBay policy extends to PayPal as well (since they are two separate companies — eBay actually owns PayPal, thanks @kashicat), I believe my incest-themed material that I sell directly from my website is considered by PayPal (as with Amazon) to be “supremely offensive.”

To my knowledge, I am not doing anything illegal (if it is, indeed, a criminal offence to write about taboo subjects, why is this not clearly stated in the law? How do people know if they are “breaking the law” if the law is not clearly stated in the first place?).

I have always chosen to focus on erotica over pornography (I always aim to include some kind of artistic, or social/political point, when I write erotic fiction). What is “obscene” and “sexually explicit” can vary from culture to culture and over time. But as long as companies’ policies remain vague and unclear, there’s no distinction between erotica and pornography when it comes to censorship.

I am currently “evaluating other options,” as I still fully intend to continue writing whatever I wish (for both erotic and non-erotic material). Erotica/erotic fiction is an art form I take very seriously, so I will seriously do my best to make sure it is always available for readers/customers to purchase (in the meantime, I apologize that customers cannot purchase directly from my website. Keywords = “in the meantime”).

What I actually condone and/or do in real life is separate from what I put on paper and/or express via the written word — a distinction that some people seem to have a lot of trouble making, lol.

P.S. Just bought the vintage red collar (yeaaaah), using a friend’s account.

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Email Links and More Info:

Email: aupviolations@paypal.com (PayPal re: Acceptable Use Policy)

* PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy
* eBay’s Prohibited and Restricted Items rules

Email: ecr@amazon.com (Amazon.com, Executive Customer Relations)

* Amazon Censors (Facebook Page with more info)

PLUS

+ Media Coverage on Censorship of Erotica by Erik Sherman on BNET +

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Author Interview, Guy Kawasaki

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enchantment

Author Interview #25, with non-fiction author/former chief evangelist of Apple/co-founder of Alltop.com — Guy Kawasaki!

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Hi Guy! Describe yourself in 1-5 words:

Guy empowers people.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Here’s a short bio:

Guy is an author, speaker, father, and husband. He established his reputation as a software evangelist for Apple in the 1980s and has been living off this since then.

Here’s a short blurb of Enchantment:

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions is Guy’s tenth book. In it, he explains how to influence what people will do while maintaining the highest standards of ethics.

The book explains when and why enchantment is necessary and then the pillars of enchantment: likability, trustworthiness, and a great cause. If you want to change the world — or even part of the world, this book is for you.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“The end.”

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

To quote someone, but I don’t know who, “the only thing worse than writing is not writing.” The publication process is not particularly hard — it’s just frustrating because so much of the (traditional publishing) process is out of one’s control.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

Serial commas, active voice, and the absence of adverbs and adjectives.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Write every day. If you wait for the perfect day to write, you will never start and certainly never end.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Enchantment on Facebook
Alltop.com
Guy’s Twitter
Guy’s Website

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Much thanks to Mr. Guy Kawasaki for the chat!

Be sure to also check out the Enchantment photo contest, speech video, and EQ web quiz!