Author journeys continues today. I’m pleased to welcome another guest, a fellow lover of the fantasy genre. A warm welcome to Christina Anne Hawthorne!
Originally from the US east coast, Christina now resides in the breathtaking western Montana mountains with her two cats. Frequent walks serve as vital exercise and continual inspiration. Too, she’s a recent convert to meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. Her longtime fascination with the fantasy genre led to her reimagining it and creating the world of Ontyre. She recently concluded the free online Ontyre serial, Last Word Before Dying, on her website. This autumn she’ll publish a more ambitious tale, Where Light Devours, that also takes place there. Last May she published The Renaissance Cycle, a poetry collection that delves into themes similar to those that appear in her fiction: determination, hope, and thankfulness.
Q: What was your earliest writing memory?
This isn’t so much a writing memory as much as it’s a storytelling memory. I was born the youngest of three and both my siblings are far older. Further, my father became obsessed with mountaineering when I was still young. For those reasons I was often alone with my imagination in the forest (my how times have changed…). So, there I was at the cliff base sitting on a rock amidst thick tree cover and gigantic boulders. I’d envision an adventure’s opening, repeat it in my mind, add to it, repeat it, add, repeat, and so on…no writing, just committing the ever growing story to memory. To an extent that process survives to this day and many of those mental stories became pieces of Ontyre.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about writing?
Sharing. We all have strengths and weaknesses and I’ve concluded that sharing our strengths is what helps others manage their weaknesses. Imaginations come in many varieties that include those who produce, those who consume, and every combination in between. Yes, mine consumes imaginative works, but far stronger is my need to produce, to utilize my imagination. My opposite is music. I can’t sing and dearly wish I could, but each time I listen to a gifted singer a missing piece in myself is supplied. The circle of giving is enhanced whenever I sit down to write and listen to music at the same time, which is most of the time. Those who read my work and enjoy it are filling a need. That’s rewarding to me.
Q: What is your ideal writing space? If you prefer an office, describe how it is set up.
Inspiration can arrive anywhere, but the bulk of my writing is done in my office space. I’m not a coffeehouse writer. That’s a place for me to observe. I draw energy from unusual spaces, especially those that contain angles and circles. Unfortunately, my living space is the definition of ordinary with its square rooms. To combat that I occupy a large room’s corner, thus creating a triangle where I face the base looking outward towards the rest of the room. To my left is my printer and to the right are cat posts (yes, the plural) and a window. Behind me to the left and right are bookcases. The angle behind me is a space that’s both decorative and inspirational (for instance, there’s a picture of my grandfather with Thomas Edison and others). An advantage to my triangular space is that everything is within easy reach.
Q: What is the most useful writing strategy you use?
There was the Christina who began story after story and never completed a first draft. Now there’s a Christina who has published poetry, completed an online serial of over 60,000 words, and is editing a 130,000 word novel. In between was Ray Bradbury’s advice to dive into that first draft and not look back. While the fire burns and the ideas are fresh forge ahead in fearless determination. Before I read Zen in the Art of Writing I agonized over every detail in the first draft and burned out like a flame in space.
Q: What are your future writing goals?
In the immediate future I’ll make minor changes to the online serial, Last Word Before Dying, garner more feedback, and publish it as a free ebook. Later this year I’ll publish Where Light Devours, the first true Ontyre novel. Next year my focus will turn to its sequel, The Other Side of the Aperture. I’ll also continue to blog, write poetry, and attempt short stories.
Q: In your opinion, what is it that makes a great book?
Characters are central to a great book. Different people like different genres, but we all share the desire to connect with characters. Look how we humanize cartoon characters and pets. Characters make us care. Plot is important, but really it’s steps in the examination of the human condition. Take LOTR. Sure, the idea was to take the ring and melt it beneath Mt. Doom. Simple. Why melt the ring, though? Because Sauron would inflict unparalleled misery upon all those in Middle Earth. So, off they go and have fantastic adventures, but what tugs at our hearts are Frodo’s wonder, fear, the grievous injury on Weathertop, his friendship with Sam, his facing almost certain death to perform an act that even a wizard couldn’t perform, and so on.
Q: Tell us a bit about what you’re working on now.
My primary focus now is on Where Light Devours. That poor book has suffered at fate’s hand. I started it in 2009, but suffered a devastating illness later that year that left me unable to work until 2012. I’ve vowed that this is the year I complete and publish it. I have too many other ideas in my head to spend years on one story.
Q: What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep reading, writing, and live in the present where the work is accomplished. Too, besides my suggestion to write with reckless Bradbury abandon I recommend holding nothing back, to unleash everything at your mental disposal. More ideas will come. You might overdo it, but I’d rather have to improve and remove later then have nothing to edit. Another suggestion is to read your draft aloud. It’s the finest free self-editing strategy. If you’re too self-conscious you can cover your ears and whisper. Your voice won’t carry, but will be clear to you. I often use my headphones even though others wouldn’t overhear me because my muffled ears lend a more immediate feel to my reading.
Check out Christina’s book of poetry, The Renaissance Cycle, now available through Amazon.
Depression reassures us with whispers urging isolation. It steals our reason, awareness, and sight while goading us to cut ourselves off from help. It also creates shortcuts in our brain as habits do, thus making it easier to suffer its terrible grip again. Nine years ago, desperate, my hope a thread, I sought help. Eventually I found the man who taught me how to journey towards recovery, to remain in that place, and to continue learning.
This poetry collection chronicles that journey to a happier place where there’s fulfillment and self-esteem amidst life’s challenges.
Though it was painful, I’ve included the poems reflecting the sadness I long suffered. The following two parts cover my journey through awareness and learning. The last part contains treasured poems celebrating life and creativity.
It’s my hope you’ll find yourself in this collection and, if necessary, seek the road to healing. I suffered the “infinite sadness” for far too long, but assure you it’s possible to escape that prison and journey to your own Renaissance.
A Writer’s Wish
Joy of wonder, fill this writer’s sight anew
and glisten child-like eyes with the morning’s dew.
Please summon inspiration and chronicle a hero’s quest
to where starlight night bathes a silver shadow’s rest.
Upon my plunge into imagination’s vivid abyss
I’ll lose myself in passion’s peak and each lover’s kiss.
For evermore I’ll scrawl where before there was no trace
until I sprawl in a golden meadow deep in sleep’s embrace.
Buy The Renaissance Cycle as an ebook on Amazon:
Connect with Christina:
Fan email address: firstname.lastname@example.org