Category Archives: Writing

Interview with Author J.B. Chicoine

 Hi Everyone,

As you can imagine, I’ve read countless of books in my life and there have only been three times (recently four) where I’ve felt a compelling need to contact the author. I recently read the books Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé, and both novels were so amazing that there was no way I could move on to another without letting their author J.B. (Bridget) Chicoine know. To my great pleasure and joy she responded to my message. Not only did I receive the honor of exchanging emails with her, but I was also able to present Bridget with some questions about herself, her writing process, and her novels, including the most recently published Blind Stitches which is now available on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading this interview from this amazing author.

Self-portraitPlease tell us about yourself!

First of all, Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Ariffa!

To start with, I’m happily married, have two children and two grandchildren. I’m also a watercolor artist. I was born and raised in Amityville, on Long Island, NY. I’ve lived in New Hampshire, Kansas City, and now Michigan—but all that is in my author biography for anyone to read. In all honestly, I like to keep the finer details of my life private. I feel very uncomfortable under the distorted magnifying glass of the internet and social media, but as an author—well, that discomfort comes with the territory these days. And the fact is, I do enjoy interacting with my readers and other authors I have met via the internet.

Looking back, did you ever think you’d become an author?

Perhaps in my adolescence when it felt like anything was possible, but I never pursued it. I married young and had children, which consumed most of my time, and I enjoyed a lot of creative outlets like sewing and painting. Nevertheless, I still had a rich imaginary life, full of interesting characters. I finally wrote my first novel when I was around twenty-eight years old, struggling with depression in a bad marriage. The novel was really awful, but I loved writing as an escape, and it rekindled the fantasy that someday I might be a published author. Not until about fifteen years later (and happily remarried) did I begin my next novel—a viable candidate for publication.

How much has being an author changed your life?

Being an author hasn’t really changed my life—I still carry on much as I always have, but because I’ve had problems with depression and anxiety, writing and publishing has provided me with a healthy creative outlet (a positive obsession, so to speak), so I would say that it has contributed to my overall wellbeing and self-esteem. It has also given me a more balanced view of myself and my creative product—that is, I’ve developed a thicker skin when it comes to criticism, and I have learned that no one can validate my writing—and by extension, me. I still struggle with that, but I feel like I’m getting closer to coming to terms with my objectives as far as my creative endeavors are concerned. Ultimately, I don’t want to be rich or famous, I just want to share and live simply.

Blind Stitches front thumbnailPlease tell us about your new book, Blind Stitches.

Here’s the description from the back cover:

Nikolai Solvay has been dreading his sister’s wedding, but when his father dies unexpectedly two weeks beforehand, his return to New Hampshire promises to rake up his worst nightmares.

Meanwhile, talented young seamstress Juliet Glitch has been putting the finishing touches on the wedding dress. Mother of the bride—former prima ballerina and Russian expatriate—asks Juliet if she ‘would hem her blind son Nikolai’s trousers for the funeral’ … and the wedding.

When Juliet meets Nikolai, he draws her into the whirlwind of his unraveling family that makes her own quirky domestic situation seem normal. Confronted with the Solvay’s delusions and narcissism, Juliet must decide if her developing relationship with Nikolai is worth the turmoil as she deals with her own unreconciled past.

Either way, Nikolai cannot stave off the repressed memories surrounding his mother’s defection from the Soviet Union twenty years earlier. Against the backdrop of autumn 1989, during the Glasnost era, Nikolai’s family secrets crash alongside the crumbling Berlin Wall.

How did you come up with the idea to write it?

Because I am interested in mental health issues, I tend to incorporate them in my stories. In Blind Stitches, I pushed the envelop into absurdity and pinned it on the delusion of a woman who believes her son is blind (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler). It’s a psychological drama with an overlapping love story.

What kind of readers will Blind Stitches appeal to?

Since this story is cross-genre (as are all of my stories), it will likely appeal to a wide range of readers. My publicist is marketing it as Romance, but I feel that it falls more into General Fiction, with a healthy dose of suspense.

Portrait of a Girl Running thumbnailI have read both Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé. I thought both were fantastic! [To my readers: please check out my reviews here and here]. Please tell us what your experience was like writing those novels and what inspired you to do so.

I’m so happy you enjoyed them! I originally wrote Girl Running for my husband, just something fun to do and to keep me actively involved in a positive way while he was working out of state for about six weeks. I had no idea about the “rules” of writing novels, I just wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and loved every minute of the creative process. It was like I could feel my brain chemistry shifting, like the serotonin was plentiful and flowing! What a high! Because he loved the story, and the characters wouldn’t leave me alone, I wrote the sequel. I later rewrote it and it is now Portrait of a Protégé.

I also want to say that Protégé was a more uncomfortable story to write. I knew it would push a lot of boundaries regarding what sorts of relationships people consider appropriate –I think even more so than the relationships in Girl Running. I wanted to see if I could make my reader sympathetic, if not hope for the unconventional. The feedback has varied between repulsion to loving the evolution of the “unconventional” relationship.

What is your writing process?

I usually start with a premise or basic idea based on the simple question, what if? Then it’s a matter of molding a couple of main characters to carry it out—for instance, in Girl Running, I asked ‘what if a teacher and student fell in love?’ Under what circumstances might that work without it feeling really icky? What sort of teenager would attract an adult with principles? How can I bring them together in a relationship with substance without making it a tawdry love affair? With those basic questions answered and a strong feel for the characters, I put them together and see how they would interact. I usually also have a couple of plot points in mind and write toward that general story arc. From there, other characters often pop up and even take over, as did the character Clarence Myles (my favorite character of all my novels).

Do you wait for an idea to come to you or do you search for it?

In my earlier writing (Uncharted and Girl Running), I had been ruminating over the stories for a few years as a happy mental diversion without ever intending to write them down. One night I couldn’t sleep and decided to start writing, and so it was simply a matter of sitting down and typing it out—even so, much of those stories took shape as I went along. In my subsequent work, I sought out and then expounded on a simple idea.

Portrait of a Protege thumbnailWould you ever want any of your novels to be adapted to a film?

In theory, sure! Who wouldn’t love to see their story and the characters of one’s imagination come to life on the big screen! The problem is, a film could never match my imagination. I think the whole process would be exhausting and disappointing and would complicate my simple life. And because my stories are clean (no explicit violence, sex, profanity), I worry that film makers would want to appeal to the general public, which seems to crave the licentious.

Do any of your characters possess characteristics of yourself?

Oh yeah. I especially relate to Leila in Girl Running—she shares my feelings about painting and privacy. And in Blind Stitches, there is a lot of me in Juliet—in fact, I was a seamstress in a small New Hampshire town and based a lot of her observations on my own.

Tell us five interesting facts about yourself.

I don’t know how interesting these are, but I’ll go out on a limb here:

  1. I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology as a teen and commuted to Manhattan. I loved designing but hated the city and quit.
  2. I really like the Talking Heads—one of my favorite songs is Slippery People!
  3. I used to run a bridal shop, in addition to designing and sewing wedding gowns.
  4. I enjoy teaching people about the Bible.
  5. I have no sense of rhythm—I can’t even walk a flight of stairs without tripping.

Where can we go to receive updates on you and your works?

Go to my writing blog (http://www.jbchicoineliteraryworkinprogress.blogspot.com/) or my Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/J-B-Chicoine/201323803286390). I also have an Author Page on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/J-B-Chicoine/e/B009SQAR0A). Oh, and I also have a Website (http://www.jbchicoine.com)

When will Blind Stitches be released and where can we buy it?

I just released it a little ahead of schedule, on July 11. It’s currently available in paperback and for Kindle, also through iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/blind-stitches/id897545783?mt=11), and all other e-readers via Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/455795). It will soon be available for Nook, too.

Thank you so much for this interview, Bridget! I look forward to reading Blind Stitches! And to my readers: Please leave your comments or questions for Bridget below or feel free to contact her directly. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to check out some of her works!

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

ReBlog: Seven Things Every Writer Must Know to Thrive and Survive

notebook-173010_640Dear Readers,

I came across this blog post by Kurt Bubna quite some time ago, and the title says it all. I have tried to write my own response to this post, but I found that I would only be repeating what Kurt is saying. And besides; I don’t think I can say it any better myself. Enjoy (with a slightly condensed introduction)!

Seven Things Every Writer Must Know to Thrive and Survive: Kurt Bubna

To say that my life has been radically changed over the past eighteen months would be a gross understatement. I still pinch myself on a regular basis just to make sure it hasn’t all been a dream. I am humbled, grateful, and continually blown away.

Let me briefly share with you a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Don’t write to be validated; write for the benefit of others and God’s Kingdom.

It’s not just about you (or me). More than once, I’ve been tempted to write out of some foolish need to be approved by others. I’ve lived too much of my life with a performance orientation. Here’s an important question we all need to wrestle with: Why are you doing what you are doing? Why do you write (if you’re a writer) or sing (if you’re a singer)? If it’s truly an act of selfless love for the benefit of others, I believe God will bless you beyond your wildest imagination.

2. Have a humble heart and a hefty hide.

I wrote this note in my personal journal early in the editing process of my book: What’s black and blue and red all over? A rookie author and his manuscript in the hands of a professional editor! It was a bit painful at first. When you’ve created something and you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into a manuscript, it’s like having a baby, and nobody wants to be told their baby isn’t perfect. However, one day it hit me: My editor is making me a better me. I learned to humbly listen, and I’ve grown because of it.

3. Stay the course and keep writing. You are not as bad, or as good, as you might think.

Dealing with the emotional aspects of writing is critical. I’ve finished a couple of marathons in my life, and I know from experience that you have to put in a lot of time and miles to prepare for 26.2 miles of running. Frankly, I’m a better writer today than I was a year ago, and I will continue to grow. I have no idea how Epic Grace will do in the market, but I’m excited about my next book (already in progress with the working title of Epic Life), and I believe it will be better.

4. If you don’t ask—the answer is always no.

No one likes to be rejected. Asking professional people and successful authors for an endorsement can be emotionally risky. You had better learn how to deal with rejection. But if you don’t ask for the support, you’ll probably never get it. No one called me and offered to write an endorsement; I called them. You’d be surprised to know who I asked. Admittedly, I got a little too bold and crazy. Yet Epic Grace ended up with twenty-four amazing endorsements. The list includes several bestselling and award-winning authors and a number of megachurch pastors.

Here’s what you need to know: I asked more than fifty people. Do the math; that means I had more than a 50 percent rejection rate. It’s okay. Deal with it, and just keep asking. It’s good for your character.

5. If you don’t manage your time well, you won’t manage to survive.

We’re all busy. I pastor a large church. I have a large family. I already have a very full and fulfilling life. At first, I had no idea how I was going to meet all the demands and keep all the plates spinning. It was a serious concern. It’s like the line in John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy”: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I did not want that to be true of me. My goal has always been to live with intentionality and purpose. So I prayed hard, “God, give me the wisdom to know what to do, what not to do, and when to do it.” He answered my prayer. (I also learned how to live with less sleep!)

6. There’s a right and wrong way to use social media to promote your book.

People hate advertising, unless there’s something in it for them. As cool as your book might be, most people won’t be interested in getting bombarded by your pleas of desperation: “Please buy my book.” That being said, if you can show them why they should read your book and what they will gain from it, they’ll be lining up to make the purchase.

It’s also extremely important to engage people in conversation. Ask them questions in every post and be sure to respond with your thoughts or insights.

7. How we define success has everything to do with how successful we’ll be.

Our culture tends to define success in some very obvious ways. You are a success if your book becomes a bestseller or wins an award.

In God’s economy, however, success is defined differently:
a. Success is obedience.
b. Success is faithfulness (using your gift with diligence).
c. Success is defined as one changed life at a time.

Whether you have an agent or book deal or not . . . let me suggest that you define success as making a difference in the lives of others through faithful obedience to your calling to write.

Author and friend Mary DeMuth told me, “If you are going to persevere and be in this for the long haul, you have to know you are called to write. Keep writing and God will honor your faithfulness.” I treasure those words.

I’m still growing, still learning, and still amazed at the goodness of God. And I wouldn’t trade this past year for anything. It truly has been epic!

May Jesus lead and bless you in your journey.

 

Thank you all for reading. And thank you, Kurt, for this wonderful post.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

 

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