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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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:
- I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology as a teen and commuted to Manhattan. I loved designing but hated the city and quit.
- I really like the Talking Heads—one of my favorite songs is Slippery People!
- I used to run a bridal shop, in addition to designing and sewing wedding gowns.
- I enjoy teaching people about the Bible.
- 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,
Please enjoy this in-depth discussion and review of my novella by Kevin Peter.
“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time” – Rabindranath Tagore
‘Knowledge is power’ this centuries old thought has always held weight to support its claim, continues to do so and will be the cornerstone on which our future will be established. The statement has lost nothing in terms of relevance or significance; and what can impart good knowledge in society? It’s education, for education is the constant prerequisite for political development, democracy and social justice. Education empowers all, and education promotes greater participation from amongst the many manmade and naturally occurring differences in humankind.
Now only if the education we were imparting to our younger generation through schools and colleges could fully deliver the message discussed in the lines above. In today’s world, the one thing that unites developed and developing nations is ironically, the voices of dissent with the education sector and the quality of knowledge imparted. And it’s the same thing everywhere, everyone knows that a problem exists and gets together to address the matter in an almost uncanny manner everywhere. There will be meeting and conferences attended by a few educators and a lot of panellists and spokespersons representing the government, there will be keynote speeches, power point presentations, food and recreational breaks, a media op towards the end with a promise to return soon for a revisit of this circus act.
But the woes that afflict education, the falling standards, incompetent & absentee teachers, the out of touch with reality syllabuses, which all contribute towards the mediocrity of the next generation who can’t be employed or can be counted upon to contribute towards the cause of nation building, are all but ignored and remains incurable in spite of the many ‘ideas’ that sprout out of such aforementioned educational meetings.
But this wasn’t the case with our education sector in the past; we’ve had some pretty bright and impressive centres of learning imparting knowledge in such a detailed and disciplined manner that it would leave today’s teaching administrators tongue tied and embarrassed with their supposed ‘modern’ ways. One among the jewels in the advanced centres of learning of the past was the Takshashila University in ancient India. In its hey days it was more famous and known for its teaching prowess than all of today’s top universities put together. It used to host students from all parts of the world who could specialize in over sixty four areas of study ranging from learning about philosophy and literature to warfare, astronomy and decryption of ancient languages. Students who got admitted on merit, once they graduated would pass out as world renowned scholars with in depth knowledge in their elected subject of choice.
In author Ariffa Bevin’s novella, ‘Kingdom of The Sun’, we are introduced to such a Kingdom called Sooryan that was famed for its education and knowledge imparting institutions, a Kingdom founded and built upon the belief that education and its teachers are the key to a successful and triumphant kingdom. Although Sooryan achieves its goal of becoming a powerful kingdom, the principles on which it was built soon starts rusting as they are ignored with the passage of time and the coming and going of new leaders. This inertia soon finds Sooryan facing all sorts of political, cultural and financial turmoil. And with a new queen Delilah who appears to be too blind with power or ignorant of the ground situation and refuses to take the help of the Scholars and the Scholar Apprentices to rectify the rotting education system, the occasion appears ripe for a change. This is when Helena, one of the Scholar Apprentices decided to fight back, takes on the entire establishment and faces the many hardships and pains it bring forth, Helena manages to bring actual change that everyone wanted but lacked the courage or conviction to go and do on their own.
Kingdom of the Sun honours the many educators and administrators toiling away behind the scenes, working tirelessly, facing many hurdles and mounting insurmountable hardships and more often than not for very small victories and successes. And yet they continue to do so, carry on with the many numerous battles, because only someone who cares or tries to bring in change will ever know the supreme satisfaction and happiness that you get when you see your work bring in the change that you set out to achieve.
You need to get past only a couple of pages to realize that it a good place from where the author Ariffa Bevin writes and that her intentions are very much sincere.Bevin’s fantasy world is an allegorical, exposition filled narrative that resembles our world in on so many different levels. The messages, ideas and thoughts that she conveys through her main character Helena are thought provoking and makes you want to question the systems in place today that prevents our younger generation from getting the education that they deserve. Some of the lines clearly denote that this isn’t just another story that the author narrates but is a subject that is very close to her heart and something that she cares for deeply. Helena makes some very specific noise on the impact of unbridled use of technology, especially among the youth and the negative effect that rapid industrialization and globalization has on our society, from making everyday living easy and comfortable to how it has started to make us lazy and lethargic.
I recommend Kingdom of the Sun to anyone who still believes that a single person’s determination and courage can bring about gargantuan change in our society that will benefit all. The story will appeal to all who believe in the power of change; Ariffa Bevin’s sincere voice carries through her choice of words and the world she has created in Kingdom of the Sun and long after you’ve finished reading the book.
It has almost been a year since I first started blogging and since then I’ve met many amazing bloggers, published my first book, and learned many, many things. There is one thing in particular that I am reminded of over and over: humility. And it is these experiences, one very special one in particular, that I would like to share with you today.
1) Because I was an English major in college, I assumed that Kingdom of the Sun would not need much editing. I had first treated it as a term paper in that I had assumed a read-through two or three times was enough. Four months and 150+ reads later, I was still making edits.
2) In an attempt to save money, I wanted to create Kingdom of the Sun’s book cover on my own. I read how-to manuals and watched instructional videos to no avail. There actually came a point where I was concentrating so hard on my computer screen as I was trying to make a perfect cut around the sun that my eyes started to water. That’s when I knew I needed help.
3) Back to number 1: Even though I had spent all those months self-editing my book, I had tried on numerous occasions to find a professional editor. However, I kept finding ones that were much too far out of my price range. So in an attempt to submit copies before the close of school for the summer, I read through the book again, made more edits, and sent out several copies. Two weeks later, I found out that there were still typos in the book. I sat down for the sixth time that year and tried with all my might to find a decently priced editor. I finally did.
4) Now for the special experience I mentioned. In the past month, I have been doing a lot of outreach for book reviews. There was one reviewer in particular who came off as very snotty and condescending, so I somewhat knew what was coming. After I received his response to my book, I was not shocked that he did not like it, but it was more of a shock that he was the first person that didn’t as well as the fact that this man sent me his response on Christmas Day. There was so much that was going through my mind and so much that I wanted to say, but my exact response was: “Thank you for taking the time! If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it was absolutely wonderful.”
Overall, these are the lessons that I have learned in humility:
1) I cannot do everything on my own.
2) I am not perfect.
3) No matter how many people will like my book, there will always be many that hate it.
4) No matter how rude, condescending, or disrespectful someone may and will be, always treat them with the kindness, compassion, and respect you wish they had.
So, why am I telling you these things? You see, I was never a fan of critiquing poetry. When I wrote poetry, I wrote from my soul because that was where the words freely, easily, and purely came from. I’m sure other poets and authors experience the same. So when it came to critiquing an author’s work, I could not help but feel like it was their soul that was being judged.
Throughout the years, I have met many people who were afraid to write or show off their work due to what others will say or think. There are people out there harboring fear of following their dreams due to failure or rejection. I am here to tell you that there is no need to be afraid because:
1) If you believe in yourself and all that you do, everything will most likely turn out okay.
2) There will always, without a doubt, be someone who will not like your work. Move on.
3) There will always, without a doubt, be someone who was touched or influenced by your work. Remember them.
4) If you are humble, patient, and kind, success will follow in the eyes of God, yourself, and others.
Do not be afraid. Write what’s in your soul.
Peace and Love,
Today is the last day that you can download a free copy of Kingdom of the Sun on Smashwords.com for your iPad, Kindle, Sony reader, and much more. All you have to do is enter the coupon code QW97R (promotion over) during Smashword.com’s checkout process.
For Today Only: I am providing a PDF version of Kingdom of the Sun for download absolutely free. This works well for those of you with or without an eReader. Just follow this link: (promotion over).
Peace and Love- Ariffa
If you’ve ever wanted a different viewpoint of Kingdom of the Sun from someone other than myself, I invite you to read my book’s first review by author, self-publisher, and independent artist, Cristian Mihai. And if you like his review, I suggest you check out his blog and books well. Cristian is also in the process of raising funds to keep his dream and blog alive; a worthy cause, I believe. So, feel free to check that out as well.
You can read Kingdom of the Sun’s first review here.
For more information on where to purchase Kingdom of the Sun, please see the previous blog post or select this link.
Peace and Love,