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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

Last Day for the Giveaway and New Offer!

Kingdom of the Sun-5Hi Everyone!

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).

As before, all I ask is that you provide an honest review of the book on one or some of the following sites: Amazon, Smashwords, and Goodreads. Enjoy and be inspired!!

Peace and Love- Ariffa

Why Must You Write?

Dear Readers,

As authors, most of us have been asked the questions of “Why did you decided to write a book?” and “Why do you like writing?” Some of us have even asked these questions to ourselves. When I was younger, I have indeed thought much about the answers to these questions, even before they were presented to me.  However, there was one moment, one experience in my life that has helped me to realize my purpose for writing that became even clearer when I wrote and completed my first book, Kingdom of the Sun.

In the 2011 film “Anonymous,” Edward de Vere is a playwright and the Earl of Oxford who finds his calling in writing poetry and plays. Due to the dishonor and shame attached with writing, he prevents his name from being associated with his works. The Earl’s plays become so loved and so popular that the audience one day demands to know the name of the author, and that is when a man named William Shakespeare falsely claims them.

There is a scene in the movie when Edward is confronted by his angry wife who asks him “Why must you write? Why must you continue to humiliate my family?” With great passion, Edward tried to explain to his disgruntled wife how moved the audience was by his works and how the voices in his head will not leave him and give him peace until they are written down. She then responded, “Are you possessed?”

This part of the movie ranks as one of my favorites because the smile on my face and the chills that ran through me signified something I understood and knew as truth on many levels. The first was how I understood Edward and felt angry with his wife for scolding him for his passion. This was not only because of the love and passion that I myself have for writing but also because I had been asked similar questions before: “You want to write?” “How can you make money on writing?” How fascinating it is for us to compare the stigma of being a writer in the Elizabethan period to now. And although much has changed, it is still striking to see the similarities.

At the time that I watched this film on DVD, I had just begun writing Kingdom of the Sun. I was at a point where the voices of my characters were not as clear as they used to be, and I had a bit of writer’s block. Watching Anonymous allowed me to realize that I was not alone in my passion and “insanity.” You see, watching this movie let me know that a good writer allows themselves to be “possessed” by their characters and that it was okay to not force myself to hear the voices again. And sure enough, it was not long after watching Anonymous that the voices came back to me, and I was once again happily and passionately “possessed.” Edward’s response to the question of “Why must you write?” seemingly was about the submission to the voices in his head but, oh, it was so much deeper. I believe the true answer is about fulfillment. Although, Edward received no recognition for his work, he was extremely moved and fulfilled by the reaction of the audience to his plays. And so, the answer to the question is not so much about simply submitting to the voices of our characters, but about fulfillment and purpose. Edward wrote to inspire, and he wrote to ignite lights of political change that became flames which fueled his passion and purpose even more when he saw their effect.

Why must you write? What fulfills you in your writing? What is the purpose and goal of your works? If your book touched only one person, would you be fulfilled even if you received no recognition or financial gain? When I wrote Kingdom of the Sun my goal and purpose was and still is to give my readers hope, honor, and happiness through the book’s characters and themes. I want them to feel hopeful in situations that are hopeless. I want them to see the honor in themselves and others. I want them to discover, and perhaps rediscover, the joy and happiness in life and what true enlightenment and knowledge can give. And at the same time that my readers would gain this from my work, the same would happen for me. When I am able to see the hope, honor, and happiness that my book has given, I receive it myself. I feel hopeful that my words have indeed changed and inspired someone and honored that someone has actually taken the time to read them. Most of all, I gain the happiness of sharing my words and ideas with another person and influencing them in a positive way.

 When discussing Kingdom of the Sun’s future, people often base its success on the royalties I receive. I was once asked about what I wanted to accomplish with my work. I said I wanted to sell a million copies and beyond. That is not because of the money but because of the millions of lives that I have a chance of reaching and inspiring with my words. I think many authors would agree that this is true success and fulfillment.

I cannot see any other purpose in my writing than for the readers to take what I am trying to give them and use it to make a change in themselves and the world. I want to be able to describe the effects of my work with passion and excitement as Edward did when he described the same emotions that his plays aroused. I want to feel the accomplishment and fulfillment he experienced when knowing that the purpose of his works had been achieved. I want the same for myself because I believe that I am only as great as the impact that my words and life have on others. And so, I ask you: “Why must you write?” I do not mean, “Why do you write?” but “Why must you write? What is it that propels you, possesses you, and calls you to the written word?”

Source: Anonmyous. Dir. Ronald Emmerich. Perf. Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, David Thewlis, and Edward Hogg. Anonymous Pictures, 2011. Film.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Power of Radio

793px-StateLibQld_1_105248_Group_of_friends_gathered_around_a_radio_in_Brisbane,_ca._1942

As stated on Wikipedia Commons: “This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired. According to the Australian Copyright Council (ACC), ACC Information Sheet G023v16 (Duration of copyright) (Feb 2012).”

Dear Readers,

Today, for a full 24 hours, you have the chance to listen to me on a radio talk show called The Authors Show where I discuss Kingdom of the Sun, my goals in writing, and my passion for it.

I believe writing to be a powerful tool of communication, and radio can have the same affect as well. So, it brings me great happiness and honor to say that I hope my voice can reach you all.

The Authors Show Broadcast

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Goal of an Author

notebook-173010_640Dear Readers,

What is the goal and purpose of an author? To sell millions of books? To make an impact?

As an author myself, the answer to this question was in my mind and heart even before Kingdom of Sun was written. Find out how I answer it in Kingdom of the Sun’s book feature on indiebookpromo.com here.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Guest Blog Post: Childhood Dreams

ariffa-300x298Hi Everyone,

This week, I had the pleasure of being a guest poster for the blog of author Faith Ann Colburn. I highly suggest that you check out her blog as well as her book, Threshold: A Memoir.

The title of my guest post is Childhood Dreams where I discuss my own childhood dream and how I was seemingly lost until I figured out what that dream really meant.  This post highlights the significance of following our dreams and how they should never, ever be forgotten.

Please check out the post, and let us know what you think!: Childhood Dreams

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Power of Imagination

Dear Readers,

I often forget how truly powerful and vast our imaginations can be, and nothing reminds me more than the reading of a book. I’ve lost count of the numbers of times that I have felt such a deep connection to characters in a novel that I experience a sort of deep sadness when the book is complete. And I’m sure I’m not the only one that has felt disappointment, and even anger, when a film adaptation of a book is horrendous or a character is depicted in a way that did not necessarily match up with who I pictured in my mind. And when this happens, I often think back to something my 12th grade English teacher told me: “I stay far away from film adaptations because I don’t want the image of the book and its characters to be ruined. They’re mine.”

And she was right: our imagination, this powerful thing, belongs to us. It is amazing that we can take words and create them into meanings and imagery that apply to us and reflect certain aspects about ourselves. It’s amazing how we can take the words of someone else and make them part of ourselves. And it is even more amazing that one author’s imagination can ignite inspiration in someone else. The same goes for any artist.

This is why I love reading and writing, and why I wish so much more emphasis was placed on these subjects as opposed to science and math. It is often said that children should be encouraged to dream and use their imagination. This is true, but why should they stop as they get older? I don’t think many realize that imagination is what writing is all about. For example, a teacher or professor may give an essay or presentation assignment on a book, and receive an immense variety of topics and themes that stood out to each student individually. I found it so interesting to listen and read about aspects of a novel or play that I never thought about or perhaps see a view on a character I never considered. It was like getting a sneak peek into the minds of my peers, understanding them a bit more.

Growing up, my favorite books for my brother and I were After Hamelin, Marco Millions, and of course, Harry Potter. We often talked and joked about why we liked them so much, and we eventually agreed that they took us to a different world. Our bodies may have been snuggled in our beds, but our minds and imaginations were taken on an amazing journey that we wished would never end. Have you ever looked up from a book you were reading and forgot that you were in the real world? Yeah, it was like that, and I hope that Kingdom of the Sun can give you the same feeling.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

My Words

My book, Kingdom of the Sun. Publishing Soon!

Dear Readers,

On many occasions I have discussed the power and influence of language and the significance of the ability to see and feel one another.  Today I would like to talk about language as it relates to my words and why I write.

With words I can create riddles that may seem simple on the surface, but mean so much more underneath.  Words like: “Education needs to be Education” and “Live Life for a Life for Life.”

I can create anything I want, in any way I want, and call it my own.

With my words, I can formulate ideas, concepts, and imagery that once read on paper, become a part of you as they enter your mind and hopefully, your heart.

I can make you see things that perhaps you have never seen.

I can make you understand something that used to perplex you.

I can make you hear me without hearing me.

I can make you feel me without touching me.

And maybe, just maybe, I can make you believe in things you had no faith in, or perhaps…remove your faith in things you once believed.

My words are power and strength.  They are joy and sadness.  They are memories and dreams.  They are filled with hope and a message.

All for you.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Education…It Starts at Home

“Like other educators, our Scholars teach and give themselves to their work and their students, and they are highly respected for it. But unlike other educators, they are not expected to be babysitters or social workers, and every citizen of Sooryan recognizes that without the Scholars, they are nothing. One who is willing to give their time, energy, and minds to educating others is one of true honor.”- Helena, Kingdom of the Sun

UnknownDear Readers,

One of the main themes in Kingdom of the Sun (soon to be published) is education.  So many people do not realize that education starts at home.  Nor do they realize the pressure and stress that are placed on a teacher because they do not know this.  Imagine their workload: teaching the coursework, grading the coursework, making sure that their students pass, the stress of other teachers, the stress of their personal lives, and the stress of the expectations that they are to babysitters and/or social workers.

Now, because many people do not realize, understand, or accept that education starts at home, blame is placed on teachers pertaining to things that are really the parents’ fault.  So, let’s dig deeper.  Education starts at home in two ways:

1) Social Education: This pertains to parents teaching their kids manners, respect, self-presentation, respect, respect, and respect.

2) Academic Education: This relates to the fact that parents should teach their kids how to study, when to study, and how long to study.  It also involves monitoring and controlling how the student spends their time at home (video games, television, friends, etc.).

If parents took these two factors into account, then I guarantee that we will see greater improvements in behavior and test scores.  However, doing this may bring us back to the initial issue: Some parents do not believe that they have any responsibility over the education and development of a student.  That’s a bit ironic to me.

The education of a student is a three-way partnership between the teacher and student, the teacher and parent, and the parent and student.  Everyone has to believe this in order for the partnership to work and be successful.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

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