Posts Tagged ‘author interview’

Creative Interview

July 24, 2019

Today I’m not posting about my own books or commenting on the ins-and-outs of indie publishing. Instead, I’m interviewing a fascinating creative talent and former Michigan resident, Dale Johnson.

Welcome to “Painting With Light,” Dale.
Thank you. Glad to be here.

You have a fascinating creative background. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I grew up in the Detroit area. Blue collar. High IQ. Strong work ethic. A contrarian that follows the scientific method to solve life’s issues. An accomplished college and semipro pitcher. Clutch hitter because of my ability to tune out everything and focus on one thing.

I married young and moved to NYC, lived there 40 dream years and reached the top of my field at one of the leading ad agencies in the world as an EVP Exec Creative Director. Now run my own agency.

My wife (and best friend) died suddenly three years ago, so I moved to SF to live near my daughter. I am considered kind and respectful, but can have my angry moments.

Understandable. Where did you go to college?
Wayne State University in downtown Detroit.

What was your major?
Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. I also got a Marketing degree from the school of Business, and spent two further years at night school for a minor in journalism.

What were you like at school?
In high school I acted out, was a class clown. Independent, a kind of troublemaker with quips, followed a different drummer. I thought people who joined groups were giving up their individuality. I rejected school/society rules when they didn’t fit my scientific analysis.

Got kicked out of Physics class my senior year because I didn’t feel the teacher was teaching how to understand it, only wanted us to memorize it.

Were you good at English?
I was different. My teachers didn’t understand me. Extremely avant garde and offbeat but lacked grammar and structure training, so I rambled a lot…I wish I could say like Ken Kesey (the author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”). They didn’t know what to think of me.

Where do your ideas come from?
Countless ideas pop into my head just when I sit and think. They are random and it took decades to learn how to merge them into a concept and focus them correctly.

My years in management at the top ad agencies in the world taught me conceptual and strategic discipline, and how to not only understand an idea but be able to explain it to others. Generally, my ideas start by asking the question “Why?”

You were into marketing big-time. What led you into plays and then film?
I’m still in marketing, but am now also a filmmaker. I love advertising and mass behavior change and totally understand how politicians win. In my thirties I was restricted creatively to maximize mainstream commercial success in advertising, so I looked around for another outlet on the side. Writing novels didn’t work for me.

I discovered theater and fell in love. When I started to write plays, I wondered if I had anything important to say and if anyone would care. I apparently did, and created a cult following that liked my uncensored honesty and willingness to pursue controversial topics.

My play on date rape in 2004 went to the Philly Fringe, and my play on racism was optioned by the Theater League’s Broadway Producer of the Year. When I left my last job and started my agency, I switched to filmmaking in hopes of making some money, which plays never do.

Were there writers or filmmakers who inspired you?
When I discovered playwrighting I had been deeply immersed in off-off-broadway and performance theater. I particularly loved Karen Finley. At the Strand I discovered a book called In Your Face, about a theater movement in the 1950’s in England.

This was a time when a homosexual act would put people in jail. They believed that theater should tell the truth, that anything you didn’t do onstage you were denying its existence. It resonated with me and is my credo. People who censor you have an agenda, they don’t want a different opinion to be expressed. It’s natural of course.

People who question threaten the status quo. I followed that belief and was very provocative, but meaningful, and I had a cult following of mature, independent thinkers. One of my plays ran six months. I study art movements as well as artists and love every true artist. I’ve become very visual.

Do you have an “elevator speech” for your work?
I guess you could say it’s “the off off broadway of film” – but major distributors want Broadway.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
At first, I was chaotically creative. Journalism classes gave me some structure. Then I wrote in the ad business and became extremely disciplined. Too disciplined. I felt unable to create naturally, so took a sabbatical for a year and lived in Greece and France.

I wrote five hours a day, every day, and learned how to channel my subconscious directly onto the page without filtering it through my conscious. It was like dreaming for five hours, then waking up wondering what happened.

But I was still able to consciously “aim” the writing, just like I learned to “aim” my fastball as a pitcher. If you completely let go you won’t get it over the plate, if you control your body too much it won’t be relaxed enough to throw fast. It’s called a “controlled explosion”, that’s how I write.

What is the hardest thing about what you do?
The hardest thing is convincing people my work has mainstream appeal. They generally rely on stars in front of and behind the camera in order to finance a movie, so I have to hire stars and be one.

Do you have a favorite author? Playwright?
Several: Steinbeck, Robert A. Heinlein, Lincoln Steffens, Ernie Pyle, Gene Roddenberry, William Goldman, Billy Wilder, David Lean, Alberto Innaurato, Anthony Burgess, Gilbert Gotfried, Lerner and Lowe, Salinger, Mark Twain, Ken Kesey, Bob Dylan, Ferlinghetti, Rod Serling, Vonneghut, Camut, Dr. Suess, Ken Burns, Woody Allen, Kurasawa, etc. – and all playwrights.

What is your favorite book? Movie? Play?
There are lots of them: East of Eden; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Catcher in the Rye; The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens, Volume 1; Contagion Theory; Casablanca; Clockwork Orange; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; The Wild Bunch; Cinema Paradisio; Princess Bride; Don’t Look Now; Lawrence of Arabia; Sand Pebbles; The Battle of Algiers; A Thousand Clowns; Bridge Over the River Kwai; A Man for All Seasons; The Seven Samurai; Ordinary People; Lilies of the Field; and a host of others.

What is your favorite quote?
One of my own quotes: “Art is my religion. Truth is my God.” Or TheaterWeek’s quote about me: “When you watch a Dale Johnson play, be prepared to lose your virginity again.” Also from Shakespeare (Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2): “First…let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Where can we find out more about your work?
Cinemaeveritellc.com

What social network sources do you use?
None. As a creator of entertainment, I need to be paid tons of money to entertain people on the internet and I already have two careers.

I don’t have tons of money, so I’m eternally grateful you decided to do this interview. Good luck, Dale…and thanks.
Thanks for having me, Ron.

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I will be joining other authors signing books at SterlingFest in Sterling Heights, Michigan this Saturday, July 27, 2019.

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Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

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You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my two local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Author Interview

April 23, 2019

Author, Anca Vlasopolos

Today I’m not posting about my own books or commenting on the ins-and-outs of indie publishing. I’m interviewing the fascinating former Michigan author, Anca Vlasopolos.

Welcome to “Painting With Light,” Anca.
Thank you. Glad to be here!

You have a fascinating but somewhat frightening background. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1948, about two months before the Communists were “elected.”

My father was of Greek origin, my mother was Jewish and newly returned from Auschwitz and three slave-labor camps. My father became a political prisoner of the Communists because he was a professor of Economics and criticized the Stalinist five-year plan. He died three years after his release.

My mother applied for a passport to leave the country permanently when the government decreed, in 1958, that the country needed to be cleansed of Jews.

We left in February, 1962, and when we tried to come to the U.S. we came up against the Immigration Act of 1927. It had such strict quotas for “inferior” people from South and Eastern Europe that the quota for 1962 was already filled.

We finally came to the U.S. in 1963, as U.N. refugees. We ended up in Detroit, where my mother had two aunts who’d immigrated in the 1920s. They had to sponsor us for us to be allowed in.

With all that turmoil in your life, what were you like in school?
I was extremely shy, and having to change countries, languages, and schools several times in my teens didn’t make me any less shy. But I decided by taking drama and joining the debate team I’d overcome my shyness.

Did it help?
It didn’t, though I learned to speak for myself and for others. I was also impatient when school was boring, so I could be somewhat of a hoodlum, throwing spitballs and otherwise disrupting classes.

When you weren’t disrupting things, you must have read a lot. Tell me, who are your favorite authors?
Ursula Le Guin, Virginia Woolf, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Blake, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, W.S. Merwin, Jane Austen … among many others.

Do you have any funny or peculiar writing habits?
I work on poems or passages of prose in my head long before I commit them to paper. My husband finds that strange.

For your fiction, do you work from a plot outline, or just see where an idea takes you?
I have a general notion of where I’m going, but I do let the book and characters take over. In my historical novel, I ended up with chapters about the Pacific theater in World War II, which I never anticipated when I started writing about a Japanese boy lost at sea in 1841.

Where do most of your ideas come from?
That’s tough. With a poem, it’s usually an image, an analogy I see in nature. With prose it very much depends on the piece—novel, short story, essay.

For my historical novel, two stories generated the book: one in National Wildlife about the near-extinction of the short-tailed albatross, brought about by a Japanese who’d traveled to the U.S. in the nineteenth century.

The other was a story told to me by a friend, who said that the public library in Fairhaven, MA, had Japanese effects sent by a man who’d grown up there in the 1840s, informally adopted by a whale-ship’s captain. The stories clicked … the man was the same in both!

Is a memoir more difficult than writing fiction or poetry?
I didn’t find it so.

What’s your favorite quotation?
The one that kills me is from King Lear, when Gloucester tells Lear, “Let me kiss your hand,” and Lear replies, “Let me wipe it first. It smells of mortality.”

When do you do most of your writing?
Whenever I please, now that I’m retired. The trick was finding time when I was working.

How have you evolved creatively since your first book?
I think others would have to decide. As I think all writers do, I write who I am at the time.

You taught English and Comparative Writing at Wayne State University in Detoit. What do you consider your proudest teaching moments?
My students getting jobs after earning their PhD’s.

How have you been promoting your work?
Not well. I am on some social media, and I have a website. It takes a lot of money to promote oneself effectively, or a lot of schmoozing, which I detest.

Do you have anything else in the works right now?
More poetry and either a long short story or a novel about a dying young painter.

Good luck, Anca … and thanks for doing the interview.
Thanks for having me, Ron. It was a pleasure.

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Please take a moment to visit Anca’s website and take a look at her interesting books. Her new book of poetry “Often Fanged Light” is available April 2019.


You can also visit Anca’s listings on Amazon, and try her work for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

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I’ll be joining other authors signing books at Detroit Festival of Books at Eastern Market on July 21 and at SterlingFest in Sterling Heights, Michigan on July 27.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Author Interview

April 1, 2018

Michigan Author, Ryan Ennis

Today I’m not posting about my own books or the ins-and-outs of indie publishing. At the recommendation of a friend, I’m interviewing another Michigan author, Ryan Ennis.

Welcome to “Painting With Light,” Ryan.
Thank you. Glad to be here!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a teacher, librarian, and writer who lives in Livonia, Michigan. I grew up in Canton Township. After graduating from Eastern Michigan, I went on to get two master’s degrees from Wayne State in Detroit.

My first two books were actually children’s book—THE THURSDAY SURPRISE and THE SEPTEMBER SURPRISE. Both are stories about kids and autism.

What led you to write children’s books about autism?
I’m a special education teacher who works with kids with autism. The idea for my first book came from the children. As a progressive educator, I saw the benefits of typical kids having interactions with the kids enrolled in the special education classrooms.

I’m impressed…but I understand it’s not all you like to write.
Besides writing children’s books, I love to write short stories. I’m the author of a recent short story collection called THE UNEXPECTED.

What would you like to tell us about your new book?
THE UNEXPECTED is a collection of nineteen tales with themes that have preoccupied me since I began writing stories in my teens: the nature of love; the consequences of acting on impulses; and the need or longing inside of us to be fulfilled.

Perhaps of interest to metro Detroit readers are the local suburban settings featured in my stories: Ferndale, Livonia, Royal Oak, Garden City, Hazel Park, etc. To appeal to a wide audience the collection strives for a balance with male and female main characters in overlapping settings and plots.

I enjoy exploring the psychology of my characters. Consequently, I spend time (in the form of detailed prose) getting into my characters’ heads, providing clear motivations for their actions, so that they are relatable and empathetic.

Yet, I also like to reserve a certain amount of mystery about them, so the final part of their tales brings about a denouement or resolution the reader never expected. Writing stories that leave a reader with a last impression has always been my goal.

That’s a wide range of subjects. It makes me wonder…what were you like at school?
Depending on the subject, I could be two different people. In certain math and science classes (neither of them my forte), I was the quiet one sitting off to the side or in the back.

But I was quite the opposite in English, foreign language, and social studies. In those classes, I’d sit front-and-center, always prepared with homework, and frequently volunteered to answer questions. I enjoyed having good relationships with my instructors.

I still have the awards I received from my ninth-grade English and German teachers in a file box. I also have a professor’s note, written on the back of an essay, encouraging me to apply for the Honor’s Program and become her research assistant.

Every so often, I’ll pull out old notes and messages and reread them. I’m sentimental that way. Thanks to Facebook, e-mails, and blogs, I’ve been able to stay in touch with some of my wonderful instructors from back in the day.

Readers often ask…where do your ideas come from?
My fiction comes mainly from two places: my heart and my eyes. When I say my heart, I mean my emotions and personal experiences that I feel need to be conveyed to the world with a voice other than my own—through my fictional characters.

As a writer, I’m also a keen observer of people—society. By analyzing and writing about the challenges and problems I see others facing, I find I’m a deeper thinker, a more compassionate and caring person, and hope my work inspires my readers to become the same.

What’s the hardest thing for you about writing?
The time factor is a major issue. When you’re a home and dog owner, teacher, and have a part-time job on the side, it can be difficult to find writing opportunities.

OK – so what’s the easiest thing?
I’ve always had a vivid imagination. When I walk my dog at night, I reflect a great deal on situations in my own life or in others, and envision a story unfolding from them. If only I had a transcriber who could read my thoughts and turn them into polished sentences and paragraphs…then the writing part would be a breeze.

Who (or what) inspires your writing?
Since all good stories must have conflicts, my writing stems from either personal challenges or the challenges of others I read about or experience in everyday life.

I also enjoy looking at portraits or scenes in a painting and creating a story about the people depicted in them, based on what I observe in their facial expressions. In my opinion, there’s nothing more exciting than dwelling in a world inspired by great art!

Do you work to an outline or prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
As a writer of mostly shorter works, I don’t find it necessary to write from an outline. Before I begin typing my story, I’ve already spent a considerable amount of time pondering how it all will play out.

When do you do most of your writing?
With my busy schedule, I try to set aside time in the evenings and on weekends to write, even if it means just enough to write a few paragraphs before bed. I try to keep myself in what I call “writing shape”—able to write productively.

Do you have any funny or peculiar writing habits?
I once read that Jackie Collins carried a notebook around with her everywhere and would write whenever she had moments free, even if it meant when she was stopped in her car waiting for the traffic light to change. I never attempted that one.

In my early twenties, I read several Victorian novels whose author introductions described how they would take their desks out onto their lawns in the summer, and produce flowery prose from sun-up until sundown. I tried it a few times, but I couldn’t concentrate outdoors—not sure why.

Oddly, I do my best writing sitting on my sofa with my laptop resting on a small stand in front of me. I usually have the TV or my stereo turned on low, though I don’t pay much attention to either. It seems I need some soft noise in the background to help me concentrate.

How have you evolved creatively since you started writing?
Over the years, my writing has naturally gotten better, the plot lines and character development of my stories more engaging. I enjoy getting into the mindset of my characters, the narrative of my stories driven by their thoughts, providing motivation for their actions.

I’ve never cared for stories in which the characters seemed vague or underdeveloped. I want my readers to be engrossed in the actions and the thoughts of my characters. I still have the first short story I ever wrote. I keep it around as a reminder of the importance of determination. My writing skills have come a long way since then.

For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional printed books?
I generally prefer reading printed books. Holding a book in my hand and turning the pages are experiences I still treasure. When it comes to newspaper and magazine articles, I’d rather read those online.

Who are your favorite authors?
My all-time favorite is Joyce Carol Oates. Her short stories are masterpieces. Even when one is only a few pages long, I feel as though I’ve inhabited a vast landscape after reading it. She manages to engage readers with her descriptions and her character’s emotional states. I also enjoy short stories by Truman Capote and Raymond Carver. Like them, I try to compose works that delve into the psychology of my characters.

Most writers I’ve met have a favorite quote. What’s yours?
My quote speaks to connection between reading and writing: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King (editor’s note: Good choice!)

Reading everyday has so many benefits—improving your memory, increasing your vocabulary, and relieving stress. It can even help you to become a better writer. Most writers started out as voracious readers. I can say that my appetite for stories and books is what made me want to be a writer.

If there was something you could change about yourself, what would it be?
Watching how environmental problems have impacted our world, especially how they’ve destroyed crucial habitat for animals, I would like to get more involved in active conservation efforts. Endangered species are disappearing from our world at an alarming rate and may be gone completely in the not-too-distant future.

I would like to do something to stop that. After I retire from teaching, being an animal conservationist might be my next chapter—along with writing about this new adventure.

Reviews for “The Unexpected” have been very positive. How do you think you’d react to a negative review?
Always seeking to improve, I welcome constructive feedback.

What are your plans for future projects?
I’m currently in the initial phase of drafting a novel set in the ’80s. There’s many things about the ’80s—the music, the TV shows, the presence of bookstores everywhere—that I love.

Fascinating. Good luck with your writing, Ryan, and thank you for your time.

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You can find out more about Ryan at these links:

Twitter
Goodreads
LinkedIn
Pinterest

RYAN’S BOOK LINKS:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords

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Gentle Readers, my own books have garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. The column will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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On Sunday, April 29, 2018, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, I will participate with a host of other local area writers in the Books & Authors book-signing event at the eclectic Leon & Lulu store on Fourteen Mile Road in Clawson, Michigan. Drop in and buy a book…there will be lots to choose from.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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