Saturday, August 3, 2013

Q&A with author Nancy Christie

Nancy Christie
Nancy Christie is a writer whose work includes a non-fiction book, The Gifts of Change, and a short fiction e-book to be published next month, Annabelle. She hosts four blogs, and her work has appeared in a variety of magazines. She is based in the Youngstown, Ohio area. 

Q: You write on your website that in your work, you focus on the subject of change--it's even in the title of one of your books. Why is that a topic of particular interest? 

A: I suppose because change is challenging—sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a very painful way. In real life, I have gone through a lot of changes, some of my choosing, some not, and one of my coping mechanisms when I am struggling with transitions is to write about it.

That is how my first book, The Gifts of Change, came about. My mother had been diagnosed with cancer at the same time I had remarried and my daughter was expecting my first grandchild. A lot of changes—a roller-coaster ride of changes! So I started writing journal entries and a few years later, they came together in a book published by Beyond Words—a book, by the way, that is out in three foreign editions! (A small brag here…)

As for the fiction, I also tend to write about people in various states of life evolutions. Some of them handle it well, some do not. (Side note: I often feel absolutely terrible about how hard they have it and wish I could fix things for them! The main character in Annabelle, for example—my heart just breaks for her! But my job is to tell their story, however it progresses.)

For me, watching and writing about them often gives me insights into my own changes and how to make the most of them, or at least, survive them. And sometimes, writing their story affords me an escape from whatever is worrying or troubling me in my life. 

Q: As someone who writes both fiction and non-fiction, do you prefer one type of writing to the other? 

A: Fiction, fiction, always fiction. As a child, when I wasn’t reading, I was playing let’s pretend. And once I learned how to write, I would make up stories and then put them down on paper. (My mother actually saved one of them! In a few more years, it might be classified as an antique…)

Writing fiction is, for me, the best way I can spend my time, the way I feel most complete. When I am writing fiction, I know I am doing what I am meant to do.

I have written one novel (a big surprise to me because I was always a short story writer), and am working on two others in fits and starts. And of course my short stories, which tend to be more literary and much darker than my novels. I try to make time every day to work on fiction—it doesn’t always happen but on the days that I do, I have a real sense of accomplishment and completeness.

That being said, I do enjoy the other types of writing I do: the “work” writing (magazine articles and corporate work), essays and the non-fiction book project I am in the early, early stages of now. But my heart and soul and passion has always been, and will always be, with fiction. 

Q: Your work of short fiction, Annabelle, will be available in September as an e-book. What role do you see e-books playing now and in years to come? 

A: Well, here you have me. I don’t even have a Kindle or iPad or Nook! I am a paper girl, I have to admit. I love to buy books and rarely get rid of any! (Which explains why I am getting ready to buy even more bookshelves!) I love the smell, the weight, the feel of books.

That being said, my hope is that e-readers will make it easier for people to read more, and anything that stimulates interest in reading and supports writers has to be a good thing.

Interesting bit of miscellany: in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, one of the characters (a Martian, of course!) reads from “a metal book with raised hieroglyphs over which he brushed his hand, as one might play a harp. And from the book, as his fingers stroked, a voice sang…” Perhaps that is what is ahead for e-books—you stroke them and the author reads to you. 

Q: You also are the host of four blogs, most of which deal with writing. Do your blogs share readers, or is each geared toward a different audience? 

A: After The Gifts of Change came out and when blogs were starting to get more popular, I knew that I needed to start one—platform-building and all. And that led to the Make A Change blog, which focuses on handling change, getting out of ruts and moving forward toward your goals.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that I would get addicted to this new way of writing. I mean, I didn’t have to pitch an idea to an editor—I could just write what I wanted when I wanted all centered around change! Then I started interviewing people for the blog to add their insights—it took on a life of its own!

Then came The Writer’s Place, a blog geared more to those who make their living or spend their time writing. Then One on One, because I love interviewing authors and writers, and already had a notion for a book so figured I’d test the waters (and get to virtually “meet” people in my industry) via the blog.

Finally, Finding Fran, named after my first novel (still, alas, unpublished!) and devoted just to fiction. It is probably the most personal of my blogs. I talk about where I am at in my own projects, how and why I write fiction and of course, about Annabelle!

I think I have gotten carried away with blogging… 

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: Besides the marketing for Annabelle, and the endless search for representation for my novel and short fiction collection, I am doing little bits of work on the non-fiction book for and about writers. And I’d like to get back to one of my two novels before I totally lose track of what those characters are up to.

And then there is a short story I wrote long time ago that I knew needed some tweaking. Going down to Florida a few months ago, I had a conversation with my seatmate who, as it turned out, was visiting her family on Amelia Island. And the more she told me about the place, the more I knew that it was the exact right place for my protagonist in this story to end up at. Strange how things come about…

Anyway, all that’s needed to finish the story is for me to visit Amelia Island—well, first, to make a road trip in March from Ohio to Amelia Island— I need to get the details right about the landscape, etc. since my character makes that same drive. Uh huh. Might be a while before I get that story done! 

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: Just that I know how incredibly lucky I am that I get to do what I most love doing — write — and to be able to do that for a living. Of course, it’s been challenging—the life of a freelancer is not exactly a steady influx of huge wads of cash!—but I can’t imagine doing anything else! (Which probably explains why I have turned these few questions into a 1300-word long response! Even my grocery lists turn out to be ridiculously long and involved!) 

People need to find something that feeds their soul and uses their gifts and then do it—maybe not full-time and maybe not as a career, but at least enough to justify the ability they have been given. Life is too short to not do it. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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