Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Q&A with Nancy Joie Wilkie

Nancy Joie Wilkie is the author of the new story collection Seven Sides of Self. She worked in the biotechnology field for many years, and is also a musician. She lives in Brookeville, Maryland.  

Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in your collection? 

A: Believe it or not — 25 years! 

The original draft of the first story, “There Once Was A Man,” was written while on a flight from Palm Springs, California, to Washington, D.C., after spending a long weekend with my parents and my aunt. 

I recall looking out the window at the amazing landscape below as I scribbled away in my notebook. I also remember that I wasn’t sure where the story was going until the end. 

“An Intricate Balance” came to me while out on a long walk a year or two later. I got home and started writing. Several hours later, I had the first draft of the story. 

“The Ledge” is based on a longstanding fear of high places that invaded my dreams about a dozen years ago. “Microwave Man” is the most recent story and came about during a long drive with not much else to think about. You just never know when the Muses will show up!  

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you? 

A: The title and the concept of grouping together these seven stories came to me in a flash. I had just spent the morning exploring my favorite art museum. My mind was full of ideas for new art pieces and projects. I then made the short drive to the nearby artisan village. 

After visiting several shops, I found myself hungry and walked over to a little sundry shop — “simplyummy.” I placed my order and prepared myself for a wait of a dozen minutes. By the time my sandwich and salad arrived, I had sketched out the general structure for the book on a paper napkin.

As I stepped back out into the hot Southern afternoon after finishing lunch, I carried with me the seeds for Seven Sides of Self firmly registered in my mind. 

Oh, yes, and I had a beaming smile on my face! The Muses had chosen to bless me once again with their spark and inspiration. God bless them! 

As for what the title signifies for me, there are little pieces of me in each of those seven stories, hence the title of the collection.  

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the stories would appear in the collection? 

A: This is an interesting question and one that I often get when folks ask me about my CDs of original music. I think that it would be easier to tell you about the music than the stories because I can say that the songs alternate between major keys and minor keys, or between fast tempo versus slow tempo. 

But with the stories, it’s a bit different. The first story, “There Once Was A Man,” is about an author trying to start his writing career. The last story, “Old Mims,” is about an author at the end of his career, so these two stories serve as bookends of sorts. 

“Microwave Man” is also about an author before the end of his career — so I placed the story in the middle. 

Some of the stories are set in an incredibly distant future and introduce the readers to Mothersouls and the Oversoul (“The Ledge” and “An Intricate Balance”). 

“Microwave Man” also introduces the readers to the fictional planet of Aurillia and sets the stage for the events told in “Of The Green And Of The Gold.” Lastly, “Journey To Pradix” and “Old Mims” both portray rather exceptional views of our inevitable transition to an afterlife. 

The stories were never designed to be connected; it just sort of worked out that way. I do plan to introduce additional stories that will be loosely connected to some of these same topics. 

Having said all of that, I decided to alternate the rest of the stories between those occurring in the here and now and those occurring in the far future — thought it would keep things interesting!  

Q: You're a scientist, musician, and artist, as well as being a writer. How do all those different backgrounds affect your writing? 

A: My maternal grandfather was an organic chemist. As a youngster, I would watch him work in his laboratory and always thought, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up.” And so I did! I’m lucky to have known what I wanted to do; not everyone knows their calling. 

As for the music and the art, I had two musically gifted grandparents and a bunch of mostly older cousins who were musicians, artists, and writers. They were my inspiration. I also wanted to do music, art, and writing when I grew up, and so, in retirement, I have! 

As for a connection, all of these endeavors are about creating something, taking what one sees or hears in one’s mind or feels in one’s heart and then bringing the thoughts and feelings out into the real world — hence my moniker “mindsights.”

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: First, I have a collection of 101 (or maybe 102) page short stories — actually fables — each ending with a moral containing a pair of anagrams. The idea is that the fable will highlight either the humor or the irony of the anagramic pair (think “Santa” and “Satan” or “ocean” and “canoe”). 

I have also started working on a follow-up short story collection tentatively titled “Faraway and Forever.”

There are four stories (“The Natural Order of Things,” “The Wishbringer,” “Half The Sky,” and “The Last Sunday of Summer”), all a bit longer than the stories in Seven Sides of Self and all in the sci-fi/fantasy realm. I want to explore more fully the Three Laws of Spiritual Mechanics, Mothersouls, and a few other surprises. 

The third thing I’m working on is a sci-fi novel titled “The Oaks of Mamre” that I started a number of years ago. It explores one man’s quest for immortality and the lengths to which he is willing to go — even at the expense of other people’s lives. 

And lastly, there is my music! My fourth collection of original tunes, titled “Aurillian Tales,” is scheduled for release in early 2020.  

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: Absolutely! Should anyone wish to follow my creative endeavors, my website is always a good place to start. 

That URL takes one to a web portal of sorts, where there are hyperlinks to each of four separate websites: Mindsights Mediaworks (for original art and greeting cards), Mindsongs Musique (for original music), Mindstreets Musings (for original writing), and Mindsights Albums (photographs of trips and special places for family and friends. 

All my CDs are products of Mindsongs Musique and available as CDs or downloads through CDBaby, Amazon, iTunes, Bandcamp, and most distributors of music. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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