Welcome, Eva. Tell us a little about yourself. I know you are a busy blogger.
Hi, Patty. Thank you for having me on your site. A little about me—well, I currently live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, but I was born in Prague, Czech Republic and came to Canada when I was just under five. All my formal schooling is in Canadian English but I'm fluent in Czech. I am the oldest of three kids, and grew up in the Great Lakes region of Ontario with many pets: dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, budgies, and fish. Beaches and camping were constants of my childhood. My grandfather lived with us and I learned a great deal about life from him. I regret I didn't have the patience as a child to learn Latin, which he knew. In such a busy family, a bit of alone time was important to me because I tended to spend it writing.
When I wrote my novel, BEYOND THE PRECIPICE, it became clear to me that my parents' attitudes toward supporting education and investing in people had a profound effect on me—a legacy I've carried forward with my own four children.
I have always loved music and played many instruments, and have often regretted that I didn't pursue it, perhaps even as a career. The central issue of my protagonist, Bret, wasn't planned to revolve around music, but it ended up being the main component of his personality and skills—in part thanks to the feedback of readers of my early drafts, who always liked the music parts because they could sense the passion.
When I was growing up, my interests varied widely, spanning both the Sciences and the Arts. This made it hard for me to pin down what I should be doing with the rest of my life, and my greatest talents didn't always coincide with my greatest passions—a fact that had detrimental consequences in my early life, especially since I didn't know how to listen to myself. You will find aspects of this in Bret in BEYOND THE PRECIPICE. Although he is by no means me, I have used truths I have learned about myself and about life and relationships to compose his story.
Of course, we want to know about what you are writing, so give us a little preview and tell us why you wrote your novel. What is your genre and what is the central message?
The genre of my book, BEYOND THE PRECIPICE, falls into the upper end of the Young Adult category, aimed at a reader 16 years of age and older. It is a story about coming of age and transitioning into adulthood—and how this rite of passage changes the protagonist's situation, perspective, and sense of responsibility. For six years, Bret is trapped by the wishes of his dead father, blackmailed by his brother, and rejected by his uncle. He watches his mother descend into the trap of poverty. At 18, which is age of majority as well as drinking age in Alberta, Canada, Bret realizes he must confront his past in order to seize the future.
The inner strength he relies upon comes from his earlier years, a legacy from his mother—a gift that has nothing to do with money. As he struggles to resolve his guilt over the death he thinks he caused and come to terms with how the loss has touched everyone's lives, he is helped by Nicole, the cello player with big dreams of joining the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he falls in love. She stirs the embers of his longing for music and ignites a fire he can't extinguish, but he knows that desire alone is not enough. Dr. Kern Willoughby, Nicole's father, holds the keys to Bret's future—if only he can let go of his guilt, accept himself, and accept help.
I started the novel because I wanted to write about the characters but, as time went on, a number of messages began to emerge. The story draws attention to the complex world of family dynamics and the power of unconditional love. I think at this stage, the biggest message I want to get out is how people can make a difference in someone's life. Acceptance and unconditional love provide the fuel we use for exploration, the courage that lets us take risks, the armour that keeps us intact, and the nourishment that feeds our souls—all of which we need in order to triumph.
Have you had anything published? Short stories, poems, etc?
I've had a short story published called "The Waiting Room." It was published in Angie's Diary Online Writing Magazine in January 2012 under Stories. This publication exists thanks to you, Patty, because you suggested the site to me.
I've also written other articles and been invited to do guest blogs.
Louise Harnby, a proofreader in the United Kingdom, invited me to write a guest article on her site in December 2011. “A Writer's Journey” is my journey of perseverance as a writer, where I also mention my novel, BEYOND THE PRECIPICE.
In November 2011, I was featured as a freelancer by Crystal Stannard of Outsource Effectively in the United States.
In 2009-2010, I published four business articles in Anderson Career Training Institute's e-newsletter (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), including “What to Expect From, and How to Work With, Your Writer or Editor”and “Mentorship: Increasing Business Success.”
As you mentioned, Patty, I've also been doing some blogging. My editing site, Sirius Word has been around since 2009 (although it is now in the process of being rebuilt), but I started my blog in December 2011. The articles cover areas such as goals and dreams, inspiration, how-to, investment in people, education, and business.
What is your favorite part of writing? Did anyone inspire you to write or was it something you always wanted to do?
I think the way I'd rephrase that, Patty, is not as something I wanted to do, but something I couldn't stop doing. No one I'm aware of inspired me, unless it was my mother or grandfather, who read quality books to me when I was very young. As far back as I can remember, in my head I was somehow always writing, or viewing the world through the eyes of a writer, although I didn't know it yet. At age three and four, before I knew how to use the alphabet to make words, I created characters and scenes. From about age seven and into the university years, I wrote because I simply had to. I liked breathing life into my characters—except I didn't do it very well then. I would have been a career writer except I didn't think it was possible, for a number of reasons. These are discussed in “A Writer's Journey.”
I write nearly every moment of every day, and sometimes it wakes me up at night. Being a writer is a state of being. You constantly look at each aspect of the world as potential “material.” It's hard to say what my favorite part of writing is. Writing is a basic need, like the need to eat—a staple in my life. Non-fiction and fiction are two completely different processes for me in terms of putting thoughts into words. In fiction, I would say dialogue is the easiest and most fun. It comes prepackaged as words. All I have to do is listen.
What surprised you most about your own writing?
That's a really hard question. I don't think anything surprised me, but I was pleased I taught myself how to punctuate and paragraph dialogue at an early age—and impressed a teacher. However, that was the only thing that impressed anybody about my writing for a long time. I wanted to write well so badly, yet there was no instruction or connections, and I certainly wasn't going to make it on some innate talent.
Probably the most curious things were why did I have such a burning desire to write and how could I work so hard at it—harder than anything else in my life, and yet not perceive it as work? But I did discover one thing. I may not have been a great writer when I was young, but life experience became the ingredient from which to construct something meaningful. In addition, I found hardship in life was directly proportional to good writing. When woven with the experiences, stories, and fundamental values learned in childhood, this made for some good fodder.
I build plots around feelings. The feeling is defined first—frustration, anger, rejection, love—and the plot builds itself in a plausible way around it. And, of course, being older and being a parent, I have the advantage of viewing life through the eyes of the parent as well as the youth.
Do you create an outline when preparing a book?
Books, or stories rather, conceive themselves, and then go on to develop with some guidance from the writer. Sometimes they carry a message you need to launch into the world. But some plots can be coaxed with intent and then nurtured into well-developed entities. Think of writing assignments.
I do create outlines. Sort of. And then change them. Certain things have to be in a particular order, so rough outlines do help. However, things tend to evolve as I go. As long as I know where I'm going—once I have that general idea, a problem, and a resolution—I let the specific events unfold on the page (or in my head at night, while I'm driving, walking, observing people, washing dishes, etc.). I find that music is a great generator of scenes and dialogue, but once I have what I want, I have to write it down in silence.
A story is an entity that has to simmer just long enough for all the components to mellow into a dish more delectable than the ingredients it contains. But once that's done, the best way to write the story down is to do it marathon-style—well, for me, that is. I'm not a writer who can work on a long project by writing an hour or two a day. I hold the story as a unit in my head, frantically trying to hang on to those little details that matter so much.
In order for novel writing to work for me, I need continuous days when I do nothing else but write until I drop, sleep for a few hours, and do it again. A weekend is nowhere near long enough, so I need to carve out a number of days in order to do this. The only way my novel got written at all is by taking five days one month and three the next in order to marathon write. Those eight days did what the last two to three years of writing piecemeal could not.
Writing my novel this way was a life-transforming experience. Something happened to my book during that time. After all the struggles, all the rewrites—in that altered state of novel continuum, a story that was mired with wrinkles, for the first time, straightened itself out. It became the unit I needed it to be, from the standpoint of character as well as plot. Things just kind of fell into the right place at the right time.
Are you a character driven artist, or plot driven?
Definitely character driven. Growing up, I loved adventure and survival books, and also science-fiction. But my own writing never had that kind of action and flash. This concerned me until I realized I could create a specific story underscored by the universality of the human condition.
Tell us about any writing groups you belong to or groups that encourage you.
I have many memberships but have had little time to interact, as I work days and evenings, which interferes with meetings. This is one of the areas in my life I am working to change. Life is finite and I don't know how many years I have left. I would like to spend a lot more of my time writing and being with my kids. I have non-fiction articles already written that I would like to send out to magazines. I may write more short stories too.
I would appreciate getting together more often with members of writing and editing societies. Writers meet monthly or at other regular intervals to discuss writing and to critique each other’s work. This is great feedback. Some of these members have published, and being in contact would allow me to learn more about the publishing process. I also have a few contacts in the United States from writing courses I have taken. Some of these are students and some are instructors. Recently, I have made connections with authors and proofreaders in several different areas of the world. Thanks to them, my book is being promoted in the United Kingdom and the United States. I have personal contacts in Australia, Europe, Africa, and several provinces in Canada who are excited to read my book.
Sudden interest in my writing arose after the publication of the short story, “The Waiting Room.” I continue to receive positive comments about the story and the writing style. A similar thing happened with the guest post, “A Writer's Journey.” This is very exciting for me because I've never had this kind of chance or this kind of feedback before.
The greatest difference in what a writer can do today versus during my youth in the 1970s and '80s is thanks to the Internet. A writer is no longer isolated from the writing and publishing worlds, and no longer limited by the lack of local instruction and interest in his passion. Information, companionship, and promotion not only cross the boarders of city limits; they cross the borders of countries as well.
What is the most challenging thing in writing a book?
Apart from having to know the craft, I'd say it's the length—the sheer size of a novel. There's just so much material. And when you get a lot of ideas, you have to slot them into the right places. You never get the chance to read your book completely through in one day. Writing a short story is hard and takes a lot of skill—and I've read some that left me absolutely humbled and awed—but you can always read a short story through in a finite amount of time, while every detail is still fresh in your head, in order to make your adjustments.
I write non-fiction articles and short stories too, but I really enjoy the novel writing process. I just need more time, which is why I've been shifting things in my life to accommodate it. To me, it's like answering some kind of call and finally fulfilling a destiny.
Can you share an excerpt from your upcoming book?
Sure, Patty. Here's one from Chapter 18 : The Noose Tightens.“She” is Nicole, Bret's girlfriend, the cello player. Drake is his older brother and Galan is his uncle.
She stared at him for a long time and finally took a deep breath. “Okay, what am I missing here? I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but he’s been dead for six years, right?”
He nodded, resting his chin on his hand.
“Look, I’m not saying disregard his wishes. I mean—I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent, God forbid. But why can’t you decide for yourself—especially now?”
“Because everything in my life is strung together. Like a web. Each thing is connected to something, which is connected to something else. The course has been set and now I have to see it through.”
She kept staring at him. “Why? Why is it all connected together? Why can't you tell me?”
To explain, he’d have to start at the beginning. The very beginning, whenever that was. Maybe it went back to the time of the Oliver play. Maybe when Drake stopped thinking of him as his best friend. And then he’d have to tell her about the accident. Even his mom didn’t know that yet. He’d have to explain about Drake and Galan—and that would surely do it. How could she consider going on with this relationship knowing he was tied to a ball and chain? How could she feel the same about him after she knew what he’d done?
10. What encouragement would you give an unpublished writer?
If it's something you really want, then persevere. Follow your dream, and don't let anyone tell you what you can't do. But you don't need to do it alone. Join writers' groups or societies that will put you in touch with writers, editors, and publishers. Read writing books. Start a blog. Take courses. A course is a great way to jump in at any skill level and continue from there while someone guides you and gives you feedback. That's really valuable because you learn the most through feedback, which gives you a chance to improve. Instructors also help with queries and other aspects of a submission package.
Another point is don't censor and judge yourself in the beginning. Write raw, in the moment. You can save it and come back to it later to tidy it up or fit it into your story, but you've captured the essence, which is what will give your writing heart and a voice that is uniquely yours. Take a small notebook around with you and jot down ideas, descriptions, character traits, conversations, moods. Inspiration comes from anywhere, and stories take time to evolve.
Most importantly of all, write because you love it.
Where can we find you, Eva?
Contact Information for Eva Blaskovic:
A Writer's Journey:
I want to thank Eva for a very interesting interview that leads us into her writing style and her writing world. Please keep an eye out for Eva Blaskovic!!