Janet Ursel takes your questions

Janet Ursel, whose Christian fantasy Disenchanted was released today, is here now to take your questions in the comments. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Disenchanted. Squarespace keeps no record of the email of commenters, so to be eligible for a prize, either leave your email address (in spambot-proof format: yourname at whatever dot com) or safer still, subscribe to the comments by email, just above the comment box to the right.

Disenchanted links:   Amazon  Barnes & Noble   Goodreads

As usual, I've pulled up the comments into the main text here for easier reading. Some very light editing has happened.

Janet Ursel
Good evening, everyone. I hope we haven't worn you all out in the first two hours!
In case anyone is wondering, DISENCHANTED is NOT autobiographical, LOL! I actually made a very conscious effort to create a character very different from me, with a totally different life.

Faith Song
Hey, Janet. :-) I have a question. Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from a dream?

Janet Ursel     
Yes actually. I read recently that one of Tolkien's bits of writing advice was to write from your dreams. I've been dreaming of flying ever since I was a child, so I turned that into a serial short story that I give to people who sign up for my newsletter. But I want it very clear that Harvey Anderson is nothing like me, even if he got to do the flying... ;o)

Faith Song     
Oh, really? I've been dreaming of flying since I was little, as well.
I recently had a dream which helped me solve a plot issue in a story I'm writing. It was lovely.

Janet Ursel     
Tell me about it.

Katherine Coble
In an earlier interview you mentioned facing health challenges. Are these still ongoing or was an underlying issue rectified?

Janet Ursel     
It's improved. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At one point it was so bad I spent the entire day on the couch and started losing weight because the effort of making a sandwich was too great. (I was living mostly by myself at that time.) But I managed to find a couple of the causes and rectified them, so now I am much more functional. I still have to be very careful of my energy but I can write again. :o)

Amanda Gawthorpe
What are your writing habits like? Do you have any routines you follow? Do you write daily or when the mood strikes?

Janet Ursel
Habits... *sigh* I try to write daily but it's a struggle. Once all these launch activities are over, I am going to try to get back to daily writing. But whenever I am unsure of myself, I become incapable of writing, so I have to figure out where the problem is. Right now, I have concluded I need to know some of my characters better, so I am exploring their lives a bit before I continue the book. I got a short story out of that and I'm guessing another will be coming soon.

Janet Ursel     
DISENCHANTED has made Amazon's list of Hot New Releases in Christian Fantasy. :o) #14 of 88.

Faith Song     
I struggle with writing routines, as well.
Have you ever participated in a writing program, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), or Camp NanoWrimo?

Janet Ursel     
Yes, I credit NaNoWriMo with giving me the kick in the butt that I needed several years ago. I didn't win, but I did get over 30,000 words written that month, which was absolutely phenomenal for me! I am a slow writer. I didn't do too badly the year after, but by the third year I froze solid and couldn't do it any more. I've learned I need to stop writing sometimes and do the deep thinking about my characters or why things are happening the way they are and where they are going. If I just write for the numbers, I end up psyching myself out. But it was great while it lasted and I made some good friends. :o)

Faith Song
Great. I've found Nano useful because it helps me get words on the page. I like Camp NanoWrimo better, though, because you can pick your own word goal, and because there are writing groups which are very helpful for having writing friends to cheer you on.

Nadine Brandes
Yes, Camp NaNo is MUCH more fun and motivational for me, too! :)

Amanda Gawthorpe
How many books are planned for the Coventree series?

Janet Ursel     
I don't know. I have ideas for three or four so far, but who knows? I've been a little amused by reviewers who just assumed that a trilogy was planned. They didn't get it from me.
I don't have an overall plot in mind, like the Harry Potter books. But as each book ends I will be asking "Where does Coventree go from here?" and seeing what comes up.

Heather Huffman
Are you a plotter or a pantser? (As in, plan and outline your plot or fly by the seat of your pants when you write?) Do the characters ever surprise you?

Janet Ursel     
I outline until I run into a brick wall. Then I write the story until it passes that brick wall and I hit the next one. Then I outline again until I hit a brick wall. Then... I have a headache. And yes, my characters occasionally refuse to do what I tell them and take things in different directions. Stupid characters... They're usually right.

Faith Song      
So, a lot of authors have a certain character that they enjoy writing, connect well with, or just like quite a bit.
Out of your characters, is there a certain character that you would consider your "pet character?"

Janet Ursel
Wow, that is perhaps the hardest question I've been asked this evening! I'm not good at favourites. Of course, I'm fond of Blayn, I've spent so much time with him. But I also love Catherine, which is good because she will take center stage in the sequel. And believe it or not, I found Edgar Saville fun to write. I didn't love him, because he was a total, cold-blooded psycho, but somehow he was very easy to write. So scheming. I'm not a schemer, so I really don't know where that came from.

Heather Huffman
Too funny. You answered my question as I was posting it. Never mind. :0) And congrats on the ranking!

Mark     
I see I'm late.. :)

Janet Ursel     
ROFL! And your question is... ?

Mark
Glad to see the good listing on Amazon, Janet.

Janet Ursel     
Thanks, Mark. I'm glad to see that a total unknown can get a little traction. ;o)

Laura Blackman
So happy for you Janet. It's been a busy season here but I want you to know I've been thinking of you and enjoy reading your blogs and posts. I'm entering a children's book for my first writer's contest. You definitely have inspired me to keep writing! Thanks, my friend.

EJ Hanagan     
Hi Janet! Do you have any traditions while writing?

Janet Ursel     
EJ, not many. The only thing that is really consistent is that I prefer doing the very first draft on paper. Somehow a blank page is friendlier to me than a white screen. Go figure. Then I start the next day's writing by typing in what I did the day before, polishing a bit as I go, and that gets me in the flow to start again on paper.

Janet Ursel interviews Nadine Brandes

Janet Ursel, whose Christian fantasy Disenchanted just released today, interviews Nadine Brandes, author of A Time to Die and the upcoming A Time to Speak . The action is taking place in the comments. ;o)

Nadine will be giving away a paperback copy of A Time to Die to one lucky commenter! Squarespace keeps no record of the email of commenters, so to be eligible for a prize, either leave your email address (in spambot-proof format: yourname at whatever dot com) or safer still, subscribe to the comments by email, just above the comment box to the right.

Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes

Janet Ursel

Janet Ursel

A Time to Die links:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Goodreads 

Janet's first question:

Please don't hate me for this... Although I haven't seen the movie, I did see the trailer for In Time in theaters, and so when I saw the premise for A Time to Die, I just had to know: Were you already working on your book when the movie came out, or did you get inspired to do something different with life clocks because of the movie?

I've moved the comments up into the main post, again for easier reading. The original comments are still below, for the purists.

Nadine Brandes
Ooh, I'm actually really glad you asked this question, Janet! Pulls out soap box
Yes, I was already working on my book when IN TIME came out. The first time I saw the trailer I had a full-out meltdown. Poor hubby had to figure out how to console. This was the first time I tackled the "Someone stole my idea!" syndrome. I think every writer goes through it at some point.
It was very growing and I soon realized that, though "time" was a main concept in the movie and my book, they were completely different stories. I went to watch the movie and actually left grouchy because I felt like they could have done so much more with the concept. Ha!
It didn't change my story at all, but it did grow me a lot as an author. Besides, now the people who liked the movie can turn to my books and find something similar (but not the same) to enjoy! :D

Janet Ursel
I think it illustrates really well how two different authors will do two entirely different things with the same idea. :o)
“They” say a first novel is autobiographical. To what extent is this true of yours?

Nadine Brandes
This is definitely true of mine. Parvin is a bit of a reflection of "teenage Nadine." We obviously have our differences, but I wanted her to ask all the same questions I asked when I was young -- "How do I communicate with God?" "What's the purpose of life?" "IS there a purpose to life?" etc. I figured, if I was asking those as a young 'un, then others probably were too.
This made the book much easier to write because it felt like a giant extension of my teenage journal.

Janet Ursel
So what about the other characters then? Are any of them pulled from your life?

Nadine Brandes
Not really. I can't think of any, actually, that reflect relationships in my life. I never had an older brother, my mom is the kindest most tender and sweetly emotional human on earth (unlike Parvin's mother) and I never dealt with bullies. LOL
I suppose that goes to show that people can have the same deep-rooted life questions even while in completely difference life circumstances.

Faith Song
This has always been a writerly fear for me... Or, worse, that after I finish a book, I'll find out that there's been something similar out for some time!

Janet Ursel
When you were writing A TIME TO DIE, did you intend all along for there to be a sequel? There are so many things I am still wondering...

Nadine Brandes
Another great question. NO! It was intended to be a standalone novel! And it was going to end completely differently. (No, you're not allowed to ask. Hehe.) But when I was about halfway through writing it, the story continued to blossom. It was like God was telling me, "This story is much bigger than you, Nadine." And bigger than Parvin expected, too. I think He kept this revelation from me in order to make Parvin more realistic (i.e. not expecting bigger things to happen.)
So, I grudgingly agreed to make it a two book series. Well...you can see where that's gotten me.... ;-) I'm currently writing the third (and confirmed LAST) book. :)

Janet Ursel
LOL! Well, I'm glad, because there were so many teases in the first one. Will we ever find out what was in Reid's journal?

Nadine Brandes
That is the question I get the most often. While there's not much more in the continuing books, I'll be writing up a short book of clips from his journal as a goodie for readers. :) Keep an eye out for it!

Janet Ursel
Hey, we HAVE to find out why he was so sure... Won't say more, for fear of spoilers.

Nadine Brandes
Oh, well THAT is revealed in book two. :P

Donna Garman
So grateful for your participation here this evening, it is exciting to read about your books, I certainly intend to pick up copies! You have wonderful reviews on Amazon for your In Time - inspiring on so many levels. I assume we can look forward to more in this series?

Nadine Brandes
Thank you Donna!
I hope you do pick up copies. I'd love to hear what you think of the book. :) And it's such a blessing to see God use it to affect the lives of others. There's power in fiction!
Yes, there are two more books to the series. A Time to Speak (book 2) releases this fall. Book three is in the works. :)

Janet Ursel
This is perhaps a trivial question, but is there any particular reason the Big City was named Ivanhoe?

Nadine Brandes
I read the book IVANHOE by Sir Walter Scott when I was a child and both my sister and I decided that "Ivanhoe" was the epitome of awesomeness (to my shame, I don't even remember half the story. Must re-read that sometime soon.) So it seemed to fit when giving a new enchanting city a name. I "borrowed" it and never looked back. ;)

Janet Ursel
Do you outline? Improvise? Bit of both?

Nadine Brandes
I outline in my head until I have a good idea of where the story is going. In my mind, once it's written down it's harder to change, so I rarely put plots on paper. Weird, I know. But recently I've been trying my hand at more plotting -- arranging it all in a graph of sorts. I like how it's been working with book three. I plan to try it with my net planned novel and, if it works, it might become the new normal.
So, in short: a bit of both. ;) (The phrase "bit o' both" makes me want to go re-watch Guardians of the Galaxy.)

Janet Ursel
I keep flip-flopping back between the two myself. And now for something completely different:
If you had to reduce your library to just a few books, which ones would you choose?

Nadine Brandes
I'm assuming the Bible is a given. ;-)
I hate these sorts of questions but...I'd want a dictionary because my vocabulary needs a LOT of work. (This is almost always my answer to the question, "If you were on a desert island with ONE book aside from the Bible...")
Next is the Harry Potter series. (Can we call a one-volume version as just one book?) I get seriously geeky over it.
The Mark of the Lion Series, by Francine Rivers.
Ooh, ooh, and probably some giant theology book (dictionary-length.) I figure that, if I'm only allowed to read a few books, I might as well be educating myself instead of just entertaining. ;)

Janet Ursel
Now you're making me feel guilty. I always have mostly fun things. At least I didn't force you to stick to one!

Nadine Brandes
LOL! Yes, I really appreciated that you let me pick more than one. :)

Janet Ursel
I can never do just one. That is pure torture.
Who are your writing heroes? And why?

Nadine Brandes
J. K. Rowling is one for many reasons. I think her Harry Potter series is one of the most perfectly wrapped up stories I've ever read. Also, her approach to being "famous" was very inspirational to me in my younger days.
Francine Rivers -- because she's not afraid to tackle the tough questions or the tough situations. While her books are gritty, they greatly inspired me to live more seriously for Christ.
Jeff Gerke is my writing hero when it comes to writing craft books. He isn't afraid to break or challenge the "writing rules" and he sees deeper into the art of writing speculative fiction than anyone else I know. Since that's my genre, I eat up any craft book he writes. :)

Janet Ursel
Worthy heroes! I've only read REDEEMING LOVE by Francine Rivers. It is probably the only romance I've ever read that I actually enjoyed. And passed on! That takes some skill!
I can't even begin to imagine how JK plotted that whole story out ahead of time. Oy!
I've got a book or two of Jeff's too...
And a question that is perhaps a bit bigger. Would you like to tell us the story of how A TIME TO DIE came to print? Did you have to knock on a lot of doors?

Nadine Brandes
Actually...I tell people that my "author story" was served on a golden platter. The hardest part of my journey was writing a quality book. But once God gave me the idea for A TIME TO DIE, he just lit up the next steps. The moment I heard about Enclave Publishing (formerly Marcher Lord Press) I knew that was the publisher for me. I felt as though God made me a promise that I'd be published through them. I just had to wait.
So I waited and perfected my writing. I never submitted to agents, I didn't submit to any other publishers. I established a relationship with Jeff Gerke (former owner) at a writing conference and after four years of writing conferences, he requested to see A TIME TO DIE. I hadn't even pitched it! And it wasn't even fully written! He said he'd wait.
So, almost two years later, I sent him the full manuscript. He read about 1/3 of it and then offered me a full series contract. The only rejection letter I received came from a different publisher on the same day I received Jeff's acceptance letter.
There's SO much more to my story, but it all revolves around praying and trusting in God's timing. And that's what I would encourage every author to do! Trust in Him and commit your writing to Him. :-)

Faith Song
This is amazing! I've always seen authors saying they got many, many rejection letters before being accepted. It would be nice to be published like this. :-P

Emerald Barnes
I hope it's okay to post a comment here. I'm not seeing a comment box on the reader questions. Seriously, my internet is AWFUL tonight.
Nadine, I saw that you were 28. Yay. Me too!
Who did your amazing covers! Every time I see them, I fall in love all over again! My friend, J.L. Mbewe posts about your books all the time, so I've been itching to get a hold of them. I love the premise of them, and I just love fantasies. How do you feel about creating a new world as opposed to a well known one. (Throwing the same question at you as I did Patrick.) :)

Nadine Brandes
I think the comment box disappeared once the hour for questions ended.
My covers were done by Kirk DouPonce at http://dogeareddesign.com He's amazing!!!! And I'd love for you to read my books! Then tell me what you think about them! :D
Well, my world is dystopian so it's a stretched futuristic version of the current world. I LOVED writing it!

 

Patrick Carr interviews Janet Ursel

Patrick W. Carr, the author of the Staff and the Sword series, and the upcoming Darkwater Saga interviews Janet Ursel, whose Christian fantasy Disenchanted just released today. Follow along in the comments and feel free to chime in. One copy of Disenchanted will be awarded to a commenter drawn at random. Squarespace keeps no record of the email of commenters, so to be eligible for a prize, either leave your email address (in spambot-proof format: yourname at whatever dot com) or safer still, subscribe to the comments by email, just above the comment box to the right.

Janet Ursel

Janet Ursel

Patrick W. Carr

Patrick W. Carr

Disenchanted links:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Goodreads

Note: I've edited this post to move the comments into the body of the post for easier reading. Some very light editing happened, but the originals are still in the comment trail.

Patrick's first question:
When interviewed about the success of “The Lord of the Rings,” Tolkien said the smartest thing he did was to begin with a map. The map for your work “Disenchanted” appears to have more than just casual thought behind it. How did you arrive at your place names and did your map dictate your story or vice-versa?

Janet Ursel:
Hi Patrick! You're right, I did have a map going very soon. I had decided to put my story in an alternate Earth, so I got to borrow real geography. Next, I needed a nice, dry cave where a book would not rot. Dead Sea scrolls anyone? So that made the action take place in the Levant. I let my settlers move north to a nicer climate, and pored over a map of England to find suitable place names when I didn't have one in mind already. The actual original map was a messy printout with a bunch of skinny, red, almost illegible lines on it. There's a reason I thanked Cristina for her miraculous skills in the Acknowledgments. ;o)

Patrick Carr:
We talked a bit on facebook about our favorite authors and I have to admit to being a little giddy when I saw you mention Guy Gavriel Kay. What kind of influence has his style (I would call it literary) had on your writing? Is there anyone out there you try to emulate?

Janet Ursel:
I would call it literary too. ;o) I don't know that he's influenced me directly, but when I'm in active writing mode, I try to read really, really good authors in the hope that I will catch something by osmosis. As for GGK, I like his clarity of style and elegance of expression, and I do aim for those things as much as I can. I also try to emulate Ursula Le Guin, and a good number of non-fantasy authors.

Earl Blacklock:
I know you are planning a subsequent work(s) drawing from these characters. The parts of this book I most enjoyed were the parts where we saw the story from the perspective of other characters, especially the parts that were seen from Peter's perspective. I hope that we will hear Catherine's story, then Peter's, since you've given us a taste of how much depth belongs to those characters.

Janet Ursel:
Catherine will be the central character in the sequel. Peter will probably get to shine in #3, if I ever get that far! LOL!

Amanda Gawthorpe:
You'll get that far ;) I want more Owen!

Janet Ursel:
LOL! Okay Amanda, tell me. What is it about Owen that you love so much?

Janet Ursel:
Amanda is my fabulous, psychopathic editor, in case anyone is wondering.

Amanda Gawthorpe:
The beard. And his snarky streak. And his loyalty.

Nadine Brandes:
Ooh, I want more Owen, too! He was wonderful. Even though we saw just a little of him, we saw a lot of his character. I think I'd want to be his friend in real life.

Janet Ursel:
This is true. It's hard to imagine a better friend than Owen. I had fun letting the guys hang out together. Sometimes having had four sons comes in handy... Amanda, you'll be happy to know that ALL FOUR have beards.

Patrick Carr:
I couldn’t help but notice that in addition to our shared admiration for Guy Kay’s writing, you and have both come to the world of publishing a bit later in life. How do you think your greater experience has influenced your story? Notice that I automatically assume our greater age is an advantage?

Janet Ursel:
As well you should! LOL! I have lived more, read more, suffered more, made a fool of myself more, learned how much I don't know... I think all of that helps, to be quite honest. I wanted to write even before I was 20, but had a deep feeling that I didn't know enough to do it. And then life got very, very busy for a long time. Once the youngest was through high school, and it was clear my health wasn't going to allow me to return to teaching, I threw myself into writing.

Earl Blacklock:
Well, if you're ever looking for a final proof editor, I'd be happy to get an early look-see.  Now how do I get 10 personally autographed copies?

Janet Ursel:
You wait until I get my copies and ask again... LOL! And I'll put you on my list of beta readers if you like. If you would like to get involved with proofreading for Vox Dei or Booktrope, go to the Booktrope site and apply. They are looking for people.

Patrick Carr:
Ha! Chalk up something else we have in common; teaching. The little scamps can be quite a handful. I also noticed that you have 5 children. Wow. I usually win that contest with 4. Do you find yourself using your children's likeness or personality for your characters?

Janet Ursel:
No, not really. I do sometimes use real people to inspire me for a character, but the character always stubbornly insists on becoming someone else. Besides, I would prefer to let all the autobiographical elements come out subconsciously so I can deny them. So far, I don't think I've even tried shoe-horning any of my kids (no longer kids) into a story. But never say never.

Janet Ursel:
I mostly taught adults or at Cegeps in Quebec, which is a level of schooling that exists nowhere else between high school (which ends earlier) and university (which starts later). So late teens, early twenties. Loved teaching that age group, but just didn't have the physical stamina for it.

Patrick Carr:
Do you keep an electronic scrapbook with images for your main characters? If so, could we get a peek at a couple? I'm curious to see what Blayn and Edgar look like. And speaking of Edgar, it's a lot of fun when you get to hate the bad guy. From the first, you did a great job of making him smarmy.

Janet Ursel:
I'm not very faithful in keeping pictures like that, Patrick. I did try for a while and I think they're still on my hard drive. Blayn looks, in my mind, like Ioan Gruffud (the star of the movie Amazing Grace). I've never tried pasting links in the comments, let's see how that goes: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0344435/
Edgar I've never found a picture for. I should probably make an effort...

Patrick Carr:
Okay, Janet. We're a bit over halfway through our interview and there are some questions I really want to ask. Brace yourself. :-)
Now that “Disenchanted” is released and on the shelves, what did you enjoy most and least about your path to publication?

Janet Ursel:
Oh my. What did I enjoy most? I think getting to know my team at Vox Dei. Writing is so solitary, and having a group of people who were excited about my writing and who were actively encouraging me was absolutely wonderful. It was so strange to have people (other than family) publicly cheering for me I sometimes got a little moist in the eyes. Getting the acceptance email wasn't bad either, although I was so shocked I'm not sure I felt much LOL!
The worst thing? Well, in my case, my health took a nosedive for a number of years and I was too exhausted to even write. That was no fun. Then when I was back on my feet, I decided Christian fantasy was too hard to sell, so I started on something entirely different. And then DISENCHANTED got accepted after all, so I had to pick up the sequel which was only half-written and try to get back into it after several years. That's also been tough. Next week I guess I will really throw myself into that again and try to make faster progress. Now that my head's been in Coventree for several months, it should be easier.

Patrick Carr:
Wow. I can't imagine what it must be like to struggle with health issues while you're trying to write. I have enough trouble just making myself show up every day when I'm feeling well. Is there a particular line in your book that you wish you could highlight for your readers and say “Hey! Read this, this line right here, because it’s that important to me!”?

Janet Ursel:
Oh man, you ask tough questions! Perhaps this paragraph, from Blayn's experience on the beach at Denham:
And yet he felt with a sudden thrill deep in his gut that the vastness was not empty at all. It was full, full of a wild, exultant joy that swept him up and rolled him through the air, singing wordlessly to him of sun and stars and sea, of birds and storms and mountains, till his whole being vibrated with the majesty of the music and his body collapsed on the sand below, weeping with a pain sweeter than any joy he had ever known.

Patrick Carr:
Seriously, I can see why you chose that. Awesome stuff. I think the most wonderful and humbling thing about getting published is the realization that people are going to have an incredible array of unique experiences from your book. However, what common theme or message do you want your readers to share from "Disenchanted?"

Janet Ursel:
To push through to find the truth and to remain faithful to it no matter what the cost. Truth is not cheap, it is not easy, it is not a formula. And it has a face...

Patrick Carr:
Well put! Thanks for a great interview, Janet and congratulations again on your success!!
Hopefully you have time to get to this one, Janet. When can we expect the sequel to "Disenchanted" and what will it be called?

Janet Ursel:
I don't know and I don't know! Next year some time, hopefully in the spring. The title is making me tear my hair out. I don't have one yet, and the three or four working titles I've come up with are pathetic!
Thank you so much for your wonderful questions, Patrick! Now it will be your turn to be in the hot seat!