Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A
Haven’t interacted with Book Country member Charlotte Firbank-King yet? Get to know her in our member spotlight!
Every time I read a book, a short story, a poem, or anything really, I wonder about the person behind the words. I ask myself a million questions, wishing I could know some of their true-life stories and how their experiences have shaped them. Why? Because what we’ve been through is what shapes our creativity. It’s not identical, of course, but it makes us who we are as people and as writers.
So, I decided to chat with Book Country member Charlotte Firbank-Kingabout some pieces of her life, her process, and her writing to get a little insight into this recently minted member’s mind:
DP: The majority of our members are from the United States but I noticed you are not. I’d love to hear a little bit about what it’s like in South Africa where you live! What is the writing community like there?
CFK: South Africa is a complex land with 11 official languages and almost every ethnic group known to the World. We have wide open spaces of pristine bush with a staggering variety of creatures. And no, lions and elephants don’t wander down our streets—unless you live in a village in the bush. Here, a stark third-world existence rubs shoulders with gleaming first-world technology and opulence. Our weather is wonderful. We don’t get many earthquakes or tornados and snow only falls on mountainous areas. The writing community sucks. I personally don’t bother to explore its limited offerings. In that regard, we are definitely third world.
DP: You edit, write, and illustrate? What was your first creative outlet? How did you shift into the other two?
CFK: The illustrating, art came first. I studied art at Pretoria Art College. I visited England and France to see the works of old masters. There, my existing love of history was fuelled. I have always dabbled in writing, from childhood. First poetry expressed my angst, and then cheesy bodice rippers served as a release for raging teenage hormones. Finally, life turned out to be my greatest motivator and teacher. About seventeen years ago, I sent a very, very length novel to Sandy Tritt, CEO of Inspiration for Writers. Because of the poor exchange of SA Rand, I couldn’t afford the editing fees, but she offered to read my book anyway. She imparted her extensive knowledge freely and I honed the craft of writing under her guidance over the next ten years. She eventually asked me to become an editor and ghost writer for IFW.
DP: It says in your profile that you usually write from the male protagonist’s POV. Why’s that? What’s your favorite (and least favorite!) part about writing from the perspective?
CFK: Men are simpler. I love their direct, practical approach, and I think they are misunderstood and underappreciated by most women. (Not talking about your wife-beating jerk here) I especially love the warrior spirit in a man and that is what I concentrate on. My husband was a warrior and he was killed. I guess I just understand them. I have no least favorite part. Well, maybe when it comes to finer details like what is it like to make love to a virgin—tricky interview that.
DP: You have great attention to detail, especially when it comes to grammar and word choice, from what I can tell from your reviews so far. What is your greatest writing pet peeve? Why do you think it’s important?
CFK: That sounds like a no-brainer. Isn’t writing all about grammar and word choice? My pet peeve is manuscripts put out there when the author hasn’t even bothered to try to edit a single word. Would a person expect someone to live if they performed brain surgery on them without studying medicine first? This is my mantra and I write with it in mind always.The writer is forever searching for a brilliant phrase that will blow the reader’s mind away. They hunt among the bright pebbles of adjectives and adverbs, worn smooth by overuse, when all the while it is hidden under the boulder of brevity.
Below are a few of my favorite quotes that sum up how I feel:
“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again” ~ Oscar Wilde
“When instinct fails, rules may guide us. But rules shouldn’t preoccupy the writer. The real job, the enduring task of the writer, is cultivating the instinct for language–even when language so stubbornly resists the precision we seek.” ~ George Orwell
DP: There is a wide variety of authors listed as your favorite writers–Dan Brown to Shakespeare! What do you like about them? Is there a common thread you see in their writing? I’m intrigued!
CFK: Dan Brown and the like are light entertainment (they should edit their books more carefully, too). Shakespeare feeds my soul; Dickens and Oscar Wild teach me how to use words effectively. I have eclectic tastes, interests, what can I say! =)
DP: What brought you to Book Country? What is your own personal writing goal that the community can help you with?
CFK: I saw your site referred to on Kirsten Lamb’s blog. My goal, to get my first, of 12 novels, published. My inability to promote myself is my worst enemy. At first, I just wanted another point of view on my most completed novel Twilight Path. And most of the reviews have been helpful, made me look at the area that bothered me most, what genre is my book? And some things that I didn’t think were a problem, but then had to look at. Finally, as I did more reviews, I wanted to help aspiring authors. Yes, I am paid to edit, but when I see a really talented writer I can’t resist wanting to guide them.
DP: I read that your book, TWILIGHT PATH, is nearly complete and ready for publication. How many rounds of revision did you go through? What was your process? How do you know you’re nearly done?
CFK: Not nearly, it is completed, but only to the best of my ability. I think what got me was the numerous rejection slips I received from romance publishers. I write for the thinking person. I don’t do wilting heroine on hunk’s arm. I doubt I could give an accurate estimate of how many edits, but I would not be lying if I said at least 150 of my own. So I’m anal, shoot me. =) My process starts with the story in my head, clamoring with a thousand others to be heard. The one that screams loudest gets first shot. First chapters are my thing. It’s like the first time you make love; it has to be good because that defines your love life (story) for the rest of your life (story.) As I go, I have a separate file called a story outline. This has all the details about various characters—eye color, hair, fears, habits, twitches, aspirations etc. It isn’t good to have blue eyes in one place then brown eyes. I guess I will never be done editing; there is always the lure of a better way to say something.
“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” ~Winston Churchill
DP: What kind of books do you edit versus what you write? What do you find appealing about them from the different roles?
CFK: I have edited anything from hard-core porn, romance, Christian inspirational works through to paranormal and some that have no specific genre. I write mystery/thrillers with strong elements of romance. I also write YA fantasy and kids’ books with illustrations. I guess I wear two hats, an editor hat and a writer hat. The editor hat puts aside self. I have no views or opinions that I am permitted to express, concerning the author’s views and opinions. My job is simply to help them grow as writers, be it porn of spiritual. In my own writing, I wear both hats and I sometimes hate my editor hat.
The editing appeals because I can help someone improve, if they are willing to learn. Some aren’t. My writing satisfies a deep, abiding compulsion within me to write—I can’t help myself—I need to write everyday like a junky needs a fix.
DP: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse, if you will?
CFK: I believe God gives us gifts and those gifts become a compulsion if we let them, I let them. The stories that keep me awake at night won’t go away until I put them on paper, then they grow and consume me. Do I have a muse? A muse, by definition is spiritual, really. So if God likes Shakespeare and those of his ilk, then there is my multidimensional muse—there are ten, mythically speaking, aren’t there?
DP: For our final question, let’s talk about something other than writing. We’d love to hear a random fun fact about you!
CFK: I’m not random, so obviously, I don’t get the question, but here is what my one granddaughter and kids thinks is fun about me, if that counts:
I am into technology and play computer games, so that makes me fun.
Eldest daughter: Editing with me makes me fun.
Son: Woodworking and cooking with me, experimenting with different dishes, makes me fun.
Youngest daughter: I play computer games.
Is that random enough? =)