StarkLight Talks with Lee F. Patrick

StarkLight Press sits down with Lee F. Patrick, author of Dark Reflections, a thrilling tale found in our Hallowe’en anthology, Wild, Wicked and Sparkling.

 

1. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for your tale.

The idea of a stalker makes for a creepy tale, but I wondered what might make a stalker worse. They are certainly a horrible thing to endure. However, you can’t slap a restraining order on a reflection! This story was mostly written a few years back and I kept coming back to it, trying to make it better. Psychological horror, for me, trumps slasher horror. Who in their right mind would believe what Francie is going through?

2. What draws you to the Hallowe’en season?

I enjoy fall as my favourite season. The ideas of the old celebrations of honouring the dead, and that it’s possible to cross between this world and another one is fertile ground for my subconscious. I’ve written some Celtic style poems and short stories with the same sort of theme.

3. Tell us about what would make the best Hallowe’en party ever.

I’m not a big costume party fan, but having a bonfire out in the woods, staying up all night to watch the stars would be wonderful. We’d just have to remember NOT to chase any white stags that happen along. Or, maybe we should.

4. Who has inspired you to not just write, but to keep writing?

I started reading when I was young and my parents gave my sister Lesley and I access to the Science Fiction Book Club, so we read Heinlein, Asimov, McCaffrey, Norton and a host of others. I still have some of those books.

I’ve been writing not very seriously since the late-1980’s as an alternate to my hard science day job. From there, ideas kept knocking on the inside of my head demanding to be let loose. Lots of projects were started and then languished as I started writing on the next idea, or because I wasn’t sure how to build the plot and believable characters. I decided to get serious and publish last year. Since then, I’ve published a thriller novel (Alter Egos), and had three short stories/poems published. Dark Reflections is the third (Thanks to Starklight Press!!). Another story was accepted and is awaiting publication.

A big bonus is my husband, G.W. Renshaw, is also an author. I did the 3-Day Novel contest years back and he was my support staff. He made sure I had food and tea and quiet to write in. Now, he’s also the tech guru who keeps updating templates and helping with all sorts of weird issues with covers and formatting.

The Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, which I’ve been part of for many years, gives inspiration and information of many kinds. When Words Collide also gives me lots of contact with other authors and folks who love to read.

5. Where can people find your work and more about you as an author?

I have a FaceBook page under Lee F. Patrick, and of course, at Amazon. A website is in the planning phase. The ideas and writing keeps intruding on the marketing time.

 

You can find Lee’s tale in Wild, Wicked and Sparkling, available now at the StarkLight Press Bookstore or on Amazon here:

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Virginia Carraway Stark Talks Hallowe’en

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1. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for your tale.

So many people are ‘into’ magic and it’s always at Halloween that I ‘discover’ that I have several dozen friends that are witches that I had no idea about the rest of the year. I have no objection to the practice of Wicca or to witches, but what I do object to is dabblers. This story was more or less inspired by the idea of dabbling gone completely overboard. Dee is that crazy girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing and takes things way too far. I pretty much climbed into that girl’s head and ran with the idea.

2. What draws you to the Hallowe’en season?

Costumes are one of my favorite parts of Halloween. I don’t understand why we can’t go around in costume every day of the year if we want to. No one has ever been able to give me a good answer to that question and I insist that if we were socially uninhibited enough to wear costumes whenever and wherever we wanted that most of our social ills would fade in the freedom to express ourselves in the multiplicity of ways. People have these expectations of sameness from the people they work with and major changes are met with fear and trepidation. Isn’t that odd?

Imagine if we could dress how we feel, or even dress the opposite of how we feel. Feeling glum? Get the glitter and the glam out! Or wear your emo on the outside for the day and dress goth if you feel sad. Feeling happy? Why not wear that unicorn horn? Put in your rainbow hair extensions and strut it! Oh yeah, and there’s candy. Can’t forget candy.

I like the autumn weather, the leaves, the moodiness. The feel of mist and a little bit of eerie creepiness… but not too much. There’s a poignant feel as the year lets go with a sigh and the ground freezes, Halloween spells the last of sunlight warming my shoulders and the start of snowflakes and warm sweaters. Pumpkins and apple flavored everything for the rest of the year until fruits start are harvested again and on and on the wheel of the year turns with cinnamon to warm my veins and hot chocolate to warm my hands. It’s quite the tradeoff for losing the sun. I’m glad I don’t have to make the choice, fortunately it’s been made for me and Halloween makes me not responsible for what’s to follow.

3. Tell us about what would make the best Hallowe’en party ever.

I have to think back to the past to parties of the past and what I liked best for this because I’m not feeling in a party place right now. The funny thing is, the most fun I ever had at a Halloween party was probably one of the ones I had as a Girl Guide! I’ve been to some crazy parties since then and experienced some wild fun, but there’s something so classic about bobbing for apples, having mask put over your eyes (These were her BRAINS… And these were her EYES cue peeled grapes and cold spaghetti).

There’s something so rewarding in the pretend fear and the sheer innocence of those little games that puts those nostalgic parties at the top of my list. Maybe that is the most boring answer that anyone has ever given for one of these, but all the other parties I’ve gone to for Halloween, no matter how much effort has gone into them, no matter how sophisticated and realistic they are, no matter how good the cocktails, has something that is somehow cheap about it compared to the joy of those parties. Besides, is there anything really more scary than carving jack-o-lanterns in a group and having pumpkin innards fight? Try getting that out of your hair! Truly the things nightmares are made of!

4. Who has inspired you to not just write, but to keep writing?

More than anyone else I’d have to say my husband and my mother. It seems like there reaches a certain point in your writing career where there isn’t anything that ‘enough’ to tell you how you’re doing as a writer. I’ve won awards, I started off making a substantial amount of money on screenplays with names in them that most people would recognize. That’s something that most writers don’t get, let alone start with. It makes it hard, especially when there are people who just sit there like turds (ICBC, yeah, I see you!) saying that you aren’t a writer, or other people who get so jealous that they drive you out of the arts community rather than admit that you’ve had a few wins (Dawson Creek, tipping my hat to the artists there).

Things get complicated.

Friends act weird when you get some wins under your belt that aren’t going to make you world famous but are enviable nevertheless.

There are the people in writing who say absolutely nothing about what you’re doing and ignore your writing as though you’ve done something gauche like farting in front of the queen mother. There are friends who make snide remarks about how far you haven’t come and ignore everything you have done.

There comes a time when you look around yourself and realize that you have fewer friends than you thought you had because of your success and more people wishing you ill because of them.

It’s heartrending to any artist to be torn down and that’s why cruel people who don’t feel like they’re achieving their own goals in life do it: it’s easy money to kick an artist/writer etc when they’re down. We’re baring our hearts and souls on the page and making ourselves vulnerable. My mother wrote her whole life, she kept journals. Keeping a journal isn’t easy and keeping a truthful journal is even more hard. I can’t tell express to a non-writer how hard it is to turn off the inner critic except through analogy: imagine never once questioning the way you look in any outfit ever again… or naked. Do your thighs jiggle? Is your makeup okay? Suck in that gut… Nope, none of that. Let it all hang out. Cellulite flopping in the breeze, not a care in the world about whether or not looking down like that gives you a double chin… Do you get the idea? Could you ever do that?

Now imagine that isn’t your body, it’s your essence. It’s your soul. It’s your most secret thoughts. It’s thoughts that aren’t even yours but things that are, ‘what ifs’ that you wonder in the dark as you try to imagine why someone else did something. Let all that flab in your mind, all those bits jiggle around and let anyone who happens to pick up your writing make of it what they will. No one is ever going to really understand what you have to say on the page. Everyone is going to misjudge you. If you know the people reading what you wrote; it’s going to be an exponential number worse. Every little bit of guilt is going to tell them that any negative thing you put on the page is surely about them. Every character who is a villain is surely a thinly veiled version of them… they just know it! How they’ve caught you out!

While you go blithely writing your world, crafting your characters as you would a child there are people turning each tap on the keyboard into a diabolical scheme of paranoia against them. They try to dig into your psychology. They try to ‘figure you out’. They try to find you in the page.

You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you?

That was my mom’s favorite song when she was alive. One of the last communications we had was a card where she congratulated me on my writing and told me how excited she was to see where my writing would take me. She wrote that she had never been able to write except when her soul ached, that was why she only wrote journals.

After her death, during the divorce from my father, at other pivotal moments in her life, her journals were plucked from her hands and used against her. After her death my family poured over each pen stroke and internalized every word that could be interpreted as harsh to cut their souls with. They hated her because of those journals. I only read a few of them, but the ones I did read made me love her so much more. I understood our differences and our sames so much better. I cried because she had never said the words on the page to me out loud and even if she had, I don’t know if I would have been in a place where I would have understood what she was saying to me. But she wrote. She wrote without an inner critic telling her that she was writing ugly things, or beautiful things, she wrote because her soul was screaming and now I understand her more than I ever did before.

I know that my writing has made me no end of enemies and will likely make me many more, but I also know that my writing has been there for people when they needed to hear the words I spoke. I know that I have helped people in my lifetime with my words and as my mother gave me the gift of understanding after her death to inspire me to keep writing, I understand what the ability to speak the words needed when I cannot physically be there to say them means to people. That is how my mother has encouraged me in life and death to keep writing.

My husband has had a much more intensive role to play in my writing life. He is the guardian of the very soul of my writing. When people are cruel I know that there is one person who will always be kind. He won’t lie to me, he’ll tell me the truth about my writing, but he will talk to me. He won’t seal up like a clam the way people do to writers when they feel withholding. People stop talking or acknowledging writing, or deliberately push buttons to try to stop up writing, as though every word I personally write is somehow an affront to them.

But Tony Stark isn’t like that. He’s there with me. He WANTS to hear the words I write. We share back and forth and through our symbiotic encouragement and enthusiasm he puts my hands gently back on the keys after they’ve been squished flat by the stomping brutality that is relentless as soon as those pages leave the drawer and are shared with the world. It’s a strange thing that writers are repaid with little or no money, cruel words as often as kind, and yet they write the words that need to be there for those people who need to hear them most. Like my mother. Even after her death more people hated and reviled her for her writing than ever thanked her for her courage, but her words changed the world for me. They gave me a mother where I had none, or at least, when I thought I had none.

These people who will be there for you and who understand the subtle rays of goodness that writers put into the world are few and far between and my husband is the strongest and most steadfast of all the people.

5. Where can people find your work and more about you as an author?

Google me. Seriously, I don’t mind, I kinda like it 😉
I’m all over the internet. You can find me on my author page www.virginiastark.wordpress.com

@tweetsbvc

On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/

www.starklightpress.com

www.gafmainframe.com

Amazon, and a variety of other blogs, radio guest spots, interviews as well as brick and mortar stores in Canada, Texas, New York, Iceland, Argentina and Australia.

Alfie Elkins on Flotsam

For the first of our Wild, Wicked and Sparkling author interviews, we speak with Alfie Elkins from off the coast of Venezuela, where he talks about what inspired him to write his haunting love story, Flotsam.

1. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for your tale.

I’ve been living by the ocean for the first time since I was a boy, not in British Columbia but down in Venezuela. It brings up a lot of poignant thoughts about the past, about roads I didn’t take, paths I wasn’t able to tread. Also, moving across the ocean was a complete shake-up. I’ve never been out of Europe for living before, and the strange, disjointed, ethereal feeling I have for not having English soil under my feet- no matter how irritated I am at it presently- needed an outlet.

Walking by the ocean seems to be a real grounding point. It is all one sea, after all. I’m amazed by the sheer quantity of detritus that washes ashore. I’ve also been thinking a lot about relationships, and how they end, and how it connects up with both seasons and spirituality. Then I was reading a story from Tony featuring one of his characters, and I thought- this guy could go on a pretty dark journey, so I asked Tony is he’d mind if I popped him out of the tale and into a little Outer Limits-style classic horror story. It all kind of wove together with my memories of going to the west coast of Canada, and how much it seems like the border between the overworld and the underworld in Irish myth.

Oh, and I’ve also been reading a lot of Manga, too, lol.

2. What draws you to the Hallowe’en season?

It’s always been a very festive time for me. Growing up in London, it wasn’t actually Hallowe’en, but it was pagan style bonfires and all the old myths and beliefs, which usually lie dormant, were just suddenly back as though they had never left. Stories about the otherworld, about the spirits walking abroad, stories about loved ones coming back. Redemption across insurmountable odds, and the magic that comes with the dark time of the year.

3. Tell us about what would make the best Hallowe’en party ever.

You’d need a bonfire, for certain! Good music, not popular stuff, but mood music. Keep the costumes to a fantastic or archetypal nature, none of the flavors of the month. Lots of stout and cider. Would have to be able to go outside, in a natural space. And, of course, some spontaneous spectral activities.

4. Who has inspired you to not just write, but to keep writing?

I first started writing as a way to reduce stress from my job at the NHS. I was a paramedic and a supervisor of a station in London- not a fun job. Journals, then poems, then strange stuff started coming out of me, and a friend of mine, Pearl, knew Tony from the GAF Universe website. So I got into that, and couldn’t stop writing and working on it.

I’d have to say that Tony and Virginia, and also Will Norton, have been an exemplary model for making writing not just an activity, but a part of one’s life. The ease with which they accept whatever-old-thing you’ve been pounding out, be it a poem, a story fragment or what have you, makes it easy to silence the inner critic. Their communal worlds like the GAF Universe and The Program at Green Hill fire the imagination, and they allow you to jump on in and add your own inspiration, which helps if a free-formed idea just isn’t available. Then they take that idea and through some mystic process- bam! it’s incorporated into the whole. Will’s energy and sheer cock-eyed imagination is an inspiration, because the stuff he writes is just crazy brilliant. It makes you start thinking outside whatever bounds you’ve been placed inside.

5. Where can people find your work and more about you as an author?

People can find it through StarkLight Press, www.starklightpress.com and online at the GAF Mainframe site www.gafmainframe.com [Editor’s Note: The works are taken down until servers come back up following Hurricane Harvey, and should be available in four or five weeks]

There was also an autobiographical piece that did rather well for itself back in the day, based on my work as a teacher turned taxi driver, thence to the NHS. I’m in talks currently to get the publishing rights transferred to StarkLight Press, and hopefully it will see a third printing in North America sometime in 2018.

Out in Schools- An Excellent Resource for Finding Community Allies

Report on Bullying, Discrimination and the LGBT2Q+ Community

by

Virginia Carraway Stark

** Please Note: A list of helpful websites is available at the bottom of this page**

I went to ‘Out in Schools’ on behalf of the South Peace Community Arts Council and StarkLight Press. Myself and Tony Stark with StarkLight Press were contacted by SPCAC as last minute attendees, because all other members of the SPCAC were unable to attend this afternoon seminar.

Out in Schools focuses on raising awareness against discrimination in all forms, particularly the LGBT2Q+ community. It was well attended by people who are extremely concerned by the situation of bias, discrimination and hate crimes against anyone perceived as not being part of the mainstream community.

The major focuses of the meeting were

  1. Resources
  2. Connecting with allies
  3. Self-advocacy
  4. Protecting vulnerable persons from discrimination and hate crimes.

The conclusions on these points were that Resources in the Peace River Region are sorely lacking as is a sense of community. Dawson Creek has been identified as a place in the province of British Columbia that is particularly prone to bigotry and discrimination. People leave the area rather than trying to deal with the storm of hatred in this area. This has caused province-wide concern.

SPCRS is one of the only groups that has any programs to assist the LGBT+ community. They are dealing with children and teenagers who are being kicked out of their homes by families that lack education and understanding. There was concern expressed about the lack of doctors for the LGBT+ community in particulary the Trans-gendered community.

Most resources eventually end up being routed through Vancouver. This and the extreme lack of understanding and compassion have caused most of this community to leave or to stay hidden. There are few community events and these events tend to be segregated from the community at large. This further isolates the LGBT+ population.

Both at the meeting and afterward, I connected with several people who said they were planning on leaving the area because of the unwelcoming environment. It was pointed out to me that there is little or no involvement of the LGBT+ community, People of Colour and Aboriginal population and the disabled community inside the arts community as a whole.

This has been noticed by provincial bodies as well and may affect future funding if diversity isn’t embraced.

The meeting served to connect allies with the LGBT+ community and the atmosphere at the meeting itself was warm and welcoming to all. Terms were gone over. It was discussed that a dictionary with terms should be made and the advocate from SPCRS discussed this matter with me and it was agreed that StarkLight Press would volunteer our services to make a dictionary based off of current terminology with a bold note in the front to let people know that these terms are highly changeable. Future editions of the LGBT+ dictionary will be an on-going project and something that is worked on in newer editions.

A side note to bring to your attention was discrimination in other fields not as yet legally recognized. These areas touched on the topics of those who look different having similar discrimination issues against them. This is particularly true for people with piercings, tattoos and alternative hairstyles including in some cases individuals with shaved heads. Freedom to express yourself should not limit your lifestyle or job options in an open society. These are things to keep in mind for the future and to be aware of in our daily conduct.

Support groups for men who are dealing with the subject of ‘toxic masculinity’ was breached. Many communities have started support groups to help men dealing with the suppressive atmosphere of emotion and sensitivity, essentially providing a ‘safe place’ for men to express their feelings. For many men this also includes emotional education and learning how to safely express their feelings after being taught in life and in the workplace that such things were not permissible.

It was generally agreed upon that this was something that Dawson wasn’t ready for but something to keep in mind for the future. If men should express a desire to start a group it is important that resources be made available for them to do so and that most of all community receptiveness is present. Toxic masculinity is a topic that isn’t addressed enough and many people aren’t even aware that it is a problem. Nevertheless, it induces feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and has resulted in many suicides and other acts of violence that could be prevented by opening this dialogue.

In addition, Self Advocacy was discussed at great length. It has been observed that abusers, bullies and those used to practicing discrimination rely on a regular course of attack on their victims to attempt to undermine and isolate them from the rest of the community at large. A Self-Advocacy booklet will go over the steps to reporting hate crimes, hate incidents and how to file claims with the various Human Rights Tribunals, the RCMP (as well as special Hate Crime division numbers to avoid any local problems from people attempting to go to the police who fear for their safety). Most of all this booklet will focus on how to speak up for yourself.

As a recent victim of discrimination myself, I have had the dubious distinction of learning more about how to file Human Rights Complaints and both how to speak up on my behalf and how the narrow-minded abuser will attempt to ‘mind rape’ people into being silent.

These tactics involve:

1 Calling the victim a trouble maker.

2 Calling the victim a liar.

3 Rallying around the central abuser. This is why Hate Crimes are often referred to as ‘a cancer in the community’ or a ‘community virus’. Justifying for the abuser and demonizing the victim brings more and more people into the conspiracy of discrimination in an effort to maintain the status quo.

4 Shunning the victim. Showing preference for the abuser.

These tactics were portrayed in a short film about a young trans-gendered boy in Prince George who nearly ended up committing suicide. He was not only expelled from school for speaking out about the abuse after being admonished by school administration to be silent, he was also chided in front of the boys who had assaulted him for daring to speak up and, ‘cause trouble’.

This pattern is one I witnessed after being called, ‘retarded’ by the president of the Pottery Guild of Dawson Creek and subsequently denied membership and access to the guild. I was admonished for speaking up about the abuse and discrimination on Facebook, to my husband and to friends. I was told that I had brought ‘bad press’ to the potter’s guild so now I would definitely not be given membership. This was after I was made to feel sub-human from Dori Braun’s characterizations of me as being mentally and physically too handicapped to be a potter. Even describing me as being, ‘unable to comprehend even the most basic of skills’ and as, ‘suffering from retardation’.

After continuing to speak out I was told in strong terms that I wouldn’t be welcome to perform at a public poetry event arranged by Donna Kane on behalf of the Peace Liard Arts Council because Dori was distressed that I was speaking about how she had treated me. Dori had now changed her story entirely, following the standard model of calling me a troublemaker, then a liar and finally gathering first the Potter’s Guild and then Donna Kane and other members of the arts community around her to validate her discrimination.

The result of this was that Dori performed and I was forced out of the community.

This is key to speak out about because anyone, regardless of the type of discrimination will see the same pattern. This can culminate quickly into violence or suicide and it is important to file a police report. It is also integral to intercede on behalf of the victim. One should never assume that a victim is not a victim because you have ‘known someone forever’. Every member of the community should have the same rights regardless of how long they have been in the community or what perceived or actual discrimination is being shown against them.

There is little to be gained in the material sphere for making claims against bullies. You are at once pressured by the abuser and their circle who try to vilify you and twist the situation around to the abuser’s advantage. It takes great strength to stand up against discrimination and speak out. There are few rewards and much pain and suffering.

If someone speaks out about abuse you need to listen. This is not ever a case of, ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Discrimination, bullying and hate crimes are often difficult to prove and it is the responsibility of every good-hearted person to improve society by intervening in this sort of behavior before more harm is done.

Protecting vulnerable people from hate crimes and discrimination is something that must be done as a community. Dawson Creek has received failing marks on this on all counts.  Help for local victims of discrimination and abuse is almost always sought out from outside the community as the people of Dawson Creek fail again and again to fight these crimes.

Every Guild and Society must make it clear that it is open to all members. This is supposed to be clearly laid out in the charter of each group and when you sign for government funding that is one of the pre-requisites on nearly every form that the activity/guild/society be freely made available to all people. Rules of conduct and admission must be written up and clearly posted on your groups website and physical location if there is one.

This isn’t being done and is a violation of the reception of government grant money and loans.

In addition, a method of mediation for problems within societies should be clearly laid out. Communication should be transparent and the Arts Council as the one who holds the purse strings is responsible for ensuring that these steps are taken to ensure a friendly and inclusive environment for everyone. None of this is currently apparent.

I propose that someone be made responsible for this oversight and enacting the necessary changes to start making moves in the right direction. I also propose that a deadline be put on this activity to ensure that Dawson Creek doesn’t humiliate itself on the 75th anniversary of the Mile Zero celebrations by showing itself to be letting down its vulnerable population. Looking to the past and how the black population and the native population has been routinely ignored and abused I think it’s important that the current council not repeat the mistakes of Dawson Creek over the past 75 years.

  • Virginia Carraway Stark is an award-winning author, whose short stories have appeared internationally. You can find her work at StarkLight Press, and on Amazon.com.

You can find more information about the Out in Schools program here:

http://outinschools.com/

More Resources:

South Peace Community Resources Society

http://www.spcrs.ca

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/lgbt-vol6/lgbt-resources

http://www.qmunity.ca

https://crisiscentre.bc.ca/contact-us/

Alex Benitez Talks Superheroes

This week’s interview with one of the authors of The Irregulars is with American author, Alex Benitez. He took some time out of writing his epic vampire saga to talk about his Irregulars character, Kevin Parker- the teenager who can move faster than the eye can see.

You can watch Alex’s interview with StarkLight Press’ Tony Stark here:

Thanks again to Alex Benitez for taking the time to talk to us- and for his awesome T-shirt!

 

Cadence Colton’s Author Speaks

Today’s interview features the ever-enthralling Virginia Carraway Stark, who had the task of bringing Cadence Colton to life for The Irregulars. Cadence is a teenager who witnessed her mother’s murder at her father’s hand, and was forced to take to the streets with her younger brother, Jeremy, to keep themselves safe. Virginia talks to StarkLight Press about her process, the characters, and the challenges of writing a girl who can disappear into the crowd.

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SLP: What is your experience as a writer?

I have been writing my whole life. My first published works were screenplays. You can get a look at my complete bio at www.virginiastark.wordpress.com
It’s been diverse in the extreme. I’ve written in many anthologies, poetry anthologies, guest blogs, my own blogs, monthly columns for local newspapers, science articles, novels as well as collaborations like this one. I’ve also written non-fiction short stories, biographical and autobiographical works as wells as plays. I like to explore and write in many genres and use whatever medium works best to express myself in.

SLP: What if any experience do you have as a writer working with other authors in a collaborations?

I’ve been involved with quite a few collaborations, I believe this is my tenth one but I would have to count to be sure. I work with other authors in groups of two or three in addition to the larger collaborations. I’m not a fan of working in groups larger than 8-10 at most. I find that more authors than that make a committee-esque manuscript that is less than satisfying. I found that I didn’t feel a sense of ownership over the writing and that when it came to working on it I was less connected than with any other writing I have ever done.
The round robin of 8 or ideally less was enough time to get a strong story line going with lot of input from the other authors to help steer it in new and challenging places without the story becoming removed from me on a personal level.

 

SLP: Who was your character in The Irregulars. Tell us a bit about them.


I wrote for Cadence Colton. Cadence and Jeremy Colton were the only two of the eight children who were biologically related. Unfortunately for Cadence, she witnessed her father murder her mother. Cadence assumed that her father was mentally unbalanced but she doesn’t seem to know the actual motivation for the murder. Cadence testified against her father at the trial and holds herself responsible for the loss of her father in addition to the violent death of her mother. She developed PTSD from witnessing her mother’s murder and was treated by psychiatrists and doctors for awhile after her mother’s death and developed an addiction to barbituates. When she and Jeremy were sent to stay with an abusive aunt and uncle the two decided to run away and ended up on the streets with their family withholding their trust fund and other support from them.
Jeremy has a lot of the traits of his father and of his abusive Uncle. Although this isn’t touched on much in the story he becomes increasingly unstable and it is a simple conclusion that Jeremy has inherited his father’s demented temperament. Cadence is repeatedly abused by him as he grows from a loving child into an angry and hate-filled adolescent until she finally shuts down towards him.

  1. Cadence has the gift of not being seen. While she isn’t invisible she goes unnoticed whenever she chooses to. In fact, in many ways, it seems that Cadence has to work to be seen more than she has to work to be unseen. Because of this talent she frequently is the one who gathers supplies, food and medication for the others. She bears a lot of responsibility and is hard on herself any time anything goes wrong. Jeremy works hard to augment this trait in her and blames her harshly for anything he perceives as being, ‘unfair’.
    At the age of 16, Cadence is only now old enough to file for emancipation and to try to retrieve her inheritance for herself and the other seven children as well. One of the largest struggles they all face is that they have a lack of faith in humanity as a whole and are unwilling to trust anyone who might have been able to help them in their situation. This mistrust is often validated by the way people and the world treat them.

    SLP: What was the most challenging part about writing your character?

    The idea for The Irregulars was my idea but the characters themselves were sketched out first with Jason Pere and then with the individual authors who were selected to work with us on the story.
    Cadence was one of the characters that was entirely my idea and I didn’t realize when I designed her how much of myself I put into her. I was dealing with the first onset of PTSD after being struck by a car. This caused a cascade of childhood memories of trauma in addition to dealing with the much more immediate trauma.
    I ran away from home when I was 15 and had a little brother who I left behind. The results for my little brother were catastrophic. I myself dealt with the trauma and went on to university and then to travel the world. Because I had moved on so much from my childhood and being a runaway myself, I had to acknowledge this for the first time in myself. Although rationally I was aware of the fact that I left home and was emancipated due to the abuse I suffered I didn’t realize how much this had shaped my personality and how many advantages in life I didn’t have because of my poor family life.

    Writing about the effects of running away on Cadence opened my eyes to the complications I had to deal with. At the time, each thing was an obstacle to overcome and once I had overcome it I put it behind me. Seeing that these obstacles were common to all runaways put myself into a more objective light. I realized that what I had been through wasn’t particularly unique and neither were my PTSD symptoms. Writing about those symptoms in an open matter was a challenge as well.

    SLP: How did you most relate to your character?

    Subconsciously, when I developed Cadence I was really writing myself. I felt foolish when I realized that I had put so much of myself into her without consciously realizing it. Dealing with therapists in the present and applying the grounding techniques I’ve learned to a child version of myself was an interesting experience and, I think, a healing one.
    Unlike Cadence, I was able to shed my old life from me like a snake shedding an old, dead skin. For me, there was little left of the evils I had been subjected to in my youth and in moving on unencumbered I was able to create a new self that was free from that baggage. I was able to deal with my traumas when I was ready to and on my own terms. Cadence, however, was forced to deal with her trauma every day. Jeremy was incredibly self-absorbed and constantly rubbed the past in Cadence’s face. His hatred and blame was a burden that she could only escape by shutting her heart to him.
    This was another way I related to Cadence in that when I reconnected with my family they did everything they could to blame me and acted with hatred towards me. When they asked for forgiveness and I was happy to give it to them and move on they reacted with anger and even more hatred towards me. This aspect of my family reminded me a lot of Jeremy and indicated to me that he was fundamentally mentally unhealthy.

    SLP: Tell us about your take of the world of The Irregulars. What is happening? What would interest readers about it most?

    The Irregulars is about eight children who each ended up on the street for various reasons and who were attracted to each other through essentially a sixth sense that the others were special in ways like themselves.
    No two of them are the same in their abilities but they are all the same in the fact that they have a lot of baggage. Some of them are affected mentally and other physically or more likely, both. They have a lot of fear of the world and trepidation about anyone who doesn’t have the special feel to them as well as inherently mistrusting adults. This puts them into a more vulnerable position than they necessarily would have had to be in. There are quite a few ways that I, as an outsider looking in, could have seen to get help for the children that they were blind to.

    I think this is quite common when people are in a dire situation to not think rationally, all the more so because they are children.
    They are being hunted by a group that goes by the shortened name, ‘M.A.C.’ who has learned that psychics can be used for military applications and works to hunt them down. They are lead by a woman named Dr. Glenn Portsmith who Milton and Bruce, two of the children, have had interactions with in the past. They were held captive and tortured and their experience is enough to send all the children into a panic run away from the danger they find themselves in.

    SLP: How long do you take to write a book independently of a collaborative? How long would this compare to writing with other authors?


    It varies a lot. Some collaborations go really quickly but require extensive editing and others just go quickly. A lot of writing in a group comes down to group dynamics and to enthusiasm about the work. It becomes evident early on who wants to promote the story as a whole and who is in it to write whatever they want in an echo chamber that robs the other writer’s of their voices. This is, of course, a situation that makes a story biased in one characters direction while the other characters/writers spend all their time cleaning up after those messes. In situations like this writing a collaborations can become a tiresome affair. It is intensely important that each author carefully consider the previous writer’s writing and integrate it into their own. It is important that story threads are picked up and woven into the largely story. I’ve seen too often a writer leave a hint/prompt in their section only to see the next author ignore it and go off in another direction, ignoring what the other writers are processing.
    I think of this a lot like when you have a conversation with someone who is clearly not listening and is only waiting for you to stop talking so that they can say something on their mind.
    When I write on my own the process for writing a novel can be very quick (weeks) or very long (years). The good thing about a collaborative is that you know other people are relying on you to write your part and you don’t want the story to lose the story’s momentum so this works as impetus to get going and to write your section in a timely matter. This is, I think, the key feature that makes collaborative work move more quickly than independent work.

 

SLP: How do you incorporate the noise around you into the story you are writing at the moment?

If I’m distracted I find that the music I’m listening to or voices around me penetrate into the mood and timber of my writing style. Once I get into the flow of the story I find that nothing gets through to me. Not even the phone ringing or an alarm going off really gets through to me. I find that people often have to ask me a question several times before I even start to hear them. I’m highly immersive.

SLP: Do you prefer being intoxicated to write? Or would you rather write sober? Do you do anything
to alter your mental state when you write?


I have written drunk before. It’s an interesting experience. It’s kind of fun in a sloppy sort of way! The biggest thing is that I get really sleepy when I drink so I pretty much would have few coolers or a couple of glasses of wine and then go to bed after only a few pages.
I don’t think it particularly affected the quality of my writing although poetry written while drinking or being really tired is often much more in tune with the subconscious. I do poetry marathons every year and I find that as the hours progress (24 poems in 24 hours) that my poetry gets increasingly deep. Sometimes this touches on old hurts or pain and other times it comes out in the form of stories that are somewhat surreal but beautiful.

SLP: What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?

I’m still trying to figure that out. I have decided that I definitely want a brick of gold Bullion but I haven’t really worked out a life plan or goal. I got hit by a car just when I started to really get a life plan in place and that kind of changed everything. Priorities shift when suddenly you are faced with death staring you in the face and the mental alterations of post concussion syndrome, life long nerve damage and PTSD.
My life took on a new trajectory after that event and I still don’t know what that means for me. I think a lot of that is sorrow at the losses that I am still processing where life goes from here. I know I have a lot of stories in me that I want to write and other than that I’m still putting one foot in front of the other and that’s the best I can do.

SLP: Do you think translating books into languages other than their origin forces the intended essence away?

Not at all if done by a competent translator, I think that it forces a lot of the original manuscript to try on a new wardrobe.

SLP: Do you blog? If so, what do you blog about and where can other people find it?

I have a couple of blogs, one is my writer blog where I blog on whatever comes to mind. The other one is a blog where I have been working on my memoirs. My writer blog is highly eclectic and you can find it at www.virginiastark.wordpress.com my memoir blog is www.ihavememory.wordpress.com

SLP: How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write? Please share the platforms you’re active on and how people can find you there.

I’m pretty active on Facebook and my blogs. I’m not as as active on my author page as I am on my personal page but you can find it at https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/?fref=ts you can also find me on twitter @tweetsbyvc
I have an instagram account that is underused. Other than that I’m frequently interviewed or on guest blogs and you can find me by googling me in a wide range of places.

 

SLP: Do you enjoy theater? Would you ever like one of your stories to be turned into a play? Would you prefer to see The Irregulars as a movie, a play, neither or both?

I have seen Carnival Fun, turned into a play. It was originally a short story that was developed into a world so the first play was a lot different from the re-vamped version of it that I’m working on now.
I don’t think The Irregulars would make the best play as it stands now. It would have to be re-written a lot as a lot of the characters are too introverted to be captured on the stage. I think with a lot of rewrites it could make a compelling play.

I think The Irregulars would actually make a much better movie than a play but I’m wary of trusting manuscripts into the hands of random strangers and would want to have a lot of say in casting and directing etc. I’ve seen too many stories mangled beyond all recognition.

Thanks to Virginia Carraway Stark for taking the time to answer our questions about Cadence, and about her experience writing for The Irregulars!

The Irregulars will be available later this autumn from StarkLight Press.

Announcing StarkLight 5 Short Story Contest

It’s here- that moment you’ve all been waiting for-

The StarkLight Volume 5 Short Story Contest!

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That’s right, now you can send in your original short stories to our latest edition of StarkLight Anthology! Be it horror, or fantasy, science fiction, suspense or speculative fiction, send us your original piece before Feb 28, 2017, for a chance to win a coveted spot in one of the most talked-about anthologies in North America.

You can have a look at our submission guidelines here:

https://starklightpress.com/official-short-story-contest-rules/

Be sure to like us on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/StarkLight-Press/ to hear updates about this contest, as well as other cool short story and poem opportunites we have for authors this year.

 

– Tony Stark,

Publisher and CEO,

StarkLight Press.