St Catharines author Rusty Blackwood seems to jump effortlessly among children’s stories; poetry and romance/drama.
anewcatsworld recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rusty and ask her about her writing.
anewcatsworld: In your biography, I note you credit your elementary teacher with encouraging your writing. For me, it was my Grade 6 teacher, back in London, so what grade would you have been in at the time?
RB: This question pertains to something that came about a very long time ago, but I shall try to recall. I attended # 21 Southwold, a one room country school located on Routh Road, in Southwold Township, Elgin County, south-western Ontario, back when the entire eight grades were taught by one teacher who was in charge of every lesson taught to every student. I still admire those wonderful teachers for they were, in my honest opinion, a true teacher, one who taught for the love of educating children, and awakening the passion to learn within each one. Mrs. Gladys Carroll taught, with the exception of music and religion classes (these were taught by Mr. Philip Squire, Mrs. Kay Chamberland, and Mr. Brian Bragg respectively) everything from grade two, through eight, as well my entrance to high school. Her love and admiration for expressive literature was a passion with her, and she made me aware of this by middle grade, and definitely passed her same need and satisfaction on to me by the time I was in grade seven.
CW: Your biography states you’ve performed in a couple of bands. Do you feel that musical background has helped shape your writing in any way? And, can we look forward to one of your characters being a musician/singer in a band in some future novel?
RB: Music’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m fortunate to have been born into a musical family where my father, his two male siblings, as well their families all played assorted instruments, and were vocalists. Again I owe a portion of my love for music to Mrs. Carroll who played piano and had a great love of musicals and plays. All my school mates and I performed plays, skits, musical numbers, and dance routines for the entertainment of our parents at yearly Christmas concerts, as well the odd production throughout the school year. This provided good training for performing with my family’s country band, The Midnight Ramblers when I was thirteen. I began as their female vocalist doing four selections during each of their performances. This evolved into learning guitar at fifteen and later bass guitar when I was twenty. In the country/rock band MIRAGE I was bassist, and shared lead vocals. Every song tells a story. I believe that words which tell a story through its lyrics set to melody is the challenge of every vocalist to see how well they can interpret the message of the writer. In other words the better the writing the easier the musician’s job, especially the vocalist. I feel it goes hand in hand. You have to understand what the writer meant in order to properly convey the message during the performance, so in that respect I would say that a writer and a musician work hand in hand.
With regard to the second part of your question I would have to say that when it comes to my characters, anything is possible. The hero, Cullen Malone from my romance/drama Passion in Paris, is a musician/actor whose first love was, and still is music even though his public career took him in a different direction. Being a musician as well a writer, I can understand both genres, so it’s very likely another musician shall surface at some point. I have plans for a novel centering on The Midnight Rambler’s years which I hope to bring to print one day.
CW: As I noted, you seem to move among the children’s stories, the poetry and the “steamy” stuff without effort. Is it really as effortless as you make it seem, or does it take a while to get into a particular mindset?
RB: Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes not. I believe each writer has their own system which best works for them regardless of proper rule of thumb. My writing is very much like I am personally in as much as I get bored easily and am always looking for something to tweak my interest, or challenge me in some way and this is no different when it comes to sitting at my keyboard or facing a blank piece of paper. Writing children’s stories are the easiest because it’s simply a matter of letting the inner child surface and have fun. Poetry can come on a whim, a simple notion or something that has inspired me, yet there are times when I have to work at it. I find my best poems come from my need to express something I feel. I’m a hopeless romantic who believes in love ever-lasting and true soul mates finding each other regardless of the odds, which I suppose enable me to express this in word. I find myself writing what I’d love to experience. In some cases I have, as we all write from experience as well as what we know about, at least I feel we should. I believe it helps to get into a certain mindset, depending on the desired result, but if you can feel it, the chances of writing it well is much better.
CW: Many people seem to think that writing is easy – you know the “anyone can write a book” train of thought. How much time do you spend writing each day? And how long did it take you to write “Passion in Paris”?
RB: I believe that everyone has at least one book within them, as that book—or that life within said book—is important and interesting to someone, it’s just not everyone that can express it in words or project it properly. I feel writing is first and foremost a passion, a love to express something in a way that only you see it, and with hope that your views are something that a prospective reader can understand and relate to. Since becoming a professional writer I find my creative time suffers greatly because I just don’t have the time I’d like to sit and simply write. The business side demands so much effort and time that it can become frustrating, but it’s all part of putting your name on a piece of written work that has been published and now hopes to flourish. I never have a set amount of time or reserved number of words that I need to produce in a set amount of time. I write when I feel the need but as I stated earlier the time is often never enough. I make notes, for I find whenever I have an idea, or inspiration for something the notes help to bring things to life when I sit down to work which otherwise would die before they had a chance to live. The complete writing of Passion in Paris took the majority of ten years from first idea to finished product. This amount of time would have been greatly diminished had I had the luxury of excess time without interruption. If it had been that way the story would have been finished in half the time that it was, possibly less.
CW: an author once made the comment that to be a writer, you had to produce 600 words a day. Would you agree with that assessment?
RB: I never like to compare myself to anyone, or follow the same set of rules as someone else simply because everyone is different in their way of perception, their talent, and their need to project whatever it is they feel. No two people experience something in the exact same way, or see something in the same light, so to say one has to produce a certain amount of words per day to be a writer is, I believe, as far off the mark as one can be. You can’t fake feelings within words and expect the reader to feel any emotion if there’s none there to begin with, whether it’s 600 words, 6,000, or simply 6. I keep everything I write regardless of whether it’s good or not, because something that might not fit a working project at the moment might fit something in the future, and if you discard it you’ve lost it. What it really boils down to is write what you feel is productive, and something you are satisfied with.
CW: You’ve chosen to self-publish. Any advice for those of us still scribbling away in our garrets who might consider that option?
RB: Never let it be said that indie writers have turned their back on standard publishing for I don’t believe this is necessarily the case, at least with me. There are many reasons why one chooses to self-publish as opposed to packaging up your unsolicited manuscript, and send it off to umpteen publishing houses with hopes that it will even get in the door, let alone before the eyes of an editor. And the chances of this happening through the representation of a good literary agent that has accepted your solicited manuscript is still both a challenge, and a gamble. Part of the reason I chose the course I presently have is because I wanted to maintain the rights to my work, and not have to sign them away in return for a publishing contract. It is a gamble either way, because no writer wants to see their ‘child’— and very often that is exactly what a story becomes to its creator— altered or changed in any way, and this is often done, especially if your manuscript is fortunate enough to make it to screen, but still we wish to be properly compensated for our work, our time, and our talent. When it comes to travelling the self-publishing route, even before the initial cost, one has to keep in mind first and foremost and I cannot stress this enough, do your homework; be sure you know every minute detail before you sign the contract. It can be costly, depending on the package you purchase, and they all vary with regard to what they include, but each company can be different with the routine and the connection between author, and the numerous department representatives assigned throughout the course of your project. Other methods of self-publishing are to have your manuscript printed by companies that offer this for a fee for printing however many copies you wish, but the marketing is totally up to you, as well book storage, public connections and the end sales. At least most self-publishing companies that offer assorted packages also offer marketing but usually at an extra cost and keep in mind this marketing is very limited, and the majority of it comes on the writer’s dime. Also, even after all this the end result in sales can still be very limited. I believe self-published books are always best represented by a good, solid, reputable marketing agent who has the knowledge, experience, and the contacts required to project you in the best possible way, path, and light.
CW: Thank you for your time Rusty. Is there anything you’d like to add? Perhaps something I missed?
RB: Just a few words. To aspiring authors, do not be discouraged, do not let anyone tell you it can’t be done for only ‘you’ know what is within you to do, and with enough determination and belief in your talent and ability, you can move mountains. Listen, question, learn, and follow your instincts, and your heart.
To prospective readers and those always on the lookout for new books and authors: always remember, the very well-known, highly publicized names in literature were once unknown authors. Someone took a chance and read them, most importantly, they liked what they read. Support your local authors!
And finally: I’d like to take this opportunity to thank “anewcatsworld” for the chance to do this in-depth interview with her, and to allow readers the chance to know me better, my work, as well my passion for writing it. Thank you.
When you can, I recommend you pick up copies of her books. Why not do it now so you’ll have something to read on the weekend.
Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and book sales) too.