This weeks author interview features author Anita Kovacevic. She is an author of adult and children's fiction. She has been teaching English for over twenty years, thus learning all about the power of storytelling.
Her stories sometimes develop as teaching materials, which are successfully implemented in her teacher workshops and English lessons, and sometimes surprise even herself. She is currently working on several children's books, a fantasy YA novel, and having her adult novel read by her beta-readers.
As a member of an international teaching community, she has also participated in a worldwide charity anti-bullying e-book Inner Giant, which, among others, features her short stories, essays, illustrations and poems.
Anita's greatest inspiration and critics are her children and students, who mercilessly let her know if 'stuff is boring' or not. She enjoys stories which come to her on her dreamstep, with just enough reality and magic as life requires. She writes poetry, children's plays (often performed by students), stories, fantasy novels, horrors, and has a special fondness for writing limerick stories.
You can also read her book reviews and interviews with authors on her Wordpress blog Anita's Haven, as well as some free stories, poetry and essays.
She lives with her husband and children in Croatia, and doesn't know the meaning of 'free time'.
Three of her books are shown above, and you can click on them to find out more. Here is a blurb from The Threshold.
The Threshold (paranormal, horror, novella, urban legend...)
Dancing the thin line between pride and vanity can be tricky. What if the house you dream of isn't the home you wanted, but the home you deserve? And who decides what it is you deserve?
Spanning over a few centuries, this urban legend revolves around a mysterious house and its alleged secret treasure. The original owner is obsessed with the house, but once he enters it, he never leaves, till his death. Over a century, a creepy urban legend develops about it. But nobody tampers with it till a real estate mogul wants the property to build a business tower on the site. To gain legal control over it, he strikes a deal with the city officials, and starts a reality show in which contestants are asked to enter the house and retrieve the treasure from it. The show does not go as planned, and the newly built tower will hold deadly secrets of its own.
Who will end up having the upper hand - the tycoon or the threshold?
I was able to ask a few questions from Anita about her writing, and here is what she had to say.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Painfully many.To list only a few, there are the traditional traps of the writing trade itself (telling instead of showing, lack of objective editing); in publishing attempts a huge mistake is trusting vanity publishers, or believing traditional publishers will do all the work.
Another demotivating trap is most people are oblivious that if you self-publish, it is actually an investment, just as with any other enterprise – you have to invest to be able to have a quality product which will sell. We are all artists at heart (at least we liketo think so), and the beauty and passion of the writing process make us believe miracles happen, anything is possible, and our magic will naturally transpire and have instant success with the readers. It is difficult, even revolting at first, to even think of your book as a product for sale. But one adapts:). Or suffers. (Y)our choice.
However, giving up too soon is the most dangerous trap. You must know that you can never satisfy all readers' tastes. But if you trust in your characters, if you feel them in your gut, then fight to keep them alive and introduce them to people. No story comes to life if it remains untold. Giving up should not be an option.
Have you ever gotten writer’s block?
Yep, in high school, having to write a history report on something. Too much fact, no allowances for fantasy. Just kidding.
No time for writer's block actually, because I still don't have enough free time to write whenever I think, feel or dream a story. I have a full-time job and family, and life dictates priorities. There are still too many stories simmering in my head which I haven't put on paper to worry about writer's block.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
It's not about trying anything at all. There is no premeditation to it. I'm an old-fashioned romantic. I write what my characters dictate. Period. If I tried writing on demand, it would probably be awful and make me feel like a fake. I am not much of a liar. I once tried desperately to save a character's life, until she saved herself in such a way that left me speechless. I never thought she had it in her. I have no idea if readers will approve when they read it. But we'll see. She doesn't care. She did what she was meant to do.
How has your writing progressed or changed as you write more books?
The actual writing is much the same, perhaps with a touch more of self-criticism than before. But the editing process has changed a lot. I now welcome it. Knowing what it will allow gives me more freedom during writing. I am constantly learning what my strengths and my weaknesses in writing are. I have recently picked up an old YA fantasy novel of mine to finally revise, and realized it will need a major reconstruction. Talk about a self-inflicted ego wound:)! The storyline is OK, I still love the characters, but the verbiage and the telling-showing ratio made me appreciate what I have learned meanwhile.
One of the most useful things I have learned is not to feel guilty when I let a story rest after its first version is finished. If I pick it up to revise and feel 'the wound is too fresh', I let it be.
What makes me happy... well, it's a curious thing. There are scenes which wake me up in the middle of night and I completely zone out to write them, oblivious of the time and sounds around me. I feel I am there, with my characters, seeing what they see, smelling what they smell... Once the scene is written, I feel liberated, energized, light. I simply know what I wrote is good. (Not all scenes are like this, much to my regret.) These special scenes, when they go through revision, usually need the least editing and contain the fewest typos. They are little miracles. Like diamonds in the rough. Just a tiny polish and... yes. I have learned to be grateful for them.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
No rules; it depends on what I write. For now, I mostly write what I know, but that's just life sparing me the extra stress of finding time for research. I have started writing a thriller last year, but only left it as notes because I realized it would require tons of research. I have the basic storyline and characters laid out. For now, they are being patient with me, biding their time. When the time is right, I am sure they will start haunting me, and the research will begin.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I have to admit I have never thought about that. Interesting. Let me get back to you on that one in a few years' time, after I've written a few more books. The ones waiting to be revised and published might shed some light.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes, I do, because I appreciate them all. I don't like the stars or any numerated system; it's misleading. Sometimes the actual content of a 3* review is more flattering than a 5* review.
Even when I read reviews for other people's books, I read both the good and bad reviews. But they don't make me pick up a book or leave it.
Mean reviews are what I thoroughly dislike. Well, I dislike people being mean in general. Lashing out online simply because you can, hiding under a username... well, if someone gives that sort of a review any credit, they should rethink their priorities.
What is your favorite childhood book?
So many of them. When I was 7, my librarian told me I didn't have to return books the same day. I said I had to because I'd read the books and wanted new ones. Once she realized I wasn't kidding, she started recommending me books and lending me 1 or 2 more than usual. Heaven!
From The Wizard of Oz and Koko i duhovi (a children's detective book by Croatian author Ivan Kušan), to The Clan of the Cave Bear later on, books have always been my haven.
My godmother and an old neighbour lady who used to take care of me fostered this by always giving me books for my birthday. Books, stationery and drawing utensils were always the perfect gift for this girl. Come to think of it, they still are.
Thanks, Anita, for answering my questions and sharing with myself and my readers. You can find out more about Anita and her books using the links below.