Monday, June 15, 2020

Guest Blogger: Kari R. Joyner

                                                   
https://www.amazon.com/Bloom-Where-Youre-Planted-Joyner/dp/B0863RRZ73/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Bloom+where+you+are+planted+by+joyner&qid=1592242262&sr=8-2




14-year-old Kate Bloom wants to know how a mashed-potato birthday cake, a crushed robin’s egg, and a rain-soaked grandmother led to her being “in the family way”. But, more importantly, she wants to know how she’ll find a way out of this mess without her well-meaning sisters and her crazy mother ruining everything. Set in rural Oklahoma in the 1970s, this coming-of-age narrative about Kate and her sisters surviving their alcoholic mother is a heartbreaking and yet irreverently funny emotional roller coaster told in a straight-forward fashion that will keep its readers hooked until the very last page.


Please tell us about your latest book.
Bloom Where You're Planted is my first novel. Here's the basic premise: 14-year-old Kate Bloom wants to know how a mashed-potato birthday cake, a crushed robin's egg, and a rain-soaked grandmother led to her being "in the family way." But, more importantly, she wants to know how she'll find a way out of this mess without her well-meaning sisters and her crazy mother ruining everything. 
Set in rural Oklahoma in the 1970's, this coming-of-age narrative about Kate and her sisters surviving their alcoholic mother is a heartbreaking and yet irreverently funny emotional roller coaster told in a straight-forward fashion that will keep its readers hooked until the very last page. 

What can we expect from you in the future?
I am currently in the outlining stages of the follow-up to Bloom Where You're Planted. It will be told from the point of view of Kate's middle daughter. The title will be Late Bloomer. I am hoping to complete the novel by early fall 2020.

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
I didn't think any of my personality was included in my writing until several editing sessions down the road when I realized that the main character's inner dialogue was basically my exact thought process. Total accident. I also drew from my relationship with my sister when I was creating the dialogue between Kate and Birdie.

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
I first started crafting my story when my kids were really little. My two youngest are only 13 months apart, so when they were babies life was hectic. I brought home a discarded notebook from my job as a high school teacher because it had so much paper left in it that I thought it was a waste for the kid it belonged to to just trash it. I started using the notebook to write little stories in when I had a few minutes of quiet time. Some of my favorite stories were about sisters and damaged mother-daughter relationships.
As my kids got older, I got busier and forgot about the notebook. I went through a divorce, moved, changed jobs, and went through many more life altering changes. Years later, remarried and about to turn 40, my husband & I were sitting on our back porch having a drink and talking about the reality of our lives so far versus what we thought life would be like by the time we hit our 40's. I mentioned (for the first time ever) that I had always secretly wanted to write a novel. This conversation sparked my interest in writing again, and I tore my house apart looking for that old notebook. Once I found it and read my old stories, I realized that I already had the makings of a great story that women everywhere could relate to. It took me about five months to come up with my first completed draft of BWYP. I was so proud of the finished product that I decided to submit the manuscript.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you just go with the flow?
I am a teacher and am off work in the summertime, and I always picture myself writing every day for eight hours a day June through August. But the reality is that my mind just doesn't work that way. It's a process for me, and I go through stages. I come up with an idea, write some practice chapters, hate them, trash them, and start all over. Several times a week, I wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea, or a perfectly worded sentence. I get up & write it down. Sometimes I stay up all night writing & sometimes I write one sentence & go back to bed. Once I feel like I have enough good material, I start my general outline. When I'm done with that I'm pretty excited to get started. Then I write for hours on end for days at a time. I love writing the first draft; I get obsessive about it. My friends say I disappear. Ha ha. Then when it's time to revise & edit I start dragging my feet. I absolutely hate messing with that first draft! There is something so beautiful about a raw, untouched manuscript. I'm always so scared the editing process is going to strip the story of its personality. But then, once I get into it, I realize it's okay.

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions? What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
When I was writing Bloom, I had specific chunks of free time. My kids stayed with their dad every Wednesday night and every other weekend. My husband's work schedule just happened to coincide with the kids' schedule. So I had every Wednesday evening and every other weekend all to myself. I got a huge chunk of my writing done at those times. But when everyone is home there are lots of interruptions. Ha ha.

Where do your ideas come from?
I use stories I've heard throughout my life as a jumping off point. Once I have the situation, I think about what it might be like to be the person living through that situation. Then I create the characters from there.

Do you feel humor is important in books and why?
I feel like you HAVE to have humor in any story because, for me at least, humor is a coping mechanism. If I'm having a really hard time with something or going through an emotional upheaval, a good laugh saves my sanity. It reminds us as human beings why we persevere through the hard times. It gives us a glimmer of hope, a reminder of what life is supposed to be like. So, no matter how sad or serious the story is, I always include at least a little humor. Sometimes it's dark, but it's always there. 

What kind of research do you do?
I do enough research that I feel confident about my setting and the basic historic context the story takes place in. If I'm talking about specific music or a certain type of flower, etc. I research to make sure it could be realistic. When I wrote Bloom I did a lot of research on children of alcoholics. I read a lot about their common coping mechanisms, common characteristics, that type of thing. It helps me to decide how I will have my characters react to stress, trauma, etc. I wouldn't want someone who had been through the same thing as one of my characters to read it and say that wouldn't really happen. I want people to be able to relate, and they can't really relate if the characters' reactions and experiences aren't authentic. 

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
The biggest lesson I learned as an unpublished writer is this: just because your writing isn't published, that doesn't mean it isn't important, or worthy. And you should never give up. Reach out to writing communities. Make meaningful connections. I volunteered to be a beta reader for other fledgling writers, and they in turn would do beta reads for me. Reading for others and considering their critiques on my writing taught me so much. It made me a better writer. One of the connections I made with another unpublished writer ultimately led to my first novel being published. It took me over two years to finally get published. I was rejected every day, sometimes three or four times in one day. But I kept polishing that manuscript and listening to others' feedback, and it eventually paid off. 



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