Friday, August 07, 2009

Patty Froese Ntihemuka - Author Interview

Mary: Call Me Blessed

Mary and Martha
The Woman at the Well


> What made you want to be a writer?

I've always wanted to be a writer. It doesn't make financial sense to write. You get paid is little chunks that are never enough to cover the bills, it seems, and you certainly can't count on a regular pay cheque! But I have to write. It's a need I have. If I don't write, it feels like a gear in my head starts to grind, and I need to express myself creatively in order to get back to normal. I've heard it said that writers don't retire, they die, and I think I can understand that. I'll keep writing, even after I stop making sense! It's not about "the job" so much as "the need."

> In the books you’ve written, who is you favourite character and why?

I think my favorite character so far is Nilloufar from "The Woman at the Well." She is the woman who meets Jesus at the well. She had five husbands and is living with a man. In Biblical times, this was horrific. She was really fun to write because she is such a survivor! She might go through men, but she doesn't let them ruin her. She isn't "good" or virtuous in any way, but she doesn't just get run under, either. She does what she needs to do to keep going. Getting into her head was really cathartic because I could experience her passion and drive without having to tame her down to keep her "good" in the cultural view. I loved that!

> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

Not a chance! I do horrible things to my characters. I break their hearts, I mess with their love lives, I dash their hopes, I marry them off to inappropriate people... No, I would never change places with them! Drama is great to read about, safely in a book. I wouldn't want that kind of drama in my real life!

> What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

The first novel I wrote was called "Love on the Links." It was a romance novel, and it was truly terrible. As you might have guessed, it remains (thankfully) unpublished. It took me about six weeks to write it. While it was a terrible piece of work, it taught me a lot about planning a novel and writing it. I was also very proud of myself to have finished an entire novel. It was an achievement!

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

The crucifixion of Jesus. I hate violence, and the Romans were some pretty brutal people when it came to executions. Having to focus on the torture was difficult for me. In fact, I almost abandoned the book I was writing because of it. I ended up finishing the book, but it didn't get accepted. It might have been that the readers could feel my discomfort with the topic. I'll certainly never attempt that scene again! There are too many ways to get around it...

> Share an interesting fan story.

The only time I have ever received fan mail, it was a package that someone sent to my publisher and asked that they redirect to me. In this package, the person had photocopied pieces of articles that someone else had written, and they highlighted the highly racist parts, in essense telling me that I was a bad person for having married a person of a different race from me. I was really shaken by the experience. It still makes my heart pound a little bit to think about it!

> If you still have one, what’s your day job? If you don’t, how long did it take before you could support yourself only on your writing?

I have worked all sorts of different day jobs. I tended to work part time so that I could focus on my writing. I've worked retail, worked as a bank teller, managed a retail store, and worked as an interior decor consultant. When I had my son, I quit working outside the home to be a mom and write whenever I could squeeze the time in. At this point, I probably make the same amount of money I did at a part time job. However, I'm pretty confident that I can get that up to a full time income with freelance work once my son is in school.

> What is your university degree in?

English Lit.

> Any tips against writers block?

Nope. Sometimes, if I have a deadline coming up, I don't have the luxury of writer's block. Other times, I watch entire seasons of TV shows, episode after episode, until I either finish the entire show, or feel guilty enough to get back to work and produce something that will make me some money!

> How many rejection letters did you get for your fist novel or story?

I actually don't approach things in a traditional way. I picked a market (for me the Christian market) and then picked a publisher and researched what they wanted. My options were limited, since most publishers want an agent. Then I just kept writing piece after piece until they finally accepted something. I think I sort of battered them down, after a while! It worked for me... What can I say?

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Yesterday's determination to start writing daily stayed with me. So, this morning I sat myself down at my computer - and though a few things tried to distract me - I managed to stay in my chair and write/revise chapter 1 of my novel!

It's a great feeling, knowing I'm working towards my goals again! Here's to keeping up the good work! ^_^

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Procrastinating Again

An author friend of mine recently recontacted me. She asked how writing was going and I wrote back all sorts of excuses as to why I wasn't writing. Good excuses. Logical excuses. But excuses all the same. It's time I buck up and start writing again.

So I took a walk. I used to walk everywhere in Toronto, and since I knew where I was going this gave my mind time to wander, to go over problems in my novel, work out plot points, characterization and even craft entire scenes. I lost that. First by getting a bicycle and then by getting an MP3 player. I lost my thinking/planning time. It's time to get that back. So I went for a walk. It was supposed to be a quick walk, from which I'd come back invigorated and ready to work. It turned into a 2 hour walk and I got back exhausted (but with 2 cheap but nice shirts!). Wow, procrastination strikes again.

I did buy a calendar which I intend to use the plastic holder for making a daily schedule. I've wanted to get back into this habit and it hasn't happened. The idea is to plan out your day, hour by hour to show that you have time to both write and get all the other work done you need to. Yes, it means less websurfing and doing all those things that make hours vanish. But writing happens - and that's the important thing because writing gives me a great sense of accomplishment and makes me happy the rest of the day. What I need to do now is find a good new writing time. Writing in the morning doesn't work for me anymore. I used to work at night but with my husband coming home then that won't work either. The late afternoon is when I tend to feel tired so... That's why I went to mornings. But somewhere in the day is enough time to write 100, 250, 1000 words. And I need to find and use that time.

So my new goal is to make a writing schedule. If I have to juggle things from day to day until I find the time that's best for my writing that's ok. So long as I get some writing done, every weekday, in the meantime. The only way to be a writer is to write!

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a 'Freelancer's Guide', that I stumbled across today in which she has a lot of great information. I'd highly recommend the posts on discipline and priorities.

Her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, has some excellent posts about writing as well. Time, and how much is needed per day to write a novel if you want to get technical. And his post on setting goals.