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Interview with Twilight
Jeanne Allen, Jeanine Berry, Shannah Biondine, and Sheri L. McGathy
Interview by Tina Morgan
Twilight Crossings is a delightful romantic fantasy anthology written by four talented ladies. Talking with them was very enjoyable and educational. The hardest part of this interview was deciding what had to be cut for length. I wish I could have posted all of their answers, they were very informative.
Fiction Factor: How did Twilight Crossings come about? Open call for submissions or a group decision?
Jeanne Allen: It began with Sheri McGathy and I considering the idea of us writing an anthology of speculative fiction. The idea quickly grew into an exciting possibility. We were happy Shannah Biondine and Jeanine Berry agreed to join us.
Living in different areas of the country, we started a private email list so we could communicate with each other with ease. To ensure there were no misunderstandings on what was expected in the project, we signed a contract among ourselves.
The four of us brainstormed ideas for a title to our anthology. We decided Twilight Crossings would encompass the differing ideas each of us had for a specfic story, yet the stories would be tied together with pivotal scenes taking place at twilight. We also critiqued each others' works.
It was an exciting moment, indeed, when Double Dragon Publishing offered us a contract.
FF: How has this anthology helped/hindered your writing career?
Jeanine Berry: What's a career without some fun? More than anything, working with Sheri, Jeanne and Shannah on Twilight Crossings has been great fun. I knew Sheri when the project began, as we've been critique partners for a while. But Jeanne and Shannah are new friends. I think each of us has brought our own unique strengths to this project, in writing and in promotion as well. I've been taking notes on what I've learned from the others!
FF: What inspired this particular story?
Shannah Biondine: As the introduction says, mainly mine was in homage to the original "Twilight Zone" series. While my Eppie-winning title was medieval romantic fantasy, I'm probably best known and very comfortable with Westerns. I got to wondering why the mysterious and slightly ominous drifter who arrives in a small town always seemed to be male. I wanted to craft a female drifter with a secret agenda, and "Eidolon" was born.
Sheri McGathy: The idea for my story 'Thief of Dreams' started as I listened to a song called The Holland Handkerchief, this version of the folk song sung by Connie Dover. The song is actually a great ghost story about star-crossed lovers and how even death can't part them. The Samhain ride within 'Thief of Dreams', was influenced by the song. The rest of the story: the Faery Ring, the stag, all came into existence as a direct result of the research I was doing on my larger WIP.
Jeanne: Inspiration came from my fascination with the history of science and learning about the struggles early scientists went through while introducing a new way of thinking into their world. In writing "Isadora," I imagined a future Earth that had to rebuild from mass nuclear destruction. Prior knowledge is lost, except for some vaguely remembered religious tenets that become the law of the land. I imagined a young woman in this society who begins to rediscover scientific truths and now has to decide whether to keep quiet about them to spare her life, or to share these truths with others, knowing that, in all probability, to do so would result in her execution.
There's a futuristic twist to the plot, and I'm a big fan of romance, so that's always a part of my stories.
Jeanine: The four of us put our heads together to come up with the overall theme, which called for a scene at twilight in each of our novellas when a pivotal decision is reached. As for my own novella, Twin Star, it's a story that's based on an ancient tale from thousands of years ago in the Middle East. I won't say more than that, as I am curious if anyone will recognize the original. I loved the themes of that story -- courage in the face of an uncertain future and love reaching across the abyss of division -- and spun them into my own version.
FF: When did you start writing?
Jeanne: In grade school I remember writing a series of little books about my rabbits. A friend and I published a neighborhood newspaper for a few summers during our upper elementary school years. (Published? More like painstakingly typed them out on an old Remington typewriter.) I wrote a book in 7th grade called The Adventures of Alfred Frog. I remember friends would be anxious to read the latest chapters.
Shannah: I actually wrote a couple short stories in high school and college, then focused on my career in business. I worked as an administrative assistant for many years and then purchased a resume/secretarial service, where the emphasis shifted from clerical duties to actually being paid more to write than to type. I still was an avid fiction reader, and in 1993 decided to take my own mental challenge and write a romance novel.
FF: When did you decide to seek publication?
Sheri: I'd say in my twenties. I wrote mainly fantasy poems then, the long story-type ones. I had some success with these. Then, after completing ELFEN GOLD in long poem form, a friend of mine encouraged me to write it out in novel form. I did. I was fortunate to have it published.
Shannah: Actually I sent my first novel out in 1994 to a NY publisher, took some writing classes and joined a critique group, began work on the next novel, and so on. I told myself that if something was viable enough to warrant the time and effort for months, I should try to get it published. Still believe that.
FF: Is fiction writing something you do for fun or do you consider it to be a job?
Sheri: Both. I love to write. It's a release for me, but it's also hard work. I can spend hours agonizing over a single sentence as I try to capture the exact essence or mood of that character or the tone of that scene. Sometimes I can write the sentence and I know I've gotten it right, but most of the time it requires work to get it just so.
Jeanne: Writing fiction is great fun for me, though the process may be grueling sometimes to find just the right words and to stay on a writing routine. Sheri and I sometimes joke about writing being a "grindingly miserable journey," but the end result is worth the effort. When a scene or a chapter or a novel falls into place, that is very satisfying.
FF: Any other publishing credits you would like to share with our readers?
Jeanine: Any other publishing credits you would like to share with our readers? Besides Twilight Crossings, I have two fantasy novels out. Dayspring Dawning and Dayspring Destiny both tell the story of Elinna Serru, an adept of the House of Lohenrin who wants to use her Power only to heal but finds herself drawn into a web of intrigue by the man she loves. Dayspring Dawning is an Eppie finalist for best fantasy novel of 2002. I've written an SF novel with Darrell Bain called The Sex Gates, which was recently named to the Best of 2002 list at Knowbetter.com. On a bit different note, I've also written a young adult novel that's purely fun. It's called The Graveyard Mystery.
Shannah: My IMPASSIONED series of Westerns are published both electronically and in mass market paperback with New Concepts Publishing, and they can purchase the Eppie winner, SHADOW IN STARLIGHT, either as an Ebook or trade paperback, from LTDBooks.
Sheri: I have one fantasy novel out, ELFEN GOLD, and several poems listed on the web. SHADOWLAND seems to be the most popular. I also write articles with Jeanne Allen, which we post at our sites. We've dubbed the writing series: Learning as We Go.
Jeanne: My science fiction romance, The Most Daring Dreams is available from New Concepts Publishing
Jeanne: Before submitting a work to a publisher, find one or two critique partners that are knowledgeable in the genre you write. Have them read your work, and don't take criticism personally. Weigh the advice given and proceed from there. You might search a local writing chapter or online writing lists for critique partners.
Find a friend who also writes. You can help each other stay on task and encourage each other in your writing.
When the dream comes true of getting your first novel published, expect to spend a lot of time away from writing while you promote your work. I've discovered that promoting one's work is an inescapable part of an author's life.
And most of all, have fun on the journey!
Jeanine: The best advice I can give is to keep at it and don't give up. I started writing very early but let it go for years, mainly because of lack of confidence. I wish now that I had kept writing all those years. Take advantage of the many new opportunities to get your work out there via the Internet and electronic publishing and keep pushing the writing envelope.
Shannah: Writing is no less consumptive than becoming a concert pianist or Olympic figure skater. Talent's important, but technical aspects can be learned. No one can teach you dedication. You have to have it and nurture it within yourself.
Sheri: Never allow anyone to shatter your dreams.
Read Tina Morgan's review of Twilight Crossings
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