Tell us something about yourself
Let’s see, I play the guitar/sing. I love to paint/draw, and particularly love comic book art. My wife is a physician (blood/cancer), and we’ve been married for 8 years. She’s also in the United States Air Force. We have to dogs that I love (a beagle mix and a chihuahua mix … both are rescues). I’m the youngest of 4 children, and my oldest sibling will turn 50 soon. Most people think I’m younger than I really am, because I refuse to act my age. I have degrees in psychology, and a graduate degree in counseling. I spent several years as a grant writer. That’s about it!
You started the Weekly Chapter Challenge group on the Writers Digest Community site. What prompted you to start it?
It’s not uncommon for writers to feel a certain amount of career isolation, which is ironic, because it’s what draws many of us to the pursuit in the first place. I’m no different. I had completely finished the draft of my first full manuscript in relative obscurity. (Only my wife and a few friends really knew I was attempting to write anything.) At any rate, I was feeling completely alone with my accomplishment. Furthermore, I wanted to start working on a new project while editing. The problem was that I was finding it hard to make time to write “new stuff”. I’d signed up to WD a few weeks before, and thought that maybe I could find a couple of more folks who’d like to partner up in a work exchange program. I created the Chapter Challenge as a tool to help keep me motivated and hopefully aid a few other writers as well. Now we’ve got 60 plus members and growing!
How have you found the experience of exchanging chapters so far?
As far as drafting the new story goes, it has become absolutely essential to my creative process. I literally write with the idea that Peggy will be reading my work imbedded in my mind. It pushes me in ways I hadn’t even imagined. Even more important to me is the idea that I’ll be reading her story in return. It creates such a reciprocal energy. If I’m fortunate to ever be successful at this writing thing, I think I’ll owe much of that success to my partnership.
How can readers join the group?
The only real qualifications are that you be interested in growing as a writer, have some kind of tangible writing goal, and be willing to read and offer feedback on the work of someone else on a regular basis. Whether that be polishing an existing work chapter-by-chapter, or creating new to content to share with a partner each week is entirely up to you. If you’re interested, then head over to the WD forum and check out the description of the group, and get some tips on advertising for a partner.
Here’s the link: http://community.writersdigest.com/group/weeklychapterchallenge
You write YA fantasy. What were some of you favorite books growing up, and how do you feel they influenced you as a writer?
I was heavily influenced by Stephen King, which sounds odd for a young person, but he was the first writer that really grabbed me in my adolescence. His writing is extremely vivid and character driven. People generally think of King as the guy that comes up with all of these creepy ideas and scary books, but fans really know that the meat of his stories are all about the normal people that live through these incredible journeys. I remember reading The Stand, and weeping over the death of a character for the first time. I really try/hope to bring characters to life in my own work the way he did for me.
The other ‘watershed’ reading moment for me was Harry Potter. I was working with teenagers as a mental health counselor at the time the books first became really popular. I recall seeing some of the other counselors using these crazy wizard boy books in their treatment plans, and watching these kids from some of the worst possible situations eating them up! I read them, and instantly understood why young people would relate. That’s the moment I decided that I wanted to write for young people and try to make stories that would mean something to them.
I was probably also influenced subconsciously by a number of comic book writers!
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The
The best is from Stephen King’s book, On Writing. In it he says that he received the following advice from one of his early writing instructors: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story; when you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are NOT the story.”
I keep that taped above my writing desk. Maybe someday it’ll sink in!
The worst advice I’ve ever gotten was to give up.
You have a day job. How do you find the time to write? Any special place or time you do your writing?
I tutor middle-school students during the school year, which leaves me with some unusual writing hours. I’ll squeeze my writing time in where I can fit it. Also, I try to write new material earlier in the day (before noon) as that tends to be my most mentally aware time. I write at home quite often, but I’m most productive when I leave the house and head to a local coffee spot or library. I can really focus when I’m out in public, but find myself constantly answering phones and checking e-mail when I stay home.
What do you like to read?
I’ll read just about anything! However, I spend most of my reading energy on keeping up with current YA content. In general, I’m reading whatever I see students walking around reading.
If you could be any character in any book, who would you be?
Hmm, I think I might like to be Hermione from the Harry Potter books. She’s so smart and brave! Sadly, I’m probably more like Neville … I also wouldn’t mind being Gandolf from the Lord of the Rings books. He gets to carry a walking stick, ride the best horse ever, and knows pretty much everything.
Have you had anything published?
Other than several grants, no. I’m working on a short story collection that I’d like to publish electronically on Amazon in the near (?) future, and of course I’d love to sell my completed manuscript once I’m finished editing.
Tell us a bit about your current work in progress. Care to post an extract?
The project I’m working on for the Chapter Challenge is a first-person paranormal action/adventure story about a teenaged boy named Abraham. Abe discovers that he is actually Abaddon, the Biblical being who’s going to bring about Armageddon, destroying the earth and everyone on it. It’s my version of an ‘angel’ story, and hopefully one that boys will want to read. Here’s an excerpt from when Abe learns his true identity from his grandfather:
Grandpa stood and walked over to his ancient writing desk. It was probably the only uncluttered surface in the room. He stooped to one knee, and began searching the underside of the desk for some unseen artifact.
“There it is,” he muttered. When he stood, I could see that he was holding a small yellowed envelope in his hands. After collecting the tobacco tin off the top of the desk, he returned to his chair. He handed me the envelope and began filling his pipe.
I held the letter with the tips of my sweaty shaking fingers, thinking about all of the things that could be inside. I turned it over once, then twice, trying to divine some clue as to its contents. There were no words on the outside, and no address. It was old, judging by how the once white paper had yellowed in every place but the very center. The paper it was made out of felt like nothing I’d felt before; it was thick—like animal hide—and had an incredible buttery smoothness. It was also evidently a formal letter for it had been sealed by wax, which had been parted at some point. I looked up at grandpa, uncertain what he meant for me to do.
He took a couple of puffs from his pipe, smiled gently, and said, “Open it.”
I parted the lips of the envelope. Only a single sheet of folded paper lay inside, which I opened. There were two sentences ornately scrawled in golden ink:
Watch over this child until he is of age. His name is, Abaddon.
“That letter was left on my doorstep fifteen years ago, along with a newborn child,” Gramps said, his words echoing to my ears like haunted shouts from a dream.
“Me?” I asked dumbly. I was begging him not to answer in my mind.
“Yes,” Gramps replied, his eyes filled with a terrible sadness.
Where can readers find you on the web?
My blog, The Open Vein, is here: http://the-open-vein-ejwesley.blogspot.com/
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Seeing as how I’m an aspiring writer myself, I’m not sure what I could offer other than what I tell myself every morning: If you stop dreaming, you stop trying. If you stop trying, you stop living.
Any last words?
Thanks, Peggy, for letting me share with your readers, and for being such an awesome writing partner!