Friday, February 15, 2013

Interview 14: Anne-Sweazy-Kulju

Greetings humans, half-breeds, and everything in between. A while back, I had the pleasure to interview my new friend, Anne-Sweazy-Kulju. She is visiting the ECS as a guest and sharing loads of interesting insights into her work. Be sure to look around and see what she has to offer. Here are the results of our interview. A good time was truly had by all, and here’s how it went down.
Hi there Anne! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ECS Universe. Don’t worry about the darkness, your eyes will adjust.

 So tell me, who is Anne-Sweazy-Kulju?

As a middle child from a dysfunctional family, I could focus inward, almost hypnotically, when I  needed to escape. My first stories were published in my 30’s. Following a life-changing accident two years later, I wrote my first novel. *A career-change was needed; my husband said he only knew two ways I could make money from bed--but, I did not want to be a telemarketer (-; 

I got an agent, then a movie offer… it fell through. Discouraged, I put the manuscript away for seventeen years. A challenge made me edit and submit it to a publisher, and…here I am.

You know dysfunctional families are the norm now, but as a writer, all life experiences can to inspiration or motivation. Your story sounds very interesting.

So whacha got for me today?

The thing with feathers,” my debut novel, is an historical-fiction/saga and guaranteed knee-hugger. It’s actually the second novel I wrote, but for the personal reason that I thought my heroine, Blair, might be of help to real victims of personal tragedies such as hers, this was the first manuscript I edited and submitted.

I am a careful researcher, and readers will find mine to be accurate depictions of settings and events for the 1920‘s to 40‘s on Oregon’s coast. Some characters are modeled after real persons, and some sub-plots are factual, but the main story is purely fiction.

This sounds great. I love stories from different eras and can appreciate the difficulty and artistry of blending fact and fiction together in order to create a compelling story. I can’t wait to learn more.

 So who’s starring is this 2 dimensional script read of The Thing with Feathers?

My self-proclaimed Baptist preacher, Bowman, is a bad guy who was “conditioned” into insanity as a young man, by his own father. He grew up to possess less-than-sterling character and even scantier morals. He is my story’s murderer, racist and child-rapist.

My victim is Blair Bowman, the Preacher’s daughter. She grew up without a mother and has lived a hellish existence as her father’s concubine, since the age of 5. At sixteen years old and made pregnant by her father, she suffers a dissociative disorder. It helps her to cope. But, like any classic Greek hero, she’s broken and must find a way to fix herself, if she is to save her child.

My hero is Sean Marshall. He is loosely fashioned after the real life photographer, Clyde Hudson. Sean Marshall is the youngest son of a Tillamook County dairy farmer. While out taking photographs, he happens upon an unspeakable crime and knows his word would be no good against that of his highly-respected town preacher… so he snaps a picture. That’s what gets the whole ball rolling.

Wow, just reading the descriptions of these characters lets you know just how intense this story will be. This is definitely not a light read, but seems to quite dynamic already.

 Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?

When I write I am very structured. I have a well fleshed-out outline, with an ending, and some twenty pages, typed, on every primary and secondary character in my book. That‘s before I ever begin putting words on paper. I know them, and I know what any one of them would do in a given situation. I can just sit back and let my characters move my story forward.  As for what else I am doing, I am sitting at my kitchen counter with my laptop, my usual spot, and eating my fudge brownie. It is after four am, and I have the TV on and dogs playing for background noise.  My current project is another historical fiction action-fest with the working title, “Grog Wars.” This one is set in 1850’s Portland, Oregon, Shanghai capital of the entire world. The story follows the main character, Burke Kaufmann, one of the first Germans to bring beer to the northwest, and his young wife, Lili Brucke Kaufmann, a bum-magnet with a good head on her shoulders. She is forced into an arranged marriage with Burke Kaufmann. Burke is then forced by his own father to grow the family’s interests in America, leaving his bride behind for nearly two years.

I like your methodology; it’s very precise. I think character is very important to the development of a good story, and like you said, if it’s done well the characters will write the stories themselves.

What author(s) has most influenced your writing? Why or how?

I think it would be Jack London. Like myself, he does not believe there is any such thing as writer’s block. In fact, I have a huge banner above my office alcove that boasts a quote by London. It reads, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” It sounded like a motto worth adopting. I read him early on in high school, when I was dreaming of maybe being a writer one day. I find his style epic, startling visual, and unapologetic. I have tried to incorporate those qualities of style into my own.

I agree London has quite a style to his writing that is very realistic. I like the idea that you have a motto for your whole literary expression; maybe I should think about getting one.

 Whose brain are you just itching to scratch?

John F. Kennedy, because I want to ask who killed him, of course.  But, also because I sort of believe he was still alive until just a few years ago, and was poised to be the ‘Anti-Christ‘. Or… maybe that’s just a future story idea I’ve been rolling around in my head.

Seriously, I’ve heard that theory before; maybe someone should make it into a story. As for wanting to know who killed him, I think I’d rather no why? We all think we know why because of what was going on in the country at that time, but I don’t believe that any assignation as mysterious as this one can be so easily understood.

Who is so you and why?

I am a little OCD and I am constantly fussing over the room I just cleaned or the meal I just cooked…I have been compared to Monica from “Friends” [played by Courtney Cox]. I also used to be a gourmet cook for my B&B.

What a classic character. I know someone who gets compared to her all the time. What so great about it is that a little OCD is enough to drive your friends and family crazy, just not crazy enough to for them to love you any less. Sometimes it’s good to be a OCD or as I like to call it “super focused.”

What’s your ideal reading spot for your next highly anticipated read?
Reading...oh, it’s a ritual. I must be comfortable, and for me that is not as easy as it sounds. If it is cold outside, I am in my favorite jeans, Sanuks, and a thick Fisherman’s sweater, with a great cup of coffee. I curl up in my chaise lounge, and with my iPod speakers set to play my favorite play list, I start reading. If it is hot outside, the jeans become capris, the coffee becomes iced tea, and the “spot” is at the beach on Whelan Island. My home is sort of across from the small island’s access that has been donated to the state of Oregon. The state has made such a lovely state park out of the island. My favorite place to read is down on the beach there. My husband and I usually have the whole stretch of beach all to ourselves, our dogs and a family of Bald Eagles.

At the moment, I only have time to read my own books. I have “Bodie” releasing in early spring, and I am up to my elbows on “Grog Wars”.

Yeah, finding time to read for pleasure and be difficult when you’re in the zone with your own writing, but there is always satisfaction in reading your final draft and being happy with it. I love the fact that your reading style is ritualistic; I tend to have a certain way I like to do things as well.

What was your favorite book or story, pre-teen years?

I somehow missed this book in my childhood though I’ve been told by so many what a great book it is. Of course it’s on my TBR list, but I shudder to think just how long my TBR list is at the moment…

Now this is where the questions get a little kooky; are you ready?


Alright then, here we go.

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Ah, a good solid choice; I love it when people pick a classic movie as their all time fave.

What makes you geek out?

Pit Bulls. They are such cool dogs (the best disposition of any AKC breed), loyal, smart, loving. And they are treated so shabbily. At the turn of the century they were such good babysitters for small children that no good parent would be without one. They were nicknamed, “The Nanny Dog”. Then along came the wars and it was learned that these noble dogs would give their lives for the soldiers. Many died beside their partners and many won medals of honor. When I see one mistreated or unloved, my heart just squeezes. A couple of months ago, I had a friend drive me over 250 miles and spent over $500 to fetch our lovely Leah, who was on death row. She had not had a good life so far (a lot of pain) -- and she is only 8 months old. Now she is happy and very, very loved. I can really get into that!

I love dogs, all kinds, and really like when I see someone embrace a particular breed to grace and love instead of fear and apprehension. I thinks Pits are good dogs.

 So what’s testing your patience right now?

I wanted to read, “The Life of Pi,” but I have three different novels in different stages of completion and could not find the time. Now the movie is out, so I am anxious to see it--as soon as I can.

I’m with you there. I have several book that I’ve been meaning to get to that now have movies out, so maybe I’ll see the films and then read later; who knows. BTW- Life of Pi is a really good book. I want to see the movie just to compare, but again, haven’t done so yet.

When the soundtrack of your life is playing in your head, what songs express your glee and what songs bring out your rage?

Glee, in the form of soothing, strengthening, relaxing, fun:

The Funeral - Band of Horses
Detlef Schrempf - Band of Horses
   Wild Horses - The Rolling Stones
   Reign on Me - The Who
   Bukowski - Modest Mouse
   The Time of Your Life - Green Day
   Hands - Jewel
   Rolling in the Deep <=listen-  Adele
   In the Arms of the Angels - Sarah McLachlan
   Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
   Drops of Jupiter - Train

*The Killer of Glee is the music from that commercial for the Humane Society. I have to leave the room.

*I can’t stand anything that is rap (so disrespectful to women), and I dislike most Hip-Hop (ditto the reason). When I hear it, it could bring out my rage, I guess. (Truthfully, I am not much of a “rage-er”)

Just playing devil’s advocate, do you think rage/heavy metal music might bring out your rage? Just curious. I like all kinds of music, but it is hard to find popular music with a truly positive message.  I love the choices you have listed here. You have very varied taste in music and groups. I can totally dig it…And yeah, that commercial is intense.

What’s the most fun experience you’ve ever had, to date?

I and my pledge sisters were tasked with breaking into a fraternity house and pulling that semester’s sorority R.F. (they say it stands for “rat-fink”, but we all knew the first word stood for “royally” and the second word was…not ‘fink’). Believe me, we were up to the challenge (you’ll find out why in a minute).

So, when the boys were all away at classes, we: put laundry detergent in their swimming pool and turned on the filter; lifted all of the toilet seats and covered the bowls with clear plastic wrap before putting the seat back down (splash!); knotted every shoe in the house to one-another, and arranged them walking down the stairs; we sprinkled uncooked rice under their bottom bed sheets; and, (the crème de la crème) we unscrewed all of the shower heads, put in blue dye leak-tracer rounds, and put the shower heads back on, no one the wiser. We left a tape of the Blues Brothers in the VCR. I almost wet myself when, the next day, my boyfriend’s roommate showed up for class looking a bit blue.

Mean? Maybe. But before you judge me, I just want you all to know what they did to us a week earlier. They showed up at my apartment, where 4 Delta Zeta’s lived together, kidnapped us in our pajamas, and left us in the middle of nowhere in the So. Cal desert at 2 in the morning, with 2 bottles of Pepsi. This was so we could drink the Pepsi, walk to the nearest place for a dime, and call someone for a ride home (yes, I just dated myself: it was just a dime back then). A trucker pulled over for us (four scantily-dressed co-eds on the side of the rode at 2 am). Fortunately he was a gentleman with daughters of his own, and when he heard our story, boy, he was ticked off! He could have just as easily been Jack the Ripper, though. Turn-about is fair play, and payback can sometimes be the most fun you’ll ever have!

Sweet! College is wonderful and that’s all I have to say about that :)

 Remind me again how I was lucky enough to meet you?

I responded to an invitation in one of my LinkedIn threads (thank you, again!)

No, thank you. I’m glad I did it. I has been a wonderful experience.

Not that you can see into the future, but in your opinion, what does the future hold?

When I was in my 20’s-30’s, I was too busy living life to write about it. Now I am too busy writing about life to live it. In five or more years I will have the pendulum swinging the other way a little bit--I just hope my body is not too beat to sh*t to enjoy it (I really had fun in my 20’s!)

Ok humans, half-breeds, and everything in between, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. For more from Anne-Sweazy-Kulju, check out these great links and a great GIVEAWAY below:

…In finale, author Anne Sweazy-Kulju is offering a FREE Swag Bag for her book, “The Thing with Feathers”. In the bag you will find:  an autographed copy of the book, a 15-oz. customized "Reality is Over-rated" Latte Mug, and one pound of gourmet coffee from Tillamook County's finest, Five Rivers Coffee Roasters. All you have to do is stop by, read today’s interview, and leave a nifty comment. Winner announced right here, at twitter, and at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow.