MK: I mostly write in my home office. It is a quiet part of the house, and my room to do with what I want. However, with that said, I keep my mind open to write just about anywhere the inspiration or idea(s) hits me. For example, I keep a notepad with me when I am out for a walk with my dog, so that I can pull over and take a seat on a rock to scribble out my notes. I’ll also spend time (during the spring, summer, fall months) sitting out on my front patio, thinking up ideas. Likewise, out on my waterfront dock, where I’ll often take a notebook.
IM: Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write?
MK: I tend to pace and talk to myself, talking out the first few sentences or paragraphs before I sit down and get my fingers moving. Every so often, I’ll take a break and do the entire thing over again. It is the best way to allow my mind to accept the story I’m putting to paper. Of course, while I am writing, I may alter things a bit, but this is how I start and keep going. Also, I need to have notepads or paper at the side, so that I can jot things down to either recall at a later time or work out, if I need to.
As someone living with a brain injury sustained from childhood, this ritual allows me to break up my writing into sections and, therefore, not become too overwhelming, tiring, (what I call writing fatigue), or frustrating.
I also like to have with me a warm cup of tea and a few cookies to munch on. J
IM: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?
MK: Well, I think the biggest thing about me, I just revealed in that second question: that I live with a brain injury, which has brought to my life, also, a learning disability.
Because the two are very similar, but not always necessarily paired together, I want to provide the definitions for those who may not fully understand:
Brain injury: An acquired brain injury (ABI) is damage to the brain which occurs after birth, due to a traumatic event, such as a blow to the head, or a non-traumatic event, such as a medical event (stroke, etc). Symptoms of a brain injury can include (but are not limited to): Unconsciousness; confusion and disorientation; difficulty remembering new information; headache; dizziness; trouble speaking coherently; changes in emotions or sleep patterns.
Learning disability: a condition giving rise to difficulties in acquiring knowledge and skills to the level expected of those of the same age, especially when not associated with a physical handicap.
I have written about my struggles in my latest book, titled Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path. I include in my book my writing journey and how I have found it very therapeutic and inspirational.
IM: Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative?
MK: Being so busy with work and other things around the house, it’s sometimes hard for me to set a time to sit down and write. I also don’t want to force my brain to do something it can’t because it is preoccupied or tired. I write when the moment is right. The feeling of creativity or inspiration is not always difficult for me to find, it is the moments where my mind can settle and I can find the time…. I hope this makes sense.
IM: What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?
MK: Don’t put too much thought into it; let it be natural. Every writer is their own person and should go with what works for them. Be open-minded to listening to others offer best practices, maybe try them out, but go with only what fits best for you. If writing is what you really want to do, try not to let others steer you away from what you want with negativity. While you can learn, grow and improve, don’t let someone tell you that you cannot be a writer. It’s your course, not theirs.
IM: Where/when do you first discover your characters?
MK: Because my latest book is my story (a memoir) the characters in it were always part of my life, especially me. J In my fictional stories, namely my first book (and series) Chronicles of a Girl, I first discovered my character Chloe in a dream and she grew as I thought and wrote about her. Most of my main characters are already (sort of) established/discovered/created before I start writing, but every so often, a new one or a bigger meaning for an already existing character pops up as the writing, the story and ideas flow.
IM: What inspired your story/stories?
MK: Well, I have always liked characters with deep-rooted meaning and purpose, and hidden abilities that show compassion and strength, but it is life in general that kind of inspires me. The experiences I go through and things I have learned or witnessed, and then creating a spin on it…. That’s for fiction.
For non-fiction, such as my memoir or the blogs I write, it is the same things; inspiration from experiences. But also the idea of inspiring and sharing with others.
Standing/sitting on my waterfront dock, staring out into the big blue lake is very peaceful; it helps clear my mind, and I find it inspiring alone.
IM: Do you get lost in your writing?
MK: I do. I sometimes find that the characters and worlds I create through fictional writing are easier for me to relate to than the real world I live in. But it is those characters and worlds that help me deal with things. Although sometimes, it is just fun to get lost. I enjoy reflecting on ‘what happened’ (which I feel can provide growth or better understanding) and ‘what if’ scenarios.
IM: Who or what is your “muse” at the moment?
MK: This is a hard question for me. Can I say that ‘life’ is my muse? From my family and friends, to my dog, to my surroundings; which is why I said in an earlier question that creativity and inspiration are not difficult to find.
IM: When did you begin to write seriously?
MK: Upon reflection, I have come to realize that creative writing and storytelling have always been part of who I am. But I began really taking writing seriously when I began working backstage in production at the historical Red Barn theater which, sadly, was destroyed by a fire in 2009. It was helpful for me and my job to read through scripts, to get an idea of how the show was supposed to go. I would also sometimes help actors with lines during rehearsals. I can’t say specifically what it was, but something in my head just clicked and I suddenly wanted to learn more about—and polish up on—something I always enjoyed.
Over the years, through writing, I have come across moments of self-discovery, and so, it has also become a serious coping and therapeutic tool for me.
IM: How long after that were you published?
MK: I began working at the Red Barn in ‘93 and it was after that first season that I enrolled into a creative writing program. It was a correspondence program, so I got to work at my own pace. It wasn’t until 2007 that my first book, Chronicles of a Girl, was published. During those fourteen years in between was my schooling that I mentioned, a handful of short stories and articles (some that made it to print in magazines and papers), and some personal matters that were tragic, but also eye-opening.
IM: What makes a writer great?
MK: I think a great writer is someone who is strong and true to themselves. Someone who is unafraid of venturing into something new. (When I say ‘unafraid’ I don’t necessarily mean ‘not scared,’ I just mean willing to go forward and not give up) Someone who is open minded to changes and different rituals, someone who isn’t blinded to their way being the only correct way. Someone who knows that perfection and greatness are not achieved through one’s own style or methods, nor just through pleasing others (for example: writing within the current trend), but together. Write for others just as much as you write for yourself. For me, there are no rules and there is no genre, there are just great words and great stories.
IM: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?
MK: I make plenty of notes for myself, I draw maps, and I visualize. My stories have to flow like a good movie within my mind. I talk to myself as if I’m already reading the book (by sections) and sometimes, I even get up from my chair and act out the scene. I try to create timelines for myself, but I try not to worry about them too much, so I won’t just end up getting overly frustrated.
IM: How have your life experiences influenced your writing/stories?
MK: Growing up with the challenges I did, even though hard at times, taught me to see the value in so many things… words, actions, ideas. I enjoy the idea of inspiring and sharing. I am learning and growing all of the time and I feel my writing craft and my stories are right there with me. I see the potential in almost everything and I am willing to explore. I have been seeing things this way since a very early age.
IM: Have you written, or do you want to write in another genre?
MK: The word ‘genre’ seems to be how we categorize our stories and books, but like me, I don’t feel they can be categorized. I have been through so much and still go through things. I don’t quite understand the need for labels, but I go with what works. Only if I do, it happens after I have written.
I never set out to write Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path as a ‘memoir,’ per se, I just wanted to tell the story of me and what I’ve gone through. Just like with my first book, Chronicles of a Girl. It wasn’t until quite a while after I was done that I realized it falls under “dystopian fiction”.
I write what I write.
IM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
MK: Whether I become a well-known, “famous” author, remain a somewhat hidden gem, make lots of money, or just enough to survive, writing is me. Books, blogs, or short stories, I’ll always be writing somewhere, and the best somewhere to find me and my work is at www.markkoning.com
For more interviews with your favorite authors, visit Trisha Sugarek *** Writer at Play *** www.writeratplay.com