As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.
This week we hear from author of Out of the Shadow, Jamie Winn, who tells us how she crafted a story using her experience as a psychotherapist, drawing her readers into the deep workings of the mind and the therapeutic process.
Name: Jamie Winn
Location and one thing you love about living there: I am so fortunate to have found a home by the ocean in Oceanside, Calfornia. Not only does it have year-round great weather, but I can walk steps to the beach (literally). I don't care what kind of day I'm having, all I have to do is traispe down to the ocean and all my cares and worries are lifted. It truly is a spiritual experience to be by the sea.
Author of: Out of the Shadow Book available: Amazon at amazon.com/dp/B00mPYM59C
Tell us a bit about yourself: I earned a graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and worked as a psychotherapist for over 25 years. I have one prior novel published in genre and a play produced by the Actor’s Alliance Festival in San Diego. My poetry has been published in a compilation, For the Love of Writing, by the San Diego Writer's Workshop in 2011, and my play, Gotcha!, is being read at the Village Arts Theater in Carlsbad, California, in May 2012.
Tell us about your novel, Out of the Shadow: In telling someone else's story, you might unwittingly become apart of the plot. Out of the Shadow tells the story of two women caught in the same deadly web. Rebecca Rosen survives a rape and her husband's murder only to begin having flashbacks of childhood abuse...possibly at the hand of the rapist. She hires Psychologist, Dr. Sarah Abrams, to help her uncover the truth. Will they discover the perpetrator's identity time to save her life, or will she wind up at the mercy of this demented killer?
What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? I have always been a voracious reader. It's a joy to discover a good story and to allow my imagination transport me to another time and place. I remember my mother catching me late at night with a flashlight and a book under the covers. Reading is a lifelong passion.
Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? There are so many books that have had a huge impact on me, it's hard to describe them all. My forth grade teacher, Mrs. Moore, would read to the class everyday after lunch. It's in her classroom that I discovered Charlotte's Web and The Princess and the Goblin. As an adolescent I fell in love with Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Buttler in Gone with the Wind and later found Hemingway and D. H. Lawrence. In college I was assigned Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and discovered on my own the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred years of Solitude and Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. And the list goes on...
What was the seed of inspiration for Out of the Shadow? As a psychotherapist, I wanted to create a novel that was both entertaining, but also gave the reader insight into the therapeutic process as well as the characters' psychological makeup. One night in the dark my imagination took over. What if a stranger were to waltzed into my bedroom? Would I be able to see them? What could happen? Where would it lead? My answers were the ignition that started the engine of my story.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? Yes, I'm hoping readers will track along with the main characters' struggles and evolution throughout the story and will gain deeper insight into the impact our early lives have over us. The main message is that we need to understand our past in order to be present for ourselves in the now. Not to dwell on the past, but rather to use it in a way that creates a meaningful and productive life.
Out of the Shadow is your second novel – is it different this time round? Definitely. I had my first novel, Kiva Fire (about to be re-released as The Spirit Keepers, 2013), published by an Internet publishing company in 2001. This was before Internet publishing had taken off and, while they did minimum promotion, there really wasn't much activity. Now I'm having the opportunity to publish a novel myself and take all the responsibility for maintenance of my website and other vehicles for self promotion. It's been a whirlwind of activity lately and has taken almost every moment of my time, but I love it. It gives me the chance to develop my own outreach and to really connect with people who are interested in my work. It's been a joy so far.
What challenges have you faced in your writing career? I think the most difficult challenge I've faced is the challenge of not fitting in with what is fashionable at the moment. I don't write to mimic the fad of the moment, I write because I'm moved to tell a story and I want to share it with others. I have had a number of agents and editors say they enjoyed my story or liked my writing, but they weren't sure they could sell it at the time. But now I can publish it myself and I don't have to try to copy the current trend.
What has been your best moment as a writer? I've had a number of great moments. The greatest are when someone reads my work and lets me know how much they enjoyed it. That's happened a lot lately since I posted the first chapter of my new mystery/suspense online. I write because I want to share my story with others and it's pure joy when they appreciate what I have to say.
Who is your author idol? I've listed many of my idols under the question about books that changed my life, but I can add a few recent names: Jodi Pincoult, Khalid Hosseini, Gillian Flynn, Abraham Berghese, to name a few.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters? Being a former psychotherapist, I can't help but see a little of myself in the Pscyhologist, Sarah Abrams. She's a smart and self-reliant woman who's had to deal with her own ghosts in order to become the best therapist she can be. Isn't that true for writers too. To paraphrase what Sarah says in the book, you can only take your characters as far as you have gone yourself.
Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? Both. I am making my dream come true by publishing my novels, but I still have work to do, more stories to tell, once these books have found a home online.
What is your personal cure for procrastination? Frankly, I haven't found a real “cure,” but I fluxuate between periods of procrastination and attention to other demands in my life, to periods of intense writing. I know every writer has their own schedule and system, but mine seems to work for me. I think many writers are too consumed with worry they'll procrastinate or encounter writer's block. Rather than waste your energy worrying, it would be better used sitting in front of that computer and letting your imagination do the work.
What does your workspace look like? I have a small corner of a large second bedroom with a desk, file cabinet and a lumbar support chair. Nothing special at all. My belief is that the space isn't what's important, it's being in that space that counts.
Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? The main occupational hazard, aside from a sore back and stiff fingers from typing all day, is the emotional let-down of dealing with rejection and criticism, sometimes fair, sometimes unfair. We as writer's need to develop a thick skin to cope with placing our work out into the public arena. Not everyone will like our work or rave about our latest effort. We have to expect negative reactions. I think using the criticism to shape and improve our writing is the most constructive way to deal with it.
Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? A day? Only one? Sure there have been plenty of days when I've considered quitting, but it never lasts long. I'm not writing for the fame and fortune. I'm writing because I want and need to express myself and share my stories. This is my calling, not necessarily my conscious choice.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Too much. I run a business and do all the accounting, acquiring, hiring and, on ocassion, firing. And whenever I can, I sneak off to the gym for a quick workout or a walk by the beach. Life is full, but never too full to find time write when I'm so inclined.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? Finding time to write is numero uno. If I don't write, I begin to get an itch. It's a mental itch that nags at me until I scratch it by sitting down and working on a project. That takes persistence and focus and being able to set aside other distractions. It's not always easy to do, but if I want to remain somewhat sane, I have to do it.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school? The most important thing I learned at school is how to craft a story. I don't care whether you're writing fiction, non-fiction, articles or poems, story is at the basis of all good writing. All well-written stories follow a certain structure and must have conflict and tension. We intuitively absorb a mental concept of story from our exposure to it, but the true craft must be studied and analyzed. I also learned about human nature, about what makes us tick, which is essential to character development. In my opinion, a characters' motivation is what drives a story worth reading.
Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? Being an academic for so many years, I enjoyed writing papers, but lost the connection between the written word, imagination and creativity. It's only been in the last few years that I have once again discovered the joy of crafting a story, and known for certain it was what I had to do.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Of course the first piece of advice I'm sure they all hear is: Write. Just write. But I also advise any new writer to find fellow writers with whom to share their work. It's difficult, if not impossible, to write in a vacume and know if your work is any good. Look for critique groups, organizations, such as Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and classes. Feedback from others has moulded me into the writer I am today.