Writer Wednesday – Jean Stringam

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…

Jean Stringam counts her characters among her list of friends and solves plots during breakfast, lunch, and dinner; however, recently she has been impressed with how numbers describe life – and we’re not talking just the bank balance.

The number five currently figures strongly in her life since she has recently published five books, has earned her living in five different careers, has lived in five countries, and has five sisters, five children, and five university degrees.

Perhaps a few lists would be helpful:

    Five different careers – Professor of literature, piano teacher, actor (member of SAG), secretary, choir conductor/opera chorus pianist/church organist
    Five countries – Canada, France, China, England, United States (but she’s only been a citizen of two)
    Five sisters – learned more than she thought possible
    Five children – learned more than she ever wanted to know (about love)
    Five degrees – Ph.D. University of Alberta, B.Ed. University of Calgary, M.A. & B.A. Brigham Young University, ARCT Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
Now that I’m retired, I no longer write academic essays and articles. My fiction for young adult and middle grade readers include the following:
Solstice Magic (A Calgary Stampede Adventure, #1)
The Hoarders (paperback & Nook e-Book)
Balance (paperback & Kindle e-Book)
How Not to Cry in Public: A Novel (paperback & Kindle e-Book)
The Wise Men: A Christmas Adventure (Kindle e-Book only)
Regrets Tree on Fire (for release in summer 2013; projected as paperback & Kindle e-Book)

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m looking for a good illustrator for a Early Reader series, for grades 3 and 4. Have five of the stories written and another ten sketched.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
I have written about this on my website under “About Jean Stringam.” It’s called “The Chicken Story”

What are your three favorite books?
It changes very rapidly depending on what I’m reading. Over time, however, I’ve tended to enjoy O.S. Card.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I’m reading Wool. I like to immerse myself in an author’s world, so I rarely read more than one at a time. I write several of my own books at the same time, though.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Defy the world to continue turning.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Always re-read what catches my interest

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Certain friends have impeccable taste and I take their suggestions. I listen carefully when anybody gives an opinion about a book because their reasoning patterns, or lack of them, interest me. Doesn’t mean I rush right out and buy the book they’ve told me about.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very. That’s what I’ve spent my professional life doing.

What do you look for in a good book?
An author who is wise, has poetry in his/her heart, and knows that a story has to have a resolution. If the author can’t figure out what the characters learned or how they changed, I wish them well, but please stop writing and find another profession.

Why do you write?
I want my life to have made a difference.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I’ve worn a lot of hats thus far in my life. None of them appeal to me long-term. I will write until I’m dead.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I read copiously, watch people intently, and love unreservedly.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That an individual only sees a small slice of the truth.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They’re just about over trying to decide who’s who in the characters, which is a relief. They’re beginning to accept that my characters are not stolen from real life (except for the ones that actually are)!

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Tons of stereotypes. The biggest lie is that alcohol and drugs enhance creativity. They don’t. It’s a miracle that any talent leaks out of those people at all.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The money. Always the money. Whether trad published or Indie, it’s the money.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Wrote a whole novel without knowing how to resolve the conflict. Wrote it a second time and still couldn’t figure out the ending. That’s 900 pages of wasted effort! Grr!! Hisss!

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Yes, but until things happen, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to advertise hopes and maybes.

How do you deal with your fan base?
Sometimes I do author visits in schools. Sometimes fans write to me on my website, FaceBook, or GoodReads.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That there really is a learnable technique for not crying in public, that I can do it (usually), and that I am still in the habit of carrying sunglasses with me everywhere just in case I can’t.

Anything else we should know?
I write songs for my books, and for a lot of other occasions, too.

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