Author Joanne Vruno is our next “Extra Credit” interview participant! Joanne is the author of the Seasons of Elves series: Summer of Elves, Autumn of Elves, and the just released Winter of Elves. Born in Salisbury, Rhodesia which is now known as Harare, Zimbabwe, Joanne spent her childhood in Minnesota and still lives there today.
Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?
I do not write with an outline. When I start a story I know the beginning and the end, the middle of the story appears to me as I write. Most of the time I surprise myself at the new story-lines that show up. Writing for me is a complete adventure, and that is why I enjoy it so much.
Has someone you knew ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?
Many of my characters remind me of a person I have once known sometime in my life. One character, Grandma Alice, in the Seasons of Elves series, I intentionally made with my mother in mind. When I started writing the series, I decided to not only have a grandmother character that had my mother's characteristics but also her name, Alice. I gave the character my mother's hobbies of gardening and photography along with her strong adventurous personality. The reason I did this was to give my grandchildren some insight on what their great-grandmother was like. So even though I highly doubt my mother had any magic powers and knowledge of mythical creatures, I feel I have brought her personality to life.
What do you do when you get writer's block?
When I get stumped on where to go next in a story, I head outside. A brisk walk in the snow or taking pictures of nature triggers my creativity in the winter months. In the summer I can sit in a garden weeding for hours, which is usually my form of meditation, and clarity always seems come to me. With my books being based on nature, I am drawn to it as I write.
If you could live in a book’s world, which would you choose?
If I could live in a book's world, I would go back in time to travel with Sacajawea and Lewis and Clark across our country. I have read Sacajawea written by Anne Lee Waldo and The Journals of Lewis and Clark written by Meriwether Lewis, and the journey they made was extraordinary. Imagine seeing the country before it was settled. Meeting different bands of Native Americans and trying to communicate with them. The whole travel was discovering new things along the way. Living in excitement and some fear of what was around the bend. To see the country in its wild, just natural without civilization with breathtaking views during all day and night. I also know there would be many hardships too, but what a story to tell others.
What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
I would have to say my favorite book-to-movie would be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I loved the imagery of the first years in the boats floating across the water to Hogwarts the first time and experiencing the magical entry into the world of wizards. The set designer followed the story in a true fashion, which is lost on some other book-to-movie adaptions. I loved how he made the great hall with the candles floating in air and the food suddenly appearing. Then the sorting hat was done perfectly just as the characters were introduced at that time. Not all the Harry Potter movies were so precise to the novels they were following.
If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?
There are so many talented authors that have taken me into their story lines to a point that I could not put down their books, so this is a hard task for me to pick just one. I have traveled the Mississippi with Huckleberry Finn, learned about wizards at the world of Hogwarts with J.K. Rowling, solved mysteries with Sherlock Holmes, and followed the March sisters as they grow up in Little Women. Though one author wrote a series of books that introduced me to a world unknown to others. A place where humans and creatures such as hobbits, elves, dwarfs, ents (talking and moving trees), and dragons all lived in one land. This author, J.R. Tolkien, was magnificent in bringing his characters to life along with the areas each one lived in. I could picture the shire, the castles of each human kingdom, the woods of the ents, the dark woods, and the land of the elves. I would have loved to sit down to lunch or coffee with J.R. Tolkien and learn what research he did to form a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, and a wizard named Gandalf the Grey, and the tale that started in one generation of hobbits and carried on to the next with Frodo Baggins. Many feel he had a hidden meaning he meant to portray, and it would be interesting to know if they are right.
I do believe J.R. Tolkien has influenced me to write my series, Seasons of Elves. While researching mythology for this series I came across many places and creatures he used and often wondered if we were using the same research.
Wild Card Question: Your website has a book club discussion guide for Summer of Elves andLoon Child. Do you participate in a book club, or do you have an informal group of friends that you talk about books with?
I have made up book club questions for my books to give the readers time to connect in thought with the story. I have to admit I personally have never been in a book club. I have been asked but never had the time to commit to the weekly task the clubs wanted. I design my questions to what things I would like to ponder in my stories. I hope the readers find them entertaining.
Joanne, thank you for visiting with LitPick! Congratulations on the release of Winter of Elves! Check out the book trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eil1TgK-hgQ
SIX MINUTES WITH JOANNE VRUNO:
Today author Joanne Vruno joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author! Joanne is the author of Loon Child and Summer of Elves. Summer of Elves is the first book in a four-book series; it was inspired by her granddaughter, Aly.
How did you get started writing?
I started writing many years ago in a college English Composition course. Through the years, I have jotted down many story ideas and completed several short stories, none that I felt were strong enough to submit to a publisher. My family encouraged me to take some creative writing courses to help me achieve my goal of writing a novel. After several classes, in 2012, Loon Child, my first novel was published through North Star Press. This showed me never to give up and that dreams do come true.
Who influenced you?
I had an amazing online writing teacher named Steve Alcorn, who influenced me by positive reinforcement, constant encouragement, and the understanding of a story formation as I worked on Loon Child. Without his courses I would not have had the confidence in my work to submit it to a publisher.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I have two books that have always been dear to my heart: Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. My father read Just So Stories to me over and over as I was growing up, and I love The Elephant's Child. Mark Twain had such merriment of childhood in his writing that I can still laugh at parts while I read it today.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
To me, writing comes from your heart, a passion to open up new worlds for others. I feel alive when I write. I am so happy my family talked me into taking courses to achieve this dream of being an author, so I would say follow your dreams. If you feel overwhelmed at times take a course or two along the way.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I need to write in a quiet house. I have an office where I shut myself in and write early in the morning without any outside interruptions.
What else would you like to tell us?
Another fun aspect of being an author is the research that goes into a book. I enjoy searching for new mythical creatures to put into the Seasons of Elves Series. It is interesting learning the facts that make a story more realistic. While writing Loon Child I had the opportunity to meet with the chief of police in Hayward, Wisconsin, to ask him questions on legal facts I was using in the book. I also was fortunate to be able to meet with the tribal historian at the Lac Coutre Oreilles Reservation so all my facts were accurate.
Joanne, thank you for joining LitPick for six minutes! It must be very exciting for your granddaughter that she was the inspiration for your book series!
Summer of Elves Book Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eil1TgK-hgQ