"Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum." Graycie Harmon
Friday, December 2, 2011
Interview with author Victoria Fielding, author or A Piece of Time
Victoria Fielding is a mother of six, an educator, and a writer. She is currently the academic director of a residential treatment center for troubled teens in Utah. It is there that she works with some of the best kids in the world. Victoria has had a life-long career in public and private education, having taught all ages, but mostly high-energy teens (and she still has her sense of humor—amazing!). As a classroom facilitator, she has trained professionals in the use of various software packages. Also, she was the state director for Kaplan, a national test prep company.
Victoria has lived a full and abundant life. Her life experience provides much of the background for this novel. Victoria is also mindful of all her ancestors, some of whom play a role in A Piece of Time. Her great, great grandmother, Sarah, really did lose her best friend on the plains; Lillie—who loved Teancum dearly-- really did misplace her button, which became a fob for her father-in-law’s watch; the farm house does exist, as well as the attic bedroom and the card-table gone mad. Lastly, departed loved-ones have indeed returned to warn, to reassure, and to inspire the discovery of a golden find in a barn loft.
Victoria’s real claim to fame is her family of six awesome kids, their spouses, her two grand-daughters, and all of her other grandchildren waiting to take their turn on earth. When she isn’t working with kids or playing with her grandkids, Victoria loves to hike, garden, write, dance, scrapbook, and eat chocolate (yes, she’s addicted to chocolate).
It is Victoria’s sincere hope that when the last page has been read and the book cover closed, you will recall all the times YOU have been prompted, directed, warned, and comforted. WHO are your guardian angels?
Victoria shared with me why she wrote this book and why she feels so strongly about sharing it with others.
Currently I am the Academic Director at a residential treatment center for troubled youth in Springville, Utah. We just keep filling beds. Four years ago, we had a 33-bed facility; then a 38, then a 44-bed Center. Now we are expanding to 60 beds because of the epidemic of addictions, self-harm, attempted suicides, depression and anxiety among our children. This story is dedicated to “the children, the precious children.” Much of this story was literally “given” to me and I felt compelled to write it. This is not an LDS novel but, as Jennie pointed out, draws on concepts held by most Christian faiths. Many Christian youth, teetering on the edge, may never pick up scriptures or a ‘religious book,” but they would pick up a novel like a PIECE OF TIME. It is NOT about the money for me; it IS about the message, and I strongly feel that this book –the Plan of Happiness disguised in a novel format—will make kids think twice about drugs and suicide, and it will motivate them to choose their associations more wisely. Lastly, it will teach them that there IS a PLAN for them. I feel so strongly that--for less than the cost of a pizza--parents, Bishops, ministers, and counselors--can use this book as a tool to help children and adults alike remember their value.
About the book:
This is everyone’s story, not just Lilly Hunt’s.
Like Lilly, who hasn’t endured peer pressure and fought low self-esteem? Who hasn’t been angry for their losses and heartbroken at losing a loved one?
Whose life hasn’t been impacted with the scourge of an addiction? Who hasn’t stumbled under the weight of forgiving someone? Or, harder yet, forgiving oneself?
It isn’t only Lilly who questions why life is so hard, and what IS the point, anyway?
Like Lilly, we wonder—when we set this world down—what will be behind death’s door? Lilly discovers what lies far beyond that door. And now, you just may too.
This story is for everyone.
My interview with Victoria:
M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Victoria: I started writing ‘books’ when I was nine years of age; I started illustrating my books when I was twelve. Those first attempts—fortunately—went the way of my Barbie dolls. Then life caught up with me—college, marriage, six children, divorce, single parenting, working—and writing was set aside until my kids were grown and on their own
M.B.: What is your writing and educational background?
Victoria: I learned that I had writing talent from Mrs. Spencer, my senior year English teacher, when she encouraged me to continue writing short stories. However, the only regular writing I did was for the high school newspaper. I graduated with a B.A. from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. I majored in Speech Communications and minored in Business, and earned a secondary teaching certificate. The only writing course I took at the Y was a Creative Writing class. I loved the class but I was under too much pressure with a full course load plus working to invest in classes that were not required; so again, I had to set extra-curricular writing aside.
When I was in the middle of a divorce, I badly needed at outlet for the swirling emotions I was feeling at the time. I enrolled in an exceptional writing course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. After completing the first course, which centered around writing short stories, I was recommended for an advanced course which has helped me immensely in honing my writing skills.
M.B.: What makes you passionate about writing?
Victoria: There have been periods of my life that have been so full of learning opportunities that they could have been another, separate life. All of us have much we could share, but I want to know if my writing about them can help someone else find their way through.
It is very rewarding to have others share with me. . . • “Wow, I felt just like that growing up in a home where my dad struggled with addiction.” • “I thought it was just me that felt negated as a human being when my spouse was unfaithful.” • “I never thought I could forgive him/her. But, as you wrote, my progress stopped until I did.”
To be able to strike on a familiar chord is to hopefully help others know they are not alone in their challenges, in their losses, nor in their eventual healing. The light comes.
M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Victoria: When a writer takes so much time to bring forth a book, it is—in a very real sense—his or her baby. It is awfully hard to turn that baby over to a publishing house that doesn’t view your baby quite as cute or charming as you do. And, being very independent, I have always tended to take the other fork in the road. So, I determined early that I would self-publish. It is not difficult to take the few necessary steps from the final, edited manuscript to a professionally formatted and bound book. And the sense of achievement is so much greater.
M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Victoria: I have a very demanding job, and I tend to always have a Church calling, so I have almost nonexistent time to write. I would literally grab a half-hour there, forty-five minutes here--on a Sunday afternoon, on a weeknight before crashing in bed--to try to write a few paragraphs. The discouragement would come when I was “in the zone”, when thoughts were coming fast and furiously, and I would look at the clock to see that it was 3 a.m. Knowing I had to be up in four hours to get ready for work, I would have to stand up and turn off the computer. Hence, the reason it took almost three years for me to write A PIECE OF TIME.
M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?
Victoria: I am now writing the sequel to A PIECE OF TIME. The title is A PIECE OF LIGHT. There is nothing that would be more delicious than to be able to write full-time; and I still hope for that. But for right now, it is still grabbing a minute here or there when I still have some functioning brain cells after a long day.
M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Victoria: I didn’t. Before I started to write A PIECE OF TIME, I just felt like a book was definitely in me. I prayed for guidance, mentioning that ‘I didn’t know what to write about.’ The answer came: “You have the story. It’s your life.” So, with that directive, I sensed that my ideas were good enough to comprise a book.
With the sequel, A PIECE OF LIGHT, I am in less chartered territory. I feel like I am only a few feet away from a darkened path; but I am confident that as I advance, the path will be lit and the inspiration will come.
M.B.: When did the idea for this book first come to you?
Victoria: Once I knew that I was to bring various facets of my life into a novel, I grabbed a yellow pad of paper, crawled between the sheets, and--propped up on my pillow—started writing a rough outline of a book. I still have that initial first step, and it isn’t too far removed from the final story of A PIECE OF TIME. Some of the chapters were moved around to better build to the climax, but it is pretty much the original idea.
M.B.: What do you hope readers will get from this book?
Victoria: I sincerely hope that the reader, when he or she turns the last page, will set the book down knowing that we are here to learn, to love, to thrive; no matter what, TO THRIVE. And then we get to go home.
M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Victoria: I do not rely too heavily on my initial outline, but I do have one. It serves to be just a general guideline so that I do not swerve off the path too drastically. Plus, I want to identify—in that outline-- the key characters initially, their looks, their personalities, their idiosyncrasies, so that they are standing in the wings, there to be called on stage when I am ready for them. Within that wide, fluid perimeter, I just start typing. The thoughts, the feelings, the dialogue comes as I type. I tend to let the character lead me to what is next, and next, and next.
M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Victoria: I always know what scene should come next. For me, the snag or writer’s block is when I experience absolutely no creativity buzzing inside my head regarding that scene, no inspiration flowing to me. Then I just sit, perched on my chair, staring at a blank screen, knowing that ‘tomorrow is another day.’ Knowing that happens, I now don’t even attempt to sit down and write unless the ideas and thoughts are crowding my mind so much that I feel compelled to get it down on paper.
M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Victoria: I like to have Enya, Adele, Susan Boyle, Casting Crowns, Paul Potts, the Mormon Tab Choir playing in the distance. They truly help my inspiration.
M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Victoria: As I go through my daily life, I will hear someone say something funny, and I will grab a notebook I always have with me and write it down. Just a funny phrase, “that is better than a poke in the eye,” or “I feel like death on a cracker.” They will find their way into my book.
Making a thirty-four mile commute twice a day leaves a lot of time for creative processing. The trick is to remember it until I can get somewhere and write it down. The blurb on the back of my book was literally ‘given’ to me when I was driving to work. I screeched into the parking lot, dashed into my office, and grabbed a pen!
When I am reading, if the author writes something that stirs a feeling inside of me, I will write the reaction or feeling in the margin, write “Book #2”, and know that THAT feeling will make it into my next book. A line in a song by Leonard Cohn became the idea for a whole chapter in A PIECE OF TIME. Church talks have been fodder for a lot of ideas that helped form direction for a chapter. I have scraps of paper, several notebooks with scribbles, all having to be sifted through at some point, and assigned to a certain chapter of my book.
M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Victoria: Sincerely, knowing that the Lord wants me to write, and that He has a vested interest in what I have to say. I want to write truth. I love fantasy, but would not spend the few precious, spare minutes I have writing of something that is not real. I want to write stories that did happen, can happen, will happen, to all of us. No matter what happens to us, the core of your story and my story is that Christ is there, always, no matter what.
M.B.: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Victoria: I think of a friend or a nemesis from high school, or college, or work, or one of my children. How did they walk, dress, talk, act? My children that were the most difficult to raise are the easiest to bring to life on the page because their behaviors have left an indelible imprint on my brain.
M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?
Victoria: When I felt I could not possibly polish the manuscript for A PIECE OF TIME more than it was, I copied off twenty-seven copies—at no small expense—and handed it out to friends to pass on to people who did not know me. Their comments were invaluable in helping me tweak the areas that needed some help.
M.B.: What is something about yourself people don’t know?
Victoria: Being a new author, there is tons about me that people don’t know; but as I keep writing, they will.
M.B.: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Victoria: Hot chocolate in the winter, diet Coke in the summer, and almonds
M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Victoria: Keep forging ahead. With every paragraph you set down on paper, you are closer to your goal. You have a story inside you. Write it. Share it.
M.B.: What are you working on now?
Victoria: As mentioned, I am working on the sequel, A PIECE OF LIGHT. I deliberately left some major questions unanswered in A PIECE OF TIME. (One reader said that he had such mixed emotions at the end: A part of him cried and wanted to hug me; the other part wanted to slap me). THAT was a real compliment considering that this was not a woman, nor a young adult, but a sixty-ish rough and tough former CIA agent!
M.B.: Any final words you would like to share
Victoria: I feel The message of A PIECE OF TIME is very timely for Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day" I hope your readers will be curious enough to seek out A PIECE OF TIME . Judging by the reaction I have received from a few hundred plus readers, they will not be disappointed. The two main reactions have been:
(1) “I Looooovvvvvved it” , and
(2) “Weeks later, I am STILL thinking about it; I will have to read it again.”
This book holds the interest of readers twelve years of age on up, with more than a few saying that this book has been life-changing for them.
M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Victoria: A PIECE OF TIME is on Amazon (also on the Kindle), as well as in a few selected Costco’s along the Wasatch Front (Murray, West Valley, and soon Lehi and Orem). You can also refer to victoriafielding.com for the story behind the story. I would SO APPRECIATE hearing their honest opinion of A PIECE OF TIME. Lastly, Jennie Hansen recently reviewed the book for Meridian Magazine, on line. It was a great review!
My greatest claim to fame is my family. I am married to my prince charming and have four awesome children. This year I experienced the joy of becoming a grandmother to my sweet baby girl Halle. I love to travel and I love to write books.