Welcome to A Cup of Conversation with author Chariss K. Walker who has been a guest here quite recently. Sharing the inspirational dream behind her novel Kaleidoscope (The Vision Chronicles, Book 1) and how themes of love, prayer, forgiveness, dreams and other ideas have a physical energy she also talks frankly about her wonderful real life experiences which have influenced her writing and the many stories she has published. So grab your cuppa and let's join Chariss in what promises to be a truly wonderfully enlightening interview.
1. When did you start writing creatively?
I began creative writing in grade school. I entered a contest that was open to my K-12 school and won. Along the way, which included marriage and rearing children, I entered several local writing contests and won those too. And, I’ve always kept a journal. However, I published my first nonfiction book in 2008 and my first fiction book in 2014.
2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style?
I'm not sure any particular author influenced me. I've devoured so many books from a very early age that probably all the books I've read have made my writing what it is today. Books were my escape. Reading far above my age level, it’s quite hilarious that I was banned from my school library for reading ‘too’ much. Thankfully, the public library only cautioned my mother about the level of books I read. I suppose that if I had to name one, it would be John D. MacDonald for my fiction thrillers. I’m sure he influenced the titles I’ve chosen for some of my books, such as Purple Kitty and Blue Cadillac. However, my nonfiction books are written as teaching manuals in the same style as the classes I once taught on these subjects. I soon found that my books could reach a far greater audience than I could through teaching a small class.
3. What personal experiences are reflected in your writing?
Everything. I am an author that writes about the things that I know. This includes my life experiences or the experiences of others I have witnessed. I have an active spiritual life. More often than not, my dreams and meditations have led me to a new series or a character that has something to say or wants his or her story told. That may be a little unorthodox, but it's how it works for me. Usually that character has something in common with me – dreams, visions, denial of past experiences and learning to accept that earlier experience or memory.
4. You are a published writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Can you tell me how the process for each works and which you prefer writing.
Because I studied metaphysical and spiritual concepts for over thirty years, I began writing nonfiction books to explain those concepts (those things that cannot easily be explained or measured scientifically, such as love, prayer, forgiveness, dreams, visions, karma, auras, chakras, energy, and other ideas). I have a master’s degree in metaphysical sciences, an honorary doctorate in Divinity, and I am a Reiki Master/Teacher. I write nonfiction books to share and explain these views.
After a while, I realized that we all have these mystical abilities to some extent or degree. We desire and need practical application to better understand these gifts. I transitioned to write fiction books with characters who struggle to accept that part of their lives. The more I personally accepted that idea, the more fiction books there were to write.
Some of my characters see visions, some hear an inner voice, and some have dreams that come true. Some characters are supernaturally transformed. For example, in An Alec Winter Series, Alec is faced with a harsh truth – His father is a pedophile. The acceptance of this truth pushes Alec into a preternatural change. He becomes both avenging angel and demon-destroyer to punish those in New Orleans who harm innocent children or take advantage of those less powerful.
Actually, I don’t have a preference between the nonfiction and fiction books that I write. I find that, after writing a particularly gruesome crime thriller, I return to writing nonfiction as a sort of spiritual cleansing. It’s beneficial to wipe the slate clean or cleanse the palette with a topic that refreshes me and hopefully the reader.
5. Your non-fiction books share insight, hope and inspiration. Can you tell me more about these themes and why you chose them?
I have always been an individual who wanted to know ‘why’ and ‘wherefore.’ When I don’t understand something, I research until I am satisfied with the answer. For most of my adult life I desired to understand what God or Universe or the Power that organized this universe with all of its multiverses and layers wanted from me. I desired to know why I am here – what is the purpose of this life. In that pursuit, I studied many religions and beliefs trying to figure out my own worldview. I couldn’t accept the belief systems that were spoon-fed to me as a child from my parents and local organizations.
I have found that, if one is truly open to understanding, they will be led to the information they seek. That’s how it was for me. Once I discovered the spiritual aspects of life through meditation, Reiki, chakras, and other new-age concepts, I began to compare them to the religious indoctrination from my early childhood and teen years. The term ‘New-age’ is a misnomer – there isn’t anything new about it because these ideas and principles have been around since recorded history.
My first nonfiction book, Make a Joyful Noise: Searching for a Spiritual Path in a Material World, shared all that I had learned from a Christian perspective. It compared religious doctrine to spiritual concepts. It explained forgiveness, prayer, praise, angels, and the laws of attraction so that the average reader could easily understand. I like to think that the book bridged the gap between the two groups and that it allowed the reader to see that both groups are saying the same thing, they just use different terminology. As I continued to write nonfiction books for the next four years, it became apparent that my dreams and personal inspirations were trying to tell me something, something that should be shared with readers. For example, Kaleidoscope (The Vision Chronicles, Book 1) began with my personal dream.
In that dream, I was walking along the service alley behind my home. I saw a kaleidoscope on the ground. It was covered in dirt, but I picked it up, dusted it off, and put it to my eye. Instead of the pretty colored-glass from childhood, I saw a terrible scene of disaster. Shocked, I dropped the toy. I wanted to walk away from it, but I couldn’t. I was frozen to the spot. I told myself that it was just a fluke event and that, if I looked through it again, I’d see the mosaic images as I was supposed to the first time. Fortified by that notion, I picked it up and put it to my eye. Once again, I was rewarded with another terrifying image like something from a horror novel. The vision was so frightening that it woke me from a sound sleep. I sat up in bed with my heart racing. I stayed awake the rest of the night pondering what I had dreamed. The next morning, I began to write Kaleidoscope, the first book in The Vision Chronicles series.
As the protagonist, Mike Lewis wants a normal life but he knows this is impossible in his current situation. He feels that if anyone knew about his ability it would put them in danger. He tries to hide the fact that he has visions of future disasters that come true. Mike fights his ability, but then, with the help of a therapist, he begins to accept it. In Kaleidoscope, someone finds out about his secret and they attempt to abduct him. Mike realizes that he isn’t paranoid after all when someone is truly after him. Mike understands that he has to accept his gift and that it might be useful in avoiding those who want to capture him. This unknown assailant chases Mike throughout the entire series, however, the more he comes to terms with his unusual ability, the more it changes.
First, Mike sees broken images through a kaleidoscope, and then he sees larger pictures through a spyglass. His ability quickly evolves as he sees visions through window panes, windows all around, open spaces, streams of light, lamp’s light (all titles in the series)… and then finally, he sees all images though any clear glass surface. The Vision Chronicles Series represents our understanding of life too – The more we acknowledge, the more we grow in body, mind, and soul. It was only natural for me to share what I had learned with others through my writings.
6. In your most recent fiction book who is your favourite character and why?
My most recent fiction book is A Medium’s Birthday Surprise. Becky Tibbs is an Asheville, North Carolina medium who helps the recently departed with their unfinished business. I love Becky. She’s a red-headed, freckle-faced southern girl with a lot of love and compassion. She drives a pick-up truck, wears cowboy boots, and fights her weight-gain and unruly copper tresses every day. Becky is a sweet twenty-six year old who has a lot on her plate. She wasn’t born a medium. Her gift arrived on the worst night of her life – the night both of her parents died in a traffic accident.
This series is the first cozy mystery books I have written and I am really enjoying the work. It has everything a cozy mystery should have: clean language, recipes, pets, and antiques.
7. What are you working on at the moment/what's next?
After having recently finished a six-book nonfiction series, Going Deeper, which teaches the reader how to release trapped emotions and old baggage, I began to write Becky Tibbs: A North Carolina Medium’s Mystery Series. The series has something for every holiday. I am currently working on A Medium’s Independence Day Event. If my computer hadn’t crashed last weekend, it would’ve been published before July 4th, 2018. However, my very old desktop did crash and burn, so that book will be delayed for a while.
8. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?
I write at home, in a corner near the kitchen and close to the coffee pot. I treat my writing like a job even though few people would work as long and hard as I work for the pay I receive. (Smiling as I write that.) I am usually up at 5:30 each morning. I drink my first cup of coffee, meditate, do some spiritual work, and an hour later, I get online to Facebook and Tweet. I manage six groups on Facebook so I must check-in several times a day to make sure everything is running smoothly. After that is out of the way, I begin to write. I write for a few hours, return to Facebook and Twitter, catch up on my responsibilities there, then sign off and write again for a few hours. I repeat that all day, every day, until the rest of the family returns from work. As an Indie Author, I have to be willing to do all phases of writing: formatting, production, publication, promotions, and make sure everything is up to date on social media sites.
9.Who edits your work? Is it something you do or do you have a professional editor?
I edit my work using several methods before I send it to my editor. No matter how many times we or the people we trust go through our work, we can easily miss something. My favorite blunder – in one of my books there was a sentence that read, “the dog at my homework.” I can’t tell you how many proofreaders and editors missed that ‘at vs. ate’ sentence. I was reading the paperback edition when I finally found the error six months after publication.
10. What’s your favourite go-to snack when writing?
I drink a lot of coffee, but I also love chocolate. I usually don’t allow myself a long lunch break so if there are brownies in the house… well, that with a hot cup of black coffee, that’s simply a divine pick-me-up.
11. Is there any aspect of the writer's life you least enjoy and why?
I’m sure that I am not alone when I reply that “promotions” are the hardest part of writing for me. By nature, I am shy. I am a recluse, an introvert. I’d stay inside, wearing flannel pants and a tee-shirt, every day if given the choice. I find it difficult to promote myself, to toot my own horn. When I was growing up, it wasn’t acceptable to be ‘conceited’ and any action that was self-centered was considered such. I’m afraid that has followed me into adulthood.
I read comments on Goodreads and Facebook from many forums. Readers don’t like for Indie Authors to send them promotional invitations. Many scorn our attempts to get recognition for our hard work. However, Goodreads certainly sends out a lot of promotions and newsletters for the traditionally published authors out there. Indie Authors have to work five times as hard for a modicum of recognition. Then, Amazon – wow! I get tongue-tied when I think about Amazon.
I believe that all Indie Authors struggle to get reviews for their books. I personally ask for reviews at the end of each book I write. After a series is complete, I give my first book away to encourage readers to read, and hopefully, review my books. The magic number for reviews on Amazon is fifty; the big five-oh. I get very close and that’s where Amazon slaps me back in line. Just this week I had finally gotten 46 reviews for Kaleidoscope when Amazon randomly deleted three of them. I would have over fifty reviews already if they didn’t delete a few along the way. It’s painful and disheartening because there is no way to fight such injustice or such a huge conglomerate.
From the promotional aspect, I have to laugh at the absurdity and difficulty of being an Indie Author. I wish I could ignore it, but I can’t. I have to promote daily in hopes of wading through the 1,000,000 new titles published each year. I recently read that since electronically published books (eBooks) came to be, there are 32,000,000 (thirty-two-million – it looks bigger in number format) books in print and some estimate that number to be closer to 42,000,000. It’s amazing that an unknown Indie Author can sell even one book.
12. What advice would you give to someone looking to write their first book?
For new authors, I suggest that they do a lot of preparation before they begin to write. Read a lot of books. Read different authors and topics. An avid reader usually makes for a good author – not always, but it certainly helps. Preparation includes knowing your genre, your audience, and your writing level. Figure out where you will promote your book before you publish. Have everything lined up to announce your new release before you hand it over to the world. Also, make sure your book is the best it can be and fully edited before you ever put it in print or eBook format. You are making a first impression and that is worth the extra time it takes to do it right.
12. What two things frustrate you most about the writing industry?
It is very frustrating to see the bias against Indie Authors. Amazon and Goodreads give preferential treatment to traditionally published authors for sure, but many readers are also prejudiced. They treat authors and their books like name brands – Toyota, Sprint, Nike, Apple, Tylenol – never giving that generic or independent author a chance. Yes, there are a lot of authors who write one poorly edited book and disappear from the scene – that hurts all of us. But, there are also a lot of great Indie Authors who work hard to write excellent material and they are here to stay. I am one of them. I’ve thus far written 36 titles and I have a lot more to write. Goodreads and Amazon are vital resources for an Indie Author, but they can hurt us as much as help us. I am often amazed that so many authors give Amazon exclusive rights to their hard work and actually help sell the KindleUnlimited program. My books are for sale on Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, and many other online sites.
13. Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’m a pantser. And, I am a planner. This is a one woman show; therefore, I must plan and make the important decisions about my writings.
14. What's on your current to-do list?
My near and distant future plans include writing the books for Becky Tibbs: A North Carolina Medium’s Mystery Series. I have several books already lined out that tell Becky’s story: A Medium’s Birthday Surprise, Book 1; A Medium’s Independence Day Incident, Book 2; A Medium’s Labor Day Job, Book 3; and so forth. I have also committed time to read and review other Indie Authors’ work. My TBR pile is large, but I like to give back to others who struggle like I do. I also have a spot on my website for “Author Friends and Bloggers” and I hope to increase that list.
Amazon link to books: http://www.amazon.com/Chariss-K.-Walker/e/B004QZNKRK