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Interview with:

Janna Willard [jannalou] 

What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I think the first thing I read was probably one of the Ladybird sight readers. Peter and Jane, and Pat the dog. Good stuff. I started "writing" when I was two years old; I had a new baby brother and recited a poem I'd made up at a work party I was attending with my parents. As for things I actually wrote down, probably my parents were my first audience. Them or my little brothers.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
My favourite genre to write in seems to be YA inspirational fiction, though I also enjoy science fiction, fantasy, children's picture books, and adult general fiction. And non-fiction, of course. I'm an equal-opportunity reader and writer. My non-fiction writing can be found at my web site, at http://jannalouise.thehoskincentre.com and at the blogs I link to from there.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
So much depends on the project. If it's fiction, I tend to have some characters, a situation, and an ending in mind and that's it. For non-fiction, I tend to stew on it for days and do some research before I write the first word. Fiction, for me, needs to be character-driven. There need to be strong, interesting characters pushing the story along. If that doesn't exist, then the story falls flat.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Good writing inspires me to write. If I read a good book, I want to get to work on my own projects right away. It doesn't matter what kind of a book it is - YA, children's, biography, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy... you get the picture. If it's well-written, I want to take that experience and inject it into my own work.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Characters and plot are most important. I start with characters. The plot comes from there. You can have the best storyline in the world, but if your characters fall flat the story will not engage its readers. I find it much more interesting to begin with engaging, realistic, relatable characters and see where they take me over the course of the story. The destination may be inevitable, but the journey doesn't have to be laid out in stone.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Something else that depends so much on the project! This is why characters are so important. I choose my point of view and my voice based on the characters. How many main characters are there, and how many heads do I need to get inside? Some stories work well in first person, others only work in third.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Orson Scott Card, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Margarer Atwood. These are all authors whose books inspire me beyond belief; when I re-read Montgomery's Emily books, I want to get down to business immediately (probably because Emily herself is a writer). Jo (Alcott's Little Women) is another character who inspires me. Mostly I admire these authors because they have distinct voices, and because their books are character-driven. They have created worlds and characters that speak to us and comment on our lives and on society - that is something to aspire to.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Believable characters need to have flaws, nervous habits, and goodness in them. There is more to it than that, but those are three qualities you need to include. Sometimes a character will simply introduce herself to me. Sometimes I will create her outright. Creating a character requires careful thought. You need to consider the character's name and physical appearance, and you need to keep in mind the character's purpose in the story. Even a minor character should have a back story, a motivation, a reason for behaving as he does. Writing is not unlike acting in this way, but it's possible that writing involves much more multiplicity of personality than acting does. Because I do so much free-flow writing, without an outline, my characters may not arrive fully-fleshed. But that's what editing is for: to make the characters more real once I know them better.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I have written stories to be told orally. It is a different style than my usual writing style. I think I am fairly good at reading these stories to groups.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
My fiction is for me. If I'm not happy with it, if I don't like what I've written, then there's no point in continuing.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
It can be. It depends on the piece. And I'm not telling which stories come from that internal place. *grin*
Does reader feed-back help you?
I always look for feedback from others as I progress through the editing process. I typically write a first draft and get input from one person, then get input from several people on each draft after that. Comments and critiques are important to the writing process; they let me know where my writing is perhaps not as strong as it could be.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
My voice is something that is always changing, but there are certain aspects that remain constant. It is one of those things that is very elusive and difficult to define.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I write on a computer. I print each completed draft, four pages to a sheet of paper, so I can edit on paper. I do planning on paper, index cards, and Post-Its. (When I do planning.)
What are you working on now?
Two children's picture books, a children's chapter book, two YA novels, a general fiction book, a movie, a graphic novel, a Mass (church music and liturgy), and a couple of articles. These are my personal projects, that I am working on for fun.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Re-read them. See if there is anything salvageable. The children's chapter book I'm working on right now is a re-write of a short story I wrote when I was 13. The plot was decent, the characters interesting; it just needed expanding, and some of the scenes cut out.

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Janna Willard
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

[jannalou] Janna Willard
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Web address for this interview:http://www.whohub.com/jannalou

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