eyE[before]Olivia Stocum

First off, allow me to apologise for my unexpected hiatus from eyE. I hadn’t planned it, but as the old adage goes, ‘life is what happens when you’re making other plans’. In between my aforementioned ‘life’ and trying to get BaCwS finished I’ve been a bit short on time, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to have an awful lot more time in the near future either. But nonetheless, I shall endeavour to continue posting when I’m able.

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Now, on to more important matters. As a reward for your patience, I was recently afforded the opportunity to interview the brilliant Olivia Stocum. Olivia is a historical romance author whose debut novel, ‘Dawning’, comes out in just a few days on July 17th. Many of you may know Olivia from her awesome blog, of which I am a big fan, titled ‘The Claymore and Surcoat’. Many more of you will get to know Olivia, through her fantastically impassioned portrayal of love and devotion set against the backdrop of the rolling Scottish countryside in the 16th century.

A lover, dreamer, archer and artist; the auspicious Olivia Stocum.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“When I was a kid my dad told me I had to start living in the real world, because my uncanny ability to fade into La La Land would get me nowhere in life. I saw this as a challenge. Once he said that, there was no going back. I HAD to turn my overactive imagination into something useful. Judging by how proud he is of me now, I have to wonder if he was using reverse psychology.”

As a writer of historical romance, how much research do you usually put into your story’s background? How do you find the balance between fact and interpersonal fiction?

“Sometimes history can get in the way of the story. When this happens, I think it’s better to tell an engaging story. To some degree you have to create your own reality when you write about a time and place 400 years ago anyway. There’s no way to know every tiny detail of your characters’ daily lives without having to fill in some blanks. Consistency is the key. Decide what’s right for your world and stick with it! Also, make sure you don’t make any obvious changes to the setting or history buffs everywhere will fall into a dead faint.”

As someone who has declared themselves an adamantly independent author, what do you think the advantages and disadvantages of the independent marketplace are for newcomers?

“The indie market evens the playing field. Now, anyone with an imagination and a willingness to work their arse off can make a go of it. No more emptying the bank account to hop a plane to some writers’ conference where you will have to lick shoes all week in hopes someone with a pie chart and a list of acceptable plotlines will confirm that you are, in fact, a novelist. The downside is that the market is flooding with writers who probably should have taken a few more workshops, or joined a critique group, before publishing.”

What do you think are some of the most commonly mistaken or misleading ‘rules’ you’ve been told about writing? What lessons have you learned from your own experiences?

“Oh wow. I’ve struggled with this a lot. At one point I allowed stringent contest judges (to) critique my work to a stagnant death. Sure, I had a clean manuscript, but it lacked the ability to elicit an emotional response in the reader. Take a look at some of the greatest writers throughout history. Guess what? They broke rules. Lots of them. But like many things, you have to know the rules before you can break them. I would tell any newbie out there to study the rules, but keep in mind that they’re really more like suggestions.”

If you could visit any place, at any time period in history, but could only do so trapped in the body of a marmoset, where and when would it be?

“A marmoset is some kind of monkey right? Let me see… little monkeys make me think of Indiana Jones because there was a little monkey in ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’, which makes me think of Egypt, which reminds me of my belly dancing days… wait, what was the question?

“Oh yes, trapped in the body of a marmoset. Well, if I went to historic Scotland, I’d probably end up rotting in a cage because they wouldn’t understand me. (Not their fault, mind you). So I would stick with the Middle East, India, or Africa. I’d be the favourite pet of some young lady who dressed me up cute and carried me around with her all day long. Yes, I could do that, look cute, and have no responsibilities beyond that.”


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Once again, Olivia’s debut novel, ‘Dawning’, is officially released in paperback on July 17th, but can be pre-ordered on Amazon here. (EDIT: Olivia has corrected me, it will also be available on Kindle as of the 17th! :)) Also, make sure you check out Olivia’s blog, ‘The Claymore and the Surcoat for regular updates on her work. Thanks again, for your time, Olivia!

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The Anathema of Judgement

Lady-Justice-Marilyn-Monroe-Lanoo11It is the desire of the mind to structure the world around it.

It’s not a bad thing. Labouring under the presumption that the entirety of existence is capable of being pigeon-holed has brought us many great scientific realisations. But there is a danger in applying analytical mental associations within a moral or ethical context.

I am, in fact, talking about the perils of standing in judgement of one’s self or one’s environment.

Now, before I continue, let me just define what I mean by ‘judgement’. It may seem a matter of semantics, but I place a distinction between ‘judgement’ and ‘discernment’. To me, judgement is the act of placing a moral, ethical or analytical imperative for one ideal over another, i.e., that doctor is better than that car thief. Whereas I see discernment as the act of consciously perceiving a difference between two ideals, i.e., that doctor is different from that car thief. Though this distinction might seem subjective and differs depending on an individual’s understanding of the terms, I think that it’s an important one to make.

For those of you who don’t know, I used to work as an alternative health practitioner. The alternative therapy I practiced was a form of energetic healing which relied heavily on elements of counselling in order to get people to release their baggage of their own accord. And do you know what my years of energetic healing taught me?

People can be really hard on themselves.

Like, really hard on themselves. The more energetic work I practiced, the clearer it became that many people hold themselves just as accountable, if not more so, than anyone else in their environment. The harsher their judgement of their environment, the harsher their judgement of themselves, and this wasn’t just limited to moral and ethical judgement either. Many people would look at someone with a bigger slice of cake and think ‘that slice of cake is logically better than mine’. As a result, their subconscious would reach the analytical conclusion that it was therefore good to have a big slice of cake and bad to have a small slice of cake. By applying moral and ethical absolutes like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to the analytical spectrum, it became easier to make sense of an oft chaotic world.

So, what’s the problem?

Logically, if you think it’s bad to have a small slice of cake, you’ll endeavour to get a bigger slice of cake. The act of observing the flaws inherent in your situation will only drive you to improve said situation… right?

Actually, no. Not always. A lot of the people that I met through my energetic healing who perceived themselves as ‘badended up vilifying themselves because, from a logical perspective, if their situation was bad then they, by association, were bad also. And if they were bad, how could they possibly fix themselves…?

Has it ever occurred to you that most people who pursue a life crime tend to come from troubled homes? Now, certainly it’s an easy argument to make that they’re the product of their environments. But bearing what I’ve said in mind, isn’t it easy to see how they might largely be the product of their own judgements and the way in which they’ve been taught to judge the world? i.e., if my situation is bad, therefore I am bad by association…

Judgement is an anathema, a poison that is deeply rooted in our society. Judging something to be ‘good’ is symptomatic of the same wound as judging something to be ‘bad’. They are two sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other.

I believe that it’s important to avoid judging the merit of everything from a position of analytical or moral imperative. We are just ants, scurrying about our tunnels, hungering after sugar and sunlight. How can we hope to see the full panorama of our existence when we only use our eyes?

Don’t choose to pass judgement, whether on yourselves or on each other. Instead, know discernment. Know that some things are different from other things. Know what you want, and be prepared to work towards it. But also know that no one thing is truly better or worse than any other.

Of course, if nothing is better than anything else, why bother aspiring towards anything? Without the carrot and the stick, how do we now function? No longer donkeys, but something more…

Still, that might be a discussion for another day. 😉