Bestselling Author Alice Kuipers
has just released her new YA novel
Me (and) Me.
Interview coming soon…
Bestselling Author Alice Kuipers
has just released her new YA novel
Me (and) Me.
Interview coming soon…
Carol says: “From losing his partner to ovarian cancer to his passion for saving marine life, Ben’s life experiences inspired him to intertwine them into his short stories and his novel. His passion for life and love are evident in his stories. His compassion is evident in his interview.”
Do you live a fear-based or love-based life?
Listen to his interview to get the answer:
In this interview, Ben also talks about the challenges our oceans face today, life lessons learned from boxing, a guardian angel named Edington, and a short story from his collection, Something in the Air, available on Amazon…
Sign up to be the first to know about more releases from Ben!
Olivia Teese has interviewed Ben. An Interview with Ben Starling is now live!
Welcome, Alice and thanks for joining us here. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? At what age did you decide you wanted to be a writer and how did you get started?
Thank you very much for hosting me! I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I started to take it more seriously when I was about twenty. I wrote several books, none of which were published, before I wrote Life on the Refrigerator Door, which was published in 30 countries. It was published as both a YA and an adult novel, but I felt that YA suited me well.
What attracted you to the YA genre?
I love writing about that age when everything is possible and anything can happen. I’ve published three other YA novels and two picture books since then, and I have a new YA novel and a chapter book series coming out in the next year or so. My books continue to sell in lots of countries, and I’m lucky to be able to write for lots of different age groups.
Could you describe your writing process? Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m lucky to be able to work full time as a writer, although the only commitment I make to myself as a writer is to read every day. I have four children, so, while writing every single day isn’t possible, I can always find time to read–even if it’s the middle of the night.
I love the rush of getting a first draft done and normally I plan to write a thousand words a day when I’m in that phase. Then I have a lot of reworking to do afterwards. My inspiration comes from all sorts of places–books I’ve read, the newspaper, my kids, that quiet inner voice that asks the question ‘what if, what if, what if…’
Michael Crichton once said: “Books are not written–they’re rewritten.” How many times do you re-write before passing your work on to an editor?
Oh, I’m always rewriting. I spend much more time editing than writing and the number of drafts I have to do is a ridiculous. I think I wrote my first picture book–all 674 words of it–over three hundred times. It takes me ages to get things right. And then I send my writing to an editor and the process begins all over again–the editor has their own voice and ideas and that part of the process is crucial to making any book the best it can be.
I feel like there is only one opportunity for a reader to read a first draft of a book, so I want to make that first experience of my books as good as I can.
You have written, lectured, taught in class and online, and co-authored an app. How did you find your way to developing a video writing course for authors? What made you think of this format in particular?
The video course seemed like a natural progression from all the other teaching I do. I’ve been teaching online at University of Toronto for a few years now and I love the online format–it means that I can be working with students when my children are sleeping.
The way this course works is the content is all there ready for you as soon as you want to start–so many people want to ignite their creativity and now with this course I hope they can.
What key things did you consider while developing QuickStart Your Writing?
I wanted to make to process of writing accessible to all the people who ask me how to become a writer themselves. Everyone has a story to tell and I know how hard it is to find the confidence and time to make that happen.
The course is designed to be done at the pace of the person using it and hopefully it’s filled with ideas as to how anyone can get their words on the page.
What was the most difficult part of producing this course? The easiest?
It’s always difficult to find a quiet moment in the house I live in to make the video content. I’m making another course now and it’s a rare time that all the children are out and I’m not going to be interrupted.
The easiest part was also the most fun part–talking about writing. I could talk about writing and how to get started writing all day long.
What should writers think about before deciding if this product is right for them? Is it more useful for fiction or non-fiction?
Anyone can go onto the site and have a look at the sample lectures before deciding to come on board. I would think that it’s more useful for people who write fiction as that’s my passion, but the ideas about how to make time, how to make a space, and how to find ideas, would apply to any aspiring writer, whatever type of writing they do.
What are you working on today? What new projects do you have planned for the future?
I’m editing. Again. And I’m working on a new course with an organization called Children’s Book Insider. That course will come out in the fall. I have ideas for two new books and I also need to write the second book in my chapter book series, which will be a pleasure to do once I’ve finished the edits of the new YA novel.
I’m enjoying my new Instagram feed where I upload an image writing prompt every day or so. And I love making my newsletter with writing tips and book recommendations for anyone who loves books as much as I do.
The publishing world is changing fast – where do you think it will be in five years…and where will you fit it then?
If I’m lucky, I hope I’m still publishing as many books as I am now, but even if I’m not, I’ll still be writing them. Writing is something that brings me a lot of joy. Having readers is an honour and a thrill, but, just as I was writing long before I was published, I’ll still be writing as the years go by.
Who are your favourite authors? What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
Every month I send out a newsletter where I talk about the books I’m reading and share book recommendations from other writers too.
Right now, I’m reading The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson, and I just finished The Long Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan. I’ve been loving Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows, which I’ve been reading with my four year old daughter, and I really enjoyed We Are All Made of Molecules, a YA novel by Susin Nielsen. I sit around and drink cups of tea, thinking big, writerly thoughts. Actually, that’s a joke!
What do you do when you are not writing?
I have four children and the oldest is six, so I basically try and keep my head above water, and make sure they are fed, watered, loved, entertained, not causing havoc, etc… When I’ve finished this, I have to take my daughter to a birthday party, then play with my youngest two and somehow edit a novel in there too…
One thing I love to do is to cook. Last night I made cinnamon buns for the first time after a weekend with the kids by a lake here in Canada. If only the baby hadn’t kept me up until one in the morning last ‘night’, I’d actually be refreshed, relaxed and ready to tackle the work ahead of me.
Thank you so much for asking such great questions. I hope to see some of you on the course. You can find me here at alicekuipers.com, at my newsletter or writing prompt feed, at my writing course QuickStart Your Writing, or on Twitter @alicekuipers and Facebook.
Alice Kuipers has recently authored and produced an online writing course that covers ideas, inspiration, discipline, planning and commitment for writers. It includes top tips from a top author for writers of every genre.
Alice was born in London. She moved to Canada in 2003. Her first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, was published in 28 countries and won several awards. Since then, she has published three further award winning YA novels internationally, most recently, The Death of Us. Her fifth YA novel comes out in 2017.
Kuipers has four small children and she began writing picture books for them. Her first picture book Violet and Victor Write The Best Ever Bookworm Book was selected as an Amazon best pick for December 2014. Her second, Violet and Victor Write The Most Fabulous Fairy Tale, is on the Winter 2015 Kids’ Indie Next List.
I was fortunate enough to learn about Jutoh from a fellow author just before I published my first book. It’s a game-changing software program for self-published authors that creates ebooks for Epub-using platforms and Kindle, in a re-flowable format. Along with Scriven, this is the one other author tool I could not imagine living without.
Re-flowable – what’s that? Re-flowable means that no matter whether your readers use Kindles, iPads, iPhones, Android tablets, phones, Macs or PCs, your work will always “reshape” itself to fit the screen of the device they prefer (as opposed to having to scroll around from side to side to see each page).
Jutoh also enables authors to publish a high quality product on any ebook distribution site, including Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iBooks, Google Play and Kobo. And it creates PDFs suitable for sending to print-on-demand services. What’s not to like?
Julian Smart, co-author of Jutoh and the tech genius behind it, kindly agreed to answer a few questions about this software.
Welcome, Julian and thanks for joining us. You have a degree in computer science, a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and have developed software for many different kinds of applications, including a sonar navigation system for autonomous underwater vehicles – how did you find your way to developing software for authors? What made you think of this application in particular?
My main inspiration has been my wife, Harriet Smart, who writes historical novels. In 2002 I was made redundant by the Linux company Red Hat UK, at which point Harriet and I designed our first writing tool, Writer’s Café, which had been brewing in our minds for some years.
Writer’s Café focused on early parts of the writing process, with tools for planning stories and exercising the writing muscle. As the ebook became a practical and commercial possibility thanks to Amazon and others, we realised that there was a gap in the market for a tool to easily create ebooks for self-publication, without resorting to writing HTML and CSS code.
There was plenty of scope to offer alternatives to word processors, that offered ebook-specific tools, optimisations and structuring that conventional word processors don’t cater for. Harriet’s writing needs have definitely driven and shaped the tools I’ve been writing for the last 14 years, and I’m glad to say she’s still an enthusiastic user of Writer’s Café and Jutoh, planning in the former and writing all her novels in the latter.
Simplicity and flexibility are two major considerations, often tricky to keep in balance. Jutoh is used by a wide range of people, from authors who know just enough word processing to get by, to publishing houses with demanding expectations of how Jutoh will fit into their existing workflow. So Jutoh must neither overwhelm nor limit.
I try to keep advanced settings hidden until needed, notably with the ‘configurations’ concept which allows the user to control more esoteric facilities such as conditional inclusion of content according to distributor or format.
One of the features of digital publishing is the large number of pitfalls and ‘gotchas’ due to variations in the way e-readers handle content, limitations of HTML and CSS compared with word processors, display size differences and so on.
So Jutoh has an extensive warning and error system to help the user identify problems in their books, and there is also a help system with instant keyword search for the manual and a 200-article ‘knowledge base’ comprising short answers to specific technical questions. So this way Jutoh tries to clear some of the fog surrounding the mysteries of ebook creation, and Jutoh’s own behaviour.
How long did it take for you to develop Jutoh?
I can’t remember exactly when I started working on Jutoh, but probably a year or so before the first release in 2010. However, I had a big leg-up reusing code from some of my other tools, including Writer’s Café. Complex software is never really finished, and I have been improving Jutoh and adding features since version 1, so another answer to the question is ‘the last 7 years’.
All the names we tried to come up with that had writing connotations sounded horribly cheesy, so we opted for an arbitrary word made up of the first letters of our names: Julian, Toni (our daughter) and Harriet. This had the advantage of being an available domain name.
What was the most difficult part of designing this software? The easiest?
Hardest: tables! Jutoh’s text editor is written from scratch, and implementing all the parts of table layout, import, export, and editing with all the required property dialogs, was a massive job. During much of this I was bedridden for 9 months and as a distraction I worked feverishly on table support for Jutoh 2.
Easiest: probably the tab-based document management system, since much of it had been written for Writer’s Café.
Are there any famous authors using it?
Most conventionally-published authors will leave ebook creation to the publisher, but there are many quietly successful ‘indie’ authors using Jutoh who will be familiar within particular genres, such as Stephanie Bond, Ruth Harris, Freda Lightfoot, Holly Lisle and Barbara Freethy. Other notable users include the publishing guru Jane Friedman, and ‘Early Edition’ TV series creator Vik Rubenfeld.
What should authors think about before deciding if this product is right for them? Is it more useful for fiction or non-fiction?
I would encourage authors to consider if they are happy giving control of the editing process to a third party, who charge per book and make it harder for you to make corrections and changes later; and whether they want a high-quality result compared with a simple-minded document conversion.
If retaining control appeals, and the author doesn’t mind a little work in getting to know new software, then Jutoh should fit the bill. Since a demo is available, authors can determine whether it suits their way of working before purchasing.
Jutoh can be used for both fiction and non-fiction; although most users are probably novelists, users have also created highly technical, large books with Jutoh, making use of features such as bibliography tools, indexing, footnotes, cross-references, pictures, and tables.
It has been used to create interactive Epub 3 tutorials, children’s books, memoirs, cookery books, photography books, travel guides, self-help books, manuals, and medical textbooks. Jutoh is of course used to create the Jutoh user guide!
Are any special skills required? Do most users have a technical background?
Knowing how to use a word processor is a good start, together with a little patience for where Jutoh diverges from a conventional word processor. Formatting for digital publishing requires a little more precision and care than day-to-day word processing, and therefore good habits may need to be learned, such as using named styles consistently.
Most users aren’t particularly ‘technical’, if by technical you refer to programmers or web site designers. But obviously there is some skill in using any reasonably interesting piece of software.
Jutoh comes with lots of documentation to help get the user up to speed on what formats are supported, how to use Jutoh, troubleshooting problems, and so on, and of course we are very happy to help users if they get stuck.
Have you created any other tools for authors? Or do you have any new products planned for the future?
I’ve mentioned Writer’s Café; my other software has been mainly for programmers, such as DialogBlocks (for creating user interfaces) and HelpBlocks (for creating manuals). Right now I’m temporarily reducing my focus on the nuts and bolts of software development to think about the next phase.
I’m interested in the use of digital books by the visually impaired, and am looking into support for DAISY digital talking books. Jutoh can already be used to create MP3 files using text-to-speech, with features that allow you to improve speech quality and also preview audio for all or parts of the project.
The sample file Patient Advice Speech Sample demonstrates a medical information leaflet with speech optimisations that can create files for Epub, Kindle, ODT in normal and large-print versions, and MP3 speech. I’d like explore how authors can deliver their books to visually impaired readers more easily – the current self-publishing infrastructure, such as Amazon’s Kindle platform, is not yet adapted to this, and bolt-on audio hardware for Kindles is only a stop-gap measure.
There needs to be a better route for authors to add custom pronunciations and specific content for people listening via text-to-speech readers. Epub 3 has been rather a damp squib as an update to the DAISY format, with few devices or applications taking advantage of speech markup features offered by Epub 3. So there’s much scope for improvement in this area, and I will be looking at how Jutoh can help.
I enjoy playing ball with my cat, prowling around antique shops with my wife, renovating old properties, and checking out interesting architecture. I watch far too much TV drama – there’s so much quality stuff these days, it’s hard to keep up. My wife calls it ‘research’, so she has an excuse.
Who are your favourite authors? What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
I confess I spend more time reading articles online than reading books; I tend to consume stories in TV and movie form, but I’m a big fan of the Northminster Mysteries by one Harriet Smart.
I’m also promising myself the time to read William Morris’ sci-fi novel News From Nowhere as Morris is a significant part of our decorative schemes.
And my all-time favourite questions: If you had a supernatural power, what would it be? If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
I would be Sash-Man, sporting astragalled specs, a white sash and the ability to instantly transform plastic windows into traditional wooden windows (sash-and-case where appropriate). The UK housing stock has been comprehensively ruined by tricksters selling ugly plastic windows that rip the soul out of old buildings, and only a superhero – or a benevolent dictator – could fix this mammoth scandal.
Julian Smart was born in Nottingham, UK, and has degrees from the universities of St Andrews and Dundee. While working for the University of Edinburgh, he created the open source cross-platform GUI toolkit wxWidgets, used for nearly a quarter of century by individuals and organisations all over the world, and the bedrock of Anthemion Software’s applications. Julian has also worked for Red Hat UK, and the Scottish Crop Research Institute.
In 1996, Julian and Harriet founded Anthemion Software to create tools for programmers and writers, including the productivity software Writer’s Café and the ebook editor Jutoh. Julian is based in Edinburgh with wife Harriet, daughter Antonia, and cat Alfie.
Note: Just in case you are wondering – I (Ben) have not received any compensation for highlighting this product here. It’s a great tool for writers that I have found useful and am happy to share it as one of my favorite finds.
Bestselling and award-winning author Alice Kuipers joins Ben’s blog – coming soon!
Kuipers has recently authored and produced an online writing course that covers ideas, inspiration, discipline, planning and commitment for writers. It includes top tips from a top author for writers of every genre.
Alice was born in London. She moved to Canada in 2003. Her first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, was published in 28 countries and won several awards. Since then, she has published three further award winning YA novels internationally, most recently, The Death of Us. Her fifth YA novel comes out in 2017. Alice has four small children and she began writing picture books for them. Her first picture book Violet and Victor Write The Best Ever Bookworm Book was selected as an Amazon best pick for December 2014. Her second, Violet and Victor Write The Most Fabulous Fairy Tale, is on the Winter 2015 Kids’ Indie Next List.
I’m just your average wonder woman fighting the good fight each day. When I’m not writing, I’m usually working as an executive in the legal world.
What is one thing that would surprise us?
One thing that surprises most is my ability to name a tune within a few notes for most songs pre-2004.
Feedback is my first novel. I am currently working on a second and a novella.
What genre is it and what is it about?
Literary fiction with an extra dose of comedy and tragedy.
What inspired you to write this book?
About 12 years ago, I was inspired to write a novel by the people and experiences in my life during those times. The plot of my book was inspired by two friends in particular that are the protagonist, Claire. I put a lot of research into this unique character, the only association to me is the character’s profession… I was a radio disc jockey at University.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when my short story, “Observations of a Native New Yorker” was published.
What does your writing process look like?
I usually story board in my head, transferring it to paper or a computer. Once I absorb the scenes, the dialogue naturally follows.
Where do you write?
Usually in my living room. On planes and trains when I’m traveling.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
Aside from the ones you mentioned (just kidding) probably not, though I do love having complimentary background music playing while I’m hunting and pecking. I don’t know, is that strange?
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
I designed my cover art; I had the image in my mind before the book was written. Once the book was finished, I had help from my former co-worker/friend, Mike, who created my vision with his graphic design talent.
Who is your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Guillaume, Claire’s acquaintance from college. He’s your typical rude, judgmental, and non-respectful git that no one wants to deal with.
What book do you wish you could have written?
Two stand out: Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Review it on Amazon… that helps tremendously.
Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it?
I adore the Writers Digest Conferences in LA and NY. The vibe and guest speakers are excellent. I can’t express how much knowledge you take away from that conference: it’s worth attending.
What is your favorite snack food?
Probably Almond butter with dark chocolate swirled in. Ooh.. and I love frozen yogurt too.
Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
Without being greedy, I currently have four if that’s okay (the list changes periodically), I’d say Madeline Kahn, David Bowie, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Julia Child. How much fun would that be?
Special thanks to Ben for taking the time to interview with me! I enjoyed this very much, cheers!
Lisa Montanino is the author of fiction novel, Feedback (Little Mountain Publishing, 2014) and short story, “Observations of a Native New Yorker”, featured in online magazine, Divine Caroline. Lisa is currently working on her sequel to Feedback and a novella, The Diaries of Debra Westlake. Lisa is a new contributor to The Review Review.
Her additional work and philanthropic efforts can be found on her blog Accidental Bohemian at http://ldmountain.wordpress.com, as well as at Amazon and Goodreads. You can connect with Lisa on Facebook and Twitter @ldmontanino.