Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Writer's Interview - Jo Schaffer ( YA author, poet, essayist and lots more)

My fourth interview with a wonderful writer JO Schaffer. I was a bit apprehensive before sending questions to her. Because I was on a hiatus from blogging. It's been four months since I published my last interview and I felt like I was doing it for the first time. But Jo's quick response put me at ease.

Jo talks about herself

Grew up in a big family with two creative and smarty pants parents in California. Have traveled a lot in US and Europe and most recently Costa Rica and will do more. Enjoyed BYU and changed majors from Archeology to Humanities to English with an emphasis on writing.
Have three sons and we have a blast.
Don't eat sugar or refined grains and stay very socially active. I read a ton. I like power yoga and taekwondo.
I miss the beach. Adjusting to snow.
Am writing my second novel and want to keep it up!
Belong to an amazing writing group called Writers Cubed. We run the Teen Author Boot Camp at UVU.

Jo Schaffer is a YA author and ' More than Karma' is her work.

Here is author Jo Schaffer exclusively for you.

What kind of a person is Jo Seable- Schaffer?

I was born and raised in the Bay Area of California in a big family and later lived in LA so I’m sure I have a lot of California in me.
I guess you could say I’m a conservative bohemian? Haha! (= I’m the typical Sagittarius in some ways. An informed optimist. I love travel, learning, people, and exploring. Spirituality is important to me and so is intellect. I really enjoy knowing people deep down and I have a desire to make the world a better place.
I like back nail polish, multi- colored hair and health food. I love my kids and being an empowered mom and my husband is my best friend. We foster creativity and expression in the home—he’s a filmmaker and I write—and our kids have found passions and hobbies that we support. The last couple years I’ve started working on getting my black belt in taekwondo with my son. It has been an amazing experience.

Tell us about your book ' More Than Karma' and characters.

I have one book being shopped around in New York right now. The working title of my book is More Than Karma. My main character, Karma, feels like a curse because bad things happen to the people around her when she’s upset or have been wronged in some way. Her Hindi father died when she was a baby and there is so much about her childhood and father’s culture that she doesn’t know. Karma’s mother is an emotionally intense woman with frightening secrets. Karma is a lonely child—taken in by friendly neighbors Michelle Bender and her family. They become BFFs. Michelle’s big brother, surfer boy, Steven, becomes Karma’s ultimate crush. But she has so much to learn about herself and the past before she can really understand the nature of love. Many people come into her life on her journey to self-actualization, including mysterious bad boy, Bram McKay who share her “power” and wants to manipulate how she uses it. It gets intense.
I really enjoyed writing it and the characters really came alive for me.

How did writing occur to you?

I’ve been writing all of my life. I love exploring people and life through the written word and to tell stories that people can relate to. About five years ago I decided to write a full-length novel based on my experiences as a student in London. So I did—it wasn’t awesome but I finished. And then I started Karma’s story and met a group of awesome writers and we became Writers Cubed. Having a good critique group has really helped my writing so much! I’m writing up a storm these days.

What were your struggles in becoming a writer and also the person you are today?

I think the struggle to become a writer was wrestling my muse and making time for writing. And a lot of things get in the way of that. It takes commitment and passion to write. Luckily I have both for the time being.
The query process was my least favorite, but I ended up with a fantastic agent, Rubin Pfeffer of East/West Literary Agency and I feel like I’m in good hands. Just never give up if you want to write as a career.
So many of my life experiences have helped my writing. Traveling, being involved in the community, having a special needs child, suffering through various life lessons and hard times as well as enjoying so many of life’s miracles.
Writing is 95% thinking—something I enjoy doing. (=

Which is your favourite genre that you would like to write a book on?
For now I enjoy writing YA. All of my current works are pretty different—but they all explore the lessons and lives of teens and what a pivotal time of life that is. I like a little supernatural sometimes, thriller, romance and suspense. Every story should be a journey that entertains and gives the reader something good or interesting to walk away with.

Tell us about ' White lies'?

White Lies is a short story I wrote for a short story compilation by Writers Cubed called The Storm available as an ebook on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. All the participating authors wrote a story that involved a freak snow storm in San Francisco and used it as a device or metaphor in the plot. It is fun to see what everyone came up with.
Mine is about saucy, Lizette Munoz. A latina girl living in a poorer neighborhood in Oakland. Her boyfriend Edgar didn’t come home the night before—again. And we get to find out what she does about it and how she learns that not everything is as it seems.

Tell us about your new website ' Writers Cubed'?

The group is always working on new ways to reach out to other authors and writers to offer help and support. We have several projects in the works to make this objective easier and more accessible. The website will help us network and interact with other writers.

You write a lot - Poems, blogs, essays, reviews and the like. Do you have a special liking for any particular genre.

I like writing just about anything, But one of my first loves was poetry—not sure if I am any good—but I enjoy expressing myself that way. Also I like interviewing authors, filmmakers and artists to see what makes them tick.

How do you pick and choose topics to write?

From my life experiences and anything that interests or inspires me. It is important to me that the things I write have an honesty or truth in them even when it’s ugly. I want to give a piece of humanity to the reader in a way that is entertaining and thought provoking.

You have produced a handful of good poems. Which one is your
favourite and why?

Oh. That’s a tough one. I guess I really like the one called Sons because it says so much about me and my life as a mother and an individual—in a short concise way:

Sons...more like the moons of a mother planet they orbit around me
I pull them toward me as they turn away
Which keeps them moving around and around
And I turn and turn to keep my eye upon them...
And to do my own dance

I should probably post more on my poems on my blog—it’s been a while.

What are your tips for writing?

Do it all the time. Don’t give up. Learn as much as you can about it. Join a critique group—go to writing conferences. Then find your own way of doing it and be true to yourself and your voice will emerge. Let it flow.

Tell us about Teen Author Boot Camp you attended this year and
memorable experiences you had?

I co-founded the Teen Author Boot Camp with the other members of Writers Cubed because we wanted to provide a writing conference for aspiring teenaged writers.
We all grew up loving to write and would have been so thrilled with an opportunity like this to be taken seriously and given some quality instruction and mentoring.
We provide hundreds of teens with the opportunity to attend classes given by the published authors that they read. From topics ranging from plot and characterization to dialog and voice. A whole Saturday of classes and a yummy lunch, plus, a lot of free prizes.
Last year our keynote speaker was Kiersten White of PARANORMALCY—she was hilarious and insightful the kids loved it! This year our keynote was Brandon Mull of FABLEHAVEN, and the kids went nuts over him.
We’ve been blessed to have so many authors support this and donate their time to teaching these kids in all day seminars. It is fun and educational. And it puts the authors in direct contact with their target audience in a meaningful way. Win, win.
So many memorable experiences—we are excited for next year.
The kids are amazing. Our first chapter contest winners are so impressive. The future of writing is in good hands! You can check out who our authors have been at

Share some of your beautiful moments associated with writing?

So many. I laugh and cry with my characters. But, one particular experience happened as a student. I was in the Lake District in England visiting the home of William Wordsworth—one of my favorite poets. I strolled his beautiful grounds overlooking Lake Windermere, breathing in the soft English air in the same place where so many of his poems were written. I had this moment of peace and heightened awareness of my surroundings. Like my soul lit up. And I knew I wanted to write. Hard to explain but it was a pivotal moment for me.

Have your ever thought of any other job other than writing?

Yes, I have taught art and creative writing. Also, I did consider going into social work—in particular counseling for troubled teens. I have worked with teens as the president of a youth organization and can really appreciate teens and where they are in that stage of their lives.

Could you give us tips on how to review a book and a movie?

Hard to say—it is so subjective. Go with your gut. Explain how it made you feel—what you liked and didn’t like and try to assess how well the creator led you along their path. My husband works in the film industry—so if you watch a movie with him be ready to hear everything that is lame or good about the movie as you watch. Haha!

Do you write a book with both the readers of east and west in your mind?

I suppose most of my stories are based on my experiences being raised in a western culture. But my associations and travels have hopefully opened up my themes to something somewhat universal. My story about Karma probably explores that the most—as she is half Indian and has family who are Hindi.

When did you start blogging?

Eight years ago? It has been a fun way to interact with people from all over the world. I probably should blog more often than I do but I’m writing so much for my agent these days that I haven’t the time.

Do you buy books you need to read or just collect books to read in future?

Both. And now that I have a kindle it is chronic and compulsive.

Did blogging help you in your writing?

Yes. I think so. The more you write the better. And meeting other writers through their blogs has been inspiring all along.

What are your hobbies apart from writing?

Travel. Friends. Yoga. Taekwondo. Singing. Reading. Hiking and Camping. Health recipes.

Your 10 favourite books and 10 favourite movies?

Oh snap. I can’t possibly choose … there are too many. But here are a few worth noting:
Books: Of Human Bondage, Jane Eyre, The Apothecary’s Daughter, Outlander series, I Capture the Castle, The Believers, (anything by Austen, L.M. Montgomery or Louisa May Alcott, Dickens, Henry James or Dean Koontz)
And that’s only some of the fiction—I read a lot of nonfiction as well.
Movies: The Artist, Lars and the Real Girl, The Mission, Pieces of April, Moulin Rouge, The Fugitive, Bourne Identity series, Return To Me, Nacho Libre, Star Wars (original 3), Room With A View, Princess Bride, Rocky, anything Jackie Chan, and several awesome Bollywood musicals-- especially Lagaan.

I’m also a huge fan of classic and black and white film—including silent film. I could make a huge list of movies—of all genres.Anything Joss Whedon writes for TV or movie is genius.

How would you like to see you after five years?

With a few published books under my belt and still doing what I do. I like my life.