Jane Bled's Author Spotlight
Guest: Christy Condoleo, Award-Winning Children's Book/YA Author
There's poetry in the scenery as you watch dreams unfold behind Christy Condoleo's imaginative eyes.
Christy Condoleo: Believing is the KeyI met Christy Condeleo, a self-published children's/YA author, through Mark Wisher, a previous guest on my Author Spotlight. Immediately, I was drawn to Christy's warmth and helping nature; in addition to being an award-winning author, she's also an active advocate of other self-publishers, often lending a hand with editing, formatting, and cover art.
Ms. Christy! Thank you for gracing this week's Author Spotlight with your sunny presence. I have some juicy questions in store for you!
I've always been fascinated by self-made successes. What are the three biggest challenges for a self-publisher?
a) Editing. I cringe after the fourth time through. Picture books are easy to edit but anything over ten pages that has a 12pt font makes me shake. I once wondered how you know when you are finished editing...sometimes, I just know, and then other times, I'm ready to chuck the book at anyone who tells me there's a mistake.
b) Not getting overwhelmed or frustrated. I just want to write and create but you can't. You have to wear all the hats and believe me, there are quite a few.
c) All the funding involved...I've been told that writers need to belong to writing groups--most want yearly membership fees. I've also been told that writers who win awards get more notice...it is a rare to find a contest that does not want an entry fee and most of the really noticeable contests want beaucoup bucks. Buying your books in bulk is the best way to make back some of the money that you put into them but not everyone has that kind of spare change lying about. Even though I design/find/make my own promo items, it still costs.
Have the other writers with whom you've come into contact been mostly helpful and friendly, or more cold and competitive?
Luckily, I seem to attract nice people. Mark Wisher, a good author friend of mine (we just met online in 2009) whom you recently interviewed, made me two book trailers for my latest children's picture book. I had no idea he was doing it and I was just in awe that someone would do that for me. I have met a few authors that just blow you off because you're not "big enough", but that's ok--the really good ones that you do meet make up for it.
I've met a few in that latter category, too...oh, well! Their loss. ;)
Now, you're an award-winning children's author. Please tell me about the award(s) you've won.
Gasgeil's Bravery won TWO Silver Quill Awards from the American Author's Association in 2008 for Best Story and for Illustration!! I NEVER win contests (though I still try), so this was like a dream. http://americanauthorsassociation.com/aw
The really cool thing about that is, I did not know the book was entered in the contest. I sent Gasgeil's Bravery and Tyme's Hope in to be reviewed (the reviews were more than I could have hoped for). Months later, I received and email asking for my illustrator's email address and was told something good was about to happen. A few weeks later, I received the email telling me that the book had won not one, but two awards!
How exciting! I'm so happy for you. I know from first-hand experience how important and rewarding it is to receive recognition for a book into which you've poured your heart and soul.
I'd be interested in hearing more about Gasgeil's Bravery.
Gasgeil is a really simple story. It's about a mouse who doesn't have any confidence. He idolizes the hollow's hero type, named Torc. When the hollow is in danger of starvation, he and Torc set out to save them (by bringing back cheese from an island made of cheese). During an encounter with a fierce water dragon named Draig, Torc is put in peril and Gasgeil, without thought to his own safety, saves him. They complete their mission and the whole hollow is saved-not by the 'usual' hero but by the unexpected one. Readers can buy it here: https://www2.xlibris.com/bookstore/bookd
The mice of Swiss Hollow are starving! Only Gasgeil and the hollow’s bravest mouse can save them. That is…if they can make it past the razor sharp beak of a cunning seagull and escape the jaws of the fierce water dragon that guards an island made of cheese.
Instead of crushing teeth, Torc felt a swish of air as he was lifted from the water and back into the safety of the boat.
"You saved me!" Torc cried proudly.
What a creative idea for a story!
Your bio mentions that you draw...care to share some samples of your artwork? What's your favorite style of art to create?
Yes, I draw, but unfortunately I'm more of what I like to call "copy artist". I can pretty well, just only if I can see it. Put a picture in front of me and I can draw it with no trouble. Ask me to pull it from my head...well, I think my inner drawing eye must be blind. I don't really have a favorite style but I do enjoy a good sketch w/my ebony layout pencil and inking. I love to share my pics! I don't know if you are into anime or not...but I love anime-it always inspires me.
Wow! Those are great! You certainly have the gift of replication.
While reading your bio, one sentence in particular stuck out to me: "There’s more to each of us than meets the eye but few make the effort to see beyond the wrapping. That is definitely a phrase that fits me and the characters I give birth to."
Inquiring minds want to know--what's beyond your wrapping? Please share at least one tidbit about yourself that you've never made public--until now.
Hmmm, a lot of times people see me and think my life is just rainbows and unicorns. I'm very emotional and feel things deeply, even though I try not show it. That's why in one of my bios I put, "She who must write and sometimes draw to keep the demons at bay". The demons being my own emotions-writing is very therapuetic for me. My sadness, for me, is personal so just because I'm not all weepy-eyed doesn't mean that I don't feel or that I'm stuck-up. I guess I inherited it from my mother--my sister is the same way. I do, however, cry at the drop of a hat over someone else's sadness--just not my own. I am constantly thinking (and not always happy thoughts), but to see me, you wouldn't think so. And yes, I am really that nice of a person who doesn't attach strings...of course, if treated badly, I can also be that bad of a person.
Ah, I see.
Does the act of creation ever call the demons out to play, rather than keep them at bay?
Oh yes. The demons have fun. I was a bit...irked, you could say, one day and the demons decided to let it be known that even a nice person can be scary. The following poem just flowed from my fingertips. I'm not really use to writing anything dark but I lovingly titled it "Revenge".
Here's a look:
Words are what I need
Gnawing, ripping, searing
Those that slice with mere letters
Ravage with only a sound.
Yes, that is what I need
Dark and twisted
Like the perfect knife
To exact my revenge.
Only, no blood shall be shed
No, blood is not good enough
Not for what I have in mind
No, this revenge is much sweeter...
*I'm a word freak too by the way. I love using words with certain sounds.
Your demons are very poetic! ;)
I'm curious--how would your best friend describe you? How would you win over your worst enemy?
Best friend: Christy is caring, thoughtful, always busy but not too busy for me, and she can make me laugh (she has a weird sense of humor but it does the trick when it's most needed).
Now, I HOPE my best friend would think all that (the laughter part I definitely know though).
Worst enemy: I'd find out what made him/her an enemy in the first place and work from there. If it's fixable then mend it, if not then work around it.
Sounds good to me!
Having authored stories for both children and young adults, which group do you prefer writing for, and why? Any plans of writing adult fiction in the future?
I like to think most of my stories, picture book or YA, can be enjoyed by any age. I still check out the children's section. Tyme's Hope is a good example. While there are pictures of two children (and lions), the children are 'old spirits' and the maze they tend is actually life. An adult would understand the underlying meaning more, but I don't rule out the younger ones' abilities, despite what some think. Don't ever underestimate a child's understanding or ability to pick up on some things.
I have written for adults. In the fall of 2008 I put together a small collection of short stories (when my mother was diagnosed w/Stage 4 cancer). I even have a story in the National Gallery of Writing, which I dedicated it to my mother (who passed last January 2009). I also recently turned in a short fiction for a contest where the characters were soldiers.
My stories come to me in strange ways (an object I saw, a thought, a word, a feeling, a dream, or while I'm on the treadmill-which I've learned to write while I'm walking), so I don't usually sit down with the intent to write for a particular age group.
Please accept my deepest sympathy for the passing of your dear mother.
While we're on the subject of creatiion, what other "outside-of-the-box" methods have you used when brainstorming for new stories?
"Treadmilling it" isn't "out of the box", is it? I was stuck on one short story and after a stint on the treadmill, it flowed wonderfully.
Then there's my collections...whenever I see something that gives me a "vibe", so to speak, I have to purchase it. I've so many cool knick-knacks to choose from! Everything from homemade marbles to keys to acorns. Right now, I've a small leather case with a clock on it, a paper box with a leather handle and a metal clasp, a tarnished gold ceramic box with a monkey on top that is reading a book, and a boulder hat on my table--I look up at them everytime I get stuck. I also have a rune book, an animal tarot card set, and a gaelic dictionary. I love information so I am not biased when I search for my inspiration. My music tastes that aide me, range from the all so soothing Kenny Loggins "Return to Neverland", Phil Collins' "Tarzan" soundtrack, and the "Mulan" soundtrack, to the hard core sounds of Disturbed, Linkin Park, and Breaking Benjamin.
I, too, enjoy listening to a variety of musical selections when I'm writing.
Which of your characters is most like yourself, and why?
Hmmm, that's a tough one. I put a little of myself into each character (I am a Gemini after all so there are many sides to me). If I had to choose, I'd say...Eppy from my Fragments of the Key series. She's a very fragile person but still, she keeps going. Not so sure if I'm all that fragile, but there are days that it's just a bear to get going and yet, I find myself trudging along anyways.
Please elaborate on Fragments of the Key: Eala's Misfit...is it the first in a series? If so, how many more books are you planning for it?
Yes, Eala's Misfit is the first in the Fragments of the Key series. I drew a little sketch for each chapter title--it's doubtful that I will draw any for the next books--wow, that was a task to come up with a different picture for each chapter and then to draw it! There will be seven books in total since there are seven fragments. I'm working on Book 2 right now (in between another book), which will be titled What Lies Within. I don't consider myself a poet, but oddly enough I write one to start off each of the books. The poems develop on their own really--they just come to me and seem to fit the story.
Oh, come now! You are most definitely a poet, as you demonstrated earlier with much aptitude.
Has an important event ever spurred you to sudden action, thus leading you farther along your current career path? If so, what was it, and what was the resulting choice you made that forever changed your life?
Yes, I think this answer might count. I had sent my sister a rough draft of Tyme's Hope and I guess it must have impressed her or made her think that I was really serious in my writing goal because she sent me a link to a children's book contest that a magazine was holding. I was determined so I tossed a few ideas for characters & plots at my youngest son. Then I locked myself away with my computer, turned on Kenny Loggin's "Return to Neverland", and began. It was only 500 words and 32 pages. I didn't win of course, but a spark had been lit and I was not going to give up. I knew an artist at a forum I belonged to that had a wonderful style. I told her what I wanted to do and asked her if she could just quick sketch the scenes and I would finish the rest (ink, color, and in some scenes I added). After that book was finished...well, it's like a chip, you can't just have one--you want a whole lot more!
Who is currently the most influential person in your life? How has knowing this person changed you?
My mother. I would say that she influenced me the most by always making me believe that I could do anything. The words never came from her lips but her actions told me. Growing up it was just my older sister, my mother, and I so after my sister left for college, my mother relied a lot on me. I know how to rewire a lamp, install a ceiling fan, and I'm very good at improvising when it comes to making something work when it probably shouldn't. She depended on me so I did not want to let her down-somehow, the way to do things just came to me. She also taught me that whatever I put an effort into, that I should give it my all.
I'd say your mother was a very wise woman.
If you were to leave this world tomorrow, what would be written on your epitaph? (if this question offends you, or if you find it too dark, please don't hesitate to tell me).
Nah, nothing is too dark for me and I only get offended if someone is mean. Sadly enough, it will probably read, "She was a good person," or something dull to that effect. Eh, I have plans to be cremated though--no dark, musty old box in the ground setting for me--set me free into the wind (not off a mountain though, I've a bit of an issue with heights)!
I hear you!
One last question--If you had the opportunity to switch bodies for a day, with whom would you trade, and why?
Oooo, I don't know. I've troubles enough as it is, I wouldn't want to deal with anyone else's issues! Just because someone looks all wonderful and like they have everything doesn't mean they are better off-there's a flaw somewhere, guaranteed! However, if I did pick another body--leaving it behind to go back to mine would be the pits! Nah, I'll just stick to being my same boring self with my achy, height-challenged, extremely flawed body-it's not much but I do own the walking rights.
Christy, thanks so much for allowing me the opportunity to interview you. I appreciate your willingness to answer all of my questions. It was a joy and a pleasure. I wish you continued success in all of your endeavors.
You are most welcome-I must say your questions are the best I've had for an interview and I've enjoyed answering them.
There’s more to each of us than meets the eye but few make the effort to see beyond the wrapping. That is definitely a phrase that fits me and the characters I give birth to. I’m five foot three, a mom, a wife, a writer, I make crafts, I draw, and I work part-time so no one would ever think I once wore combat boots and qualified to shoot an M16. They would believe I dislike guns though. The only thing simple about me is that I love to write and create.
http://www.freewebs.com/gasgeilsbravery-- first site Christy made, where she explains how the book Gasgeil's Bravery was created.
http://www.eppyscreations.com -- Christy's main site/author site, where she has short story samples, poems, and free printable pages for the children’s books.
Gasgeil’s Bravery (Picture book)
Tyme’s Hope (Picture book)
Spirit Feathers Vol.I (Fiction-collection of short stories)
Fragments of the Key: Eala’s Misfit (Book 1--YA fantasy novel)
Something Greater Than Fear (Picture book)
-This interview was conducted by award-winning e-book author Jane Bled, whose titles MASTER Book 1: Crimson & Poison are currently onsale for 30% off at Fictionwise and 64% off at Barnes & Noble. Check out Jane's goodreads profile for full story synopses & free excerpts.-