Posted by Tania Marie's Blog
Today’s Monday Musings from The Writer’s Corner highlights author, Jean Brannon. The worldwide web brought Jean and I together by way of serendipity, but it feels much more like a golden thread of soul connection drew us back to where we left off. There is definitely a rich and sweet weaving that happens between us when we communicate, filled with continual, synchronous reflections. I couldn’t have been more honored to be able to read and offer a review for her new novel, Atlantis Writhing. Originally, it was my artwork that connected us, but it is our shared desire to spread love and inspiration through our work that unites us.
Jean was so kind to be open to doing a written interview for this Monday Musings series and I think you’ll find her answers and journey to be very inspiring and insightful.
Interview with Jean Brannon ~ Author of Atlantis Writhing
- How did the idea for your novel “Atlantis Writhing” come about?
Back in 2013, I had been working in a joint healing practice in Athens, GA with my beloved life partner and Reiki Master Greg Hagin. When he passed away unexpectedly, I felt I needed to re-evaluate everything. To reclaim “my life” as opposed to what had been “our life” together. I also felt Greg’s death had been a wake-up call to ensure I made life’s every moment count. Just the week before his death, Greg and I had worked together to create a list of things we wished to accomplish in 2013. “Completing a first novel” was at the top of my priorities.
And so, two days after Greg’s memorial service, I sat down at the computer and decided to write. Really write. No matter how bad the words sounded or how much I didn’t feel like it. I committed to write without judgment, without editing and without missing a day until a first draft was completed. That was August 5, 2013.
I told no one what I was doing. I abstained from movies and television and the radio to eliminate outside influences and be able to write as purely as possible from a meditative place. Every day, after treating my acupuncture patients or finishing farm chores (Greg and I had lived on the outskirts of Athens, on over 12 acres of land), I would meditate. And then sit at the computer, allowing a storyline to unfold. I was guided right away to an Atlantean setting to explore the questions that kept flooding me. Questions that – not surprisingly since I’d lost my life’s great love – centered around examining what a balanced and healthy but impossible love would look like. Whether such a love could endure. And if it would endure.
Then on March 7, 2014, I saved the first draft of the final chapter in “Atlantis Writhing”, my written response to those questions I’d been asking for so long. My own editing process then began and many revisions followed, leading me eventually to seek publication. An endeavor that turned into a few years of query letter submissions. A process that ultimately led to the book being published now by Absolute Love Publishing.
- What are your inspirations for writing?
The archetypal “hero’s journey” is an endless source of inspiration to me. Anyone who is feeling frightened or challenged or traumatized or unable to go on…who finds a way to go on anyway. Whether that’s a fictional Rocky Balboa refusing to stay down in the boxing ring or a very real Rosa Parks not budging from her bus seat, I am moved and motivated by ordinary folks doing the extraordinary.
Yet in addition to that type of inspiration, I am continually appreciative of and called to action by the ancient wisdom I do my best to embody. The guidance gleaned from my studies in Chinese medicine and New Thought philosophies. Which means I intend to incorporate these teachings into my work, so that anyone who reads my writing – or even glimpses the cover art on something I’ve created – will be uplifted, inspired and empowered. And so knowing that I’m consciously intending to help anyone who crosses my path feeds my enthusiasm and keeps me passionate about this labor of love!
- Have you always known you wanted to write?
I grew up an avid bookworm in a small town in West Virginia. At the time my hometown didn’t have a library, but every few weeks a mobile library would park near the elementary school. And I could hardly wait to check out as many books as I could from the Bookmobile! I would sometimes re-read books while waiting for the Bookmobile’s return. Truly I can say I’d read “Charlotte’s Web” at least 50 times by the time I was seven!
Perhaps it’s because books seemed like such a rare and magically precious commodity. But even as a child I daydreamed about one day being a novelist. By the time I attended Richwood High School, I’d fallen in love with classical literature, and in Mrs. Gwinn’s eleventh grade English class read two pivotal works – “The Hobbit” and “Jane Eyre” – which had a lasting impact in terms of the genres that spoke to me the most: epic fantasy depicting the hero’s journey as well as impassioned romance.
- Can you share a little about yourself and the journey that has led you to now?
Even though I’d always hoped beyond hope to be an author, my writing journey has not been a straightforward path.
I grew up in an impoverished area where people worked hard for most anything they had. Where it was understood that young people needed a rational plan for the future so they could earn a decent wage and provide for themselves and their families. Where dreams were more in the “crazy pie in the sky” category because, in most cases, that type of thing didn’t put food on the table.
So when it came time to choosing a college major, I knew in my heart I wanted to be a novelist. But my head kept telling me to “keep it real”. I decided journalism would allow me to become a practical writer, and so I ultimately graduated from WVU with a bacheler’s of science in journalism with an emphasis on advertising copywriting.
Post-college I landed what I thought would be my dream job. I moved to NY and began work as a copywriter. But it wasn’t long before I felt disillusioned. Before it felt increasingly wrong to use my writing skill to sell people things. And before I developed pretty severe back pain. I vividly remember spending a couple of weeks recuperating in bed, where I began taking stock of my life. I acknowledged to myself I still desired to become a novelist, but working in the ad business had made me realize I simply couldn’t bear to write some pretty words simply so I could sell some books. I knew I needed to feel like I had something important to share.
Fortunately, an acupuncturist was recommended to me. And I was helped so quickly I felt uplifted by Oriental Medicine. I began to wonder how pleasant it might be to work in soft music and dim lights and help people to feel better. Ultimately I decided Oriental Medicine would make a wonderful second career – not realizing at the time that this ancient healing system would one day inspire the words I’d feel were important enough to share.
- How do you stay motivated with your writing?
Motivation to me is fueled by two forces – desire and momentum. Sometimes I find that life’s extra-busy periods can scatter my energy, which tends to put the brakes on forward progress as it dampens my enthusiasm. Which can then undermine motivation in general.
So I’ve found a simple balancing technique that springs from committing to baby steps. Which involves asking myself honestly what tiny amount of time and effort can I commit to my writing each day. Because in the committing comes the showing up, every day, to honor myself. And that daily attention, from a Chinese medicine perspective, nurtures the digestion channels while helping the acupuncture channels governing movement to flow. These channels are all crucial to keeping one’s motivation moving forward in a healthy way.
If a person can thus “show up” and pay daily attention to a goal for 21 days straight, that’s how long it takes to form a new habit – or begin to realize a dream. So if all you can comfortably commit at first to your writing dream is two minutes a day, then commit to two minutes a day. But really commit! Put it into your schedule. Set a timer if you need to. And make sure you write your heart out for that full two minutes.
At this stage, resist doing more. Because it’s all too easy to overdo it and become overwhelmed. Do your two minutes and feel great about it, since after the initial three weeks of two-minute commitments, your mind, heart and soul will be in the habit of enjoying them and thus be eagerly anticipating those two minutes. Once this habit is established, then gradually add minutes to your commitment. Perhaps two minutes extends to five, which can then become seven and eventually ten. Over the course of another month or so, you’ll find you’ve carved out the time and now have the initiative to move forward passionately with your dream!
- What are your greatest challenges?
I find my single greatest challenge is being a natural multi-tasker. Which means, for the most part, I am in my happy place juggling a number of projects and goals. Yet if you combine that with my Capricornian tendency to be a workaholic, then sometimes I forget to make enough time to play every day. Add in the fact that I love being an author as well as an acupuncturist, and on some level I feel I can justify the long hours I put in daily – because these paths of service both light me up!
But I do my best to remind myself that experiencing daily delights outside my occupational joys are essential to overall balance and well-being. Which is why I set aside time every day for activities like drawing and home improvement projects (art and appreciating old houses are two passions of mine!). As well as yoga and Epsom salt soaks and walks in nature and quiet contemplation of a firepit’s flames. Incorporating such things helps me make self-nurturing as much a part of my life as multi-tasking!
- What does a typical day look like for you and do you find that scheduling in your writing helps?
A typical day for me probably looks atypical to most people. Some days my acupuncture sessions are booked in the afternoons or evenings, while other days I offer morning treatments. Jogging and yoga and other self-care pursuits get penciled in around my sessions. And in the new year, I will be adding in book fairs and festival appearances and so forth – so my schedule is likely to get even less structured.
But no matter what else is going on during the course of a day, I find the early morning hours and the ones right before bed are when I’m naturally drawn to write. For me personally, a hard and fast writing schedule doesn’t feel best. I prefer to make the commitment every morning that I will meditate in front of my keyboard. And make sure I take at least some notes if full-on inspiration doesn’t strike. Then I do the same thing as my day is winding down. I find that by inviting ideas to come to me in the in-between hours (dawn and dusk) that the words flow more easily and naturally than if I try to force productivity according to a particular time table.
- Do you have any advice for new writers?
I’d advise any new writers, first and foremost, to have their internal editors take a little break and go sit in a corner quietly. There is a time and place for editing. Which is that time and place when you’re ready to make it all look neat and pretty and wrap it up to go in a red bow. But that’s not at the beginning. The beginning tends to be rather messy. It’s a time for coloring outside the lines. For dangling participles and drivel as dialogue and a disturbing overuse of adverbs.
I’d encourage new writers to let it look bad. And move on. There’s too much of a human tendency to angst about whether it’s any good or not. Such a tendency to worry that it can block momentum and make you pause, overanalyze and then stop altogether.
Please. Don’t stop. Whatever else you feel you must do, just keep going. Just keep showing up, and the words will come. They may sound stilted or silly initially, but encourage them to keep coming and – sooner or later – they will start to flow. And flow well. For sure you’ll surprise yourself if you just keep at it!
- There are more options these days for writers to publish their work and pros and cons for each. Which way did you choose and why?
I chose the traditional publishing route, and I decided to follow that path initially because I felt I might learn a lot from whatever feedback I’d get through the query-submission process. I reasoned that having spent my early corporate career as a copywriter would serve me exceedingly well as a new novelist. Because I’d learned not to be married to my words, and so I had no fear of anyone doing the equivalent of bleeding a red pen across my pages in the interest of making them better and moving them closer to being accepted for publication.
I wasn’t exactly prepared, however, for silence. And seemingly endless waiting. In this day of electronic submissions, I can appreciate how agents are getting thousands of queries every day, and so a prompt and warm and fuzzy response isn’t usually the norm. But to hear nothing? For months on end? After spending hours personalizing a query to a particular agent, and pointing out why my story perfectly aligns with the material they’re seeking?
After six months of form-letter rejections or no response at all – and no feedback whatsoever to go on – I decided to take an agent’s query-writing class. I followed that up with another agent’s class where I submitted my query and first few pages for a critique. I got some great feedback from those classes, and yet vastly different opinions as to what makes an awesome query.
I decided to experiment with the feedback I’d received, and so I revamped my query into two styles according to what I’d learned. And then I began the submission process all over again. Yet I got the same results. After several more quiet months, I decided to hire Jane Friedman – a veteran with 20-plus years of publishing industry experience – to review my query and synopsis. I’d been following Jane’s newsletter and blog for a while, and found her insights to be wise and thoughtful.
She provided quick and compassionate counsel regarding my submission materials. And then said something shocking. That basically it was my genre – a New Age fantasy novel – that likely was the issue. Because most publishers weren’t looking for novels with metaphysical teachings. Although she gave me some tips for searching via mlswishlist.com and PublishersMarketplace.com for agents and editors and publishers that perhaps would be open to New Thought novels.
I immediately started researching, and with renewed confidence I prepared a submission package for a publisher I thought would be a great fit. I mailed out the materials two weeks later. And then in six weeks, I got an email from Absolute Love Publishing’s editor – she wanted to read the whole manuscript. In two more months, I was offered a contract. And now eighteen months later, “Atlantis Writhing” is ready to launch!
And so my own experience and what I’ve learned talking to other writers tells me there’s no one right path to publication for everybody. Some writers may be overwhelmed at the idea of all the decisions required in self-publishing. While others may thrive on retaining complete creative control.
I have to say honestly my own journey toward becoming a published author is not what I’d expected. Yet I’ve learned so much and I wouldn’t change any of it! I am thrilled to be aligned with a publishing company whose sole mission is to promote goodness in the world – I mean, how wonderful is that?
I hope my own experiences may help inform others and prepare them for some of the possibilities they could encounter if they choose to pursue traditional publishing. Overall, though, I would encourage new writers to explore all the options available, then see what truly resonates with their intuitive senses. And make their choices accordingly.
- What are you currently working on?
Right now, I’m revising a nonfiction manuscript on the lesser-known lower-leg chakras that Absolute Love Publishing is looking to release this spring. I’m also writing a free 21-day PDF series I hope readers will find helpful that explores step-by-step some of the self-actualizing tools the “Atlantis Writhing” characters use in the book; this PDF series will be available at no charge by the first of the year to anyone who emails me and requests the “Free PDF Series” at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I know your book hasn’t officially launched yet, but how can people pre-order and where can they find announcements about its official release?
I so appreciate you asking about the publication date and pre-order information! The book officially is launching Tuesday, December 11, 2018, and at that time will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and other similar outlets. The book may also be pre-ordered at the Absolute Love Publishing website: https://absolutelovepublishing.com/atlantis-writhing/
And Tania, I’m so thankful for your time and for you allowing me to be a guest via The Writer’s Corner. Many blessings to you and your readers in the coming year!
Thank you dearly Jean for taking the time to share about your journey. It’s a beautiful example of what is possible through commitment and supporting what calls to our hearts. I greatly appreciate you and all you have to share with the world. I know that your experiences will be supportive for many. I wish you much success with your new novel and continued blessings. I’m so grateful for the reconnection.
Jean Brannon is an Author & Acupuncturist. Her website is www.jeanbrannon.com.
And again, her book can be pre-ordered at this link, where you’ll also find my review: www.absolutelovepublishing.com/atlantis-writhing/