Today I'm interview Alberta Ross from Alberta's Sefuty Chronicles. Take it away Alberta...
Q: I understand you’ve published three books. That’s really impressive! Can you tell us about them? And where we can find them of course
Well two of them, Ellen’s Tale and The Storyteller’s Tale, are part one and two of a dystopian series The Sefuty Chronicles.
In the mid 22nd century two archivists, Ris and Maia, are trying to piece together the events of fifty years previously when Ellen, a sheltered young girl from the City, meets and falls in love with Bix who is a genetically altered soldier. As a result of the genetic changes he is supposed to be infertile but Ellen does get pregnant. Because he cannot live inside the walls and she cannot live outside them they see no future together. Ellen’s Tale, the first of the Chronicles, is how she finds a way. In itself this might not appear all that important but the archivists looking back recognise it as a pivotal moment in the country’s history. Information is gathered from letters, diaries and transcripts of recordings taken at the time. ‘The Storyteller’s Tale’ continues the story.
In the course of these investigations we learn through their correspondence of Ris and Maia’s deepening regard for each other. The events they are researching during 2111 have to be considered within the context of events in the mid twenty first century, about 2060, when the catastrophic results of climate change had led to mass migrations, with whole nations fleeing rising seas and desertification. The world tore itself apart in war over land, water and diminishing resources. The survivors had split, most scrambling to purpose-built cities the others fortifying their settlements behind the false security of rings of landmines.
Because of the trauma of these events, the leaders and scientists in the cities had begun a course of genetic manipulations on the populations to free mankind from greed and violence to try to create a peaceful world. But this has resulted in the destruction of the drive which made the human race so successful. The other survivors, unable to escape the rings of mines, had been deprived of resources for fifty years; they have been fighting famine, natural disasters and despair. Most had not survived.
I call it an historical romance in the future, with three time periods and two love stories set against a background of climate change, child soldiers, landmines, genetic engineering and eugenics!
I also published a collection of short stories, A Patchwork of Perspectives, tales one side of normal, just before Christmas at my friend’s (editor) request and they have surprised me by being well received so it pays to listen to one’s editor!
My books can be found on my official website where extracts and readers’ comments on all my books can be found.
The e-book editions of Ellen’s Tale and The Storyteller’s Tale and any moment A Patchwork of Perspectives can be found on Smashwords.
Q: What did your journey to publication involve? Do you have an agent? Have you published ‘traditionally’ or ‘electronically’? Looking back is there you would have done differently?
I started off thinking of traditional ways of publication and, along with the usual rejection slips, I did have a nibble of interest – enough to give me confidence in Ellen’s Tale. Then I was diagnosed with cancer which put everything on hold and, although I am fine now, left me feeling distinctly vulnerable and with a feeling that in my 60’s I couldn’t take lengthy time frames for granted so I decided to go it alone. On a very limited budget I had to do everything myself. Pat, my friend from forever (over 50 years) became my editor and did sterling work on the manuscript. I learnt all about DTP and designed a cover, found a printer. I funded the printing costs with advance orders so I wasn’t out of pocket at the end of the process. Then, and I know it is the wrong order!, I set about learning about marketing on the web and after a year with the second in the series published I started down the e-book path. I should have started the marketing first but I am catching up now.
Q: What is your current WIP about, and what are your plans regarding timing and publication?
WIP at the moment is the third in the Sefuty Chronicles, Jack’s Tale, which still follows the archival route but is more complicated in its structure than The Storytellers Tale and involves many subjects outside my comfort zone such as army training, battles, mind control and torture, so a great deal of research. I am hoping to finish in time for a late summer print but I haven’t tied myself up with any dates this time. Pat wants me to bring out another short story collection later this year. We will see.
Q: You mentioned to me you have dyspraxia. What is it, and how does it affect your writing?
Well it’s a collection of symptoms really, a neurological problem that impairs the organization of motor movement (when I was young it was called clumsy child syndrome) but along with these problems comes an immaturity in the neurone development of the brain. This affects the way the brain processes information, particularly when it involves thought, perception and language. Children with this problem are often called stupid, but we are as intelligent and as creative as anyone else. We can understand information but our brains are unreliable in regurgitating it. There is no brain damage as such and it is thought to happen after birth when, for some reason, the maturing of those pathways which usually happen after birth doesn’t.
My main problem now is the ordering of words, (I don’t talk in public because of this, I once managed to insult a visiting judge at our local photographic contest, I still don’t know how I managed to mangle up ‘Thank You’ but I did!) and spelling and punctuation. Pat and I have long . . . er . . . ‘discussions’ on my use of words. I tend to go with her take on it when blogging and fight a bit harder in my novels where I consider a bit of ‘creativity’ in my style is allowed.
She struggles to knock my manuscripts into shape and, although I can see an improvement in myself since I started writing seriously, I’m not sure how much she would agree! I can still read a whole page of words and not realise there is no punctuation. Drives her to distraction. Especially as I make the same mistakes over and over again, as if I wasn’t paying attention, which she knows I am. It is a problem with Dyspraxia, and unless people understand it there can be some scathing comment! It does take some of the spontaneity away from such as blogging, and commenting. I will attempt the shorter ones but it takes hours of agonizing over. Does it make sense? Is there a full stop anywhere? Have I offended anyone? I think sometimes it comes over as sounding a bit abrupt as a consequence. Also I find I will often use a word that doesn’t exactly fit what I want to say because of the spelling difficulty, such as vanish instead of disappear. Slightly different meanings. I have a dictionary of course but one does need to know how the word starts to be able to look it up.
It just means really that everything takes longer. Manuscripts and longer blogs have to be e-mailed to Pat and then corrections returned. The computer has been a godsend for people like me – oh I know the limitations of the spellchecker but it has helped alert me to some of the mistakes. And the background colour can be changed, for instance I can pick up lack of punctuation better on a primrose background and by magnifying the print more still can be found.
No cures, but repetition does work and, over the course of a lifetime, and by finding alternative ways of doing things, most of us get along. But self-confidence takes a huge knock in the early years. Nowadays treatment is all about building confidence and skills. I was very lucky with my parents who by instinct did the same and they always believed if you want a thing enough you can do it. So this was what I wanted to do. Find a way. Without my Pat though it might have proved very expensive buying in the services of professional editors!
Q: Do you have any advice for those of us on our writing journeys?
Have confidence in your work. Don’t hide behind imagined limitations, just go out and try. We are more capable than we know. Be up front about any difficulties you have, it’s amazing how many others are in the same boat, or know about the problems. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, the community of writers on the web are an amazing bunch of generous-hearted, knowledgeable folk. I have found that by joining in groups, challenges and the blogging world my confidence has been boosted and I have learnt so much. And along the way found new friends.
I also blog here and here
Thanks for spending time with us today Alberta. And if you haven't visited Alberta's blog, pop over and say hi.