Christina Bergling is probably a new name to a lot of you. Her second book The Waning is due out on the 6th July in eBook and paperback shortly after that.
She first caught my attention when I reviewed her first book Savages so I was delighted when she asked if I would also review The Waning, and even more delighted when she agreed to do an interview for Confessions.
Part One of the interview tonight sees Christina answer some general questions about herself and her writing. In Part Two, to be published tomorrow night, Christina will answer some specific questions on the new book and also take on the dreaded Ten Confessions. On night three I will be publishing my review of The Waning. Also, after noticing that I have never added my review of Savages to the blog, as a special treat, I will publish it on night four.
So as normal, sit back, grab yourself a beer and some pizza and most of all…..enjoy!
COAR - So tell everyone a bit about yourself in general?
CB - I’m a writer. That is the first thing that comes to mind when I try to describe myself. I have considered myself a writer since I was very young. I am also a mother. I have a great partner, Mike, and we have a four year-old daughter and ten month-old son. I am also a runner, and I love to dance. I try to keep myself pretty active because I really love food.
COAR - On your website it mentions you were a “technical writer and document manager”? What did this entail? Was this connected to your trip to Iraq? What was that experience like?
CB - When I started as technical writer out of college, I worked for a Department of Defence contractor, so I wrote user guides and training materials for software used by the military. I ended up going to Iraq as a contractor in 2009 (for three months) as a trainer for a software program used for reporting in theatre.
While I was in Iraq, I trained units on how to use the software and provided on-site technical support. Some of the units would learn how to do route analysis before they would go out to clear IEDs on that route the next day. I also spent many hours writing a software user guide in a crappy trailer in Baghdad.
Now, at my present company, I get clients started authoring in XML. I train them on how to use XML and the associated programs and also write the stylesheets to format their outputs.
My time in Iraq was a life-defining experience. It was only ninety one days (but who was counting?), but it completely realigned my perspectives on life. I saw what was outside my ultimately comfortable and easy American life. I gained an appreciation for the lives deployed soldiers lead and the reality for people living in a country at war.
COAR - Why writing? Why decide on that as a career?
CB - I knew in fourth grade I wanted to be a writer. My teacher did a unit on writing where we wrote short stories and poetry. That was all I needed to know I wanted to be an author. I got an English degree with an emphasis in Professional Writing. I settled for technical writing to pay the bills, but I always kept writing on the side. It wasn’t until Savages that I wrote anything novella-length and actually submitted it to a publisher.
COAR - Take us through your process for a story. How do you start it and follow it through to the final product?
CB - Story ideas always just hit me. Either remembering some dream or just a wayward thought. Then the narrative will just start pouring over my mind, and I better just hope I have a writing implement nearby. I usually sleep with a notebook nearby when I’m sleeping. Many scenes have been scribbled in the dark, and if I’m lucky, I can decode them in the morning. Then I try to sit down and put out at least a thousand words on it a night, after the kids are in bed.
Initially, I tend to write isolated scenes, as they enter my mind. Then I put them in order in a document with ellipses in between. Gradually, I will add in the ellipses until I have a full first draft. With a draft, I begin to read through it (often aloud to my husband) and make notes on what sounds off, what needs development. I go back through it answering all those notes and repeat this process until I consider it “done”. Then I let it cool off for a week to a month before picking it back up to give it a final read through and scrub.
COAR - How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you carry a notebook with you everywhere or write stuff on the back of your hand?
CB - I keep notebooks all over, save notes in my phone, and also save fragments in files or draft emails on my computer. I always prefer to write with my hand on paper, but it takes extra time to retype it later. Ultimately, it is whatever is available.
COAR - You seem to like the blogging side of things and I have to be honest and admit I find them very interesting (also your questions of the day on Facebook). Where do you get the time to do this with all the other things in your life?
CB - I started blogging in college as part of an assignment for my Writing for the Media class. I ended up really enjoying it and avidly blogging for a few years after that. I was very engaged in the blogosphere. Then as my life changed and the fad kind of died out, I stopped. Then I started again as part of being a published author and having my books out there. So I definitely still enjoy it, maybe just as much as I did in younger days. I’m an expressive exhibitionist. I like to express myself through writing, and I like to put it out there on a public platform.
The themed questions and answers on Facebook and Twitter started as part of author promotion, but I find that I really enjoy those as well. I love reading the answers people come up with to my so-very-random questions. It is interactive and makes me feel more connected with my online friends and audience.
As for time, I simply have none. I might be putting time on credit and easing myself into the grave early at this point. I have a full time day job; I have a family that includes two young children; I am pursuing my writing career; I am a fitness addict; and I also keep my family’s social calendar completely filled, frequently with travel. I may have a problem (or so my husband tells me). I designate from baby bedtime to my own bedtime every week night as “writing/author” time. I do my blogs and Facebooking and tweetering and writing in that window (which is why book #3 is coming along so much slower).
I would love to devote more time to my craft, but the hours simply do not exist in the day, and I do not think I can sacrifice any more sleep than I have for my infant son.
Credit: Sari NeoChaos
COAR - Can you tell us if any of the characters in your books are based on people you have come across in your life or maybe even yourself?
CB - (Insert laugh.) The narrator in Savages is me. Nearly literally and completely me, flaws and all. So much so that the friends who know me tease me for writing myself right into the book and refer to her as me when they discuss the novella.
I have always done well at turning myself into a character. I think that comes from years of self-examination done in therapy. This ability makes my nonfiction work very easy to write. Yet I find I am always inserting myself into my work, something I am trying to move away from.
The Waning lacks any character influences. I drew those both up out of nothing, without consciously using real life people as inspiration. My third book (in progress) has a friend of mine as the basis for the main character and someone like myself in a supporting role.
I do often select from real life people. Usually, I take a selection of traits and turn the character into a new amalgamation of people I know. The soldier in Savages, for example, was an assembly of many people I encountered in Iraq, even people I had just heard about.
COAR - Savages and The Waning are two completely different styles of book. Is this something you want to do all the time rather than write a specific type of book within the horror genre?
CB - I appreciate the marketing tactic behind finding a vein and continually pumping it. It makes sense to establish a niche and a fan base and exploit them. However, I just follow the writing. I have never really sat down and decided to write about an idea. The idea assaults me, beats me over the head with the narrative, and I just funnel it out. Horror is definitely the most constant thread, but I can’t promise any more consistency than that. I find that I write more duplicate themes than subject matter.
Savages is about the apocalypse. The Waning is about Stockholm Syndrome. The book I’m working on presently is about the horrors of online dating. Each have drastically divergent subjects, yet they all ultimately circle around elements like horror, psychology, and survival (literal or figurative).
COAR - On your most recent blog you mention attending a book club that had just read Savages. That was brave of you. Is this something you can see yourself doing a lot? How do you think you will handle the whole “fame” thing?
CB - The experience was both intimidating and exciting. I am a junkie for feedback; my addiction started in my college creative writing classes. I like to hear what people think, good or bad (though I definitely prefer the good). However, it is always scary to put yourself out there. My art is a deep part of me, so it is vulnerable when scrutinized.
Starting out in a book club where I knew someone and had well-founded confidence that the participants would be nice and respectful was the perfect choice. I found it wildly interesting to hear thoughts from people who I did not know. I receive plenty of feedback from all the people in my real life, but it is a different perspective when it comes entirely from the outside, when they viewed the book at face value.
Given the opportunities, I will definitely continue to make appearances like this. I will probably continue to seek them out as well. I like the idea of people looking into my books and getting into my writing because they liked what they encountered when they saw me somewhere. It seems more personal in this now disconnected world.
I don’t know that I’ll ever have to deal with real “fame,” but any measure I have experienced so far is simply surreal. Having my first launch party and having over seventy five people show, having my college newspaper publish an article about my book, being listed on a genre best seller list on Amazon. My two favorites thus far are that my husband’s cousin saw a stranger reading a Savages paperback in a hospital in Minneapolis and I was recognized (and Tweet stalked) by a stranger at the Stanley Film Festival.
So far, these small things are surreal and exciting. I hope to never get to the point that they become annoying or dangerous or interfere with regular life. I doubt we’ll get to those points!
COAR - What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
CB - Time! And drafting.
With time, obviously, I simply do not have enough of it. My life is a precarious balancing act of overscheduling (of my own doing).
Beyond that, the commitment of drafting a piece to completion is sometimes daunting. I find it is like a relationship. Writing the story is fun and exciting in the beginning, like the infatuation phase. Yet after I have been through it and have to get down to the business of perfecting it, it loses some of its appeal; it becomes more work and less play. When it feels more mundane or normal, I have to actually motivate myself to finish. Yet, like the relationship, the work is worth it ultimately.
The initial writing itself has never been a problem for me. Usually, I can get the words to just roll; I can find my way. It is just finding the opportunity to do so and then finding the focus to take the story all the way to completion.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow night for Part Two to learn more about The Waning and see Christina confess all!