Monday, October 16, 2017

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Justine Hemmestad

Tell me about yourself. What got you started in writing?

In 1990 (I was 19 and married for three months) my car was hit by a city bus – I sustained a severe brain injury, was in a coma, paralyzed, and the doctors thought I wouldn’t recover (my story is in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries). Within a few months I was walking again and began writing, and my husband and I moved to Iowa where we started our family of seven kids. I also began college part-time in the mid-2000s, as I continued to research and write Visions of a Dream, as well as a few other books I was writing (my novella Truth be Told is also on Amazon). I’ve earned my BLS from The University of Iowa, and I’m now working on a Master’s Degree in Literature through Northern Arizona University. Writing helped to discipline my mind and organize my thoughts post-brain injury.

How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?

I write in my head wherever I am, but physical writing seems more focused the more chaos surrounds me and when I use actual pen and paper. I have seven kids, so when they were all young at once I couldn’t schedule time – I just had to be prepared to write if I had the chance. I can understand the writers who write in a cafe or with a bustle going on around them, as it makes writing more streamlined when I’m ‘in the zone.’

How and where do you write? Do you prefer a laptop or some other method of getting your words down?

I write wherever I am if I have the opportunity. I carry a notebook and pen with me wherever I go and I always have them near me even when I sleep. I write on a laptop or computer when I’m at home or in the later stages of writing. I find that when I write with pen and paper, my writing flows better and I have more concentration to employ all that I’ve learned about writing in my story.

What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?

My favorite part about writing is also my least favorite part – that it takes so much of my heart to write, as a writer (I think Hemingway) said, you just sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Fatigue also gets bad for me after writing for a while. It’s refreshing but it almost makes me feel like I’m going to pass out.

How did you come up with your book idea? How long did it take you to write your book?

I came up with the idea of writing about Alexander the Great after I watched a documentary about him and admired his fortitude. The more research I did on him, especially through his own words in documented speeches, the more I felt inspired to not only write about him in order to discover his motives but also to recover from my injuries myself. I was researching it and writing it for twenty years.

What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?

With the release of my prior novella, Truth be Told, I was featured on the front page of the local newspaper – which was good for sales. However, with Visions of a Dream, I want to be read for the quality of the writing and the story itself and for that to be passed on by word of mouth from those who have read it. I tried a publicist, which didn’t work out well, and now I’m trying to get the word out about Visions of a Dream and how important the message is, not only for Alexander’s story but also for the times we live in today. My goal is more toward getting it put into libraries – I want it to have staying power if it takes a long time to be noticed.

Get the Book at Amazon
What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?

My new novel, Visions of a Dream, focuses on the spiritual fire that ignites Alexander the Great's actions as he learns from the other cultures he comes into contact with. The first three parts of my book are in his own point of view to allow readers inside his head so that they might understand why he believes as he does, and the fourth part is in the point of view of his companion, Baphomet (a name that in ancient times meant knowledge), to highlight Alexander’s emotional distance that accompanies PTSD (first “documented” at the Battle of Marathon one hundred years prior), and the emotional and spiritual challenge she provides him with. This third person point of view allows for Alexander to be seen objectively. Baphomet and his companion since childhood, Hephaestion vie for his love but they also provide the steel he needs to be sharpened spiritually and emotionally, for before he conquers the world he must first conquer his own mind (Masahide’s quote, “My storehouses having burnt down, nothing obstructs the view of the bright moon,” is included in Part Three). He was inclusive of all people, all cultures, and all religions and he lived that belief. Alexander’s relationships with his fellow man knew no restrictions, nor did his love of the sublime. He immersed himself in the Persian culture when there, in the Egyptian Culture when there, and also the Indian culture when there, for he believed in the individual beauty of each culture rather than assimilation. This immersion gave me the opportunity to authentically present each culture’s deepest spiritual beliefs as they would have been presented to Alexander. To this end, the exploration of his heart and mind becomes the greatest legacy he leaves behind in the world.

Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.

I’m very focused on getting the word out about Visions of a Dream as well as working on my Master’s Degree in Literature. I have a few upcoming talks at local libraries and I’ll be participating in a book fair in Iowa City (home of The Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where I’ve taken a few courses via distant learning). I’m also working on having Visions of a Dream reviewed, which has been a more difficult endeavor than I thought.

What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?

I would advise them to center themselves, meaning to find out what inspires them and be humbled to that – then the writing process takes care of itself. Also, take writing classes to improve upon talent (which exists if you feel inspired) with solid foundations. Listen to the advice you’re given, considering your respect for the source, even if it wounds your pride. Be humble to your honest love for writing because it will always carry you back to itself. Read a lot, as that is often where inspiration arises.

A Question for Kathryn:

Can creativity be learned?

What a great question! I think everyone has a creative side to them, but not everyone uses the creativity they have been given. Perhaps they feel like their life or work hinders them, but, the truth is, using creativity simply means opening our eyes to it. Once we do that, we can use what is inherently already inside of us. 

Thanks for the question!


Visions of a Dream Book trailer:

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