Today, I’m deviativing from my usual rambles and giving my airtime to Katie of Coffee House Discussions. Katie was the commentor who won my Life List Club Milestone giveaway, part of which was an interview here at Hawleyville.
I’ve had such a wonderful time getting to know Katie as we put this together. She’s truly an inspiring young woman. Her story fits perfectly into the realm of the Life List Club, as she has set and is achieving many ambitious and exciting goals in spite of obstacles. I look forward to also hosting an excerpt from her work-in-progress here on Friday, and continuing to follow her journey as a writer.
Enough from me – let’s get on with the interview!
1. Your Blog, Coffee House Discussions, offers a bit of everything ranging from crafts to film reviews, sports to frank and open discussions on your life and a variety of other topics. How did you get started with blogging, and where do you get your ideas?
I started blogging as a little summer project, just a way of putting my thoughts on issues I was passionate about out there. Gradually the blog grew and grew as I thought of new things to add. I read a lot of other blogs so often something I see on some else’s will inspire a thought that leads to a new feature or post. For example, I’ve always loved being creative and home-made things and I also love upcycling and vintage things. It took a while but I finally realized that I could combine those things into posts with little projects (I call that feature simply Home-made).
2. You’ve just opened your own small business, Pandora’s Box. Tell us a little about that!
Well, Pandora’s Box grew out of the home-made posts on my blog. As I thought of more and more ideas, I obviously starting making lots of things and experimenting. I got a lot of compliments and people kept asking where they could buy stuff- they couldn’t believe I made it. It sounds really big-headed but I used to think that I was the only one that didn’t think the stuff I made was just random crap – but once I realized people wanted this stuff, I thought I just had to make a small business.
One of the fundamental principles of Pandora’s Box is that it has to be affordable- cheaper than shops even. I grew up in a household where money was tight so I’ve always been a bargain hunter and handmade stuff can be really expensive. Mainly though, it’s a challenge to me, in order to make cheap products I have to keep my materials cheap, and free is cheap, so I am always thinking of ways to create products out of what other people would see as rubbish. The price challenge means I always try to upcycle or recycle instead of buying new materials.
3. What advice do you have for others who are looking to start a similar venture?
Two things- get an ideas book, you will forget your ideas if you don’t draw or write them down immediately. And, don’t worry when something goes wrong, you can’t win them all!
4. We’ll be publishing an excerpt from your current work-in-progress novel, This Is What a Feminist Looks Like (WIP title only), here at Hawleyville. Please tell us a little about the story.
It’s a coming of age story, written for teenage girls and women of all ages. Living in 1960s suburbia, Jane Reynolds finds herself at a crossroads in her life- despite playing by all the rules she is rejected from Cambridge University and her boyfriend breaks up with her. When she is given the chance to move to London, she grabs the opportunity to leave her parents’ tight grasp. Will her life be any different in the city that’s changing the world? The allure of the counter-culture beckons her, but what happens when the party ends and drugs wear off?
It’s about feminism- although it’s set in the 1960s, there’s a message for women and girls today.
5. What gave you the idea for your novel?
The sixties really fascinates me, I always imagine what my life would have been like if I’d been born then, would I have burnt my bra? I’ve never been able to find out much about when the sixties counter-culture ended though – when did people stop taking LSD, start shaving their legs, get jobs and “drop back” into society as it were?
One of the most interesting parts of the counter-culture for me is feminism. I was only a young teenager when I decided I was a feminist- for me it’s always been about women being man’s equals but not identical to men. I love reading and watching documentaries about feminism in the 1960s. One day it hit me- were women taking the pill and practicing “free love” because they wanted to or because they felt like they had to? And that’s where the book came from, I have some (although not tons) of personal experience to draw from, and so I have a strong viewpoint on this now. I could talk about this for hours!
6. Do you have some advice you’d like to share with other writers and/or bloggers?
Write everyday and anything which comes into your head. You’ll get much more done writing for ten minutes a day than waiting for a time when you have a long stretch of time. I’ve started writing random scenes which popped into my head and when I’ve gone back through my notebook a couple of months later I find that with tweaking and a bit of extra writing I’ve got a short story sitting right there, ready to be drafted, without having had that intention when I wrote it. And, do whatever it takes to get into a writing class or group- group feedback is invaluable and will improve your writing way faster than on your own.
As for blogging, carry a small notebook and write down any ideas which pop into your head. When you start looking, you’ll find inspiration everywhere.
7. Do you have a timeline in mind for finishing the novel? How can readers who would like to keep up with your progress do so?
Well as it’s my first novel, I’m finding it difficult to set myself deadlines. I am sort of feeling my way and doing some courses and reading some books on the way to build skill and get advice from experienced writers. At the moment, I’ve done some writing, most of my research and have (finally) got most of the plot planned out on paper. I still want to develop the characters a bit more though so basically I don’t have a concrete date but I plan to complete the first draft within a year or so. People can keep up to date by subscribing to my blog. I plan to set up a website in the near future specifically focused on my writing career so keep a look out on my blog for the launch of that.
8. On top of starting a small business, maintaining a great blog, and writing, you are a university student! What are you studying?
I study European Politics and International Relations which I absolutely love. Politics is my passion, as Aristotle said, it’s the “master science”.
9. You’ve written a bit about your struggles with fibromyalgia. I am impressed with anyone who balances all the exciting things you have going on in your life, but especially while dealing with that challenge. How do you keep all the balls in the air?
Oh my goodness, I have no idea most of the time! My life is so unpredictable because of my illnesses and I used to be a super organized person so I can find it really frustrating, but I just keep setting myself small goals. I try to achieve something everyday but I do it in small doses, partly because I have to and partly because otherwise something gets neglected. I rarely spend a whole afternoon doing something but do an hour or two of one activity with rest breaks between each thing.
My body responds well to routine so I try to develop some sort of schedule to fit my life at the time. In the summer I have different schedule to term time, for example. I try to find time each day to go online, do some writing, do some university work, reading, and mediation/prayer even if I only manage to do 10-15 minutes of each. I’ve learnt that it’s better to chip away at these things little by little rather than waiting for enough energy to work for a couple of hours- that slot never comes!
10. Just for fun: Favorite Author? Favorite Movie? Other hobbies or interests you’d like to share with us?
Aw man! I can never pick these things. I love movies and books, my tiny flat is packed to the rafters with DVDs and books. The first books that got me to enjoy reading were the Harry Potter books, but I also love To Kill A Mockingbird (doesn’t everyone?) and The Women’s Room, and definitely find reading Austen such a pleasure, I can slip happily into that time period for hours. There’s no way I can pick a favourite movie, as well as an extensive DVD collection, I have a subscription to Love Film (do you have that in the USA? – (Pam‘s note – I don‘t know the answer to this one – do we, friends?) and an unlimited cinema card so…
I also love my Church, it’s a huge part of my life- it’s amazing and nothing like any other Church on the planet. I also love going to museums, galleries, and visiting new places- just any way to soak up history and culture. I am a big food fan too, I love baking and cooking. I can’t do it much anymore but my boyfriend is a really adventurous cook. And like every true Welsh person, I am a rugby fan (it’s not boring my American friends), my whole family can be found screaming at the telly or celebrating tries whenever Wales plays.
Please join us on Friday for an excerpt of Katie’s story!