Friday, 2 December 2011

Interview with Birgit + Giveaway

Today I have a very special guest on the blog: a good blogger friend of mine Birgit (whom you might remember from her funny guest post when she took over my blog while I was on holiday), who in the mean time became a published author! Yes! So please give a warm welcome to blogger-turned-author Birgit, who I was kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding her new release.

Stella: Hi Birgit, welcome to Ex Libris! :-) I have to say you are the first blogger friend who became a published author and who I got to interview on the blog, so please let me know if I’m doing the preferential treatment right, ok? *Stella rolls out the red carpet and hands out a welcome Margarita, turns on the fan and checks for snacks* Ok everything’s in place, so let’s get down to business, could you tell my readers a few words about you?

Birgit: Thanks so much for having me here today, Stella! *takes a sip from the Margarita* Trust me, I was having second thoughts about approaching a friend in the blogosphere to feature my book. No matter how you look at it, it is a bit awkward, then again I figured you'd be honest no matter if you loved or hated the book, so I decided to simply ask. And I'm glad I did, because that Margarita is as excellent as your taste in books *throwing confetti*!

Some of you might already know me as the gal who's happily typing away at The Book Garden. Books are my life. Simple as that. Reading. Writing. Blogging. Mountaineering (climbing the vast mountain ranges of my TBR piles to reach my bed, or the toilet for that matter). Carpentry (arranging books to create furniture, such as end tables aka yet-another-wobbling-book-stack). So you see, books made me develop quite a few unexpected talents along the way.

Stella: *turns to the audience - yes because this is a talk show kind of interview- and whispers: you see, this girl is hilarious! I so cannot wait to read a fictional novel penned by her where her humour can shine through* Ok, not wanting to neglect my Author Guest, let me get back to the interviewing part. Birgit, you have been blogging for some time now, how, why and when did you start it?

Birgit: I think it all started in a moment of complete and utter boredom. Ha. I signed up on Blogger in June 2010 and I was blogging maybe once or twice a week. Then, around Christmas time last year, I decided to do things more seriously, made an action plan for my book blog, and have been blogging daily ever since. At the same time I also started to blog regularly, three times a week, on my second blog, The Travel Garden, though I've now put that one on hiatus for the time being. I want to focus a lot more on writing books, so I had to cut back somewhere.

Stella: What is your favourite part of blogging?

Birgit: You mean I have to narrow it down to just one thing!? Alright. Can do. Maybe. Apart from the obvious things, such as the awesome blogging community which includes both bloggers and devoted readers/followers, I love how it expanded my horizons when it comes to reading. I've always considered myself to be an eclectic reader, but I've advanced quite a bit in the last year. I almost don't dare admit this, but up until a year ago I found YA books to be for kids *ducks and runs for shelter* but I have discovered so many fantastic books that are labelled YA and most of them make for great reading for just anyone! I had to get this old to learn that it's not about age, it's about the story!

Stella: Your second novel, the first in English, just came out The Attic in My Yard. Could you tell readers what it is about, what they can expect of it?

Birgit: If you know the gift books by Bradley Trevor Greive, which I personally really love, then you get the general idea. What our books have in common is that they feature both text and photography in an uplifting, inspiring, and fun way. What makes The Attic in My Yard different is that I've used my own photos, and that it is more text-heavy than the one-photo-a-page books by Greive. In short – The Attic in My Yard is an encouraging and inspirational gift book on following your dreams!

Stella: What inspired it? Was there a defining moment when the lightbulb went on and you said to yourself I have to write this book?

Birgit: To be honest, the idea just sauntered in without even knocking, so I'm not sure if this qualifies for inspiration striking. Then again …

But seriously, the fact that I quit a very uninspiring dead-end job to pursue a career in writing, and to generally work in a more creative environment, shows how I followed my own dream. It didn't work out quite as planned, but I'm content and happy with where I am and don't regret my decision one bit. Inspiring others to dare and live their dreams is what I hope to achieve with my book. Sometimes it's that little nudge that leads people in the right direction of happiness. Why not present that nudge in form of a book?

Stella: And why this title? Does it have a special meaning?

Birgit: You know, I've heard so often how authors struggle to find the perfect title for a book. Maybe I'm the big exception, or just very lucky, but this has never been an issue for me. Titles just pop up along with the idea for a story or a book, and that is that. I realize it is quite an unusual title, but I think it reflects so perfectly how an attic is a playground for kids, while it is simply a place to store old stuff for adults. But the attic that made our childhood an adventure can be found anywhere, not just underneath the roof. Quite often it stands outside our homes, in the middle of the yard, right in front of our nose. We just have to look closely to realize it's there, and that it's still filled with dreams.

Stella: How long have you been writing The Attic in My Yard? Can you tell us a bit about the writing process (we have the advantage of hearing it from a blogger-author, so we don’t want to miss out on the chance)?

Birgit: From idea to publication roughly 10 months. The “baby” was running a bit late as far as the delivery is concerned, then again I'd go so far as to say the “pregnancy” came quite unexpectedly too. You see, at first the idea seemed so out of my usual hunting aka writing grounds (I'm feeling most at home in the realms of speculative fiction, having a soft spot for science fiction) that I pushed it aside until early spring. When it still wouldn't let go I finally gave up, sat down, and starting working on it. The writing itself didn't take all that long, and my lovely editor, Amy Primeau, then gave it a scrutinizing once-over which I held in my hands in early summer. The book didn't get published before October though, and the reason is that I couldn't make up my mind about the cover. The perfectionist in me needed almost as long to finally decide on converting the title-lending “attic” photo into a watercolour painting as it took writing the actual book. Add the fact that formatting the book has been a real pain and I'm still not on talking terms with the Smashwords Meatgrinder (yep, it really is called that way, and somehow it figures).

Stella: The book is illustrated with your own photos. Photography is a passion of yours besides reading. Was it difficult narrowing down which photos to choose or did you already shoot these knowing which part of the story they would illustrate?

Birgit: Actually it wasn't difficult at all. Both text and photos were flowing together smoothly while outlining and writing the book. Most pictures I already had in my vast ragbag of snapshots. I think I dashed out only once or twice to shoot an additional photo I had in mind for a certain part of the book. The far harder part was to decide how to use the photos. At first I thought about converting the photos from colour to black & white, mostly because colour photos would have tripled production costs for the print book. Somehow that didn't have the right feeling for me and so I converted it to drawings. Those convey the dream aspect of the book a whole lot better in my opinion. And thankfully there is software for that kind of thing and I didn't have to draw myself :-) !

Stella: It ended up looking great, so congrats! Can you tell us what your plans are for the future? Any more books? Or some other great plans?

Birgit: I've got lots of plans for more books, in fact so many that I seriously needed to narrow it down to three top priority projects for 2012. There will be another inspirational gift book following in the footsteps of The Attic in My Yard, and I'm currently outlining a short story collection with stories that dip into speculative fiction *insert Twilight Zone theme music* which … wait for it … will be in English *yay*. There is also a thriller I've been working on for over year now, on and off, which I really want to finish next year. That one will be in German though. Of course, as far as the creative flow goes, there might be shifts and changes too, but as is evident from The Attic in My Yard, the unexpected makes writing (and life) so much more fun!

Stella: Thank you Birgit for stopping by and divulging the secrets behind the writing and publishing of The Attic in My Yard! :-)

You can find Birgit at her blog, on Facebook and Goodreads.

You can buy The Attic in My Yard at Smashwords (for ebook formats) or Lulu (for paperback).


Birgit generously offers an ebook copy of The Attic in My Yard to a lucky commenter!

All you have to do is

1) answer Birgit's question: What would you do if one morning you woke up and there's an attic sitting in your yard? Would you rather call construction workers to get the thing back up underneath the roof where it belongs OR would you open the door and explore what's inside?

2) and leave me a way to contact you if you win (e-mail address, Twitter handle, etc.)

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 9 December 2011!

Good luck!

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