Lorna MacDonald Czarnota
Not quite as old as dirt, yet.
I’ve lived in Buffalo, New York since 1970, but I grew up in Corning, New York. The snow in Buffalo is exaggerated.
I’ve always been an artist in some form. I studied and ran an interior design business for fifteen years. I went back to school in my forties (told I was almost as old as dirt) and got a bachelor in Creative Studies for Young Children and my masters in Elementary and Special Education.
I live with my perfect partner, Thomas, and three cats. I have no children of my own, but I always say, “I have everyone else’s.”
I’ve been a professional storyteller, in the oral tradition, for thirty years now. Living my dream of making people laugh, cry, and think, while I get to take a few bows under the stage lights.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest personal news is a fantastic recent journey to Greece and Turkey to fuel my imagination and feed my sense of adventure. As to writing news, I had four books published in 2014, and a short story in the Gears of Brass steampunk anthology. It’s anew genre for me, but I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing fantasy. I never spent much time creating a full story though. Right now, I’m expanding my short story from the anthology “Zeus’ Fire” into a full-blown novel, and perhaps a series. All it needs is a home, after I finish the edits on top of edits, of course.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I know I wrote and illustrated a children’s story when I was in grade school. But I really got into writing when I had friends and relatives I wanted to talk to but couldn’t. So I disguised it all in folk tale type stories. Those stories never got published but led me to the oral tradition where I started telling them-that was 1985. My first book wasn’t published until 2000. It was a collection of Medieval Tales for kids to tell because librarian asked me to put something together for her students. I sold that book as a self-bound collection until I just decided to send it out one day. One week later, I had a book contract.
And, I was inspired to write because I had something to say, and there was something someone wanted.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I always tell students that in order to become what you want to be, you must take on the role, so in that respect, I’ve considered myself a writer for as long as I wanted to be one. But this last year was the first time I designated time every day to writing, and decided to take it very seriously. I have more time on my hands, so that makes it easier. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. I mean, think of it, a fire fighter who never fights a fire?
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I think I said it above. A librarian needed short simple medieval stories for her students and I knew there was no such thing, so I wrote them. Since then I’ve begun a list of someday books (books I want to write) but I keep getting offers from publishers for other things. Except, Breadline Blue, my first novel. That one I wrote because I was the girl singer in a Depression era band and loved the history.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m quickly finding, I’m old school and do a lot of third person writing. Breadline Blue was first person though. I lean toward historical. Even the steampunk novel I’m writing now has a lot of history in it, even though I am altering it; I have to do the research. I really enjoy research.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Zeus’ Fire? I thought for two weeks about what story I wanted to write for the anthology and decided on a retelling of the Greek myth, Pandora’s Box. Not only is fire prominent in that myth, but Zeus’ Fire drives this story, which is even more prevalent in the novel.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’ll just say that my foundational question is “What happens when man plays god.” I think that goes for the short story too.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Bouncing back to Breadline Blue, which is published, the entire book is based on historical fact although the people and events are fictional. They could have happened, and did although not exactly as I’ve written it. Zeus’ Fire on the other had has a historical foundation but I created an altered history. A funny story about that one, I wanted my main character to build a fantastic airship and I knew exactly what I wanted it to be. I sat down with my engineer husband and we talked at length. “It could be done, maybe,” he said. “How long do your characters have to build it?” I told him, about two weeks. He laughed. What you want will take at least two years if not longer. I was crushed, but then I decide to have my character go through that same experience. He designs the ship of his dreams only to find out he doesn’t have time to make it. Voila!
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
In Zeus’ Fire, the novel, I have a few of my personal idiosyncrasies imbedded with some characters. Bickering siblings? Maybe, but I’m not saying. In Breadline Blue, I included quite a few names of people in my life.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I love to read, but I’m terrible with names and have no time to read while I’m writing, which has been a lot lately. But I love Marion Zimmer Bradley and Morgan Llewellyn. A friend who is a terrific writer and mentor is Anne Bishop. Our writing is nothing alike, but we’ve know each other “since when.’ She’s a huge inspiration.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
When time permits, I’m reading Anne Bishop’s latest series beginning with “Written in Red.”
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Hard to say. I have Jordan Mierek’s new novel to read but haven’t gotten to it yet. She seems to be doing very well.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Going back to latest news, Zeus’ Fire the novel, but I’m also throwing around the idea of a collection of short stories from Breadline Blue, a collection of inspirations, or a book about using story to navigate grief.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Entity? God. My life partner. My Beta readers. Definitely not Cthulhu (I had to add this because you said entity.)
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. Just as I see storytelling as a career. And it’s more. It is a way of life. You cannot separate who you are from your work in these fields. That can take some time getting used to.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope. I really can’t say because Zeus’ Fire isn’t published as a book yet. I like Breadline Blue as it is.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As above. I had something to say. But I’ll add, I was an outsider and a bit of a loner as a kid. Writing has always allowed me a stage for my feelings and ideas.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Zeus’ Fire. Think nasty monsters let out of a box and the characters have to clean up the mess. In my head, I keep picturing “The Mummy” movies. But I’ve played with history. Rome never fell. It retreated to the British Isles. But it ain’t all pretty. Bad people, do bad things. Greed. Power. And I think some really fun characters and gizmos.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Crafting…edit edit edit. Creating is fun and easy. But I am even obsessed with the editing process because it stretches me.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Okay, so I also love Tolkien and JK Rowling. What strikes me is their ability to bring worlds and characters to life so you can’t put the books down and cry when they’re over. That’s how I want to write.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
When books first come out, I do a bit of traveling but mostly in New York State. Let’s hope that becomes worldwide! I could dig that.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
In-house artists from the publishers.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Waiting to hear if it had a home. And dealing with rejection.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Still writing, so still learning, but so far I’ve learned to be more careful of passive voice while I’m writing so I have less to do later.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’m sure they’ve heard it all before but it really can’t be stressed enough. Write. Do your homework. Don’t give up. Make it who you are. And learn from rejection, don’t take it personally.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Most of all, thank for reading. A book is just paper between two covers unless you read it. And whether it’s my book or someone elses, tell people about it, leave reviews, it matters.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Of course. The Little Engine that Could.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh, I like puns and twists. Cry, I’m a sucker for daddies and puppies. Why do they always kill the dog?
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Oh, there are many of these. I’d love to spend a day with Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, JR Tolkien, Willy Nelson, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa. Some variety, eh? These are people who make me feel good and I’d like to know their philosophies and personal stories firsthand. Observe and figure out what makes, or made them tick.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
She Lived with a Kind Heart and Passion
Because these are my goals, the way I hope I live my life and if it makes it to my headstone, I guess I did it right.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I’m a real Renaissance woman. I play harp and fiddle (with fiddle being my current focus), I love to jam with other musicians and to sing, I spin and weave, and I love to cook when I’m not rushed. I love history and travel. Best of all I’ve managed to make all of these things my work. So, you can say my job is to play.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
We’re big into Star Trek, Next Generation, Murder She Wrote, Castle, NCIS, and Grimm. I adore Brother Cadfael, really wish they had made more of them. I don’t watch too many movies over and over, but if I do they are either romantic comedies or fantasy.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Foods: roast beef, dark chocolate, and taco dip. Colors: gem tones Music: Okay, I love Led Zeppelin, but I also enjoy Emmy Lou Harris, Will Nelson, and other music too.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’m very fortunate to be a teacher, writer, storyteller, musician, and artist but after my recent journey to Turkey, I’d say hands down, I wish I could be an archeologist. Or, if it were a career, Fairy would be fun.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog is woefully non-existent, something I hope to remedy soon. I write a lot on my Facebook wall. I just need to link them. But I have two websites, one for storytelling and one for writing. www.storyhavenstudio.com and www.lornamacdonaldczarnota.com