Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Author Interview ~ Maaja Wentz


Today’s post makes it 71 author interviews on this blog and 9 Wattpad author interviews

Maaja is a very busy woman so I’m happy to have finally gotten her over here to let you know about a most exciting and humorous book of hers that I was privileged to peruse on Wattpad.

But, there’s more to be said about it and her (plus, some freebie stuff) so let the interview begin!

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Maaja WentzSo, Maaja, when did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

First off, I really want to thank you for inviting me to do this interview. You are talking to a writer-in-progress who has always been in love with books and reading. I have had a few things published, and I did win the National Norma Epstein award for my short story You. I have kept a book lover’s blog since 2009, but lately I seem to write more every year. My most recent claim to fame is that I won a Watty award (HQ Love award) for my supernatural thriller, Feeding FrenzyFeeding Frenzy

I was still in elementary school when I wrote my first book of poetry. I didn’t know what a chapbook was; but, I stapled together some pages and decorated the cover with construction paper cut outs, then I filled it with poems. I wrote poetry in high school as well. As an adult my Dionysus poem, Fallow God, appeared in the Urban Green Man Anthology. I’m doing another project starring a Green Man as well, and I’m so excited about the premise; but, for now, it’s top secret.

How do you balance your life as a teacher-librarian and a writer?

As a teacher there are endless opportunities to use your creativity with kids. I’ve written, produced, and directed school plays with names like: Invisible Aliens Stole My Gym Shorts, Ydoru in the Bubble House, and Space Brats! Each show would run an hour and include songs and dance numbers; although, I wouldn’t really call them musicals.

How it worked was, I would write the story in the summer, audition to choose the cast before the December holidays, and then rehearse like crazy from January until the show went on in April. The show would run for maybe three days, with 2 shows a day. I would have two for visiting schools, morning and afternoon, and, on closing night, we would add an evening show for parents. Someday, if I get ambitious, I would love to write a book for teachers on how to write and produce school plays; but, right now I’m too busy editing Feeding Frenzy.

I learned how to do kid shows from a fantastic, award-winning teacher named Mike Taylor who was also a visual artist. He always did artwork for custom shirts for the cast and often incorporated art as well. When I did my show, Mozart’s Mystic Flute, I got an artist friend to design the shirt, which has historically inspired silhouettes of Mozart and his violin facing off against a teenage girl with a Fender Stratocaster.

My last school production was a movie I wrote and shot called The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Cyclone. After I finished the show, to make a souvenir for the actors, I published it through Amazon and Smashwords – my first self-publishing experiment. Of course, I didn’t charge the actors for it, and your readers can have it free as well. Join the Loon Lake Reading Club on my blog and respond to the welcome email, which also includes a free short story.

So, Maaja, what’s your elevator pitch?

“Feeding Frenzy is a supernatural thriller which explores our obsession with food. Sweet but chubby Tonya isn’t privy to her town’s darkest secrets, but when campus is overrun by a deadly obesity epidemic, only she can discover and oppose the hidden mind-controlling entity behind it. Loon Lake is a magical town built on secrets. A mysterious man from her aunt’s past threatens the town and forces Tonya to face some uncomfortable truths.”

On Wattpad I call it “a witch’s brew of intrigue with a dollop of comedy, a teaspoon of romance, and a pinch of horror.” When I showed it to my editor, she said the title reminded her of a bad B-movie, and I think that’s part of its shtick but only a small part. Feeding Frenzy isn’t satire. It’s a young woman’s coming-of-age story as a suspense novel, but it does poke gentle fun at the horror movie genre because the heroine’s new friends, The Digital Ninjas, are obsessed with shooting a campus horror movie. 

How do you approach writing on Wattpad?

I like to write many different kinds of things, from drama and spoken word to short stories to novels. Wattpad was a fantastic opportunity for me, because I’m an idea person. It’s hard for me to stop thinking of ideas for new things to write, but I find editing painful because it brings out all the worst of my self doubt. That’s one reason I like drama so much. You put on a show and you can see the immediate reaction of the audience, then it’s over and you go on to something else. Editing poems and short stories for publication is rewarding but editing a book takes months. I have multiple drawer-novels, abandoned before I learned to edit something long and complex. With my editor’s help, I’m finally getting serious with Feeding Frenzy and learning how to rewrite something that long until it’s the very best it can be.

For me Wattpad was a dare to myself to write publicly and have people read it as I went along. No matter what I produced there would be no hiding it away in a drawer because it wasn’t perfect enough. I drafted the story in a month during NaNoWriMo; although, because it was a Halloween-themed story, I posted the first chapter on October 31. From that point forward I got up at five every morning before going to work so I could write my 2000 words a day, plus polish and post one chapter per week. Looking back at it now I think I must’ve been crazy; but, I’m so glad I did it. Feeding Frenzy is a page turner and so much fun to write because I kept surprising myself as I went along. It was the perfect incentive I needed to finish, too, because Wattpad gave me readers who could interact with the story and ask for more.

Discovering the community of readers and writers on Wattpad has been the most exciting writing I have done in years. I started it as a dare to myself and because Margaret Atwood is on Wattpad; so, I just knew it was for me. Since starting, the community and positive feedback I have received, plus winning the Watty award, convinced me to self-publish. I hired award-winning editor Sandra Kasturi to help me make it the best it can be.

Do you work with collaborators, Maaja?

On Wattpad I have a couple of projects looking for collaborators. One is a non-fiction book called I Wish My Teacher Knew. You don’t have to be a writer to join that one. I am looking for first-hand accounts of what the school system did to help or hinder people’s creativity. Send me a true anecdote about your schooling in an email ( maajawentz [at] gmail [dot] com ) and I will post it as a chapter and credit you for it on Wattpad. I think schools need to be reformed in ways that better respond to student needs and this project is one way I’m gathering research around the question.

The other collaboration project is called Cliffhanger Castle, the first serial anthology of its kind on Wattpad. Imagine a novel where each page-turning chapter is written by a different author who ends their part with a shocking revelation or dire scenario. Chapters are written in the style of individual contributors. So far I have a horror writer, myself, a paranormal writer, a romance author The selection process for contributors is very choosy but, once a writer is “in”, the only rule is to respect the characters and story line that has come before.

A young teen and a university-aged girl must investigate a haunted hotel when the boy’s little sister follows her dog through a hole in the fence and disappears. The story is inspired by the grounds of a real hotel overlooking Lake Ontario. I have included photos, research articles, and ghost sighting attributed to this picturesque cliff side park which has been inhabited since pioneer times. At one point it was an artist’s colony, a military hospital, a posh hotel, an abandoned building full of squatters, and a public statue garden with an outdoor theatre. There is a lot for the imagination to grow on here.

Where can people connect with you?

I would love to connect with people on my blog where I am giving away free copies of my published short story Wild Caving. When you get there just join the Loon Lake Reader’s Club to get free fiction as well as book reviews and a chance to get Feeding Frenzy for a reduced rate as soon as it’s published.

Thanks again, Alex, for letting me do this interview. I really appreciate it.

Oh, my, Maaja, Thank You for such a great interview :-)

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And, here’s an omnibus link to all of Maaja Wentz’s Writings… 

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If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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* Google Author Page
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

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4 responses to “Author Interview ~ Maaja Wentz

  1. Jane Watson April 12, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Hi Maaja, what a wonderful interview :-) I just joined the Loon Lake Reading Club – love the name! You do seem like a busy writer, and an extremely creative person… I think the children you teach are so exceptionally lucky to have a teacher who fosters their creativity in such a wonderful way. I will go over to Wattpad soon and start reading your work. I know the old adage – ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’ – but please tell me , how do you organise your day to fit so much in, as teacher- librarian and writer? Do you put aside a special number of hours each day to write? Do you have a special time ?- or is it just when you can carve out the spare moments when you are not teaching? :-)

    Like

    • Maaja Wentz (@MaajaWentz) April 12, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Now that you are part of the club, we will be sure to get to know each other. As to getting work done, it’s usually early in the morning before school for creative work, or during holidays. After work I can write blog posts but I need real energy for writing and editing. You must have a time of day when you have the most energy. Are you a morning person like me, or are you best in the evening? (I’m jealous of night owls since they seem to have more opportunities to work well!)

      Like

      • Jane Watson April 13, 2016 at 12:56 am

        I believe I am a ‘desparate trying to find a quiet moment at home’ writer…..lol. But I do I try to write in the morning because I have more energy. Otherwise outside deadlines help. Thank you for letting me join your club – it looks great. I hope we do get to know each other as writers travelling the journey together:-)

        Like

        • Maaja Wentz (@MaajaWentz) April 13, 2016 at 7:31 am

          Likewise. I always like to get to know other writers!

          Like

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