I am honored to host an interview, on the topic of writing with children around, with Karina Fabian, author of Infinite Space, Infinite God, as part of her Virtual Tour. Join me in welcoming Karina to Gloria’s Corner.
Good morning Karina and thanks for giving me this opportunity. Let’s get straight to the interview.
Gloria: How long have you been writing?
Karina: I’ve been making up stories since I was a child and writing them since I could put two sentences together. In high school, I started writing SF–mostly Star Trek fanfic. I wrote my first novel in college. It was a stinker, but a few years ago, I went back to it and reworked it into the trilogy that I’m shopping to publishers.
Gloria: When you began writing did you have young children to tend to? If yes, how old were they?
Karina: As a matter of fact, I started writing as a profession when Steven and Amber were toddlers–about one and two and a half. I was working part-time in the Air Force reserves, but writing was a way of my having something that was particularly mine.
Gloria: When children are young, how does a parent find time to be a writer as well?
Karina: I used nap times (though mine weren’t much for naps) and when they watched videos or played. When we were stationed near my parents (Rob’s in the AF), my mom came and spent half a day with the kids so I could write. I also make a point of writing a little something before bed.
Now that the kids are older, they’re better able to fend for themselves, so I have a lot more freedom. However, with homeschooling, I don’t always have much more time…
Gloria: What type of things do you write?
Karina: It’s varied over the years depending on what’s going on in my life. I’ve written articles on parenting, pregnancy, homeschooling and religion. I’ve interviewed authors, artists, businesspeople and priests and other religious. I’ve written about community events, international organizations, and things that are going on in my life. I’ve also written three craft books for Catholic Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs. (www.eccehomopress.com)
As Rob’s progressed in rank and our finances have improved, I’ve devoted more time to fiction, both short stories and novels. I generally stick to science fiction and fantasy, though I’ve written a few comedy pieces, some romance and mystery. A lot of my stuff is cross genre. I have several short stories published in magazines, and one coming in Firestorm of Dragons. I’ve written three novels and two anthologies. Infinite Space, Infinite God is my latest is an anthology of science fiction and deals with Catholics and the Catholic Church of the future and the challenges genetic engineering, time travel, alien encounters, and dystopias pose for those trying to live their faith. It’s out in e-book by Twilight Times Books and will be out in print in August.
Gloria: Karina, are parent writers more slanted to children’s books when writing than other writers?
Karina: I don’t think so. I have a couple of stories I made up to entertain the kids on the subway that I want to make into books, but for me, writing is a way of having “adult time.” My audience is 17 and up.
On the other hand, I share a lot of my stuff with my kids and my godchildren, particularly my Dragon Eye, PI stories. (ages 6-13) It’s kind of funny, because you can tell how deeply Rob and I have “indoctrinated” our children into the fantasy/SF genre. They get all the jokes.
Gloria: Is it possible to have organized time and space for writing with small children around?
Karina: Is it possible to have organized time and space for writing with small children around? I know there are women who can do it, but I’m not one of them. If you have a child who is scheduled, you can work with the schedule.
My kids, however, defied scheduling, so I learned to be flexible and creative on the fly. I also stayed up late, which suits me fine as I’m a night owl.
I also have help. Rob is great about handling bedtime routine when I’m on a roll. My mom took care of the kids 4-5 hours a day when we lived near her. I also have a housekeeper who comes in twice a week. Not only does she keep the place scrubbed, but it forces me to pick up everything the day before she comes. Otherwise, the house gets trashed.
My space varies with where we’re living and what I’m doing. When I was doing a lot of interviews and non-fiction work, having a study was a great help. Now that I concentrate more on fiction, I find I prefer to write on my laptop while reclining in bed.
Gloria: How does a writing parent handle business calls without interruption by the kids?
Karina: By having a very understanding interviewee! I usually warn the kids that I’ll be 20 minutes and for the oldest to help the “youngers,” but inevitably one has to come down for something. I just excuse myself, handle the issue quickly and gently boot the child out. I tell the person I’m interviewing that I have young ones and they’re usually sympathetic or even charmed. The only time it was ever an issue was when I was interviewing for a freelance job researching stories for a radio producer. She seemed doubtful I could balance work and kids, but gave me a chance and seemed quite satisfied with my work.
Gloria: What clues can a parent pick up from listening to their young children that are helpful when writing?
Karina: I often wrote articles based on what was going on with the kids–whether it was potty training or learning to read. If you’re having a problem or a question about childrearing, no doubt others are, too! In fiction, I’ll ask my kids for ideas, bounce scenes and stories off them. Sometimes, I’ll translate an event in their lives into a scene for a story, though I’m really more apt to use what’s happened in my past.
Gloria: Is it possible to train a child to become a writer?
Karina: Depends on what you mean. My parents did nothing to “train” me to be a writer. They listened to my stories when I shared them, but all the writing I did was for school and the reading I did was on my own. What they did do, unfailingly, was love me and give me a safe, stable home. (Although, from what you hear about other famous authors, that may have been a disadvantage!)
I struggle to teach writing to my kids. I am a writer by trade and love, yet I can’t seem to get my kids to use simple grammar in a paragraph–and making them write a story or essay for school can be cause for fights and tears! I often think, “Where have I gone wrong?” Nonetheless, when left alone, my 11-year-old started writing songs, and my 13-year-old has started a Pokemon saga. (Last month, he reported, “I think I’ll add some romance–but not for my character!”) So they are writers in their own right–but did that have anything to do with me?
I think you can give a child an appreciation for writing and you can try to teach them the rules, but writing comes from within. Oh, but do give them a loving, stable home. Whether or not it helps their writing career, it will help them grow into loving adults.
Gloria: Is it easier to write with young children around or with adolescents and teenagers?
Karina: Older kids. They respect my quiet time a little better. (That answer may be different for moms who have kids that actually nap, though. I seldom got 2 hours’ uninterrupted time.)
Gloria: Do the same strategies for parents who write hold for writing grandparents who care for their grandchildren?
Karina: I think whether you’re a parent or grandparent, if you’re raising a child, how you fit writing in will depend on your relationship, your home, and your energy level. It’s not an age issue.
Gloria: As we approach the end of this section of your tour I’d like to ask you what advice can you offer to newbie writers who are parents dealing with children and family obligations?
Karina: #1 Make sure your spouse understands that this is important to you. There will be times when a story takes precedence over cleaning the house or cooking a meal from scratch. I was lucky; before we met, Rob had seen a poem I’d written with a friend in a Star Trek convention program–and had cut it and kept it! He knew I was a writer and has always supported that.
#2 Be flexible, be realistic, but be committed. Don’t talk about writing, don’t just read about writing, write! One paragraph a day, one article a month, whatever you can fit in. My writing output varies from 2000 words a month during busy times to 2000 words a day during National Novel Writers’ Month. Have a notebook or laptop for writing–something you can take with you. Last month, I wrote while cooking.
#3 Know what you want from your writing. If you want to make money, you need to spend time researching markets that pay and gearing your writing toward those markets. If you’re more interested in writing for the love of it and aren’t as concerned about being published, then you only need to please yourself. If you’re somewhere in between, you can start with smaller, nonpaying markets that can help you grow as a writer. (If you’re inexperienced, these can be a good idea anyway.)
#4 Lower your standards on some things. Before I started writing, I used to clean the dishwasher on a regular basis, that’s how clean I kept the house. Now, we’re lucky if the floor gets swept once a week. It used to bug me, but not writing bugs me worse and something somewhere had to give. I use the money I make writing to have a housekeeper.
#5 Keep loving your spouse and raising your kids your #1 priority.
In 18 years, you’ll still be able to write–but you won’t be able to pull your little one into your lap for a story or watch them as they ride their bike without training wheels for the first time or have that heart-to-heart chat that will mean so much to them later. And when you set that pen down, there’s nothing better than a loving spouse to cuddle with!
Thanks for offering something like this. Thank you for hosting me! I’ve enjoyed having this chance to examine my own writing life and hopefully share something of value to others.
I’d like to invite folks to my blog, www.fabianspace.com, where I talk about parenting, writing and homeschooling. If anyone has questions for me, they can contact me there. Finally, if anyone would like more information about Infinite Space, Infinite God, check out http://isigsf.tripod.com.
Gloria: Well, Karina, the time has come for us to part. It has been a pleasure hosting you today and perhaps we can do it again sometime in the future. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your Virtual Tour and to you and everyone else I offer my wishes for a fantastic holiday season and a great year for 2007.
Till next time