Inside The Authors Studio: Raven Eckman

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Welcome back to Inside The Authors Studio. Today I’m talking to another writer and sharing our conversation with you! To find out who I’ve interviewed so far and what this series is all about, check out the original post by clicking here.

Welcome to another edition of my featured writers series! Today I’m excited for you all to meet Raven Eckman.

Raven graduated from Arcadia University in 2015 with a degree in English and Creative Writing. During her time there, she participated in a collection of events that helped her grow her involvement in the writing world. In 2014, she had a hand in rebooting the college’s literary magazine, which would come back in full force one year later. During her senior year in college she also started her own book blog in order to share her love of reading with the world.

Raven enjoys taking a creative view on things. For her senior thesis she engaged in a psychoanalytic investigation of Grimm fairytales, exploring the darker truths in a collection of classically creepy stories. During this time, she also drafted a children’s book about a friendly monster living under a child’s bed. Today she continues to stretch her creativity as she starts her career in the world of publishing.

In my conversation with Raven we discuss elements of her creative process and what has shaped her into the writer and reader she is currently. We look at her struggles as well as her triumphs. It is my hope that you enjoy getting to know this writer as much as I have. Here is my conversation with Raven Eckman.

Jamie: Hi Raven. Welcome to the blog! I’m so happy to have you on here today. Let’s start off with an introduction. Tell us about yourself.

Raven: Hey Jamie! Thanks for having me. Let’s see… I just graduated from college and am trying to figure out what it means to be an adult. In between contemplating life, I work at a local bookstore and am tackling my reading list.

In your introduction blog post, you call yourself a “certified book nerd.” What does that title mean to you? At what point did you first identify yourself as a book nerd?

To be a certified book nerd means to read a lot, talk a lot about books, and generally have a million book boyfriends. I geek out all the time about books whenever I get the chance. My love of books is the reason why I started a blog in the first place. I became a certified book nerd the summer before high school.

You use quotes everywhere. I notice them at the beginnings of your blog posts, in descriptions of yourself, and even in your own creative writing. What do quotes mean to you? What importance do they carry? How do they shape the content you create? Did you have a senior quote?

Quotes to me are short stories in just a few words. They carry so much meaning and can summarize what I’m feeling or trying to say most of the time. While I use quotes, a lot, as you mentioned, I cannot say I have a master quote or have come up with any of my own. If I see a quote I like, I adopt it and move on. Sticky notes with quotes are plastered around my room as reminders that even a line of words can be meaningful.

Tell us about your grandmother and the challenge she set that changed your views on reading. How has your taste for books developed over the years?

I was moping over the summer before high school. I thought I had lost all of my friends and wasn’t ready to be a young adult yet. My grandmother who is my role model and greatest supporter, not to mention my partner in crime, challenged me to read a book a day that summer. I accepted because I liked the challenge… and I thought I could cheat with smaller sized novels. She caught on quick to my scheme and eventually I got into nice novel sized books. I started with romance, like the ones my mom read, and then branched into historical fiction, contemporary romance, fantasy or syfy, suspense, and etc. I read teen and adult fiction now and whatever strikes my fancy. My taste hasn’t exactly developed, I still like the romance reads that have no point but tons of fluff, but I enjoy a good thriller too.

How has that relationship with books shaped you as a writer?

I was reading one day and ended up being horribly unsatisfied with the ending. I wanted to rewrite it… so I did. The writer in me was then born.

As far as resumes are concerned, yours is certainly book-centric. In the past you’ve worked for publishing houses, bookstores, and even libraries. You’ve attended campus writing events and workshops during your time in college. It’s fair to say you have yourself firmly planted in the book world. How has your professional experience influenced your craft?

My professional experience has certainly helped me to figure out where I want to plant myself into the industry. While I enjoy writing, and love meeting with other authors to talk about crafting a novel, I find myself leaning more towards editing and watching the progress of a book get published. I want others to experience the joy I feel when I read a book. I’ll continue writing, even posting my own work occasionally, but I no longer want to solely be JUST a writer.

What made you want to start a book blog? What draws you to the type of content you produce: book reviews, author interviews, and press releases?

I started a book blog because I thought it was time. Plus, I got inspired after meeting Holly Bush, a local author. I wanted to have my say in the book world by giving my own viewpoints on books along with introducing my audience to authors or genres that I am passionate about. Oh and I wanted to be a fangirl and not feel super nerdy about it.

As a blogger and a writer, what are your views on the development of digital reading technology? Do you prefer to read physical books over eReaders or vice versa? Which method do you find yourself using more often?

All I can say is that no matter how popular ebooks or ereaders get I will always love having the physical book in my hand. I promote and support books no matter what format they are in… I just love physical books more.

The very first eBook readers, The Rocket eBook and SoftBook’s eReader, were released in 1998 and in the 18 years since then, the industry has only grown. What do you think the publishing world will look like in another 20 years? How do you think books and the experience of reading will change or stay the same?

While ebooks and ereaders while certainly gain in popularity over the next few years I don’t believe printed books will become fully extinct. Every industry has to adapt and reading will be no different. My biggest concern is that books will lose their richness in content because of authors writing solely for the next generation.

How do these different formats (print, eBooks, blogs, etc) influence the way you write or what you produce? Do you write differently in terms of process and content for something you know is going online versus something you hope to publish in print? Does it even register for you in the early stages, or does your writing stem from a more internal place?

Regardless of form, I just write. I don’t stop to think about where it is going to be posted. I do limit myself for my blog though. I don’t want posts to be super long and boring to viewers. My writing stems from internal well of infinite story ideas – it just depends on when I respond to this infinite well and how I take the idea and give it life.

You’ve recently graduated from college and thrown your hat into the job-hunting ring. How do you feel coming out on the other side having successfully bagged the dream- a job in publishing?

It feels… surreal. I’ll have to get back to you on that once I deal with the shock.

What is the draw to the publishing world for you? Why did you pursue this type of job? What are you hoping to gain from the experience?

I suppose the draw to the publishing world was more like a slap to the face or a big revelation moment. By the point I decided to pursue publishing and not strictly be a hermit who writes in a small cabin in the woods (though some days that dream does have its appeal), I was taking my first English class in college. The professor was talking about his trials of getting his work published and I realized that I wanted to help people get their work out there. I wanted to be that person that cultivated a story with the author and helped them make it the best before it was published for others to enjoy. From there I set to work getting as much experience as possible and I still have a ton to learn. I hope to gain enough experience through connections, volunteering, and jobs, that I can open my own small bookstore.

What are you most looking forward to in terms of your writing in the near future? What about the distant future? Any plans?

I do have some writing projects on my desk at the moment. Most of them need heavy edits and about half are merely ideas that are jotted down on a sticky note. I hope to finish a story with my best friend that we co-wrote and also tackle the other projects we talked about. What I really hope to accomplish is the publication of two picture books I wrote. We will see how it goes.

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve faced so far in terms of craft?

Lack of confidence. I take criticism to heart and lose confidence in my own work.

How have you surmounted them (or tried to surmount them)? How would you suggest others tackle similar writing struggles?

I haven’t completely surmounted the dreaded writer’s block and or the lack of confidence and I probably never fully will. However, don’t give up, keep the faith, and most importantly keep writing. When I do encounter a day where I feel my confidence lacking or am disinterested in my work, I return to some of my favorite stories that I’ve written in the past or read one of my favorite books.

Lightning Round! Don’t think; just blurt out the first answer that comes to mind. First ever book you remember reading?

Puff the Magic Dragon!

Longest book you’ve ever read?

Acheron by Sherilynn Kenyon

Favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

Um. Skip!

Book you’ve read multiple times?

Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Literary world you’d most like to live in?

Discovery of Witches – witches, vampires, magic, and Elizabethan Europe… what more could a girl ask for??

Book you recommend most often?

The Winter Sea or The Shadowy Horses. Both are by Susanna Kearsley. 

Book you started and never finished?

I don’t think there is one! I skim to finish so I don’t feel bad.

Favorite author?

Either Deborah Harkness or Susanna Kearsley

Favorite book?

 …. Skip! I have too many!

Okay Raven, how would you like to introduce the writing sample you’ve brought with you today? What context do you want to provide before we read it?

The piece I have for everyone today is Dark Dealings. This piece is a short story I hope to develop into a full novel someday. Not sure what else to say… just give it a try!

Here is an excerpt from Raven’s work:

“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.” {Marcus Aurelius}

The rain picked up speed, going from a slow steady drizzle to something more violent. Securing the thread bare coat more firmly, the young girl kept her head downcast in an obedient display of respect. The action hid the fear she was trying to hide. Her toes curled self-consciously, her boots disturbed the wet grass beneath her as the bantering between her father and the male stranger continued. As her father’s voice rose with anger and the girl flinched, wishing she was young enough to cower among her mother’s worn skirt like she had done as a child, like she had done before her mother hated her. A litany circled her mind:

Please don’t notice me, please don’t notice me.

“Ellie, come here.”

Stifling the urge to run, the shivering girl came to stand in front of her glaring father, not once looking back at her mother, knowing that crying and pleading were two things her mother loathed. Silent, she waited for the expected blow of correction, for her father never appreciated any hint of hesitation to obey a command. Roughly he jerked her chin up. Violet shaded eyes wide as she muffled a gasp of pain. The movement caused her coat’s hood to fall back, revealing the uncombed tangle of auburn curls.

“She is a pretty thing, just like you promise.” The stranger paused his brown eyes accessing, before adding in annoyance, his eyebrows furrowing in thought, “Though not as big as I expected.”

“She doesn’t like to eat much.” Was her father’s reply.

Her mother merely nodded in agreement, casting a wary look at her husband before adding in a timid voice, “She’s scrawny but obedient.” Of course the woman wouldn’t dare add that there was no money, thanks to her husband’s gambling problems, to keep her daughter properly fed.

“Is that so girl?” The man probed, “you don’t like to eat much?”

The young girl stared ahead, not bothering to reply to the stranger. He grunted at her silence before he did a thorough inspection of her from top to bottom. Feeling like some horse being auctioned off, her muscles tensed in fear when a wandering hand brushed the top button of her coat.

Don’t touch me. Not like he does.

There was a pause, as if the stranger had heard her internal plea. Backing away, he nodded briefly at her, before the men moved off to talk, their conversation turning heated with each glance in the girl’s direction. The stranger suddenly held up his hand, causing her father to stop whatever he had been about to say.

The two eyed each other, summing each other up. Her father cursed viciously as if sensing he could not win this argument. Her father, though a sore loser, shook the stranger’s outstretched hand. Impatient, he grabbed the wad of crisp bills being offered to him, before glancing at his youngest child. There was no guilt in his dull brown gaze. Sneering in triumph he proclaimed, “She’s all yours.”

Her father’s words had the effect of a gunshot. Jerking from her still position, Ellie could only stare in horror as realization dawned. Her father really had done it. After all the threats, all the years of taunts and abuse she had suffered. He did what he had always promised to do someday.

How could you? Don’t I matter at all?

Of course she didn’t. Since birth she had been labelled a mistake; the product of one night that shouldn’t have happened because one child had already been too much to handle for the couple. The girl wilted.

I will never be good enough.

Not once did her mother protest as her husband grabbed her arm and moved to take the path that they had travelled earlier. The woman managed to cast an apologetic look towards her daughter but that was it. She would never argue with her husband, never again. Her fear was too great – not even this event could stir enough courage for the woman to say something, anything, in order to protect the last child she had birthed.

He probably wants to leave before the man changes his mind. God forbid the money disappeared before he could spend it.

Whirling around Ellie only could stand there staring at her parents’ retreating figures as they took the older, well-used, park path. It hurt to breath, hurt to think.

Or maybe he has another game to attend. He has money now to pay off some of his debts. Mother must be so proud.

Tears trickled down her pale cheeks, mingling with the rain. Regret was suffocating; she should have run earlier when she had the chance, shouldn’t have listened to her brother when he promised everything was going to be okay. Everything was not okay!

Biting her lip to stifle the urge to sob, she tried to gather her courage. Tried to look deep for the girl she became when her father appeared with his maniacal grin. She needed to stay smart, to wait for the perfect opportunity to run. What was the worst that could happen to her? The damage was already done.

Meanwhile the stranger didn’t spare her a glance, blissfully unaware of her inner turmoil, as he started at her parents with this emotionless expression. His voice, unhurried, called out to her father, “Hold on a second.”

Removing his hands from his jean pockets, the male shifted with sudden cold determination, startling Ellie with the change. Reaching inside his leather jacket pocket, the pistol gleamed in the rain as it was revealed. Ellie could only stare as her father’s roar mingled with her mother’s scream as the situation shifted dramatically from their success to their failure.

“We had a deal…” Her father started only to be cut off by a harsh laugh.

“You are under arrest, Mr. McCall, for the intent to sell your daughter…”

The rest of the words were drowned out by the pounding rain, her father’s vehement denials, and her mother’s hysterical weeping. Uniformed figures appeared out of the growing darkness, helping to assist the arresting officer as he continued talking to parents, their presence went unnoticed by the shivering girl who watched the look on her father’s face. For eleven years she had suffered his wrath, never once being able to escape the pain and abuse from a man who had no capability to love anyone but himself and his money. If not for her older brother’s constant support she would have given up a long time ago. The sight of her father in unbreakable handcuffs was almost too must to handle, she felt dizzy from the rush of pleasure. A tiny smile curved her lips.

“Sweetheart, lets get out of here. You don’t need to see any more of this.”

Turning away, the girl lifted her eyes just enough to look at the female officer hovering beside her. Studying the kindly face, she shrank away from the outstretched hand reaching for her arm. No, she wasn’t ready to leave. She wanted to watch her father suffer. Curling into herself, her arms wrapped around her middle, she looked back at her father. Watching his eyes flare with hatred, her throat convulsed in panic as the smile on her face vanished. She knew that look; it only spoke of the promise of violence that was sure to come.

“Come sweetheart. Your brother is waiting for you.” The female officer tried again, speaking soothingly but pitching her voice to be heard over the loud buzz of noise, “It’s over now.”

The temptation to see her brother was overwhelming, until her heart whispered sadly,

This isn’t over.

Soaked to the bone, as cold and fearful, she straightened her spine in sudden determination. Someday though, someday she would be free from her father.

What was the inspiration behind this piece? What influenced you to write it? What does it mean to you now?

I wrote this piece after watching an episode of Forensic files. The basis of the episode was solving the forgotten murder of a prostitute. I was inspired to write my own piece to give prostitutes a voice and see how I wrote my own take on their lives.

What would you like to leave my readers with? What do you want them to take away from our conversation today?

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read my interview today. It means a lot. The biggest thing I want you to take away from the conversation today is to follow your dreams. If writing is what you want to do – don’t give up. Write what inspires you. Write whenever you get the chance. Just keep trying because no matter how many times you get rejected, or have to rewrite a story, it is worth it.

I want to take a second to thank Raven for chatting with me today and for sharing some of her work with all of you. If you enjoyed our conversation and would like to see more from Raven, you can find her using the information below. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

Where you can find Raven:

Blog: https://anewlookonbooks.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/astoryofmemory

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anewlookonbooks

 

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