Featured Friday! Florence Witkop
Florence has been an elementary teacher, an IT person, has owned (with her husband and 5 kids) a family-friendly resort in northern Minnesota, and at present is helping make and sell fudge and fudge-filled treats, a family business she joined after her husband passed that started with the family recipe for Christmas fudge.
Most of all, though, Florence is a writer and has been ever since driving through near-blizzard conditions to the school where she taught first grade while thinking how she’d always intended to become a writer. Being a sensible person, when the school year ended, she said goodbye to teaching, became a full-time, professional writer and has never looked back.
Since that fateful decision, she’s been a ghost writer, written confession stories, done editing, written advertising copy, written some non-fiction articles, written literary and science-fiction short stories, written both novellas and novels, and won the only literary contest she ever entered, becoming Minnesota’s Region 2 Literary Person of the Year.
When the bricks and mortar publishing industry went bankrupt and her pay-checks went up in smoke, like many other writers she made the transition to electronic media, eventually ending up in the absolute best place of all, Winged Publications, where she writes for both Forget Me Not Romances and Take Me Away Books. Like Alfred Hitchcock, whose characters were intentionally normal, middle-class people thrown into difficult situations, Florence’s characters, too, are well-adjusted and not looking for adventure, but somehow adventure finds them. Her imagination is wide-ranging and takes readers from small towns to the depths of space and into the realm of fantasy, with stories that invoke and celebrate the wonder — and the fun — and the surprises — of life. And, yes, her stories always have a romantic element and, yes, they always end well. Always. Guaranteed.
What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?
Per above bio it’s sitting at my desk in a nice, modern house and watching the weather outside while knowing that if it’s nice out there I can take a break and enjoy that weather, but if it’s awful, I can simply watch the world from the comfort of my home.
What made you start writing?
Again, see my bio. I’m not responsible, a blizzard made me do it! Plus sliding sidewise on the icy road in the forest where no one would find me if I got in trouble.
What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?
When I was a young ballet student, along with my classmates, I stuck my nose in the air one day as we asked our instructor why the professional dancers who were in town and taking ‘a few lessons’ with our world-renowned teacher dared to call themselves ‘professionals’ when we were better dancers than they were.
We expected to be patted on the head and praised.
Instead, we were excoriated as she informed us that, no matter how good or bad they were, they were professionals in every sense of the word while we were just amateurs.
She then went on to say that a professional with a moderate amount of talent can make a living at their craft while an amateur is finding excuses for failure.
The difference isn’t ability, it’s what you do with whatever ability you have. It’s treating your profession with respect and as a job, giving people what they want instead of what you feel like doing at the moment.
I remembered that lecture when I decided to become a writer and it’s been the best advice I ever got. So, new writers out there, be professional in every sense of the word and you’ll make it even if your gift isn’t as great as some others who aren’t willing to use their talents in a professional way.
What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?
I love science fiction and I’ve written a fair amount of it. But the kind of science fiction that I like to read and that I can write well isn’t what’s most popular right now, the kind with happy endings and nice, normal characters instead of the rather dark stories that are so plentiful now that I simply am unable to get down on paper.
I think the dark fiction that’s so popular now is simply the swing of a pendulum and that’ll it’ll change back to what I can write. Until them I’m satisfied that those people who have read my stories have told me that they loved them. Those readers make my day.
Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?
That’s easy. The spirit in Spirit Legend. It was the first full-length novel I’d ever written and I had a hard time meeting even the minimum word count. When I was done and looked back on the book I knew I needed more words but the story was complete as it was.
What to do?
I added a prologue and a brief bit to the beginning of each chapter written from the spirit’s point of view. That turned out to be the best part of the book and I kind of fell in love with the spirit that emerged.
I’d like to know that spirit. Play with it. Converse with it. Laugh with it. And sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat with it as my characters did in the book.
Which book do you consider a must-read?
Of the books I’ve written, Earth Legend fits the science fiction genre best. It takes place on a space ship headed across the galaxy and the characters wouldn’t be out of place in any science fiction story. It’s the book that an editor asked me to submit to a contest put on by the publishing company she worked for because she thought it would win.
I tried. I went to their web site. I failed completely to figure out how to upload the book. So I never entered it in the contest. But Winged Publications published it in their Take Me Away Books imprint so I’m happy.
What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make? Why did you want to keep the material in?
I have no problem brutally eliminating what I considered to be deathless prose when I wrote it. Which says something about me as a person. Don’t mess with me!
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
The Martian Chronicles. I’d move to Mars in a heartbeat. I can’t understand why Mars One didn’t choose me as one of their finalists.
Is there any conflict between what you want to write and what you think your readers will like?
There’s no conflict because I never set out to write the great American novel or to pour my heart out or anything like that. I became a writer to make a living doing what I enjoyed and if that meant giving readers what they wanted, why I was willing to write whatever they wanted.
Almost. I don’t do pornography. Not because I’m against naked people, just because I find it difficult to write while laughing.
What effect can a review have on you, if you read them at all? Both the good and the bad.
Once, a reviewer said my character, a wolf researcher who wasn’t particularly competent in the forest, was incorrect because any wolf researcher would know their way around the woods. I swallowed my reply because the reviewer didn’t have my background of living in the forest surrounded by people who’d lived there for generations and knew every rock, pond, and tree in the place. Those neighbours privately laughed at the researchers from a nearby wolf center who went barging through the woods like idiots. But I let the reviewer think she’d made a valid point because, from her point of view, she had, because she didn’t know the woods dwellers that I knew. But keeping silent was hard!
Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?
Lived a good life and was a decent hack writer.
What’s exciting you about your next project?
My just finished book that will be published this spring — The Man From Yesterday — is a time travel and I enjoyed it and will never do one again because it involved research into life one hundred years ago and I hate research. My upcoming series involves women who know the wilderness so well that their knowledge is beyond normal. It’s impossible. So they are somewhat fantasy and somewhat science fiction and all contemporary ecofiction. I can’t wait to get going because I love the forest and everything about it. Except bears and cougars and other dangerous predators and getting lost because I can’t find my way out of a barrel
You can find me at:
I actually have a presence on a great many social media sites but am not active on any of them except the three mentioned above. Guess I’m lazy.
I just got the cover for the time travel, The Man From Yesterday, and I can’t help but show it off. Of course, Winged Publications always does great covers, but this is good even for them. And note the golden glow? That’s intentional, a part of the story.
Thanks to Florence for taking the time to answer our questions, the ballet story was inspirational!