Friends and book lovers! I am very excited to share with you today my review of a new book written by my friend Julie Zaptopoulos. I met Julie several years ago via the internet and a site called The Indie Chicks. Julie is a very strong, motivated woman so I was not at all surprised that she has self-published her own book.
Shoot Down the Wendy Bird: A Collection of Short Stories & Poetry is Julie’s favorite short fiction pieces from over the past four years. Her collection of short stories will take you on a journey, touching on heartache, joy, loss, and love. Spanning from childhood to old age, the characters in this book all have one thing in common, an overwhelming desire to find happiness and live an empowered life. At the core of this book is the inherent passion to live a better, happier, and more magical life.
Julie was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to read and I am so thankful she did. I am always excited to read a book written by someone I know. It is my heart’s desire to one day write a book of my own, so I enjoy learning about the process, and the heart and soul that went into it. I also ordered a signed copy from her and I was ecstatic when it arrived in the mail. There is nothing like having a book you love on your bookshelf, signed.
This book of short stories is full of emotions – ranging from love, to insecurities, to loss, desire, and more. Every story is different but all are intriguing and had me wanting more. One thing that stood out the most about this book of short stories is just how quickly I was drawn into a story and the character’s lives. I enjoyed every single story in the collection. When I had the chance to ask Julie some questions about the book, I knew I had to let her know this and ask how she was able to achieve this.
How long did it take to gather your short stories for your debut book? And did you write them with a future book in mind?
The oldest short story that ended up making it into Shoot Down the Wendy Bird was six years old. The majority of the stories were written over the last four years but some of them are transcribed from old notebooks I found when I moved two years ago, which was an unexpected surprise!
I had no idea as I was writing these stories that I was going to publish a book with them. The book really was a result of having no real ‘home’ for my creative writing and wanting to see my favorite works (there were plenty that didn’t make the cut) in one place. So, in that way, the book was a happy coincidence of following a passion and accumulating a lot of stories I loved.
I was intrigued by how quickly I was interested in a story or have something in common with the characters in your short stories. Many of the stories left me wanting more, to be able to get to know them better. When writing short stories, how do you decide that you’re writing enough, without writing too little?
Firstly, thank you! As a short fiction writer that’s a huge compliment.
Being able to get readers invested in a character and their story in so few words is one of the things I’m most proud of as a writer. I take a snapshot of my characters in my head and explain that one picture and let you decide what happened before and after. As long as I’ve explained that snapshot as well as possible; I’ve written enough.
I’m always torn between writing more, like I did with The Short Walk Home series, and just letting the story end. I love my characters and I think that many of them could go on to be longer stories, or even birth novels. The problem there is that the more you explore a character, or story line, the more little things may not sync up to what you can personally relate to. It’s hard for me to walk away, too, but you just know when it’s time to say goodbye.
You are a busy woman, with much on your plate. What was your process for writing this book and how long did it take you?
From deciding I wanted to publish a book to actually printing the book and taking orders was about 6 months. This is by no means an industry standard! I had all my stories written already so five months was spent editing them with a trusted friend. Of course it was also spent finding perfect quotes, coming up with a title, researching self-publishing rules/standards, organizing the stories in a way that made sense, writing front and back matter (acknowledgements, dedication, table of contents, about the author, contact page) and then formatting.
I loved having a hand in the publishing process. Literally everything, every step, was done by myself with the help of amazing friends. It was quite the learning experience.
Do you have more stories in the works for another book?
I have been working on a young adult fantasy novel that I see turning into a series. Right now I have 3 books outlined and we’ll see where the stories take me. It’s time to give my characters more life and see if I can’t challenge myself to write a full novel. I’m really excited to dive into a world of fairies and magic and to see where my lead character Aisling (pronounced ASH-ling) goes next.
There’s no shy girl turned heroine here, Aisling has always known she was destined for more than what she has and thrives on learning to master her elemental magic on the go as she battles unknown forces that threaten those she loves. And of course, there’s a hunky love interest, too bad her success at magic may just mean his demise.
I especially loved “The Short Walk Home”, as you wrote two parts from two different perspectives. Did you know that you would write the husband’s point of view while you were writing Claire’s?
I didn’t. The Short Walk Home, as a series, was a direct result of people clamoring for more when I published the first part on my first blog years ago. Claire doesn’t always do him justice and it was really important to me that he have a voice if I was going to expand on their story. He’s one of my favorite sub-characters. He really is a strong man full of love who just wants the best for his wife and kids. He’s an honorable man.
If you had to pick just one story in your book to expand on, which would it be?
I always kind of wondered what would happen to L in The Least of Your Worries. She clearly got herself in a heap of trouble and I wonder what happened when she finally got home to face Craig. Would he accept her excuses, would they go through with it, would she go back to Mitchell again? Her drama begs to be explored for me.
“I Don’t Want to See” was a beautiful short story, one that I found myself reading twice. It is filled with such feeling and emotion. What prompted the idea for this story?
Thank you! This is one of my favorite pieces in the book. They say that your life flashes before your eyes when you die and that you see all the people and moments that you loved most, and I find that concept beautiful. If we get to take memories with us when we pass, I’d want to take only the best. I’d want to remember my loved ones happy and smiling in the moments before they knew what happened to me, to hold onto that as I crossed over. That really was my only motivation for this piece, to capture what matters most, love.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone – like me – who dreams of writing a book?
I have a few. The first is to join a writer’s network because you may write in a bubble but everyone needs other people who understand their journey. Whether it’s on G+, Goodreads, Facebook, or in real life…network with other writers.
Secondly, so many people think you can sit down and write a book, start to finish, that you love. It just doesn’t happen like that. Don’t get discouraged if your book takes a turn you didn’t intend and you hate it. Save that draft and start over from where you started to wander in a new doc. No draft or page is a bad one in the beginning. Save everything, even if you don’t think you can use it, because you never know if it will turn out to be useful.
Do yourself a favor and write an outline before you start. You will stray a bit as your characters walk their path and take little paths you didn’t anticipate but having a start, middle, and end with planned plot point stops will definitely help. Editing will kill a ton of your writing so the more you have to begin with, the better.
Lastly, have fun! It’s exciting creating from nothing, so enjoy the process!
I enjoyed this book so much and I would love to share it with one lucky reader. I have a .pdf copy to give away. Enter often and share with your friends for a chance to win….