I know I say I’d do author interviews for novelists, but when the opportunity to interview Alayna Renee Vilmont came, I could not pass this up.
See, while she did self-publish a book, she did not release a novel. Instead, she wrote a collection of poems. I hesitated at first because, let’s be honest, poets are often overlooked in the literary world. But because Ms. Vilmont is such an interesting person (check out her blog when you can) and I liked the idea of a self-published poet, I had to feature her on my blog.
MC: Tell us about yourself. How did you get bit by the writing bug?
ARV: I’m just an ordinary girl who happens to have a knack for expressing every single thought that comes into her head. 😉 I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, attended school in NYC, and lived in London, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, and Los Angeles before life eventually took me to Atlanta.
I’ve always pursued writing as a hobby, although throughout most of my life, my creative outlet has been on the stage. I began performing professionally at the age of 6, and musical theatre has always been my first love. By the time I was a teenager, I began to study and perform in the operatic field. I’d also participate in creative writing classes and entering poetry competitions in my free time. I’d submit to literary journals, and not mention I wasn’t an adult. It made me feel accomplished to have my poems displayed next to those written by people two and three times my age.
In early 2000, I started keeping an online journal, Jaded Elegance: The Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek. I was dating someone who was very influential in getting the idea of “blogging” to go mainstream. I started my page in order to support his vision, and it became bigger than I ever imagined. I never imagined anyone would care what I’d written before I learned that strangers were, in fact, interested in my life and my experiences. In 2001, I participated in an online blog-based “reality game” called Survivorblog, and all of the sudden, strangers were reading about my very private thoughts and experiences. I kind of never looked back. It never occurred to me that I had too much talent as a writer or that others would care to read my work. It still surprises me when I realize I have loyal readers.
In 2012, I decided that I’d cross something off my bucket list, and I started to dust off the poems and journals I’d hidden under my bed for years. I ventured out into the Atlanta literary scene, which was a bit scary, but the very positive reception I received gave me the courage to publish my first book, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”. Friends had been telling me for a long time that I should publish and read and get myself out there, but there’s something extremely vulnerable about doing so. For someone who tends to be a flamboyant personality who will tell stories about everything, it’s rather ironic that it took me until my early 30’s to feel secure enough with the idea of other people reading my poetry.
MC: Ophelia’s Wayward Muse is not a novel, but poetry. Tell us why the average reader should pick it up despite all the novels out there.
ARV: There’s this preconception about poetry many people have: namely that it’s something boring, overly intellectual, and inaccessible to the average person. In reality, poetry is a reflection of emotion in the most unabashed, raw form possible. It brings to life things we all feel, experiences we all have, passions we all keep somewhere in the depths of our souls. I find the more I share “Ophelia” with people who claim they don’t read or understand poetry, the more accessible the art form becomes. Unlike many poets, I don’t write in meter or rhyme. It’s simply my goal to tell stories through imagery and emotion, and to evoke something from my reader.
“Ophelia” is designed to explore a universal theme—that even in a world that is so often characterized by a need to never feel too greatly or to get too attached, every emotional connection shared with another human being is significant. It doesn’t matter if it’s the love of your life, a crush that was never realized, a one-night stand, a best friend, or an encounter with your worst enemy, other people do help shape who a person ultimately becomes. Especially amongst younger people, it’s rather taboo and uncool to reveal that emotional and vulnerable side. I think people will be attracted to “Ophelia” because it’s something that almost every person can read, and see his or her own life experiences reflected, perhaps in a new light.
MC: Is it possible for a poet to become a novelist and vice versa?
ARV: I forget who said this, but as the saying goes, “Good writing is good writing”. I started writing poetry before anything else, but I also write short stories and have kept a blog for 13 years. I’ve not written a novel yet, but it’s a project to which I definitely aspire. I believe a good writer can typically venture into any genre he or she wishes. As a singer, I learned very early the importance of classical training, because once you have the foundation, you can explore other forms of expression to find your strengths. The same is true for writing.
I’ve been told that my prose, like my poetry, is very strong when it comes to imagery, character development, and choosing words to convey emotion. These are certainly things that come from a background in poetry. Recently, I’ve been taking an online fiction writing workshop where most of my classmates are novelists. The challenge for me is learning to combine my love of the abstract with a more succinct, clear way of telling a story. I believe the more you learn about any art form, the more you grow. If a writer has a particular weakness, working on that skill will improve that writer, regardless of genre or style.
MC: You self-published your book with the help of a campaign on Kickstarter. Explain why you chose this route and if any self-published authors should do the same.
ARV: I’m asked this question a lot when I am out in the world. Honestly, self-publishing a book is not terribly expensive. There are options that would have required less of a financial investment on my part, or would not have required me to utilize a crowd-funding tool. People who know me well are likely aware that I know enough people that someone likely would have fronted the relatively small amount for this project, if it were something I really believed in. I chose to do a Kickstarter campaign where the people in my life could contribute to bringing the vision to life, because many of these people are the same people who inspired—and continue to inspire—my desire to create. It makes me feel such a great sense of support, connection, and community.
Not surprisingly, I also got some negative reactions about choosing the Kickstarter route. I encountered some unfriendly judgment both about crowd-funding and whether I had any business using it for my personal gain. I really believe that crowd-funding is the wave of the future for independent artists, and it allows people to create without limitations and obligations to traditional investors or financial backers. In all types of media, there are high-profile artists that are choosing to fund major projects this way, and I’m so glad to see that. The idea that someone can donate a little piece of themselves to a project, get something very personal back, and share in the pride of a project coming to completion is an amazing one.
MC: What are your future writing plans
ARV: I’m currently working on a book of short stories entitled “Sophisticated Nothing”, which I hope to release by the end of 2013. I won’t be going the crowd-funding route this time, but I’m also not shopping around for a traditional publisher. For those who are interested, I recently won a rather random short story contest, and you can get a feel for my work by reading my entry.
I’ve really become active in online writing communities such as Goodreads and Writers’ Village (where I’m doing a fiction workshop at the moment), because the support and encouragement out there is overwhelming. I have a segment on my blog called “Literary Libations”, where I speak with a different author each Sunday. It’s taken off and become something much more popular than I imagined, so it’s kind of opened my eyes to a whole new world of creativity.
Oh, and there are about 60,000 words of a novel sitting on my laptop, as well as the prologue to another potential novel-to-be. I’m not sure if either will ever see the light of day, but you never know!
You can learn more about Alayna-Renee at the following sites:
* Facebook: www.facebook.com/princessalayna
* Twitter: www.twitter.com/princessalayna
* Blog: www.jadedelegance.net
* Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6862252.Alayna_Renee_Vilmont