Scarlett has been honored to be interviewed several times. Included below are her responses to those interviews. If you are interested in interviewing Scarlett, just ask. She's actually starting to get used to talking about her self. Maybe a little too much.
The Heroine’s Journey Interview with Scarlett Braden
What is the best thing that I love about my work? I’m a writer and I love writing, there is something amazing about finishing a novel. But what I love most is helping other writers and especially aspiring writers to realize their dreams. Each and every book I help someone publish feels like a grandchild of sorts.
What is my idea of perfect happiness?
There was a time in my life that I described myself as content, and I thought that was special and to be desired. Now I believe, that content is only one step above a living hell. Happiness for me comes from being challenged. Whether it’s in my work to do better than I’ve done before, or challenging my belief system, or experiencing places or activities outside my comfort zone.
What is my greatest fear?
Tarantulas. More specifically, discovering a tarantula in my home, by surprise. And yes, I moved to a country where they are abundant. I heard facing your fears makes you stronger. That’s the fear I most hope to never have to face, but if I do, I’m sure I’ll survive in the end. Right? I will won’t I? Yeah, I know you were probably expecting something a little more cerebral here, but big hairy spiders is it.
What is the trait I most deplore in myself?
I am not a patient person. And I don’t deal well with two kinds of people, those who refuse to learn and those who work harder at not working than the work itself would be. I wish I could ignore it and not let it bother me, but it does.
Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Wow, that’s a tough question because it’s hard to narrow it to a few. But the ones who come immediately to mind to me are Nora Roberts, Fern Michaels, and John Sanford.
What is my greatest extravagance?
I have never been an extravagant person. I do have some guilty pleasures, I love boots and hats and I have a lot of both, but I’m frugal and they can’t really be considered extravagances.
On what occasion would I lie?
This is funny to me. I have never been able to successfully lie about anything. Now I joke, that I tell lies for a living…through fiction writing. But in all seriousness, I would hope that the one time I could pull of a lie would be at the side of a dying person trying to ease any fears they may have.
What is the thing I dislike most in my work?
Editing and writing book blurbs. I don’t know why for probably at least 80% of novel writers, the hardest part of the whole thing is writing the book description. That just doesn’t make sense, does it? And editing, not at all because I think anything I write doesn’t need it, but because it feels like it takes longer than the actual creating of the story, and I’d rather be telling a new story.
When and where was I the happiest in my work?
Here and now. I am in Cuenca Ecaudor, which is a beautiful and inspiring city in the Andes Mountains of South America, surrounded by a huge writing community.
If I could, what would I change about myself?
I would be the age I am now, look ten years younger, be thin, gorgeous and obscenely wealthy. No, not really, but that is what one expects. In all seriousness, I wish I had more confidence in myself and I wish I could see myself as others see me. I wish I felt as successful as others think I am.
What is my greatest achievement in work?
For me, one of the things I love the most about being a writer is that sometimes I get the opportunity for my writing to make a difference. Not that the writing is wise or special, but through it I can help. I put together an anthology, consisting of 37 writers from around the world, from first time writers to bestselling authors to benefit Earthquake relief on the coast of Ecuador, and another collaboration benefits a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. Through performances of the written word, we are able to raise money to make a difference in people’s lives. Those are reasons this is one of the best professions in the world.
Where would I most like to live? I’m there. In Ecuador. At 49 years old, I sold everything I owned and bought a plane ticket to Ecuador. I have not had a single moment of regret for the decision. I just wish it was closer to my son.
What is my most treasured possession?
Having sold everything and travelled to Cuenca with only two suitcases, I did bring one treasured possession with me. A beautiful wooden pocketknife that was a gift from my son when he was in high school, so I would never have to ask to borrow one from a man again.
What is my most marked characteristic?
Oh, I have no idea, can I phone a friend? I suppose it would be my smile. It seems it’s almost always there, I can’t help myself, especially if I know a camera is anywhere in the vicinity. I once passed a man in a hallway that worked for the company I did. He said, “What are you smiling about? You are always smiling.” My response, “Because it makes you wonder what I’m up to.”
What is my most inspirational place in my city?
That is REALLY an impossible question for me to answer. I am literally surrounded by inspiration. I could say the magnificent green mountains that seem to touch the bluest sky I’ve ever seen, or the rushing rivers I love so much, but then there are the Incan ruins, where two cultures came together, stopped fighting and lived together peacefully, to the colorful street art and always blooming trees and flowers. Even the people are inspirational, hardworking, fun loving, family oriented, relaxed with magnificent senses of humor.
What is my most favorite place to eat and drink in my city?
In a city with over 400 restaurants and a complete palette of gastronomy, I would have to say any of the restaurants with views of the river, or where you can hear the river, or are in a garden setting, or have a view of the city or the mountains. Have you figured out by now, I’m not a very decisive person?
What books influenced my life and how?
Life’s Not Fair, But God Is Good, by Robert Schuller is one that comes instantly to mind. It helped me dispel the notion that the God I was brought up to believe in is not a vindictive God, and does not rule through fear. Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell would be an obvious choice for me too, because it taught me that tomorrow is certainly another day. And if you so desire, each and every day you have the choice to recreate who you are.
Who are my favorite writers?
Again, too many for this indecisive girl, but right now in my life I would chose those who bucked the system, so to speak. Fern Michaels for persevering against her publishers who wanted her to continue to write romance, when what she really wanted to write was suspense. J.K. Rowling for her incredible imagination and talent and belief in herself to do something new and different for a market no one even knew existed, and E.L. James for the same reasons.
You only live once, what music would you listen to on your last day?
I suppose that might depend a little bit on the circumstances, but right now, I think it would be at the least something that would keep my toes tapping, and at the most, something I could dance to. Isn’t that a lovely thought, to dance our way into the next realm, whatever that is?
Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?
Good question to discover how shallow I am! Myra, from Fern Michael’s The Sisterhood series. Myra is a woman of an age, in her sixties I believe when the series starts, who takes what I believe is any mother’s greatest fear, the death of a child, and turns it into something good. Instead of wallowing in it, though she is profoundly devastated, she uses her anger, fear, and grief to channel her energies and those of other women to make a difference to people who are victims denied justice. I want to be like Myra when I grow up.
Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?
A question like this makes me realize how much a person changes throughout a lifetime. While once upon a time I might have chosen an actress, or a pioneer for women’s rights, or a champion for human rights, through my experiences I have a different kind of hero. I have a friend who is an architect, and she has spent nearly her entire working life assisting in disaster relief all over the world, helping communities rebuild. Not just the buildings, but the relationships and hopes and dreams of those communities. And then, because she is gay, gave up a lucrative position in an organization she loved and believed in, because she was not allowed to recognize her wife publically. People like that, who can give up everything most of us consider necessities like clean running water to help others, and still have the strength to stand up for what they believe in. People who have a loving spirit, see gifts where others see trials, are happy despite everything else, those are my heroes and heroines today.
Which movie would you recommend everyone see once in a lifetime? I’m just like everyone else in that there are movies that have shaped and/or affected who I am, what I believe, even how I define my dreams. And as I answer these questions, I am realizing I am much more of a rebel than I ever knew. If I had to pick one movie to recommend, it would be Up Close and Personal with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. Because, it’s a beautiful story, of love, and of building each other up, even when it means sacrificing your own desires, and it doesn’t have the Hollywood requisite happily ever after. Because life seldom is a purely happily ever after.
What role plays art in my life and work? Art is everywhere and the role it plays in my life is everything. I consider art the murals painted on the walls, the music rising from the church, the placement of the white clouds in the sky to define the hue of blue to the combination of words that make the reader feel something unexpected. Through art, I’m led to feel peaceful or energized, happy, soulful, even sad. Art inspires emotion and that’s everything!
Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?
That would be my mom. It’s an interesting phenomenon that most author’s families are not particularly supportive. My son is supportive, though I don’t think he actually reads my books. My mom was a fan through and through, she sponsored me, cooking for me and making me eat when I would get into writing frenzies and forget things like food and sleep. She embarrassed me on planes and in airports telling anyone who would listen that I was a writer. She died last year and I miss her. I hope she’s proud that I’m still writing. I also have several friends, both longtime friends and new friends who keep me going, watch after me, and challenge me. I’m truly a lucky girl.
Who would I like to work with in 2017?
Most of the time writing is a pretty solitary activity. But I sure would love to sit down and have coffee or a glass of wine with Fern Michaels.
Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2017? All of those mentioned above. Fern Michaels, Nora Roberts, John Sanford, J.K. Rowling and E.L. James. I think I could make room on my calendar for that. Can you imagine what it would be like to have them all in the same room at the same time?
What project am I looking forward to working on in 2017? In November I’m planning to finish the first two books of a new and different kind of series. A fiction series about those who practice indigenous methods of healing and spirituality. It’s about Shaman, wise women, priestesses, and witches. With some older heroines as well.
Where can you see me or my work in 2017?
I’m heavily involved in the Cuenca International Writer’s Conference. The conference is over for 2017, but will be again in May of 2018. You can find me there, on Facebook, and on Amazon.com. If you want to find the new series it will be published under the name of S.J. Braden the first of the year (2018).
What do the words, “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Retirement is when you get to reap the rewards of a lifetime of work. Passion is something you love, something that pays rewards every day, and therefore, there is no need to retire from passion. I hope on my last day in this lifetime, I am able to write, The End.
Interview with Fiona McVie:
Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let's get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona, I’m Scarlett Braden and I’m 52 years old- going on 16…in only the best possible way.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m from the Southern US, lived in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Lousiana and Alabama. That wasn’t southern enough for me, so I moved and now live in South America in Ecuador.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I graduated from high school and college in the 80’s when women were trying to decide between having careers or family. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, following in my grandfather’s footsteps. But I recognized a type A personality in myself and knew I couldn’t be the kind of doctor I would be and the kind of mother and wife I wanted to be too. I was brought up with the idea that the woman was responsible for a clean house, clean, well-behaved children, and dinner on the table. I chose motherhood. I have one son, my pride and joy, who lives somewhere in the US, married to his high school sweetheart. Because of his career, I don’t give out details…he says to protect me, I say to protect him. With my son grown, married and in graduate school and newly divorced, I retired early to Ecuador, and began a new career as an author.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I am a suspense writer and always will be I think. I am not a fan of poetry and most literary style writing puts me right to sleep. But I’m surrounded by poet friends, and am admittedly a little competitive. So when I was challenged to write a poem, I attacked it with gusto. I ended up with a poetry book, and people love it. I found I love writing poetry, too. My latest release is a book of poetry called Psst! Your Wisdom’s Showing. It’s from the heart. About experiences we all seem to have through life. It’s fun and uplifting. And selling off the shelf for gifts. I’m hoping it will do well over the holiday season.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
People have told me all my life I should be a writer. It’s because I suppose I am a good storyteller. When I moved to Ecuador, my new best friend was a mystery writer. She, among others, encouraged me to give it a try. One of my goals while in Ecuador was to try things I hadn’t done before. So I joined a dance mob and a writer’s support group. Once I tried it, it was as if the cellar door of my mind was pried open and all the characters that had been sequestered there came pouring out. It’s very noisy in there now.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Interesting question. I’m a researcher by nature. I’m one of those people that as soon as “I wonder,” pops into my head, I’m googling whatever it is. As I started writing my first book, I wondered, “What’s the difference in a writer and an author, or is there any difference.” So, I googled it. I found the commonly assumed difference is that anyone who writes anything is a writer. Whether they write articles, blogs, journals or books. Once a writer has a published book they are an author. In the midst of that research I read a blog post, telling me that to be successful I needed to start now to own being a writer. I should write, “I am a writer.” I should introduce myself as, “I’m a writer.” I should tell myself daily that “I am a writer,” so I did. It didn’t take too long until I started believing it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book is a fiction book, classified as a thriller, suspense, psychological thriller with a tiny bit of romance thrown in. It’s a little bit my story of escaping an abusive marriage from an alcoholic paranoid schizophrenic. It was a story I didn’t tell people, but I found I was able to write it. And it’s been enlightening to find out how many people live in these types of situations. My story is about escaping and starting a new life and how magnificent that can be.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title of my first book is Harvesting the Hummingbird. I work really hard at my titles. Again…research. But I’m a believer in spirit guides and that we are tied closely to animals. For me, as I was becoming a writer, I was also becoming a new person. I was feeling like a hummingbird, and the process I was going through was the uncovering or freeing of my spirit and soul. My new series still in the writing phase is a Magical Realism series entitled Paisley Cove. That title just came to me. I’m sure there is a reason for it, but it hasn’t been revealed to me yet.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I am a pantser. No outline. Very little planning ahead. And I never know the end when I start. My favorite part of writing is letting the characters have free will. I’m like a kid at an amusement park when the story twists and turns in ways I didn’t see coming.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Percentage wise, each book is different in that respect. But all fiction writing, especially characters, I believe are influenced by what we know and what we’ve experienced. Some of my characters have qualities from several people I’ve known in my life. Sarah Francis Newsome from Peril in the Bayou is a blending of two sorority sisters from college. Co-workers, family members, conversations from parties, all show up in little ways. I ran a contest with my readers once, and asked for names of their exes they would like to see die in a book. I pull from that list when I know ahead of time a character is temporary.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No. There are thousands of miles of unexplored territory in my own little mind. I just need to be still and quiet to travel them- no ticket or hotel required.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My covers are a collaborative effort. My friend Susan, wife of author friend, J. Michael Herron, does my graphic design work for me. I’m too challenged to work in photoshop. But I start with finding images, running them by fellow authors and friends and such until I get what I want, then Susan creates the covers for me.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
If there is a message in my writing, I think it’s hope. Whether reading my novels, poetry, or the other collaborations I’ve done, I hope readers come away feeling like it’s never too late to change the ending of their story. And to never make an author angry…because a representation of you will meet karma sooner rather than later.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I am surrounded by authors. In my small towm in the Andes, there are over 100 expat writers. Most of us new. I’ve met authors through facebook groups as well and I try to read at least one book from each one I know or meet. Trying to pick just one is impossible. Likewise with writers I’ve been reading all my life. I would like to think Fern Michaels, Nora Roberts, and John Sanford have heavy influences on my writing.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Ha, it seems for most writers, family is the least likely to support us. Most times it seems family doesn’t even read what we write, let along support us. I did have some family support. But my writing Community here in Cuenca is the best support. We have support groups, critique groups, editors, publishers. If I have to name one person it would be she who got me started, Donna McNicol, who writes as D.B. McNicol.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. If you don’t see it as a career, you really are just writing journals, right?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Probably. But remember all those voices in my head? Once I tell a story, it’s pretty much forgotten as I move on to the next. I don’t dwell on them much, there just isn’t time. And a novel for a writer is just like a painting to an artist. You can keep tweaking one more thing for an eternity. There comes a time you have to let it go, release it, and not look back.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Of course. I’m always learning. From everything. From the writing, from the research, from my internal thoughts, feelings and beliefs. I learn from people in all aspects of the publishing industry, even from nature.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
When I start a book I start with a list of characters, like I suppose all authors do. What I learned from Donna was to find a picture of each character. So as I’m writing I already have stars picked. I write to women of my age, so the main characters of my books are as well and have included Sandra Bullock, Calista Flockhart, Ellen Degeneres, Jane Fonda. Strong, compassionate, wise women with layers. And for the men, hunks of course. Tim McGraw and George Clooney make an appearance. wink
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Yes. Just write. Tell the story. Editors can get it ready for release. But don’t use an editor who steals or changes your voice or your character’s voices.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I don’t write to market. I write what I like to read. It seems I can never find books about what I want to read about, so I make them up. I don’t think life ends at 20 or 30 or 40 or even 50 years old. No matter your age there is still love and friendships to find, adventures, and life to live. If you think all 50 year olds are home sitting on a couch watching HGTV and wishing they had gotten the chance to be an ice skater while they were young, my books probably aren’t for you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Beneath A Scarlet Sky. Not my usual genre, but I have to see what the buzz is about.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I assume you mean after children’s books. I believe it was Danielle Steel’s The Ring.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Anything and everything. I cry the easiest when I’m happy or mad, not so much when I’m sad. I cry when people I love succeed and I cry when I see what human beings are capable of doing to one another.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Clarissa Pinkola Estes comes to mind at the moment. I believe her to be one of the wisest women alive today and I would like to thank her for leading a huge pack of women back into our wildness.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Sure, though they change frequently. When I’m not writing, I love spending time with my friends and when I can, family. But I do love crafting, reading, exploring, and dancing, I just don’t take much time for it.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I despise reality tv. I love crime shows and shows from the heart equally.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Chocolate is the one food group I cannot survive without. I like most types of music though Motown, country, R&B and Jazz would top my list. I like music with a rhythm and beat to make your body want to move and I like to be able to understand the words. I’m seeing a pattern here of it’s easier to say what I don’t like than what I do like. Depending on what it is, my favorite colors would be green, red, and pink, my least favorite colors are orange and blue.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Oh, I have no idea. I would like to think it would be something else I’ve never done before. But realistically…I would probably bounce from one coffee date to a lunch date to a mani/pedi to another coffee date to a wine date, lol. I love my friends and have lots of them, I just don’t have enough time with them.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
If even one person feels it appropriate to write: “She made a difference” I will feel blessed.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I have a website but I’m horrible at keeping it up to date: www.scarlettbraden.com. I have a blog, that I remember to write a couple of times a year: www.scarlettbraden.blogspot.com. Find me on Facebook! Even send me a friend request, I’m shy but very approachable. My Facebook is a politics and religion free zone.
Spotlight Interview for the 2017 Cuenca International Writer’s Conference:
What is your go-to site for book research and do you clear your search history?
Google is my favorite search engine, and I don’t clear my history. When the NSA catches up with me I think it will be much more fun if I have all the various searches from all my books available for them to peruse.
What is the most meaningful thing you would like a reviewer to say about your latest work?
I couldn’t put it down/I read all night and I fell in love or hate with a character are my favorites. It means I did my job well.
Do your characters hijack your story or do you maintain control of the wheel?
All. The. Time. I love it when my characters take over, especially when they lead me down unexpected roads. It’s my favorite part of writing.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
While I’m writing I am usually energized, I can keep writing into the morning hours because it’s exciting. But when I stop, I’m exhausted, or maybe that’s because I was up all night.
Are you related to someone famous?
My sister says we are somehow distantly related to Brad Pitt. I haven’t seen any evidence, he hasn’t called me yet and I think maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my sister’s behalf. I have a great-aunt with the same name as Billy Kring’s wife, so I hoped we were related but it didn’t pan out.
Where would you hide the body?
Come. Let me show you.
Cuenca High Life Interview with John Keeble:
1. What do you think of Cuenca as a place for writers at the moment?
At the risk of sounding melodramatic I believe Cuenca is at the least a haven and quite possibly a mecca for writers and future writers. I don’t really know why, I just know that it seems like every month more writers, or those who are planning to write, or thinking about writing are moving here from all over the world. Is there some “writer’s magnet” buried deep within the Andean soil? I doubt it. But something certainly is happening.
2. You often help others, so: what kind of help do new writers need?
Ah, there are as many different needs as there are writers. Some need inspiration, some encouragement, some knowledge. I needed all of the above to start writing, I suppose we all do. Each writer or potential writer is in a different place in their journey therefore the needs are many.
How do you help them?
I think of myself as a cheerleader. I’m still learning, myself, every day. If someone has the desire to write, I want them to know that they can. I want people to realize that you no longer have to be one of a hundred chosen from thousands of manuscripts by some publisher to write and even be read. I try to take each writer I know and provide whatever it is they need to get that book published, or whatever their particular goal is. I share what I’ve learned not only about the process of writing, the craft of writing but also the business of writing.
What have been the results?
Sometimes when we embark on a new journey, we just need the permission to make it happen. Or someone to show us the logistics of how to get there. I tell people, when I help someone get their book up on Amazon, it’s like a grandchild to me. I didn’t do the work to create it, but I hope to be part of helping to nurture it, and I am so proud of them. I’m not boasting, but I have more literary grandchildren than I will probably have human grandchildren. My son appreciates all those who let me help them, because there isn’t so much pressure on him.
Do other experienced writers help new writers?
Absolutely they do. I am where I am, I know what I know, because other more experienced writers helped me. Some personally, some through their blogs, their books or writer’s groups. I think an important part of a writing community is giving back. I’m passionate about that. Here in Cuenca there are several of us on the path and we learn together. It’s very rewarding to see how things come together and work for each other.
What is the 'writing environment' like for new writers?
Writers are generally introverts, but sometimes it can be a lonely activity. There are at least a handful of writer’s groups here, support groups for all writers and some for specific types of writers, critique groups for getting feedback on your writing, events designed to showcase our local writers and their work, an International Writers conference in March every year, and even a writer’s flash mob. We have editors, cover designers, beta readers, publishers. Basically, whatever you need as a burgeoning or experienced writer can be found right here in Cuenca. All we need here is a print on demand set up, I’m looking for interested investors. We also have writer’s here bridging maybe every genre or certainly almost all of them in fiction, poets, non-fiction writers, bloggers, travel writers, essayist, and yes, we consider someone who writes blogs, or magazine articles a writer. Not just novels and memoirs.
Why do they do it?
Why do people start writing? Again, I suppose the reasons vary for each person. Maybe some do it for fame or fortune, but that doesn’t usually work out too well. Some write because they have something to say, some write to heal a broken part of themselves, some feel there just aren’t any good books that are what they like to read, or because they prefer a different ending, some write because it’s fun, some people like me do it to silence the voices inside our head. Once someone begins writing, characters come to life, and they talk to you. I recently had to stop what I was doing and started writing a new book, because a new character wouldn’t be quiet and I couldn’t hear the one I wanted to hear. They can be very stubborn sometimes and occasionally they are quite the demanding diva.
Do you think they find Cuenca and the writing community inspirational?
I hope so. I know there are a lot of people here who want to help writers, and there is a lovely community as well of people who are not writers but who support us and our work. I think that the fact that once a month there is a gathering that is almost always standing room only, to hear writer’s read selections of their works in progress is phenomenal.
3. You have made that significant journey from Dale the technical writer to Scarlett the author. How has that come about?
A confluence of several factors. One of the things I pledged to do when I decided to become an expat is to do new things. I’ve had people tell me that I should write for most of my adult life. But I never really thought I could. Once or twice I thought about writing a book, and as an avid reader, I would think, Oh, there’s no way I could write a whole book, with all those details. And as a matter of fact, I wrote the humorous story of how I became a writer. You can get my story if you sign up for my newsletter. But for you and the CHL readers, Donna McNicol is a bestie, and at the time was my best friend in Cuenca. She encouraged me to join her writer’s support group and that’s where it all began.
How much of that was helped by being here in Cuenca and why?
I firmly believe, and my mother did too, that I would never have started writing if I was still in the U.S. First of all, the wonderful community and support here helped launch me into this craft, and secondly the lifestyle here is conducive to creativity.
Is this a change in your life?
Oh, my goodness, yes. I was a hermit who never dreamed I had a voice. I now have to work hard to have quiet days at home and I have someone asking me for an interview. How cool is that?
How have you brought out this creativity in yourself?
You know, for me, I think it’s always been there, I just didn’t know it. My mom said she knew it was inside me, but with every new book or story I wrote, she was amazed…so I think she might not have known either. I nurture it through talking to other writers, spending time outside, reading, watching people, movies and television. My favorite thing to do is walk around the city, along the rivers, whenever I get stuck, that seems to get the words flowing again.
Can you describe in a sentence or two the difference between pre-author Dale and the Scarlett of now?
Cliché alert: daylight and dark. I was in a very dark place. I was sick, suffered from anxiety and depression, and really, pretty terrified before I started writing. Writing is cathartic for me, but it also opened up a new community of amazing people that are generous, kind, encouraging and generally happy people. Who I surround myself with has made a miraculous change in my life.
How do you feel having gone the route from new fiction writer to experienced?
Oh wow, I’m not sure I consider myself to be an experienced writer yet. I’m not sure when that feeling will come along or if it ever will. I still feel very much like a new writer. I can say it amazes me to realize how many books I’ve written in a short time, and how many I want to write. I have one series in process and two more I’m working on. Each series is a different genre. I feel like I’m testing my wings, looking for my niche, maybe then I’ll feel experienced. But I’m quite sure there will always be more to learn.
Have you found the writing environment here inspirational?
Ah, so many definitions for inspirational. In a word, Yes. You know, I estimate there are about a hundred expat writers in Cuenca and the surrounding area. Not all are active in the community, but I recently had a Cuencana friend estimate the same number of Ecuadorian writer’s in the city. How can that not be inspirational?
4. Anything else you want to say about writing here, especially why it is such a good environment for writing.
I know there are great writing communities in other places in the world. For example, Austin, Texas has a vibrant community. But let’s face it, it’s not as pretty a landscape, the weather isn’t as nice, and the lifestyle is totally different. I believe there is something not only about the beauty of this place that is conducive to creativity, but also the culture, where art in any form is valued, even cherished, artisans are abundant, life moves at a slower pace, which gives us, as writers, more time to observe and note life, and I believe there is something about the types of personalities that allow or encourage us to become expats. To step out of our comfort zone and to seek adventure and differences.
5. Please list your books + what you are working on.
The Providence in Ecuador series is available on Amazon: Harvesting the Hummingbird, Peril in the Bayou and Terror on the Bluff. I’m currently researching book 4.
The Friends in Foreign Places anthology (45 stories, 37 authors- many from Cuenca) is currently available. All royalties go to Proyecto Saman to rebuild the coast.
I’ve just submitted a short story to a Writer’s Digest contest, so fingers crossed for that one.
I’m currently working on a crime series written as short episodes called the Frangipani Venture. These will be available across a wide platform for .99 each once I have the fifth one completed.
I’m also working on a series that will most likely fall into Fantasy called Paisley Cove and a non-fiction collaboration with six other women writers in Cuenca called Seven Degrees of Wisdom.
Thank you, John and Cuenca High Life for spotlighting our community. It truly is rich, diverse and a Cuenca treasure.
International Living Interview with Connie Pombo:
1. When did you move to Cuenca and what do you love most about it? I arrived for the first time in September 2014 and never left. There are so many things to love about Cuenca, I can't possibly pick just one. I can summarize to say I love every minute of my life here. I have more friends in Cuenca than had in my whole lifetime in the U.S.
2. Where are you originally from and how did you hear about Cuenca? I was born in Memphis Tn and that's home, I've lived there or in surrounding suburbs several times in my life. But I lived all over the south in Lousiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas. I actually heard about Ecuador from a lady I met playing a Facebook game. My question to her was "How in the world did you end up in Ecuador." When she told me about the wether in Cuenca, I was sold.
3. Tell me a little bit about yourself?
With an empty nest and recently divorced, I decided it was now or never to have an adventure. I applied for a passport, sold or gave away everything I owned, packed 3 suitcases and my 13-year-old dog and moved to Ecuador. I arrived in Cuenca on my 49th birthday. Within 7 months, through the encouragement of friends I started writing and 5 months later had two books published. Then I realized writing was what I was always supposed to do and I firmly believe I was supposed to do it here. And every birthday gets better! I've been accused of having on rose colored glasses more than once. But it's been almost 3 years and the honeymoon isn't over for me. I choose to live my life from a place of gratitude and happiness.
4. What kind of work did you do before you came to Cuenca?
I worked in Engineering. Through the years I worked in project management, product development, technical writing, and innovation.
5. What’s your portable income in Cuenca and what’s your favorite thing about it?
I'm a writer, an author's assistant and am now managing an international publishing company. After I fell in love with writing, I discovered I love the business of writing too. Most writers don't. When I help someone get their book published it's a grandchild book for me. I love that what I do leant itself so well to finding a way to help the earthquake recovery efforts and I love that I can do it anywhere. From Cuenca, or the coast, sitting by the river, in my best friend’s sunroom or in any one of my favorite cafes drinking mocchachinos.
6. Has working in Cuenca helped your creativity and inspiration versus working in the States?
And what’s your favorite “digital office” (café/restaurant, park, balcony)? Without a doubt. I don't believe I would have ever started writing in the states, let alone been successful. There seems to be something magical about Cuenca for creative types. I like to think of the mountains whispering ideas that are carried on the perpetual gentle breezes through the city. And for me the whole point is that my digital office can change daily or hourly depending on my mood. We even have "Roving Writers- a flash mob for writers" that was started by Sandra and Wayne Materi. We meet up in different cafes and write. My life changes every day. That's a beautiful thing. That's part of the adventure.
7. What’s the craziest or most exciting thing you've done while in Ecuador (volcano climbing, Amazon trekking or swimming with sharks)?
I just told my friends, "Oh No! I haven't done anything wild and crazy! This was supposed to be an adventure" So while we are planning a trip for my next birthday, they reminded me of some things they think are at least exciting that I've done. Besides becoming a writer, publishing 3 of my own books, I organized an anthology comprised of 37 writers from around the world, and all royalties go to earthquake recovery on the coast for as long as it's needed, I joined a dance mob, which for my uncoordinated, no rhythm self was pretty crazy, and I became a witch.
8. What are the most alluring benefits of living here (cost of living, low rent, weather, friendliness of the people, fresh fruits and veggies, restaurants, free concerts, etc.)?
Yes to all of the above, plus an amazing writer's community, no shortage of activities and opportunities to keep learning new things, complete bucket list items, and easy inexpensive travel around this small country full of experiences from sea, sierra, the amazon, the Galapagos. I love getting on a bus and seeing how much is packed into this tiny treasure chest of a country.
9. What do you like most about your house/apartment (view, low rent, close to shopping, your neighbors, etc.)?
I am in love with my 3 bedroom 2 full bath apartment with views out every window of the mountains, that I rent from my delightfully charming Ecuadorian landlord for a whopping $350 a month. I'm walking distance to the supermarket, a river, and my best friends. Just like being a kid again. I'm the only Gringa in my immediate neighborhood and yet the neighbors all speak not only to me, but my dogs too when we are out and about walking.
10. Has the stress factor in your life been reduced since moving here?
Absolutely, but I'm not stress free. It's just a different stress. Instead of being stressed by the economy, I'm stressed because there are more friends wanting to meet for lunch than there are days in the week. Instead of worrying about politics, I worry how I'm going to eat $15 worth of produce I picked up at the market before it spoils. And I am always wishing there more hours in a day and more days in a week.
11. Any regrets or do you wish you had made the move sooner?
I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And that everything happens just when it's supposed to in perfect time. I originally planned to come in 2015 and circumstances in the states became such that I came a year early...and it was perfect timing. I haven't had a single day of regret. Ecuador is home and probably will be for the rest of my life.