#FierceFriday Interview with Author & Blogger Victoria Zigler
My First #FierceFriday Interview
Here it is, my first #FierceFriday feature on Everything’s Coming Up Rosie (ecurosie) – celebrating all the incredibly inspiring and kick-ass women out there! My first guest is Victoria Ziglar. She is a vegetarian poet and self-published children’s author who is also blind. She has been a huge supporter of ecurosie and I am delighted that she took the time to chat with us.
In this interview, she shares how she utilizes a screen reader developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse. She also shares her challenges of being a children’s author, her guilty pleasures and more.
Share Your Story – Victoria Ziglar
Hi Tori, please tell us a little about yourself. And what are some of your interests outside of blogging and writing?
My name is Victoria, but most people call me Tori. I’m a blind vegetarian poet and children’s author, as well as being slave to a gang of rodents, and wife to a husband who spoils me almost as much as I spoil the rodent gang.
Nine times out of ten, if I’m not blogging or working on one of my writing projects, I can be found reading. If I’m not doing that, chances are I’m either obeying the commands of my rodent gang, spending time with my hubby, or watching a movie. I also sometimes get the urge to dabble in one of my other interests, which include – but are not limited to – music, crafts, history, and playing roleplaying games (as in Dungeons And Dragons type games).
What is the name of the book you most recently blogged about?
The most recent book related post I did was about Thomai Dion’s “think-a-lot-tots” books (I mention books, plural because two were mentioned in the same post).
What is the most challenging part about blogging and how do you overcome this?
The most challenging thing for me when it comes to blogging, which applies to my use of the internet in general, is the fact that being blind means I wouldn’t be able to so much as check my e-mail without the use of a screen reader of some sort, let alone blog. Luckily, I do have a screen reader. It’s called JAWS (which stands for Java Access With Speech, I think) and mostly does what I tell it to. When it doesn’t behave (which, thankfully, doesn’t happen often) or when the attempts of sighted people to make things all fancy with pretty pictures, and buttons that are labelled with numbers that appear to be gibberish from my point of view, means no screen reader could ever be enough, I either just decide I didn’t want to read that post/webpage anyway, and go do something else, or – if I really want to know what it says, or really need to work the site for some reason – call my hubby to help.
Do you have a dedicated office space and if so, what is the importance of having this?
I didn’t used to have a dedicated office space; I used to write wherever I felt like, and even had a laptop so I could use it wherever I wanted to. But after I stepped on and broke the second laptop in as many years (it had actually done well to last the year it did, since I’d stepped on it several times in that year, and was using it with a broken screen for the last few months of its life; it wouldn’t have lasted as long if I’d needed to be able to see the screen) we decided setting up an area for me in our spare room – where hubby already had his gaming PC – was probably a good idea. Not to mention, cheaper than constantly replacing the laptop whenever I forgot where I put it and stepped on it. In a way, I think having the dedicated office area is a pain because I liked the freedom to write anywhere. On the other hand, being stepped on isn’t good for laptops, so we save a lot of money and hastle by me having a desk set up for me to write and blog at, and that mostly makes up for it.
With so many authors writing children’s books nowadays, how have you learned to stand out?
To be honest, I’m not entirely certain how to answer this question, because I actually don’t think I have managed it. I mean, I try to give my books interesting titles, and I know my books about degus are among the most popular of all my books (possibly because there aren’t that many books about degus out there; most people don’t even know what a degu is). Other than that, I just write my stories and poems, try to make them – as well as my blog posts, and posts on social media – interesting enough that people will “hopefully” want to come back for more, accept opportunities for interviews when contacted to do any (I’ve done author interviews, character interviews, and even a couple of reader interviews) and hope for the best. People I don’t know sometimes buy my books, so I guess I must be doing something right. I wish I knew what it was.
What’s your best tip for balancing work and personal life? How do you do it with such a busy and full life?
My best tip is to make sure you find a way to do it. I know that doesn’t help much. It doesn’t even sound like much of a tip, does it? But, to be honest, it’s actually the only one that will work for everyone. The thing is, everyone’s situation is unique, so there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. It’s a little easier if you go out to work because I can then tell you to leave your work behind at the office (or wherever else you work) and make time for your family and friends (in that order) after work, and on the weekends. If you work from home, however, it’s not quite that simple, since the kind of work you do, and the reason you’re working from home, needs to be considered, which means the best I can do is to tell you to make sure you make time for family and friends as well as your job. Oh, and don’t forget the pets, if you have any… They need your time too!
I think at this point I’m supposed to say something about how important routines are, and how you’ll do a much better job of balancing your work and social life if you have one. Well, I’m not going to. A routine might be the best way for you, but it might not. I know routines don’t work for me. I’ve tried routines, and they fall apart quickly. This is partially because I have an irregular sleeping pattern, and partially because I can get things done better – especially writing projects – if I’m free to focus on the task, rather than stressing about whether I’ll be done in time for the 1:00pm lunch date I’ve scheduled with my hubby, for example. I do sometimes have to schedule things for specific times but avoid it as much as possible. This is why I self-publish.
So, if I don’t have a routine, how do I do it? Well, to be honest, most days I just set myself some tasks to achieve that day, and do them in order of priority, taking breaks as and when I want to in between. In the breaks I’ll either do something with hubby, play with the rodent gang, take the time to enjoy a quiet cup of tea, call a family member or friend, take a nap, or do something else I want to do; what I do in the breaks depends on the time of day or night, how tired I am, and what I feel like doing. It’s not the most organized system, but it works. I mean, I have days when even a short to-do list feels like it’s too long, and the day just doesn’t seem to have enough hours in it. But I’m pretty sure that happens to everyone, regardless of how organized they are. I figure, since I manage to make it work well enough that I’m never late for appointments, my house is clean enough that unexpected visitors don’t lead to me being embarrassed about the mess, I’ve published several books over the last few years, I usually manage to read a couple of hundred books a year, and my hubby and rodent gang seem happy that they get enough of my attention, I’m doing something right.
I wish I had some amazing words of wisdom for you, and you could use those words to figure out the secret to getting the balance right in your own life. But I really don’t. That brings us back to my original statement of how you should just make sure you do find a way to do it, but do it in a way that works for you.
If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what 3 books would you want with you?
“A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and “Matilda” by Roald Dahl, would be among them for certain because those two have been at the top of my favourite books list ever since I was a child. The rest of the books on my favourite books list often change, but those two have always appeared in it ever since I first read them. I’ll happily read them over and over again without complaint. I enjoy the movies too, but the books are best. So I’d want them with me so I have something other than my own imagination to amuse myself with.
I think I’d like the third book to be some sort of survival guide. Something that would help me figure out the best way to find food and shelter. The other two books – along with my own imagination – would keep me entertained easily enough, so having something practical to keep me alive while I wait for rescue would probably be a good plan.
As an author, what has been your proudest moment to date?
My proudest moment was the first time someone I didn’t know reviewed one of my books. It was a good review, and having confirmation that someone who didn’t know me thought my book was good enough to deserve a good review made me feel very happy, not to mention very proud of myself for writing and publishing something someone considered worth reading.
What are 3 things you’ve told yourself that kept you going during your darkest hour?
”Even the best books sometimes get bad reviews; it’s impossible to please every reader.”
”There’s some chocolate in the fridge; chocolate makes everything better!”
The third thing is something I do, rather than something I tell myself because one of the best ways I’ve found to get through tough times is to spend some time playing with pets. So, when times are dark, and my spirits are low, I go get me some critter cuddles.
Any guilty pleasures?
Cartoons and children’s movies. I can’t help it! I’m just a big kid at heart! I’d rather watch cartoons than most of the popular TV shows (I hate soaps and reality TV) and most of my favourite movies are children’s movies.
What does the future hold for you and your writing career?
I’ve got a historical fiction story scheduled for official release in October. It’s a story based on the events of the Battle of Hastings, and I’ve scheduled it for official release on the day that will mark the 950th anniversary of the battle in question.
After that, I’m not entirely certain. I have loads of ideas, and I always have at least one story – usually two or three – on the go at any given time, as well as writing poems whenever inspiration strikes, so there will be something new from me in the near future. But I’m one of those writers who can’t work from an outline, and rarely know much about a story when I first start writing it, so – since the stories I’m currently working on are newly started – I’m not entirely certain where they’re going myself at the moment, nor exactly how long they’ll take to write. All I can tell you for certain right now is that I’m working on a couple of new stories, one of which is a Christmas story, and I’ve written a few poems since I published my most recent poetry collection in early July.
As a children’s author, what are 3 hard-to-spot pitfalls that are critical to avoid?
I wouldn’t say it’s hard to spot, but many children’s authors make the mistake of dumbing down language too much, forgetting that children’s minds are like sponges, and they will learn what a word means quicker than most adults. You obviously don’t want to sound like some stuffy old professor type, but most children can understand more difficult words than many people think. Just use the words that feel natural for what you want to say. If a child doesn’t know it, they’ll ask, but most of the time they can figure it out from the context.
Another mistake some make is to try to work with an idea or theme you don’t really have any interest in, thinking you should write it just because it’s popular. It doesn’t matter the age you’re writing for, your readers will notice if you lack enthusiasm while writing the story, and it will make it difficult for them to enjoy it. Write about what you have a passion for writing about, and only write what you think is popular right now if that’s the thing you’re passionate about.
Another one that applies regardless of age group is consistency. Or, more to the point, lack of it. If your character starts out not being able to do something, they shouldn’t suddenly be able to do it now that it’s convenient to the plot for them to do so. Or, to give another example, if you’re writing about a group of animal characters that do amazing things, you need to decide from the start if they’re going to be actual animals who just do these things without their humans knowing, and therefore have the capabilities real animals have, as well as their limitations, or humanoid creatures resembling those animals, in which case they may share some similarities with their animal counterparts, but may not be burdened by the limitations. For example, a real dog can’t walk on its hind legs for an extended period of time, where as a humanoid dog would most likely do so almost all the time. By all means make your humanoid animal creatures look like the real animal, but decide their limitations from the start, and be consistent with what those limitations are. The same goes for the limitations of the abilities of your human characters.
I don’t know that any of them are difficult to spot, to be honest, but they’re all common mistakes, which can spoil a reader’s enjoyment.
Thank you ,Victoria Ziglar for taking the time to share with us. It has been wonderful to hear a little about you, your blog and your thoughts on writing. Good luck with your upcoming historical fiction story. We will keep an eye out for that release in October.
You can connect with Victoria Ziglar online through:
Victoria Zigler is a blind vegetarian poet and children’s author. She has a very vivid imagination, and spends a lot of time in fictional worlds; some created by her, others created by other authors. When she remembers to spend some time in the real world, it’s mostly to spend time with her hubby and their rodent gang, though sometimes to indulge in other interests that capture her attention from time to time. Born in the shadow of the Black Mountains in Wales, UK, Tori now lives on the South-East coast of England, UK. She has been writing since she knew how and became a self-published author in 2012.
You can buy her books as eBooks from Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and a few other eBook retailers. Alternatively, if you prefer a physical book, you can buy her books as paperbacks from CreateSpace, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a few other places.
Let’s chat in the comments – did you enjoy this interview with Tori? What other questions do you have for her?
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