March 14, 2012

interview with the author of 'write from the heart'

I'm pleased to welcome Heather Hummel, author of Write from the Heart and one of my favorite writer Tweeps. After reviewing her novel yesterday, I'm pleased to have her here for an interview.

Heather, thanks for joining us, today, as part of your blog tour.

Change the Word: In Write from the Heart, both Samantha and Amanda use words to help them make changes with their lives. How did you come up with this idea?
Heather Hummel: I’m a strong believer in the power of words and believe that how we use them has a great impact on the outcome of our lives. As a writer, being able to express this belief through my characters, especially Samantha in Write from the Heart, has been a fictional way of showing just how powerful words¾be them spoken or thoughts¾can be, and that changing our “mantras” from negative to positive can change our lives. 

CTW: Samantha uses journals as part of her self discovery. Do you or have you ever kept a journal?  
HH: Yes, I’ve kept journals since middle school. I know many young women keep journals, but I think it’s rare for them to use them consistently throughout life. I have every journal I’ve ever written and can’t imagine parting with them. A good friend of mine knows where to find them should anything ever happen to me!

CTW:
You're considered a “Photonovelist.” Can you tell me a little more about what that means?
HH: When I was in high school, my three favorite classes were English (of course), Photography and Oceanography. As of late, I’ve been finding myself with my camera in hand just as much as my pen (laptop). When I started posting the results of my image capturing adventures on Facebook, the response was overwhelmingly favorable…people were posting praise in comments and even sending me private messages about how seeing my photographs made their day. It dawned on me one day that a photojournalist captures images about news related topics. Alternatively, I tend to capture images that go along with my novels. My characters are women who are emotionally deep, down to earth, and relatable, much like the seascape and landscape photography I do. Because of this, I’ve labeled myself a “Photonovelist”¾no, that’s not a real word, but as a photographer who tells stories through her images and creates images through her stories, it made sense to use this term to best describe what I do.

CTW: In what circumstances can photos tell a story better than words?
HH: I belong to some great photography sites, including Fotoblur, where hundreds of photos are loaded each day by some amazing photographers. It always intrigues me to see which photos get the Fotoblur version of “Likes” because clearly each one tells a different story. When an image touches hundreds of people (who all click Like, which is really an up arrow), there has to be something there that resonates with humans as a whole, whereas it’s no longer about our individual stories, but a collective one. How we see an image and transfer the knowledge or wisdom that comes from it differs from person to person, and in many ways, the colors, textures, and subject can say so much more than a writer can in an entire chapter. This is why I love doing both photography and writing. Some stories are meant to be told through images and others through words. We’re all still kids at heart and getting joy out of a picture never grows old.

CTW:
I'll admit I'm not the best photographer. One thing I struggle with is making sure the backgrounds of my subject don't conflict with the subject of my photo. What should I do to get past that?
HH: It takes practice, like any other art, to see the entire frame as your capturing an image ¾ not just your subject. How many pictures do you see of people out to dinner where the glasses of wine in the foreground become the subject more than the people? Then when they’re posted on Facebook, it looks like too much drinking going on! Take time to look through the lens at the entire frame, not just the subject, and ask yourself, “Do I really want that in this picture?” For example, a refrigerator with kids’ drawings and magnets is not a good background for a professional image! Taking the time to do it right is worth the extra minute to move the glasses from the table or the subject away from the fridge. I once wrote an article on my blog about author photos. I see so many that have unprofessional backgrounds, making them look “homemade” and, therefore, “self published.”

Here’s a quick tip: One way to reduce the busyness of the image is to reduce the depth of field. In simple terms, if you can control your aperture (which most point and shoots don’t let you, but a DSLR will), the higher the f-stop number, the greater the depth of field, which means everything will be sharp. But, the lower the aperture, the shallower the depth of field, giving you a blurred background and the subject is then more prominent. If you have a point and shoot and are not able to control depth of field, try finding backgrounds that are in the distance and they should be a bit blurred since most point and shoots use an average depth of field setting. It’s the close up backgrounds that will remain sharp and creating too much to focus on.

CTW: Here's a question from Twitter: What lighting techniques can you share with us?
HH: Lighting is hands down the trickiest part of photography to learn. Back lighting, especially, is troublesome to many beginning photographers. The best way to combat back lighting issues, and thereby not creating an unwanted silhouette, is to use a flash or reflector on the subject to create balance in the lighting environment. Clearly, moving the subject is the best way, but if the background is a must have, either capture the image at a time of day when the lighting is better, or compensate by forcing your flash (in daylight) to trigger. Be aware that a close up photo with a flash can be too much light. Instead, try stepping back a bit from your subject (giving the flash less power), and then use the zoom feature to zoom back in.

Bonus tip for iPhone users: One thing a lot of people with iPhones don’t realize is that when in camera mode, they can simply touch the screen where they want the camera to expose for. For example, in an outdoor picture of a person, touch the screen where the person is standing and it will compensate for them rather than the bright sky. I taught this to a couple I met on a hike one day and she was amazed by the difference it made. iPhones also have HDR option. High Dynamic Range gives light a whole new look in your images! Play with both features.

CTW: Another Twitter question: What is your favorite lens for food shots?
HH: I haven’t done a lot of food shots since I tend to do mostly landscapes and portraits. But, I am starting to do more weddings with my business partner Kevin Askeland (Mantel Piece Images), and see a lot of wedding cakes in our future ¾ both on the table and in happy couple’s faces! My tendency would be to go with a wide angle, or perhaps a 50 mm, since likely there will be long spreads of food. I use an 18-135 mm lens as my catch-all, but will be picking up a straight wide angle for most of these images. Kevin uses a wide variety of lenses as well. Between the two of us, we’re ready for any wedding or event, and the colorful food will be half the fun.

CTW: Aside from being a fabulous author and photographer, you are also a celebrity ghostwriter. What's that like?
HH: It’s the most challenging part of my writing career yet. Creating a book in the voice of someone you don’t know personally, that you have to get to know in order to do the book justice, as well as all of the research that goes with the territory, makes for quite the journey. It can be both rewarding and frustrating. I just ghostwrote a book for a company about online dating that I’m really excited to see the results of. When it’s released, I can share more, but this book is one I’m especially proud to have been a part of. Being a ghostwriter has exposed me to a lot of fascinating experiences, all of which I’ve grown and learned from.

CTW: Any advice you can offer aspiring authors struggling to get their ideas on page?
HH: I tend to follow the lead of George Martin, the Beatles producer, who discourages artists from entering the field of music. When asked why he would discourage aspiring musicians, he simply responded, “Because if you can be discouraged, you should be discouraged.” Those words say a lot¾we all have obstacles to overcome, including writers’ block, but only those who persevere will make it and what that means to each individual is different.

To overcome writers’ block, find a muse. For me, cycling and photography are my muses. I’ve had many ideas for books, chapters, and characters come to mind while I’m pedaling down the road. In fact, my book GO BIKE & Other Signs from the Universe is about all of the license plates that I’d see on my bike rides. Naturally, it was on a bike ride that I thought I needed to record them and put them into a book. Most ideas come when you’re not facing the blank screen. Give yourself permission to do something else and allow the ideas to come to you that way. It works if you take the pressure off yourself and allow the ideas to come.

Thank you so much for having me as a guest!

About the Author
Heather Hummel is a "photonovelist" who blends her love for photography with her award-winning career as an author. Her published works include:
Journals from the Heart Series:
Whispers from the Heart (2011)
Write from the Heart (2011)
Nonfiction
GO BIKE & Other Signs from the Universe (2011)
Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw-Hill, 2008),
Essays:
Messages of Hope and Healing ( Sunpiper Media, 2006)
Blue Ridge Anthology (Cedar Creek, 2007) with David Baldacci and Rita Mae Brown
Awards:
2009 Mature Media Awards, Merit Award
2009 New York Book Festival, Honorable Mention

Heather's books have appeared in newspapers such as: Publishers Weekly, USA Today and the Washington Post; and in magazines that include: Health, Body & Soul, First, and Spry Living, a combined circulation of nearly 15 million. A graduate with High Distinction from the University of Virginia, Heather holds a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree with concentrations in English and Secondary Education. She is currently earning a Ph.D. in Metaphysical Sciences.

Visit Heather’s website at http://www.heatherhummel.net/
Like Heather’s Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/heatherhummelfanpage
Follow Heather on Twitter @HeatherHummel
http://twitter.com/HeatherHummel

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