Lena Winfrey Seder is an author, former English teacher, film enthusiast and world traveler who basks in the sun of Orlando, Florida with her husband, two sons and a daughter. She published The Metamorphosis of a Muslim in spring 2011 with IIPH, an overseas publisher. Currently, she is writing a unique paranormal trilogy as well as short stories, screenplays and poetry. Her passion and dream is to one day create great movies that tell powerful stories.
Hi Lena, welcome! Thanks for joining us today!
Thank you Trish for inviting me. I’m very glad to be here!
What or who inspired you to become a writer?
Firstly, I think writing has just been in my blood all of my life. It is important to me as breathing. I started writing short stories as a kid, especially illustrated ones. In high school, I experimented with poetry and song lyrics.
Secondly, I think my best friend had some influence as well. In high school, my best friend Donna loved writing as much as I did. She was very prolific, and we used to have a serial that reached over 100 episodes. We would both pass it back and forth and write on it. This serial was about our various classmates who ended up in bizarre situations, sometimes comical, and occasionally involving celebrities and royal families. It was all great fun, but her sudden death at age 16 drove me to express myself more in poetry, and thus I was on my way to writing seriously.
Lastly, I was fortunate enough to have an amazing literature and drama teacher in high school, Mrs. Eleanor Kensinger, who sparked my interest in storytelling and gave me support. She made me believe I could do anything. Great and inspirational teachers are so important and yet so rare!
I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Loss at such a young age is a really tough thing to experience. Fortunately, it sounds like you had great support for writing. Can you tell us more about your latest book?
I actually have multiple projects going on; I just can’t help it. I multi-task and will put down ideas, do research and even a bit of writing on a couple of projects at the same time. However, when I am seriously writing the bulk of a story, I do focus on one.
My paranormal Between Bite and Might is set in the Appalachian Mountain region, and it has all of the exciting elements like werewolves, vampires, witches and shape-shifters. I have decided to bring in demons in book 2. The story focuses around Clara Walker, who has been living far from her hometown for several years, though she has occasionally visited. Her last visit was at her mother’s funeral. She returns to attend a class reunion, though she isn’t being honest with herself why she is really returning. She has some internal struggles because she wanted to leave her town and change her identity while forgetting some pain, but she is drawn back to this little town due to an unrequited love. There are tons of secrets in this small town, and she is about to be thrown into them. There is action, struggles, love and some unique twists. I have researched a bit about the Native Americans who used to live in that area so I can tie in a bit of myths and culture. Clara, who thinks she is normal, will along the way throughout the trilogy discover she has a simple, but unique gift. Handsome, complicated David will also discover bits and pieces of his past like solving a puzzle as he attempts to protect and shield Clara.
That sounds interesting! And I do the same – jot down a bunch of different ideas (since they are always coming). What has been the most difficult scene for you to write for your current project?
The love scene, as I wanted to keep borders and leave something to the imagination. I have restrained it to a bit of kissing, but I’m not sure if I will explore it further in this book or more in the next ones. The goal is to build the right amount of tension while not getting too mushy either since it is an action-packed novel.
The other is a death scene that will occur. I can’t reveal too much, but handling it correctly and believably is quite a balancing act.
Do you follow a certain writing process with your work?
Most of my works start with the spark of an idea where I recognize, ‘Hey, that would make a great novel or a great film!’ I kind of ‘see’ an image in my mind. So, I will jot down a couple of sentences on an idea sheet I have and then mull it over for a couple of days. If the idea is still strong with me, then I start building the plot in my head and even come up with some dialogue. I start to hear the characters’ voices. Then, I am ready to start writing it down. I usually write down the whole story and then, though tempted to edit as I go along, I usually wait until I have gotten the whole story out of me before I go back and start editing. The editing stage is usually harder than the writing stage. Sometimes we fall in love with our characters, and it is difficult to be objective about what we should really leave in or what we should take out. And then there are places that need more expansion. I usually start my stories in a notebook; I just love writing pen on paper. It is more of a ritual and a visual exercise with me. I can jump back and forth to double check my plot and dialogue. I like having the whole work open to me to flip through. Then I type it in and do the editing on the computer. Though recently, I am getting better about starting from scratch on the computer, especially when I write flash fiction pieces.
OMGosh yes, editing is harder than writing for me as well. Do you read the same genre that you write/can you give us some examples of your favorite
Believe or not I have avoided reading Twilight. I am not much into ‘sparkly’ vampires. They should be strong and scary, even if handsome. Also, I really didn’t want to read these days in my genre because I don’t want to have too much outside influence; I’m looking for something a bit original in what I’m writing. However, I have on my list to read: Vampyre Kisses by Elizabeth Kolodziej and the Sabrina Strong Series by Lorelei Bell. However, going back to genre, I grew up enjoying the classics like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.
However, I don’t stick to one genre. I love to read a variety of materials. I read biographies, mysteries (love Agatha Christie), thrillers (like Dan Brown, John Grisham and Norma Beishir), Science Fiction (like Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Frank Herbert’s Dune and more modern Mike Saxton’s 7 Scorpions trilogy). I do read a bit of comedy from time to time. One of my favorite books is a humorous mystery written by Karla Telega called Box of Rocks. And I love Janet Evanovich’s Wicked Business; I enjoy her writing style. I even read books on management and genetics. I love knowledge. Lately, I’m reading books about directors and filmmaking. So, I like to keep life interesting by reading a variety as long as it is fresh, good and clever writing.
And Trish, I have a couple of your books now on my to-read list: Station and Dying to Forget. I look forward to reading them.
I have not read the Twilight saga either!! And thank you for putting my books on your TBR list! You’ll have to let me know what you think of them. 🙂 If you could choose any Author, living or dead, to shadow for a year, who would you choose and why?
That is a hard one because there are so many that are interesting! I think Ernest Hemingway would be a great one to shadow; I have always loved his stories. For the living, maybe Dan Brown because I just want to know how he comes up with all of those conspiracies! And as far as screenwriters, it would have to be Joss Whedon; the guy really writes sharp dialogue.
I LOVE Joss Whedon!! What has been the most rewarding part of your writing journey so far?
Meeting other writers who share the same passion for writing and storytelling that I do. I have met some amazing writers over the past couple of years who have given me such great advice, support and encouragement. And really, that is what writers should do for each other; we have to be like a family and cheer for each other as well as give needed support.
I have found the Indie Community to be very welcoming. I can’t imagine doing this career without my writing buddies. 😉 Do you have any advice for budding authors looking to self-publish?
Be very patient. Success doesn’t happen overnight. You just have to keep on building yourself, improving yourself and putting yourself out there to find the right people and the right opportunities. Never give up. If you keep on writing and looking to improve both your writing and marketing skills (learning is continuous all of your life), then one day you will make it. It is just a matter of time and determination. Also, take serious and courteous feedback from professionals (not all book reviews) because feedback should be used to help you improve your writing.
No, it does NOT happen overnight. Sage advice. 🙂 What can we expect to see from you in the future and where can we find your work?
I am working on getting some short stories out into ebook form soon; one of them is called Evolution or Revolution, which is about a mad scientist in the future who wants to harness human brains in order to get rid of emotions and have a world of logic. We follow his observations, experiments and the results of his work, which will end in a bizarre twist.
Next is the first in the series of my paranormal novels, Between Bite and Might.
Finish the other two books in the Clara Walker Series.
Finish writing a realistic fiction novel, still untitled, that will be quite an adventure as the reader will travel across the world with the main character who will undergo some horrendous problems while still holding onto strength and faith in the face of adversity.
Thereafter my screenplays, both adaptations and original ones. Currently, I’m working on a friend’s novel, which I am trying to adapt into a screenplay. Hopefully, one day we will see the movie.
And somewhere in the future, I plan to gather a collection of poetry that covers many topics; I’m planning to have the book illustrated.
You write screenplays, too? That’s awesome – good luck!! If your book became a movie, who would you cast as your main characters?
I can see one of the brothers from Supernatural as David in Between Bite and Might. Of course, if I could get a hold of Johnny Depp or Robert Downey, Jr. (*sighing and swooning*). Still not sure who I want to play Clara.
If we are talking about my realistic fiction, I can see Angelina Jolie as the strong heroine who evolves throughout the story.
That would be an excellent movie!! So, it’s time for our Rapid Fire Questions – are you ready??
Sweet or Sour? Sweet
Wine or Chocolate? Dark chocolate
Tent or Hotel? Hotel
Beach or Pool? Beach
Shower or Bath? Bath
eReader or Paperback? That’s tough since I love both…OK, paperback!
Heels or Flats? Flats, just can’t do heels anymore.
Bra or No Bra? A comfortable one like a sports bra unless it is a special night, and then I like
silky and lacey.
You can find out more about Lena at her Author links: Facebook and Blog. Follow this Amazon link to learn more about Metamorphosis of a Muslim. I wish you the best of luck with your writing, Lena! Thank you so much for being here today!!
In this autobiographical account, Lena Winfrey Seder uses a series of flashbacks to weave back and forth among important events and places in her life, before and after she embraced Islam. She explains what attracted her to Islam and describes the effects of her choice on key relationships in her life. Her narration is laced with personal anecdotes and heart-felt advice about being patient in the face of adversity. Her experiences are woven together to create more than just a simple narrative; this is a unique account of The Metamorphosis of a Muslim.