Friday, June 9, 2017

Interview with poet ELENA KARIS by Dave Wolff

Interview with poet ELENA KARIS

I was introduced to you by Rich Orth who sent me one of your poems for posting on AEA’s blog. How long have you been writing poems and who was an inspiration?
I have been writing poetry and sort stories ever since I took a creative writing class in high school and fell in love with it. In the middle of the school year (I believe it was ninth grade) there was a poetry writing contest that was held so we were all required to write two to submit. One of the poems I wrote then titled “Men Are Metaphors” was published in a book of poetry with other young poets. I do have to say that Rich Orth, with his Poe-ish ways, can invoke strong feelings and allow me to personally work through some issues, especially about death, that have been with me since I was a teenager. Now that I come to think about it I have had a few people who have inspired me and kept me writing. Colleen Coffman from Guerilla FX and Show Me Ghosts West and the author of “The Ramblings and Doodlings of Mary T. Coffman” and her sister, Amy. Whenever I started to feel like I was getting nowhere or that I just wanted to give up, they believed in me and would always give me a gentle nudge to get my fingers back on the keyboard.

We have a mutual acquaintance in Jerry Langdon, another poetry contributor. Have you known him and Rich for a long time? How did you come into contact with them?
I haven’t known Jerry for very long but he is the graphic artist that designed the book cover for the novel I’m writing titled “The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice.” Rich, on the other hand, I’ve known for quite a number of years through Facebook and we’ve become friends. Ironically enough, I met Rich through shock rocker Demon Boy and at the time I was doing a fan funded thing for my movie script titled “To Hell And Back” which was made for television. Rich would often tell me how impressed he was with my dedication to that project and to my novel that I’m in the process of writing. In the early days when Rich was writing poems for his first book of poems, I read many of them prior to them being published. He has introduced me to so many wonderful people on social media including Jerry.

Do you remember writing Men Are Metaphors and what your inspiration was for it?
I do remember a little bit about the poem. It was titled “Men Are Metaphors.” The few lines I remember go something like this: “A heart is not a play thing, a heart is not a toy but if you want it broken just give it to a boy. Boys like to play with things to see how things work…” That’s all I can remember of it that and it ending in men are metaphors. Funny thing is, looking back now- I had no idea at that age exactly what all that meant (laughs). My reason for writing it was kind of simple really. I kept hearing from all my female friends how badly they were treated by their boyfriends and kept seeing how hurt they were from what they went through. It kept weighing on me so to speak and the one day in class that poem just kind of wrote itself onto the paper.

How extensive has your writing been since that first poem you wrote?
Since I wrote Men Are Metaphors, I’ve not written many poems. It has only been the last five years or so that I’ve started getting back into the groove of writing poetry and screen plays. Prior to that my life was pretty hectic and there really wasn’t any time or opportunity to do that. It wasn’t until my ex-husband passed away that I began to start writing again and even starting to draw a little bit. With poetry, I have to be in a certain mood or be moved to write.

Describe the book The Ramblings and Doodlings of Mary T. Coffman to people who haven’t heard about it.
The Rumblings and Doodles of Mary T Coffman is a truly inspiring and funny read. The late Mrs. Coffman was to say the least a unique, artistic and open minded woman. She was an inspiration to all that knew her and she had some very unique insights on many topics. Her artwork is beautiful as some carry messages that the subconscious stores for life lessons when occasions arise. It is really worth the time to read as her words will touch the heart, mind and funny bones of those who dive in.

How much were Colleen and Amy Coffman an inspiration to you writing-wise?
Colleen Coffman... now that is one multi-talented woman. She is a jack of almost every trade and masters everyone. Co has extensive knowledge in screen writing, FX and makeup and has worked with some very cool and influential actors both on a local and global level. She always takes time from her hectic and beautiful life to cheer me on, give me pointers, read a script and tells me like it is. She is not just a friend or someone I went to high school with, she is one of those friends that become family. Amy is my rock. She roots for me, she truly believes in me and my talent. She's a rare gem. Just like Colleen, I've known her for more than half my life. She is a true friend and sister. I can rant about whatever or share the good things and she is always there with open arms, a shoulder to cry on and arms to hold me up or lift me higher. I often tell her she's my angel but in truth she is just full of compassion, hope, unconditional love; the heart really.

What feelings do Rich Orth’s writings stir in you? Any examples you can cite off the bat?
As stated above his writings do invoke some pretty strong feelings from my childhood where I was honestly in a very dark place after losing both my parents in a three month time span at the age of fifteen. It now helps me to connect with those feelings and feel and or view them in a different way (seeing them as a natural part of the life cycle rather than something dark or sinister where bad things happen) (Laughing) I really can’t cite any of them because all of them invoke those feelings for me.

Would there ever be a written collaboration between you, Colleen and Amy? How about a collaboration with Rich or Jerry?
I doubt that there would be a collaboration between Colleen, Amy and I. I will say that if I can gain the fund needed to do To Hell and Back or any other film, there is no one else I'd rather have than Co's people making the sets, doing the costumes etc. Rich and I do talk about doing a collaboration project on poetry however, we do not have anything on the table at the moment. I would love to work with Rich. Jerry and I have not talked about collaborating a project though at some point I would like to be able to work with him too.

In what frame of mind do you have to be in order to write your poems?
It depends on what things have happened in my life that have affected me. Usually something tragic, like the loss of my husband or a friend or perhaps some other type of tragic event, will ignite the spark so to speak and I begin jotting things down and creating poems or short stories and even articles on the event.

Of the poems you have already written, which most represents your finest work?
Deep In The Dark has yet to make its debut on Facebook or any venue online. I have been sitting on it for quite some time now, waiting on the right moment to share it. The right moment just hasn’t come up yet. All things happen when it is time.

Are there any poems you have written of late? How much has your verse writing improved since you began?
I haven't written any new poems since I am on a time crunch to finish my book and having to wait until I can remedy my keyboard issue on the laptop. I would think that I will be back to writing very soon and perhaps whip out a poem or two and possibly some reviews and articles. My writing style has changed tremendously since I first started writing the novel ten years ago. My poetry has changed as well since I am much older and have experienced much more of the world as well as the way in which I perceive things.

Did you approach Jerry Langdon to design the artwork for your upcoming novel? What speaks you about his work?
I had been talking to Rich Orth about trying to find someone to do the book cover and asked him if he knew of anyone. He referred me to Jerry. I contacted Jerry and we spoke off and on for about a week concerning what it was I was looking for, what I wanted to see for the book cover. Now I will admit that Jerry got a sneak peek at the prologue of this novel and I did that for a reason- he had to know exactly what I was wanting for one of the images for the cover. That was the only way I knew to get him to fully understand the one image. Jerry showed me his progress the whole way though and by the time it was all said and done, there “it” was! Exactly how I envisioned “it” to be. His art work fit perfectly with what this first novel, which I hope will turn into a trilogy, is based on. “It” is a name that the main character uses to describe the image.

How much time did Jerry take on the cover, and how many drafts did he design before it was completed?
Jerry was really awesome because he kept me in the loop the entire process. He had the idea of what I wanted and he began working. He first showed me the woman and we did an adjustment on that and then came “it” and there was one very minor adjustment to that. Jerry had the cover artwork done within a week and it was delivered to me. There is still some adjusting to be done but that cannot be completed until I know how many pages for each version of the book will be. The final adjustment is the spine fitting so that it all falls into place.

Can you describe how Jerry’s final draft of the piece appears and how it reflects the imagery of your novel?
The imagery pretty much comes from the prologue of the book. The art work is dark, smoky, with an ominous presence. It is exactly what I wanted it to be and exactly what I think the readers will be able to identify with after reading the prologue and will even perhaps give them a little glimpse into what might be in store at some point in the book.

Is the novel you’re working on at present your first? What genre does the plot and storyline fall into?
The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice is the first novel or book and it has undergone a few rewrites since I first began writing it over ten years ago. It has taken me this much time to write it because as I was learning how to write, I began to see things that needed to be changed, expanded upon, that wasn’t pertinent to the story line and the like. I still have a few more chapters to write before it is finished and some adjustments for Jerry to make for the spine of the book and I have to say that this labor of love that took ten years or more to get it to where it is now is something that I can be proud of. I remember meeting R.A. Salvatore many years ago in southern California at a book signing. At that time I had the first three chapters and the prologue printed out and took it with me. I asked him to give it a read if he was willing. He told me that I was very gutsy to mix so many genres. The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice falls under the categories of fantasy, sci-fi, romance and horror.

What has R.A. Salvatore published that you would deem worth mentioning? What do you like about said novels?
That would be The Legend of Drizzt Series. There are eleven books to the series. I am an avid Advance Dungeon and Dragon player and this series really brings you into the world of The Forgotten Realms and into the life of Drizzt.

How did you come up with The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice as the title of your book? How well does it fit the content within?
The storyline came from an actual non AD&D game that I was engaged in with my late husband. The title fits the book perfectly because it is all about the apprentice and what she must go through and endure and even learn valuable life lessons. Just this evening I was spending time with friends and from the conversations and comedy that ensued the idea of starting to plan or map out a sitcom from that and life in general came to mind. I participated in the 2016 NaNoWriMo with The Arcane Warrior's Apprentice as my project. Though I did not complete the novel during the limited time, I did learn some more valuable lessons on scheduling time for things in general and I was able to work with and talk to other authors and illustrators. I will continue to do the NaNoWriMos from here on out. I love a good challenge and I love learning new things that will help me to write even better.

Was your combining fantasy, sci-fi, romance and horror a natural progression while you began work on the novel? What was your inspiration to start to begin with?
The inspiration was from a role playing game my late ex-husband had drummed up in his head. We often played role playing games on the weekend. It wasn’t Dungeon and Dragons but something he would come up with all on his own. This particular one really stuck with me and was the most interesting one we had done. In role playing games there are always multiple genres that progress with the player and the game master and so the book would naturally follow the progression of the genres and all the twists, turns, mistakes and triumphs.

What came of your script for To Hell And Back? Is it still something you plan to complete and see aired?
The script is in a fan funded stage and has been for quite some time. It is something I still plan on seeing to completion and aired. Once I can complete that I want to get the other movie script (not for television but for the silver screen) called The Spirit Walker as a fan funded project and see that to completion and to sit down at its first screening and all of that.

What is the storyline you devised for To Hell And Back? Did you have to tone any of it down for airing on television?
To Hell And Back falls under the genre of true crime and drama. I knew from the conception of this script that it would be for television. There were things that had to be omitted, and even names were changed to protect the identities of those involved. It was hard to omit some things and even tone some things down. I felt the shock factor should be there; however, I also knew for the vast majority that shock factor (of some of the real life events of the crimes) would be too much. I did leave the names of places intact. Given the type of crime there is a huge market for made for television scripts such as this.

How much of a departure is The Spirit Walker from To Hell And Back? Since this film is planned for the big screen, are you making the scope of this project a little bigger?
The Spirit Walker was written shortly after To Hell And Back; however it is in a completely different genre. The Spirit Walker falls under the categories of fantasy and horror. The scope of this would be almost triple if not quadruple the amount I would need for To Hell And Back in order to get it directed, filmed, and completed. I do hope one day I will be able to achieve the funds for The Spirit Walker or that some director or producer out there might be willing to give it a read, want to purchase it and make it.

How much have you gathered so far to finance those movies? Where on the internet are you doing so?
Thus far for To Hell And Back I’ve gotten about $200 in donations from fans and those who believe in me, which in the grand scheme of things, won’t get this very far. It doesn’t even begin to cover equipment, actors, FX, renting or fees of places in which to film, wardrobe etc.
I haven’t even started fan funding for The Spirit Walker yet. I am not sure when that will happen but it is one of the projects that are on the “to do list” so to speak.
I was taking donations for To Hell And Back on my website, however I had pulled that off my site until I can work things out that would be much fairer to those who do donate. I don’t want to promise something such as dinner with me or invitation to the first screening should someone else step up that has a lot of experience with production and investments or selling the screenplay.
It is a whole other world when writing screenplays, either for the silver screen or television than it is writing a book or poems or even articles. Hollywood can be a wonderful place but it also can break dreams and you just never know which the dice are going to roll until you actually let them roll out onto the table.

What special effects do you want to use to enhance the storylines of To Hell And Back and The Spirit Walker?
The Spirit Walker will have some interesting fight scenes in it and I can tell you that up until now I’ve only ever seen this one specific fighting move / technique used in one other movie. I do have someone who is working on perfecting it so that it can be taught to the actor when the time comes. If money allows, I’ll hire Guerilla FX to do the makeup, sets, costumes and special pieces needed. This movie though horror is also pretty action packed and in some ways is similar to the CW’s Supernatural. This one depends on the actors as well as the FX. To Hell and Back is more of a drama and so though FX will be needed for it, most of that is in the sets that are needed because there really is no combat in that one.

What are the similarities you noticed between The Spirit Walker and CW’s Supernatural?
The Spirit Walker is similar to Supernatural in that the main character and the supporting main characters are specialized hunters or sorts seeking out demons, vampires and other preternatural creatures and there are twists and bends that I will leave out of the interview because I don't want to give too much away.

Do you know of any local actors who you would like to see appear in your productions?
Since I recently moved back home I have not had the opportunity to see any of the local talent. However when I lived in Catskill, NY I was checking out some of the local talent and had even thought that perhaps I might be able to break To Hell And Back down into a play (shudders at that idea now) and have it run locally in order to gain it some notoriety and possibly garner some funds for it. Now that I’m back home, I’ve learned they closed the local play house down so I’m going to have to possibly start attending some of the college actors at SUNY Binghamton. As far as any big name actors I have considered two however since one of them (Andy Whitfield) was taken away from us far too soon, I now think that the only other one that could fill one of the roles in The Spirit Walker would be Oded Fehr.

What about Andy Whitfield and Oded Fehr’s acting abilities made you consider them for the roles?
Andy and Oded both have excellent training in the combat style that I am seeking. Since the untimely death of Andy Whitfield, I suppose now the only one left for the running would be Mr. Fehr. Oded is much more seasoned as an actor and can slip into the role of a character with ease and bring the character to life.

Horror conventions are good places to meet prospective partners. Are there any you have attended or would like to?
I have not had the means in which to attend any horror conventions. That is something that I am saving up for in order to go and check out some folks either for acting, filming, directing and the like. Right now I’m pretty limited on where I can go for conventions but if I wasn’t limited I would love to check out San Diego and Los Angeles but for now it looks like New York State is my range.
There are so many factors for me in which to travel to check out conventions and other necessary things due to lack of funds (personal and donations) and my own disability. I have to say that it is hard enough to try to break into the business and then add in someone who is wheelchair bound and that makes it much harder. Don’t think for one second that I’m going to let my wheelchair or my disabilities get in the way. I either find a way to plow right through or I find a way around to get back to the place I need to be.

What conventions in New York would you attend to meet the local talents? We have Haunt Faire, Macabre Faire and I-CON in Long Island. Do any of those sound intriguing?
I would love to be able to go to the conventions on both the local and around the US however, traveling right now is not a possibility due to lack of funds and playing the waiting game for a new power wheelchair. Once I can save up and get the new chair, I will be going to check out the many talented actors as well as to hope to meet someone very interesting people along the way.

How many ways can you promote and save finances? Does the internet help authors promote their work for low costs? What avenues do you use most often?
It is hard for me since I am on disability as the unexpected happens without warning. There are a lot of possibilities for writers on the internet with blogging, journaling and, dare I say it taking on direct sales as a way to earn a little extra cash. Sometimes the problem with these jobs that start out as per diem or part time end up consuming more time and leaves writers with less time to work on their projects and can even hinder them in making publishing deadlines.
If an author can't find a publishing company then they have to go for the more expensive and risky venture of self-publishing. I considered this in the beginning but as I researched more into the subject and talked to other authors who self-published, I realized that is not a road I want to go down.
There is an option I am currently exploring which is less risky, doesn't require a lot of money but it is not without its limitations. The option is doing the copyright and ISBN myself for a PDF version and sell it on the website I am designing so when people go to the site, once it is up and running, they can purchase it and the book would either be an immediate download or sent via email to download or open the file. Rather than spending thousands of dollars to self publish, it is still self-published; it just cuts out the middle man.

If and when you are able to complete both movies you are developing, would you seek a small distribution company to spread word before building toward larger audiences?
I would approach the local college that has both an excellent acting and film program. I feel it is vital to support the art programs and give those who are starting out that have the drive and hunger the chance to really do something that will get them noticed or perhaps even make their career. I am taking things one step at a time in planning what I will do as far as distribution of any films. I will have to cross that bridge when I get there.

You mentioned potential plans to write a situation comedy once your current writing projects are completed. What gave you the idea and what situations are you thinking of to base the storyline on?
I don't want to give much away because this is something that at least for the moment is on the "to do list" but has to take a number so to speak due to other projects I have on the table.

How would you want to be remembered as a poet and author in the distant future?
As a poet, author and screenwriter I would really like to be remembered as someone who wrote with passion and that opened other’s eyes to different perspectives as well as different worlds.

Are there any plugs you want to mention to promote your work to conclude the interview?
If anyone wants to donate to the making of To Hell and Back you can do so via PayPal. The contact info for that is my email address Please indicate a note that said gift is for T.H.A.B.

-Dave Wolff

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