Saturday, December 31, 2016

Interview with author Janne Elizabeth Irvine

Making Friends with Other Trees and Flowers –
a Story of Low Vision and High Expectations

A note from the author…
I was born three months premature and gradually lost my sight throughout my childhood. Yet mine is a success story. I went to school with my sighted peers, had a happy childhood living in Belmont, Massachusetts and traveling with my family across this country, England, and Europe. When I was thirteen I could no longer read print. My mother read my homework aloud to me, and for the next five years, studying was about all I did unless I was practicing the piano or composing. I had come to music late, yet that was what I wanted to learn. In time I earned a BA, Master of Music, and Doctor of Musical Arts, from Sarah Lawrence College, Yale University School of Music, and the University of Arizona respectively.  I enjoy my work as a teacher and performer, and now as a writer I am including literary themes in many of my presentations. If Emma had Practiced, and Music in the Novels of Jane Austen are two of my most popular programs. I live in Tucson, Arizona and am currently writing Emma of Belmont Hill – a Twentieth Century Jane Austen Story.    For more info, see:

1.      What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book?
I have always been uptight about discussing my gradual loss of sight. Many of my music history and appreciation students, more than students since in time they became my friends, didn’t know I had a serious visual problem though they knew I did certain things differently. I began to realize they had the right to know. Why should they guess at what I could and couldn’t do?

My final class in February of 2010 was My Life in Music and Poetry. As I began to tell of my childhood, its problems and pleasures, I knew I had everyone’s attention. I spoke of my love of observing the changing seasons. Even with limited vision, I could still revel in the magnificence of a New England autumn.  I brought my class up to the present, and when I finished I could feel the electricity in the air. Everyone was with me.

This powerful experience is the Postlude of my book. Just talking about it was made all the more poignant since three months before I gave this class, my mother had died at the age of ninety-nine. I knew after teaching that two hour class three days in a row, I had to do something with all of the emotions I was feeling. A few days later I had written an outline, and by August I had written my first draft of this book.

2. What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?
Making Friends with Other Trees and Flowers – a Story of Low Vision and High Expectations is a memoir of my childhood up to the age of eighteen. 

There are several varieties of potential targeted readers:
1.      People interested in a late beginner’s overwhelming desire to excel in music – Classical piano and composition in my case
2.      People who grew up in the 1950s and are nostalgic about the era of their childhood.
3.      People (like me) who have moved away from the glorious display of a New England autumn and who want to recapture its beauty through my descriptions
4.      Parents and teachers of blind and low vision children
5.      People who want to take their children to see some of the important places, buildings, and museums in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Holland
6.      Anyone who wants to know how to get the greatest enjoyment out of life

3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?
I hope one of the ‘everlasting thoughts’ is that life is wonderful. Disability or no, life is to be cherished. 

What I hope readers will take away from my book is my love of the acre of woods which surrounded my home in New England. The discerning reader, especially if he or she has read Anne of Green Gables, will help me pick violets in the spring and nasturtiums in the summer. The best season is fall, and I describe it from the moment the first sumac leaf turns red. The first snowstorm has its own magic, and a few months later it is time to pick violets again.

4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
My advice is to be in love with your topic. I loved describing my happy childhood since my happiness outweighed the challenges of vision loss.
5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
I don’t have enough information to answer this last question. I don’t read many contemporary works. I hope the book publishing industry is reasonably healthy, and I hope that books remain in real space and not just in cyberspace. Personally, I read books recorded commercially on CDs. I also read books from Talking Books for the Blind.  For books I can’t find in any other way, I have friends read aloud to me from print books. 

6. What great challenges did you have in writing your book?
I think my biggest challenge was to change from WordPerfect to Word in the middle of my manuscript! Because I was the only one who really knew my subject, the writing itself went remarkably smoothly for a first book.

7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
My book is optimistic in its viewpoint. It tells of a family lifestyle which is all too rare now.   

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby  

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