An Interview with Margaret Fieland

How did you get started writing?
I’ve written poetry for years — love notes, birthday cards, good-bye cards for departing co-workers. I turned on to crossword puzzles in my twenties, and I noticed that only certain consonant sound combinations can start a word. Sound, mind you, not spelling. I am an auditory person, so this suited me. I used this to generate possible words for the crossword puzzle. When I started writing lots of rhyme, I used the same principle to generate rhymes. I wrote tons of poetry in notebooks which ended up in stacks in the attic somewhere. A few appeared in the occasional newsletter for an organization I belonged to.
Then I wrote a poem I wanted to keep. I knew the notebook thing was hopeless, so I decided the poem needed to be on a computer somewhere. However, I earn my living as a computer software engineer, so I’m involved with more than one computer. For a while I did simply store the poems (there were more than one by this time) on a computer, but I always seemed to want to get at it when I wasn’t in front of that one.
So I looked for a way to store them online, found a couple of online communities, started getting involved in them, started reading ezines online. I came across a contest in an ezine I liked, and sent in a poem, which I had conveniently to hand as I’d stored them in an online facility. I was one of four finalists, and, thus encouraged, I started to work more at it.
What genre(s) do you write in and why?
Poetry and fiction at the moment.
If you’d asked me back in 2005, which was when I started taking myself seriously as a writer and poet, I would have sworn that I would never, ever, write a word of fiction.
Then I discovered the Muse Online Writers Conference, and hooked up with Linda Barnett Johnson, who ran (and still does, though I’ve had to drop out due to time constraints) an online writers group. But in order to participate in the poetry workshop, you had to write fiction as well. I wrote my first fiction story, one for children, and a site in England put it up online. It was months and months and months … before I had another fiction acceptance, but by then I was hooked.

What inspired your latest book?
I’m a huge science fiction fan, and have been since I was in elementary school, but I’d never written a science fiction story. In fact, I had a phobia about it, as I was intimidated by the world-building. I decided to simply go for it and do NaNo in 2010, so I started planning. I wanted to write about the interaction of alien and human culture, and my main character I made a fourteen year old boy. I did a lot of world-building, thinking about the culture, the arts, the politics of both my aliens and the Terran Federation, and relatively little attention to the plot — I had a page or so of notes. Then I started writing.
I wrote 31 poems as part of the universe of the novel. Eight of them appear in the book. I’ve published the whole collection through CreateSpace. It’s called “Sand in the Desert.”
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
The idea for this book was pretty straightforward – teen boy gets involved with terrorists and saves the day. The interesting stuff — to me — was the characters and the society. As to ideas, I’m working on two more novels set in the same universe, one an adult sci fi that came out of a back-story question I asked myself. The answer ended up a one-liner in “Relocated,” but the resolution let me to another novel.
The YA does tie up some loose ends. One of the secondary characters from “Relocated” is again the main character.
There are still things that haven’t been resolved — political questions as to the interactions of the Federation and Aleyne, the question of Aleyni/human origins, some stories about a character who appeared briefly in a previous draft of the adult sci fi novel I’m working on and who is barely mentioned in this one.
Then there are the characters that haunt me — characters in search of a story. I have a family of three kids I’ve had kicking around my head for a couple of years. I recently took a class and managed to write some stories I like using these characters. I’m still working on how I want to develop these stories — work them into a novel? Continue to write short stories? Both?
Oh, yes, and then there are the ones where I put down the book and say, “but what happens when …” That’s when I take notes. I have a folder of book ideas. Far more than I’m going to have time ti write. I’m pretty sure this is true of many writers.

Do you have critique partners?
I belong to a couple of poetry groups. The group of us who wrote “Lifelines,” the Poetic Muselings, are still together, and I belong to another online poetry group. I also have a writing partner – we exchange a chapter a week. I just sent her the last chapter of the adult sci fi.
How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?
Random people? Not so much. People I know? Um, well — I do take characteristics from them. The grandmother in my novel “The Angry Little Boy,” which will be out next year, is based on my ex-mother-in-law, and the name of the dog in the story is to commemorate a dead friend. Of the three kids I mentioned above, two of them have some characteristics of my two oldest boys. The third is a girl, and she sprung full-blown from somewhere or other and appeared before me, hands on hips.
What is most difficult for you to write? Characters, conflict or emotions? Why?
The piece that I’ve worked on the most, I think, is story structure and plot. I had no background in fiction writing when I started out, so that was something I needed to learn about. I’m doing better, though, as I’ve continued to take classes.
I’m not a detailed plotter by nature. I start with the characters and the setting, the beginning, major plot points, and the ending (more or less). I did have notes for scenes/incidents/whatever for the two books I’m working on how. The kid one I kept fairly close for the first quarter of the book, maybe, and then it took off. One of the characters surprised me by not turning out at all as I had envisioned him.
Point of view is something else I’ve been working on lately. Relocated is first person, and the Angry Little Boy is third person, but strictly from the little boy’s point of view. The adult novel I’m working on is the first time I’ve attempted a multi-point-of-view story. I’d written a bunch of it and was struggling with how to keep track of the point of view characters when I got the chance to sign up for an online class in point of view. It was a huge help. Still, the decision on who the POV characters would be in this story was far from trivial. This is the third major rewrite of this novel. The first two times I got it wrong — first time wrong story (and therefore wrong POV character), the next time right

Has your muse always known what genre you would write and be published in?
My muse hadn’t a clue. Not one. I’m a fairly serious amateur musician, but I decided in high school not to make it my profession. It never even crossed my mind to be — or want to be — a writer. The poetry thing was just a way to handle teen-age angst, and after that because my sweetie liked getting poetry, and then because it was handy for Christmas cards and the like. One day, however, my muse came calling, and I wrote a poem that I knew was worth saving. I haven’t looked back since.
One of the morals of this story — and there are many, at least for me — is not to limit our vision of ourselves and what we can be or do. Another is that organization is vital. Until I put up my writing online, so I could access it and see how it evolved, etc, I could make no progress as a writer, because I couldn’t gain any perspective on my writing when it was floating around in a succession of notebooks.

Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. Her poems and stories have appeared in journals such as Turbulence Magazine, Front Range Review, and All Rights Reserved. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, “Lifelines,” was published by Inkspotter Publishing in November, 2011. Her book, “Relocated,” is available from MuseItUp publishing, You may visit her website, or

4 thoughts on “An Interview with Margaret Fieland

  1. Nice to get to “know” you better, Margaret. It is funny how one is led to write the things you never thought you’d even touch with a ten-foot pole! Congrats on your new book and I wish you much success!

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