Jo Sparkes graduated from Washington College, a small liberal arts college famous for its creative writing program. She then completely forgot about writing until she had a chance to study with Robert Powell, a student of renowned teachers Lew Hunter and Richard Walter and head of UCLA’s Screenwriting Program.
Ms. Sparkes has written feature film scripts, scripts for children’s live-action and animated television programs, a direct to video children’s DVD, and commercial work for corporate clients. Jo Sparkes is featured writer on several websites and was a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and (very unofficially) the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he came to the Arizona Cardinals.
Jo Sparkes once served as an adjunct teacher at the Film School at Scottsdale Community College, and even made a video of her most beloved lecture.
Ms. Sparkes crafted a book for writers and artists titled Feedback: How to Give It How to Get It which has received glowing reviews.
When not diligently perfecting her craft, she can be found exploring her new home of Portland, Oregon, with her husband Ian, and their dog Oscar.
Jo Sparkes’ latest book is the fantasy, The Birr Elixir.
Readers can learn more about Jo Sparkes and her work by visiting the following links:
The Birr Elixir may be purchased at Amazon.
If you had to describe your book in two sentences, what would they be?
When a young apprentice makes a mysterious elixir from a recipe in an old book, she’s suddenly the potions mistress for a band of daring Gamesman. And a reluctant weapon in the conspiracy against a prince.
Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your current work?
Marra took a deep breath, and passed her the second vial. “And what of this?”
The old woman hefted it in her hand, weighing it. She held it up to the window light– and suddenly shoved it back at Marra.
“Will it kill?”
“That is a rare and powerful mixture, made for a purpose I cannot guess. Killing is a far too simple thing, easily done without such a crystal mixture. But I do not doubt this holds an evil intent.”
Marra waited for more, but the old woman closed her eyes. “Leave now. Do not come back.”
“If you want a share of the Myrrcleft–”
“No,” was the abrupt reply. “I want no part of this thing you do.”
What are five important things that you take into consideration while writing your story?
Long ago I studied with a writing professor, the sort who always had a twinkle in his eye. He insisted that no one was really interested in dams exploding, volcanoes erupting, or buildings blowing apart. The true interest behind any event, he said, was the people involved. What did they do? How did they react? Who were they in the first place–and who did they become?
Second is fast-paced events. I’m used to writing screenplays, film ‘blueprints’ if you will. Whatever your write, be it a comedy TV show or a thirty second commercial, you don’t have time for a leisurely exploration. So while I love character, I prefer character that reveals itself in action, and not long descriptions of the protagonist getting dressed.
Third is don’t try to force the story. Let it unfold in its own amazing way. If you have great events, and strong characters to insert into them, the story writes itself. Really. You just sit back and watch these wonderful beings react as they must.
Fourth, a book is as long as the tale itself. Padding it out to the length you think it ought to be dilutes it, and cutting off bits to fit into a suggested word count is like cutting off your toes to fit into someone else’s shoe.
Fifth–or maybe first, after all–is Heart!
If your heart isn’t pounding with the events–if you yourself aren’t appalled, in love, scared to death, sobbing in anguish, or cheering in triumph, no one else will.
Why should readers pick up your book?
For the same reason we pick up any book, I suppose. If you’re drawn to it–if the cover tugs at you, or the back cover blurb piques your interest, or perhaps the first pages somehow catch you–pick it up.
What was the turning point when you realized you wanted to write and share your voice with the world?
When I was four years old I demanded to be taught to read, so that I could write. I would squiggle on a paper while every other kid was drawing horses, and when the teacher politely asked what I’d drawn, I’d scornfully announce, ‘this is a story!’
There was never a time I dreamed of anything else.
What genres do you prefer to read? Which do you enjoy writing in?
I love to read the genres I write. Fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, sci fi. I also love the ‘gentler’ stories, such as Maeve Binchy. And I’ll confess, upon occasion I love a good romance. For me, I’ll always be reading a different genre than the one I’m currently writing.
I want to be entertained. There are books outside my favorite areas that are so well written, containing such a story that I can’t put them down. If you’ve ever read the Perfect Storm, you’ll know what I mean. What a superbly crafted account!
What five things would you have with you at all times if you had to be prepared to take a trip at the drop of a hat?
My ebook reader. Pen and paper–I might need to jot down a sweet idea or a wonderful snippet of dialogue. And mango or tangerine juice cures most ills.
A perfect sweater–something that makes me feel fantastic. You know the type of thing–clever cut, gorgeous color, extremely flattering. It’s my defense against all my own fears and doubts. A sort of wooly confidence you can slip on when needed.
And finally–and I’m sure this is a bad thing–my phone.
If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
It ought to be something to bring about world peace. But all I can honestly think of is the ability to have the entire house spotlessly clean in the blink of an eye.
What footprint do you want to leave behind in this world?
Something, be it a story or an article or a watchable tale, that makes a few people smile and say, “Oh yeah. That’s what life’s all about.”