The Anoka County Library (ACL) is encouraging readers to read writings by local authors. ACL selected 10 area authors and featured one each week on social media and on its website, anokacounty.us/3981/Read-Local.

The Quad-area authors include: Kristen Rohloff (El Holly), Justine Domagall, Anna Maravelas and Mark and Peggy Sandmann. The Quad has already featured the Sandmanns and Maravelas, but provides more information about the other two area authors below. 

 

El Holly 

Kristen Rohloff, formerly Kristen Payette, is a 2007 Centennial High School graduate. She grew up in Lino Lakes and now lives nearby in Coon Rapids. Her pen name is El Holly. 

Rohloff likes to write, especially fantasy and poetical musings. Her fantasy adventure series, “Phantasmic Wars,” has been described by readers as “completely unique” and “very imaginative.” When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, teaching, drinking coffee and going on random adventures with her family. She lives in Coon Rapids with her husband, their two kids and a dog that is more of a fluffball than anything else.

 

Q. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?

A. The featured book is “The Book of Imagination,” which is the first book in the “Phantasmic Wars” series. In it, readers are introduced to the main characters and to the world of imagination and dreams, Phantasmagoria. The series is about elementary (almost middle-school)-aged kids Tom, Katie, Chad, Sharice, and Melissa, who have to travel to the world of Phantasmagoria to track down three artifacts (pieces of reality) and bring them back to the real world before time runs out and both worlds collapse.

I chose to write this story because I wanted to write a series which celebrated the imagination. I started writing it when I was in college and finished writing the last book in the series over a decade after completing the first draft of “The Book of Imagination”.

 

Q. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

A. This depends on the book and what is happening in it. For example, I spent a few hours researching and watching YouTube videos on how to operate hot air balloons for a scene in the third book. Since my book series takes place primarily in Phantasmagoria, much of what is in the books is created from my imagination (and what I’ve learned along the way from doing lots of reading!).

 

Q. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

A. I think the most difficult part of the artistic process for me is when I’m in the middle. Whether it’s in the middle of a book or in the middle of a series, I sometimes have a hard time pushing myself to continue. As soon as I’m over that hump and near the end, though, my writing picks up.

 

Q. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

A. Publishing my first book changed my process of writing because I found myself more interested in finding and fixing all those little errors. However, trying to do that as you write is really difficult, so I’ve got a process in place now which works well for me: write the first draft, have my editor (and good friend) read through and edit. Go back through her edits, make changes. Read through this second draft, make changes. Then, finally, I run the novel through different grammar-checking programs to check any other errors.

 

Q. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?

A. think my writing has been influenced by the many fantasy books I’ve read over the years. Some of my favorite writers are J.R.R. Tolkien, Tamora Pierce, Gail Carson Levine, Margaret Peterson Haddix and Patricia C. Wrede. It’s hard to name favorites because there are so many more I’ve read and enjoyed!

 

Q. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A. Currently I have a half-finished poetry collection and a half-finished YA fantasy duology, both which I hope to publish someday. As a high school English teacher, though, my writing slows down a lot during the school year.

 

Q. What does literary success look like to you?

A. I think this really depends on the person. To me, it looks like someone who is writing and whose writing is being read by others. It’s even better if that writing inspires others!

 

Q. What inspired you to start writing?

A. I’ve always loved writing stories. Along the way, my family and friends and teachers have all encouraged me to pursue my writing. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

 

Q. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

A. I like to spend time with family and friends, hang out with my husband and two kiddos, play Dungeons and Dragons, exercise, go on walks with my pup, drink coffee, and watch sci-fi and fantasy shows and movies.

 

Q. Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work?

A. I do! Here are all the places where you can learn more about me and my books:

•Facebook and Instagram: search for @elhollywrites

•Twitter: @elholly2

•“The Book of Imagination” has just been made into an audiobook. You can check it out (and listen to a sample at www.booksinmotion.com. (Just search for “The Book of Imagination”.)

 

Justine Domagall

Circle Pines resident Justine Domagall has always been an avid reader. She grew up writing fantasy but never guessed that her first publication would be a memoir. Though she still writes, most of her creative energy is spent on the visual arts. She enjoys painting and needle felting, and has recently begun doing digital art as well.

 

Q. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?

A. “Paper Thin” is a memoir about my experience with an eating disorder as a teenager. It is told through real journal entries written from the time I was first diagnosed until I was a few years into recovery. I did not do any major editing of the entries, but left them in their raw form. I also included pieces written by family members about what the experience was like from their point of view. Eating disorders are such a complex illness and difficult to really understand until you are in the midst of dealing with one yourself. I felt called to compile and publish my journal entries both for those struggling with an eating disorder and for those who know and love someone who has been diagnosed with one. I believe these entries give insight into what really goes on in the mind of someone with an eating disorder, and this insight is often the first step needed in beginning the journey of recovery.

 

Q. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

A. “Paper Thin” is my first published book, and since it is a memoir the writing process was a little different than what I imagined writing a traditional novel would be like. It took me two years from start to finish. I began by reading through my journals and typing out word for word the entries which were relevant to my eating disorder. I then further cut down the entries and added in footnotes where they were needed. Once my piece was done, I interviewed a few close family members to get a better idea of what the experience of watching a loved one go through an eating disorder was like for them. Both of my parents wrote short summaries of the illness from their point of view, and I added these into the memoir where I felt it was appropriate.

 

Q. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

A. For me, the most difficult part of writing, or doing anything artistic, is forcing myself to sit down and begin. I’ve always struggled with being a perfectionist. I’ve gotten a lot better about letting things go and learning to relax over the years, but I still have high expectations for myself. When I don’t feel inspired or in the perfect creative mood, it’s hard for me to begin working on my writing or art. However, once I push myself to start and get past that initial block, I quickly get caught up in the process and even enjoy it.

 

Q. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

A. Publishing my first book taught me that sometimes it’s important to just sit down and write even when I don’t feel like doing it. If I had always waited to write until I felt the perfect inspiration or creative energy, the book never would have been published. Now when I need to write, I set aside time to do so and try to follow through whether or not I feel like it. I can always edit or change the content later if needed.

 

Q. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?

A. I enjoy many different types of books but have always had a special interest in memoirs. There is not one specific memoir that stands out to me, but over the years I have read many and have been inspired by authors who were brave enough to share their stories. Memoirs about mental illness, in particular, have always fascinated me. It takes courage to share such intimate details of one’s life, but it can have such a positive impact in slowly breaking down the stigma that comes with mental illness and in letting others know that they are not alone in their struggle.

 

Q. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A. I do not have any other books that I am working on at the moment, but I was constantly writing what I thought were going to be great novels from grade school all the way into my college years. I never imagined that my first published book would be nonfiction.

 

Q. What does literary success look like to you?

A. To be honest, this isn’t something I’ve spent much time thinking about because it’s not very important to me. I suppose traditional literary success is measured in sales and numbers, but that’s not why I chose to write my memoir. I just want my book to do well enough that it gets into the hands of those that need the insight and hope that it offers.

 

Q. What inspired you to start writing?

A. I journaled during the time I had an eating disorder because it helped me to organize my thoughts and work through all of the internal conflict that the illness caused. Once I had been recovered for a few years, I began to wonder whether what I wrote might help others who were going through what I had. My family and (my) mother, in particular, also encouraged me to share my story.

 

Q. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

A. When I’m not writing, I enjoy working on other forms of art. I especially like drawing, acrylic painting, and needle felting. I run a small art shop online and have also done several commission projects.

 

Q. Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work?

A. My website is justinedomagall.com. I also have a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/justinedomagallbooks.

 

— Submitted by Anoka County Library

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