Interview: Madison Woods
Author: Madison Woods
Latest Title: Wild Ozark Herbs,
Genre: Non-fiction, sci-fantasy. My settings and plots in fiction are heavily influenced by my life here close to nature in the wild Ozarks, though.
Origin: Louisiana, USA
Madison Woods lives way off the beaten path in the middle of the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. The close proximity to nature supplies her with all she needs to stay happy and occupied creating stories and products for Wild Ozark. The deep woods is her favorite place to be, and she spends a lot of time hiking around with a camera and writes often about the plants that occupy this space. Being the sort of person who listens to nature-speak, she finds ideas for fiction among the trees and rocks and water that surrounds her. I have a preview of the American Ginseng & Companions DVD at https://www.wildozark.com/ginseng-pictures.
- How long have you been writing? I’ve kept a journal since around 12 years old, maybe earlier. In my teen years, I started adding fiction to those pages between the non-fiction, and that seems to have set a precedent.
- What kind(s) of writing do you do? Lately, my writing has been of a mixed-media sort. I write the copy for my website, which is more than just blog posts, because I try to make them closer to informative articles. I love photography and the Ozarks, so I’ve been combining my writing with my photography to create things like my book-on-DVD, American Ginseng & Companions. I use my photography to prompt ideas for fiction, as well.
- Why did you choose that particular field or genre? First of all, I’m passionate about plants, especially wild medicinal plants or plants I know grow on our property and are endangered. And I take a lot of photos of them. When I looked on Amazon to see what was available in the ginseng category, I saw there was a lack of books with good photos for identification of the plants. There were plenty that covered the history of ginseng and what exactly ginseng is and how to sell it, but nothing about the habitat and companion plants. So I write to fill that niche.
- What inspires you? Love of nature, particularly for the underdogs (endangered plants that grow in our area), and the native medicinal plants. I’m interested in how plants, animals, humans, and environment intersect and interact with each other, and the impact human ignorance and/or indifference has on environment. Obviously, this translates well to writing non-fiction, but it also has bearing on my fiction.
- Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing, etc. come from? Both of my parents read a lot, and I noticed it growing up. My mom loved fiction, and my dad enjoyed photography and non-fiction. I suppose this is where my media and genre-melding habit comes from.
- How do you find or make time to write? I’m fortunate to be married to a man who supports and encourages me while I try to get our home business off the ground. The idea is for the business to support both of us later on. This business (Wild Ozark) depends on my writing the web content and articles to bring traffic to the website, and the products I’m writing/creating for our online store and offerings through Amazon. My web content (website, blog and the social medias) also serves to drive interest to my farmer’s market booth where I sell the plants I write about. So it all works together, with writing and photography being critical activities in the larger endeavor that is “Wild Ozark”.
- Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? I’d say the first pass is intuitive and then I’ll go back over it with logic. My writing process goes something like this… I’ll be walking through the woods or driving down the road and an idea happens. Then I rush home and start a draft and save it. Later I’ll flesh it out, add photos and make sure it’s organized logically. If enough of these sorts of ideas happen in a period of time, I’ll probably gather them all up and put them together as a book or ebook. I do the same with fiction. When the idea still begs to be written after getting the inspiration drafted out, then I’ll turn it into a story. Or as the case happened with “Bounty Hunter”, it went from several 100-word flash fictions (prompted by photographs of plants or objects, or settings) to a couple of completed short stories and a novel-in-progress.
- How did you get to be where you are in your life today? By not being afraid to open and close doors of opportunity and change. By stepping off of some pretty high metaphorical cliffs. I’m still falling from the last leap (quitting my job and launching Wild Ozark) and still don’t know whether I’ll be able to get those wings working before the ground rushes up to meet me. But I’m trying like hell! I’ve given myself the rest of this year to see Wild Ozark begin to pay back some of the investment that went into it. If it’s not showing signs of vitality by then, I’ll have to dust off my feathers and find a new cliff to leap from. Perhaps then I’ll just stay focused on the scifantasy and finish the novel-in-progress I’d put on hold when I started so heavily into the non-fiction end of things.
- What projects are you working on at the moment? I’m working on a couple of things at the same time, all related to each other because of the plants involved. The first is a press release for a project Wild Ozark is working on with Compton Gardens in Bentonville, AR. We’re installing an American ginseng Sanctuary/Habitat there. I received a grant from United Plant Savers to make the copies of a booklet to handout at the visitor center, so that’s another project in progress (the booklet). One of the grant requirements is that I journal our progress, so that’s a bit of mixed-media writing currently in progress, as well. Plant profiles for my website are an ongoing project. This involves photography, research and writing an article. I have actual plants that need to be propagated, and that usually leads to more photos and blog posts about it.
- What process did you go through to get your work published? With the exception of early articles while I lived in Louisiana and a long short story published with Buzzy Magazine in 2012, I’ve self-published. Some are ebook only and some are both paperback and ebook.
- What is the hardest part of writing for you? Making time for it. Even though what I do for my living—meager though it is at this point—is write and create, I still have to set aside time to make sure I get it done. Otherwise< I’d be in the woods all day, every day, taking pictures and propagating plants. And I still have to wash clothes, dishes, and eat at some point too.
- What do you enjoy most about writing? Share your favorite work. The finished creation. Whether it’s a story, a poster, a DVD, or a book, I love being able to see and hold what had once only been a spark of an idea. My favorite work is the American Ginseng & Companions (https://www.wildozark.com/ginseng-pictures/).
- What is the biggest thing people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t true? Probably it’s the idea that digging and making money from ginseng is easy.
- What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that they should? It’s not quick and easy money. And care must be taken to ensure the plant colony survives so that there are roots to dig in the coming generations. Old and traditional diggers do know this. New diggers inspired by television shows glamorizing (and dramatizing) the tradition aren’t so tied to the culture and may not realize the impact their actions can have on ginseng sustainability.
- For those interested in exploring the subject/theme of your work, where should they start? For pictures and reports on my own experiences with the habitat, there’s my blog. I have a lot of free information and articles, and there’s a cornucopia of conservation-minded information at http://www.WildGinsengConservation.com. For practical information on the ginseng industry and the plants of the ginseng habitat, a good book is “Growing and marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal, and other Woodland Medicinals” by Jeanine M. Davis, W. Scott Persons. For those interested in identification of many plants, including ginseng, there’s the new version of “Peterson field guide to medicinal plants and herbs of eastern and central North America” by Steven Foster and James Duke. I’ll hopefully soon have a hard-copy photo-filled book that includes all of my best photos, but for now the two small books I have are great for beginners: Sustainable Ginseng and the DIY Ginseng Habitat & Site Assessment Guide. It’s expensive to put color photos in hard-copy books. I suspect that’s why there aren’t very many of them out there on the market.
- What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time? Since my writing is ingrained into my business, I do a lot of promoting and yes, it does detract. The main effort goes into my website, which is getting more traffic as a result of my efforts. The idea is to get traffic to the site and readers go from there to either Amazon or my online shop where my books and articles are for sale. It also sends visitors to my booth at the farmer’s market in the little town of Huntsville, AR, where I have a booth on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
- Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing? Faith Hunter is my current favorite author. Past and current fiction favorites are Brandon Sanderson and Marion Zimmer-Bradley. Non-fiction reading consists of mostly tech writers for SEO and Copywriting gurus Seth Godin, Demian Farnworth, and Chris Brogan. My favorite fiction authors demonstrate the ability to use active verbs and this is important also in non-fiction, so they still influence me because I pay attention to how they use language to create worlds and settings. The tech gurus influence me by giving me details I need to know in order to make my website do the work I need it to do without hiring out experts.
- What makes your writing stand out from the crowd? I think I have a distinctive voice that comes through no matter whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction.
- What are you currently reading? I’m currently addicted to the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter. Since Audible is my only way to get anything read these days, it’s costing me far too much money because I go through the books too quickly. I have vowed to curb this addiction as soon as I get to the last book in this series, ha. I also listen to podcasts often (Druidcast, Rainmaker FM and Rough Draft are my three favorites).
- What do you think is the future of reading/writing? I think audiobooks and podcasts are only going to get more popular as people become more busy.