Interview: Retta Bodhaine

Today’s interview guest is a newcomer to the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, Retta Bodhaine. She is a fantasy fiction writer from Metro-Atlanta and founder of Write Brain Artistry, LLC. Relatively new to publishing, she can recently be seen in the web based literary magazine Violet Windows, for her short story There Will Come Soft Ringtones, and on for her short story, White Chips. Her most recent project, Dani’s Inferno, focuses on an all-female adventure through Hell in a comedic script produced for the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company. A preview of the work is set to show in ARTC’s Halloween Production, ARTC’s Inferno on October 29th and 30th at the Hapeville Performing Arts Center.

Retta is a Renaissance woman and has many various hobbies. She enjoys the great outdoors, photography, crafting, homesteading and above all else exploring and adventuring. She spends her life collecting experiences and getting to know as many of the individuals who cross her path as possible. She always talks to strangers and people watches often. These traits combined with her imaginative nature, nurtured her soul into that of a story teller. She enjoys stories in all their forms, but her preferred media is the written word.

Q: Describe the work you’re doing with the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company.

Right now I’m helping to produce, direct, write and market our October show called ARTC’s Inferno. It’s a production of Lovecraft and Halloween themed short scripts and episodes. It’s my first time producing or directing and the more experienced members of ARTC are showing me the ropes. I’ve really enjoyed learning all the new aspects. As a producer or director, you get to talk to everyone about their concerns and what things they feel are important to being able to do their jobs well. It’s a good way to learn about all of the moving parts in detail.

Q: What drew you to ARTC? What’s your favorite part of working with the company?

Wonder and love of the spoken word was cultivated in me as an infant. My mother is an avid reader, and she knew that she wanted to pass this attribute onto her children. Her first step in accomplishing this goal was to read out loud to us every night at bed time. Fascination with her cadence and tones metamorphosed into shared mental adventures. My mind has always been a curious and creative one, and it began to create its own epics. I’ve been putting them into writing ever since.

After my mother came my elementary school librarian, who introduced my favorite book to me by reading it aloud to my class. Her skills with dialect were beyond anything I had experienced before. It added something fantastic to the story and, without consciously being aware of it, I learned about voice acting. Then in fifth grade the traveling story teller Carmen Deedy visited our school. She was talented and energetic but she was also Hispanic and female like me. It was when I first learned that an adult could be a story teller as a profession, and because she was one, I dared to hope that one day I could be one too.

I found The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company at DragonCon. It was all the things I loved in one place. They were local and they wanted and encouraged people to get involved! I started going to the meetings and I found that it feels like going to a mini-con every Wednesday. The people are all fantastic, talented, unique and willing to share their lives and their love of radio drama. They’re willing to share all of the expertise and train me on their equipment. They help me make my work better and give me the opportunity to see it brought to life! Every Wednesday I leave the meeting feeling blessed and energized.

If I had to name my favorite thing about working with ARTC, I’d have to say it’s the feeling of belonging and community, but if you’re asking about my favorite aspect of creating Radio Dramas (aside from writing them) I’d have to say (so far) it’s been Foley. I like getting to play around designing the sound effects and then seeing how those touches compliment the voice actor’s abilities.

Q: As a writer, what do you hope readers/listeners will get out of your work? What are some elements you like to include?

My core beliefs tend to be the themes of my work. They are things like:

  1. All our actions have consequences.
  2. Each choice we make sets us on a path to make more choices in the same vein.
  • The teachings of twelve step programs are wise.
  1. Both the individual and humanity are more powerful than we realize.
  2. Everyone should endeavor to live a life where they like themselves.
  3. The rules of reality are set around cycles, patterns and balance.

As you can probably tell based on my beliefs, I tend to look at the big picture in my writings. I ask a lot of “what if” questions and play around with mythology and belief systems. I try to be respectful of what I think are the important things while being tongue-in-cheek about nearly everything else. I hope that most people who read my work are imbued with hope and the determination to live life on purpose. My goal is to give them that feeling while entertaining them.

Q: Who are some of your favorite / most influential writers?

John Finnemore, in my opinion, is a comedic and narrative genius. He takes flawed characters who, by all rights, should just be annoying, and makes his audience identify with and care about them. Then he puts them through absurd situations without breaking the audience’s ability to believe what he’s presenting to them, and he connects those absurd situations to form a cohesive and well planned narrative. He does plenty of research and makes sure to be technically correct in his details. He also uses a variety of references and keeps a blog to help people understand his more obscure or personal Easter eggs. That being said, the thing I admire most about him is his ability to end the story when it’s over. He doesn’t drag out a narrative because it’s popular, instead he does what’s best for the quality of the story.

Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mr. Tom and Kristen Randal’s The Only Alien On the Planet were very influential to me while growing up. They both tackled the darker aspects of abuse without losing their overall message of hope.

Joss Whedon’s ability to make believable, well-rounded characters and run his audience through the gambit of emotions has always been awe inspiring to me. I also respect that he is not afraid to pull the trigger and make the hard choices, if the story requires him to.

Patricia Briggs’s Mercedes Thompson character is one of the best written modern female characters I’ve come across. Her ability to be both strong and real in a fantasy world is inspiring and refreshing to see. I also like that all of her supporting characters each feel like they lead their own lives outside of what we see on the page. It’s a great series to see how all of our relationships are important and contribute to who we are.

John Irving has a wonderful ability to paint all of his characters as “just people.” There are no good and bad labels, just people trying to live their lives, and dealing with the consequences of their actions as best they can.

Q: What’s your favorite part of being a writer? What aspects do you find a challenge?

I think that humans act like amplifiers for each other’s emotions, and that’s why shared experiences (like conventions or concerts) feel so epic. If I weren’t a writer, I would still come up with stories in my head for me. My favorite part of being a writer is getting to share worlds and ideas I love with others who might love them too, to achieve the shared experience feeling.

I mostly write the way I speak as a first draft and then try to go back and clean it up. As a result, a lot of my character’s express their sentiments in my voice. One of the challenges I’m working on overcoming is giving each of my characters their own individual voice. A second challenge is the showing rather than telling aspect. I have a tendency to front load and to give more information than is required because I think all the nuances really help, but, mostly, it’s overwhelming. Lastly, I find that my stories are very character driven. I prefer this, but I have to work to keep myself focused on my plot and theme to make sure that what I’m writing furthers my end goal.

Q: What would you like to see more of in sci-fi/fantasy?

I’d love to see more collaborative works with authors of different backgrounds who can bring quality and responsible diversity to the table.

I’d also like to see well rounded main characters who have important platonic relationships, and break the mold when it comes to determining their life path and defining individual success.

Q: What would you like to see less of in sci-fi/fantasy?

  1. Formulaic writing.
  2. One dimensional characters, both main and supporting. In life no one is just a plot device for someone else, and good writing should reflect that.
  3. Overly convenient solutions to plot holes. Every time I think about this, it brings to mind a scene from Thank You for Smoking where they want to have movie stars smoking on a space station, and someone points out that fire and oxygen rich environments don’t mix. Then the Hollywood producer answers, “But it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue. ‘Thank God we invented the… you know, whatever device,” and they move on. I don’t think it’s possible for a single author to catch every single potential plot hole in all of their writing, but this attitude should be the very rare exception that’s applied to only non-essential details.

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