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Sarah Relyea

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

 

A: Resilient, imaginative, nonconformist.

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 

A: I’ve written three books. Two of them have been published—Playground Zero, my forthcoming novel, and Outsider Citizens, a book of literary criticism. I also have an unpublished novel with the working title of Mendocino Days.

 

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

 

A: Yes. My novel Playground Zero is forthcoming on June 9.

 

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 

A: For me, the final title comes late in the game. I had a working title for Playground Zero that I used throughout the original drafting process. That title was Escape from Berkeley, and I think it conveys something about the experience I was creating in the book. However, it was never meant to be the final title. I then considered using Beneath the Golden Gate, a phrase that appears in one of the book’s LSD scenes. The phrase works in the context of the scene but not as a title. Finally, knowing I needed something more striking and self-contained, I came up with Playground Zero during one of my trips to Mendocino, California. I was staying in a cabin three miles east of town, near the pygmy forest, and on my first night there I stayed awake half the night running phrases through my mind. Fortunately, I found a good one and was able to catch some sleep.

 

The title for Outsider Citizens also came to me late in the process. The book deals with Simone de Beauvoir, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin, all of whom wrote from an outsider perspective. It’s shocking to recall that Beauvoir grew up in a country in which women could not vote. In France, that came only after WWII. By then, Beauvoir was in her late thirties and writing The Second Sex. And of course Wright grew up in the Jim Crow South.

 

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

 

A: I’m glad you mentioned settings. Playground Zero is set in Berkeley in the late 1960s. It’s a girl’s coming-of-age story, and I wanted to convey the heightened sensory feel of the place, in conjunction with the strange, open, and violent energy of those years of counterculture and social upheaval. Readers have told me that Berkeley is almost a character in the novel, and I agree.

Tom Rayson, the father in Playground Zero, is cold and strategic, yet he has the most romantic scene in the book. Some readers have told me they can’t stand him, but that’s a form of interest, isn’t it?

Personally, I find the wild freedom of some of the kids interesting. It’s scary and outrageous. For many people, things have moved so far the other way—into a world of online adventures. At least, they had until recently. With the pandemic lockdowns exploding into protests over police abuses, we’ve seen the limits of that for now, though of course most people are watching from their social media feeds.

 

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

 

A: Lived Historical Fiction. In Playground Zero, I was writing about a place and time that I knew intimately as a child and remember with uncomfortable clarity—not only in my mind but in my body, my nervous system. For me, those early life experiences were overwhelming. I never chose to remember or be influenced by those wild events—yet they’re an inescapable part of me. They’re part of my lived experience, which—as Simone de Beauvoir showed us—for me includes being in the world in a female body. And I would say that being a girl in Berkeley in 1970—walking on Telegraph Avenue, for example, or even through a school hallway in a girl’s body—shaped my reality in many ways.

When your story-telling focuses on lived experience, whether real or imagined, that changes the genre of historical fiction, because a significant part of the research becomes internal. Of course I read oral histories and other accounts of the place and time and made trips to Berkeley to refresh my recollections and learn new things. But I was also exploring my own memory. That’s what really drove the writing.

 

Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

 

A: I lived in Berkeley from 1967–1971. I was nine through thirteen years old. As a sixth grader, I hung out with some of the younger kids on Telegraph Avenue. I was middle-class (as were some of the others; two of the boys from that group were the sons of Berkeley professors), and I managed to evade some of the uglier dimensions of the Telegraph scene, while experiencing or witnessing others. I then moved to an L.A. suburb and eventually went to Harvard.

Playground Zero explores 1960s Berkeley from a multi-character perspective, but mostly from a child’s-eye-view: the schools (including the experimental schools of the day), Telegraph Avenue and the People’s Park riot, the psychedelic scene, the Fillmore West—all of which was available to an adventurous and unsupervised sixth grader, as I was.

 

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

 

A: “There was no way of leaving the room. Feeling cornered, Alice hoped there would be no more psychedelic songs. There was something compelling in the rhythms, and the singing had a vaguely menacing edge. The songs had alluring force and fury. They were new; they should be hers. So why was her mother playing them?” (from Playground Zero)

 

 

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

 

A: I enjoy being outdoors and moving around. The only kind of desk job I can tolerate is writing (and reading, of course). My clerical IQ is far below my general intelligence. I think that explains a lot of things about me. I can be very attentive to detail when something engages my interest—in my writing, for example. But I’m not interested in detail for its own sake. When I was in college, my step-father attempted to interest me in law by telling me that women were good at “detail work.” Wow, was that the wrong thing to say.

 

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

 

A: Right now? Because that changes. I’ve always been fascinated by Faulkner. His descriptive powers are unparalleled, informed by his characters’ internal and external reality. There’s a moral valence to his language and worldview, an awareness of evil that comes out of a religious culture. Much contemporary writing has lost this worldview, but Faulkner had it. I don’t mean that he was personally religious. I mean that a highly developed language of myth and evil shaped his understanding of people and the natural world. For some of the same reasons, I think Elena Ferrante is one of the best writers around.

I’ve also had a long-standing interest in drama—Ibsen, for example. Among other things, he takes the whole idea of sympathetic (or likeable) characters and blows it to bits. That’s important. Unlikeable characters can be extremely interesting, and they’re usually necessary to a good plot. Hedda Gabler is many things, but she’s not boring.

 

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 

A: Great Expectations. Some of the scenes of madness—what else can you call it?—are frankly hallucinatory. Alice in Wonderland has nothing on Pip at Miss Havisham’s.

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

 

A: Both. It’s a complete illusion that one can “plan” a process as long and circuitous as writing a novel. However, there are certainly phases in which planning—organizing at the macro level—comes to the fore. When I wrote Playground Zero, I was working from a few central scenes and questions that had been in my mind for a long time, and a lot of the planning and organizing came from the need to create context for those scenes, to make them work narratively.

Writing a novel can involve a lot of detective work. You have some idea of the problem you need to solve, and you set about trying to solve it. But you really have no idea where the process will lead you, and you have to be open to what you discover. It’s not planning—it’s researching. Or maybe just searching. You can be methodical in your investigation, but the final result is beyond your control. So many unexpected factors pop up along the way.

 

Q: Why do you write?

 

A: To organize inner and outer experience. To solve problems that I can’t solve in any other way.

 

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

 

A: When I’m working on a book, I read for the purpose of accessing the necessary mental state for resuming work on a scene. When I’m revising (and most writing is actually revising), I tend to remember older versions of a scene, because they’ve been around longer and I’m more familiar with them. That can be dangerous, so I read to keep the latest changes in mind. Or I may read for a gut check of whether a scene feels plausible or real enough. Finally, novels are long, and keeping track of the feel and balance of the whole is an important part of the job. The only way to do that is to read the darn thing.

 

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?

 

A: No, it’s too distracting. However, when I was writing Playground Zero, I sometimes jogged my memory with Jefferson Airplane or Janis Joplin. I listened to “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills & Nash—as a ten-year-old, I played that song over and over without entirely understanding what it was about. I’m not sure I understand now, though with the pandemic, I’m getting a better idea.

I saw Joplin at the Fillmore in 1970. I was twelve years old, and we were three feet from the stage. She was electrifying. Her death a few months later was horrifying. I remember seeing the headline one morning while I was waiting for the bus to go to school.

 

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

 

A: Synopses are very hard to write, especially for the author. If you’ve just spent three years saying something, the idea of boiling it down to a paragraph is just appalling. You have to approach it as a completely fresh task, because that’s what it is, and make it work on its own terms.

 

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

 

A: Willa Cather comes to mind. I’m fascinated by her descriptions of place.

Dostoyevsky. After being sent before a firing squad and then to a prison camp in Siberia, he went on to create an astonishing body of work. Forget the coffee, I just want to see the man’s eyes.

Assia Djebar. I began reading her when I was a graduate student in New York. As an Algerian feminist who wrote in French, Djebar explored various forms of exile. In 2001, she moved to New York and to teach at NYU. I went to hear her speak whenever she made public appearances. She had a very intriguing presence—magnetic, keenly observant. I’m glad I had the chance to see her in person.

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 

A: Success for a writer means reaching an audience.

 

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 

A:  Never give up.

Ivan Brave

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

 

Curious, playful, dedicated

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 

I wrote a novella titled Will’s Diary about an architecture student exploring the construct of his mind. Next I wrote a series of short stories called One Time in West Campus about two college misfits. Then I wrote what would eventually become my first published novel, The Summer Abroad. Right after that, I wrote another book about two best friends who meet after twenty years. Then I put all the short stories and poems I wrote during grad school into a collection called Lunas и Moons, unpublished. Lastly, I wrote the book that is coming out on June 16th, called They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach, soon to become my second published book.

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach, out June 16th, Bloom’s Day.

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

I was on a really good streak up until recently. Normally the initial scene of a story comes accompanied by its title. Titles are so meaningful to me. They can be poetic, funny, or to the point. But they have to be grand and operatic. That said, with my current project I’m having difficulty naming it. It was named something else years ago, but that name doesn’t fit anymore, because the book has taken a sharp turn. So I’m playing with possible names as I go now.

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

 I had a lot of fun writing driving force for The Summer Abroad, the protagonist’s childhood friend, Rick Callaghan. He was initially based on one of my best friends, but because I kept amalgamating traits from other people, he kind of transformed into his own creature of fiction. The more I hung out with him, the more interesting he became. Likewise, I starting adding things to the character about myself. That’s when he became a sort of archetype for ideal-cool-guy-who-guides-the-protagonist out of his sleepy sopor, through various underground clubs in Europe, until eventually coming out alive, coming of age, growing up, etc. At the end, however, unable to leave the nether realm which were his domain, Rick gets left behind, disappearing into Europe. I always thought that was a glorious way to go. Think Dean Moriarty.

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

In my humble opinion, because I do it with my life, I try to bring together North and South America, to form a more united America of Americas. Now, apologies for sharing such a deep and nebulous aspiration of mine, but to answer your question of what genre title I would shelve my books under, it would have to be something like 21st century “Americas” writing.

Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

 

Why would I quote a thing like that? So passé! Plus, I figure you are interested in a personal note.

So, from the heart, my last book was my vestibule into writing. I took what had originally been autobiographical material – a Eurotrip after graduation – and recast people into characters, exaggerated some parts, simplified others, played down some, and talked up the rest. It was a total blast coming up with connections across time and place, motifs, themes. Anyway, that is what went into creating it. The result is even better: a travel narrative about home.

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

I wrote a line once that every time I read it I wonder where it came from. It’s at the end of The Summer Abroad, and became part of my banner photo on Facebook. It goes: “Being understood isn’t the most important thing in the world. Understanding is.” On a purely language nerd level, I like the switch from past to present participle, passive to active dichotomy sort of thing. In the context of the book, though, it is the final revelation of the protagonist who spent the whole summer worried about what others thought of him. On a philosophical level, the line is about . . . well I rather not say.

A good line should always require many more words to unpack it than it itself contains. And someone else should do the unpacking, like a gift.

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

I live in Romania, my wife’s country of origin, because we wanted to live together – go figure. Now I work at an aspiring multinational corporation that builds custom language classes for other business in and around Romania.

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

In chronological order: Charlies Bukowski, Julio Cortázar, and Leo Tolstoy.

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 

I’m currently reading I Am a Cat by Soseki Natsume, who is the guy on the biggest Yen bill. Before that was Not Bosses But Leaders by Adair and Reed – for professional development, you could say.

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

 

Well, if I have learned anything from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, the imperative to creativity is having a life that supports its. So in a very large sense my system of writing begins with having a healthy life, a fruitful marriage, awesome friends, and of course a sacred writing regimen: that means any hour I have to write becomes immutably, and intractably, my writing time. Currently that is the first hour after breakfast, and the last hour before dinner, plus weekends whenever I’m not cleaning or calling family.

In a small, practical sense, that depends. If it’s a short story, I will outline a few ideas, make a mind-map, always sketch a rough draft, then rewrite, and edit. If I work on a novel, I might sketch for a whole week, just jotting down ideas. It helps to talk about what I am working on, too. Then, in general, after the sketching I will roughly have an idea of where to go. So I write, rewrite, and then edit. Outlines are helpful if I’m lost and need some structure. But this is just in general. I’ve always tried to change up my style and process with each project. For variety I suppose.

At the end of the day, you must do whatever it takes to get a page down, whether that means doodling a mind map, or writing trash for an entire hour, writing in verse, stealing lines, inventing genres, drinking a beer, anything, as long as it put words on a page. I heard Joan Didion used to put drafts in the freezer before rewriting them. That didn’t help me, but I trust we all have our own style.

Q: Why do you write?

In 2013, after graduating, I was at an inflection point. Tipsy, surrounded by falling leaves, and for better or for worse, I decided I would dedicate the rest of my life to writing. I suppose that’s important to say that in answering the question, which is a complicated one.

That’s because everything before that year had led to me to want to write. My highest grades K-12th were for essays, while summers were spent in writing camps. (Parenthesis, this is ignoring Freshmen English class, which I failed; but that’s just motivation, right?). In college I started writing thought notes, then short stories, sharing them with people. Plus my major was Philosophy.

After graduation in 2013, I took that trip which inspired The Summer Abroad, where I came back with “a fire in my gut” as Bukowski put it in a poem. I had a vision of what I wanted to be, which you know all college graduates are trying to answer. I had found my answer.

After 2013 everything became what Eliade called the apprentice’s long and tedious induction into shamanism, learning the craft of writing, after my ecstatic vision.

Despite the tedium, at least I could calmly claim “This is the path I chose.” So I feel proud for that. Today, I draw energy from my identity to writing. Bonus, I got to meet my wife over a discussion about good literature and from sharing my writing with her. All in all writing makes me absolutely happy, it’s a thrill, a joy, and my life to write. And if that isn’t enough reason.

Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?

I’ve never seen “WIP” before, but I suppose you mean work-in-progress? I am used to the hyphenated version, lol, since everyone talks a lot about having one. At any rate, as mentioned, my current WIP is a memoir. The intention is to write it only for my wife to read. As a surprise birthday gift to her. Please don’t tell her.

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

Yes, I read my work. One small reason is because I actually like what I write. Think Geppetto in Pinocchio!

But there’s a deeper reason. You know how you have a bank of great advice in your head? Surely that isn’t just me. Anyway, one piece of sage advice I internalized is this: creating a work of art requires one part putting materials together and one part observing what you just did. So, I read for feedback.

The stillness of reading one’s work brings clarity and focus. It is part of the creative process, as review is to any process, from art to business to war. We need to read our stuff, asking, “How did I do? Could I have done better?” These questions help answer the ultimate question, “How will I do better next time” which is at the heart of all learning.

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?

 So true, I agree. Right now, for instance, I am listening to electronic music, specifically ambient cool loungy music by LTJ Bukem. Repetitive music helps me chill out and keeps the loud nag in my head busy dancing, while my fingers type.

I could listen to anything vocal-less, repetitive, especially stuff I have heard a million times and which doesn’t require my attention. So my favorite jazz albums for example are choice. Particularly Horace Silver and Bill Evans.

While I was writing They Lived They Were however, about a DJ, I listened to a lot of the pop music while drafting. In the rare instance, then, that I do type while listening to attention-grabbing music, I need to be standing up, writing on top of a drawer or something, as I tap my heel and hit the keyboard.

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

I’ve thought a lot about that blurb hang up, because I also don’t particularly enjoy writing it. But it does help readers enter the book, so I tell myself. It’s like engraving some poetic lines at the entrance of a temple or something. Or the closet in the Narnia stories! It pulls the readers into the story, no? Plus it’s an exercise in precision, in distillation. But I digress.

The hardest thing for me to write is a good line. It is what I am always seeking to produce in my writing, because it is the thing that always alludes me: any line anywhere that makes me tingle. I’m looking for that goosebump moment of ecstasy. It might surprise me at the end of a story, or haunt me at night until becoming the first line of the next, or often it comes in the heat of writing. But no matter what it has to come, yet doesn’t always come. That’s the hardest thing to write I guess. A good line.

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

First, I would order a tall glass of absinthe and chat with James Joyce circa 1920s Paris. Second, I would have a cup of coffee with Benjamin Franklin, back in 1770s New York City, out of his comfort zone. Lastly, I would share a bottle of red wine with Sappho, probably in her thirties, 600 BC Syracuse. Because then, fingers-crossed, she would invite me to whatever cool party she was going to afterwards.

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

One line to draw in the sand is this: to be able to live off of your writing. That includes supporting whatever lifestyle you want to live. So the more complicated your life, the more “successful” you need to be. A quiet hermit in the northern foothills of a Vietnam can be quite successful with just a couple of killer stories and a weekly bonfire for his friends. I have often envied that life. On the other hand, being a hipster in Brooklyn, with hopes of moving out of his six-bedroom apartment, he would probably need to be “more successful” and need to generate quite a number of sales to consider himself self-sustaining.

         Imagine you want to start a business. It has to pay for itself. Otherwise it is a waste of energy, a waste of time. Yet I do not mean to say writing is about money. Money is just the currency of Business.

         In Art, we content with another force, a hidden currency, perhaps “cultural capital,” I’ve heard mentioned. Art needs culture, to then feed culture, which in turn supports the art. And the cycle continues.

         Meanwhile, consider Life itself! That needs a force which can sustain itself, otherwise “You’re done kid,” kaput. It’s like raising a child. An unsuccessful child is one who cannot live on his own, let alone help the community, and never mind raising a family! An unsuccessful child just sucks up resources, and dies without helping anyone live their life.

         So is it with writing. For writing, it is so tough to break that barrier into self-sustaining. Not even I have managed to be successful by my own definition. We live in a world that’s constantly trying to zap you, drain you, bring you under its weight, or otherwise draw you away. (Wink wink, that’s what They Lived They Were is about.) Moreover, maybe not the majority, but there are definitely too many smart people out there with better uses for you. And they generally keep you weak, in line, and perpetuating their own ideas.

         This tyranny, let’s call it, applies to our own minds, our own desires, which are constantly drawing our attention away from The Act of Writing.

Just getting away from that whirlpool, to create your very own little sanctuary of sacred writing time, can be a worthy success in itself. Think about it, writing just one story you want to write can be a life affirming thing. That was my spiritual moment in 2013. Naturally, one good story leads to another, and another, and another. The gears start turning. Soon you become smarter and stronger and able to support yourself, like the boy in Holes who carries the pig up the mountain every day to drink the clean mountain water. The pig gets fatter, and the boy gets stronger.

Wow. I could keep going. But let’s stop here, eh?

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

 From my personal life goals, I will spare you. But for my writing life goals, my one dream is to write a book for each of planet in the solar system. It’s a terribly grandiose dream, but manageable. Not in its implementation, though, since my books haven’t necessarily been about any planet, except tangentially. Still, I want to write at least 12 books in my lifetime.

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 I have no advice to give. And even if I did I wouldn’t give it to you. Find your own path, and stop putting off responsibility. Life is all around you, telling you where to go, helping you with a tug here, a push there. So trust it.

And buy my book.

Garth Pettersen

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

 

Energetic, sociable, self-critical

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 

Three and three

 

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

 

My latest book, The Cold Hearth, has just been released—April 22, 2020.

 

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 

I start with a working title and sometimes change it later to see if another title fits better—like a new hat, maybe. I also make a list of names as I think of them. For my series, The Atheling Chronicles, I scanned Beowulf and other early Anglo-Saxon works. That's where I found The Swan's Road. I think I found The Cold Hearth there, too, though I started with A Hearth Long Cold. My publisher suggested I shorten it so the title contained three words like the other two books in the series. I love working on titles, and naming characters, but that's another subject.

 

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

 

I was going to say Harald, my protagonist, because he is caught between forces pushing him toward the crown and what he wants for himself and Selia, his wife, but I think some of the female characters are just as interesting.

Queen Emma was married to Æthelred the Unready and bore him two sons. But she is now Cnute's queen, married to give him legitimacy with the Saxons. Emma made Cnute agree to make their male offspring heir to the throne. Enter Harthacnute. Emma is as conniving and politically motivated as any of the figures of the time, including Earl Godwin, the king-maker. To Emma, Harald is a threat to her son's (sons') ambitions.

Ælfgifu of Northantone (Northampton), Harald's mother, is another politically ambitious woman. As Cnute's handfasted (not church married) wife, she bore him two sons, Sweyn and Harald. Although the king put her aside to marry Emma, she still has influence (perhaps sexual) with Cnute. Her aspirations for her sons exceed her caring for them, and in Harald's case, far exceed his own goals.

And then there is Godgifu, remembered in history as Lady Godiva. She is the saintly wife and mother, as devoted to her husband, Earl Leofric, as to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

 

Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

 

So, The Cold Hearth is about Harald--second son of King Cnute—and his wife, Selia, as they attempt to settle in the English Midlands. They rebuild a hall and farm where a Danish family had been slaughtered years before. The neighbour, Erral Bordanson is suspected of the crime. While they worry about him, word comes that someone is attempting to kill the three sons of Cnute. Is it the nature of the times, or are Harald and Selia destined to be always on their guard?

 

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

 

Sometimes lines do strike me as memorable or at least apt. I have a few favourites from The Cold Hearth:

  • The best plans often come late to battle.

  • "Buried secrets rot, but their putrid stench lasts a lifetime."

  • Her touch was gentle, as if she reached across the gap between the dead and the living.

  • I had little defence against Selia's anger except my own, and no defence at all when she spoke the truth.

 

One from The Swan's Road:

  • "The road is a master teacher if one has eyes to see and ears to hear."

And one from The Dane Law:

  • "It is a short space God gives us and few men get to follow paths of their choosing."

 

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

 

I ride horses and fall trees.

 

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

 

Rene Denfeld, Mark Helprin, and Patrick Rothfuss

 

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 

Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

 

I am a pantser—someone who writes by the seat of their pants. That said, I get an idea, create a main character, wind him/her up and watch where they go.

 

Q: Why do you write?

 

I write because I enjoy it. That said, I regularly resist getting down to it. I think that's because the critical part of the brain (my brain, anyway) is different from the creative part. And the critical part regularly criticizes my writing. It's kind of like being possessed.

I also write because I find meaning in defining myself as a writer. It is something I have wanted to be ever since I won an essay contest when I was eleven. If I were not a writer, I don't know what I would be. That's a question for reflection: does a person need to define themselves as something? Would I be happy calling myself I retired teacher, even though I am?

 

Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?

 

I am almost finished a standalone novel called Any Man's Death. It started as a writing exercise and morphed into something greater. Set in the early 19th century, it follows the trials and travails of a South Sea islander who seeks knowledge and understanding (original title: The Islander, but there are other books with that title).

 

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

 

I re-read when I revise. There are always things to change. Finally, you have to let it go and hope no one finds what you missed.

 

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?

 

I can't play anything I can sing along to—too distracting for me. Sometimes I'll put on some Celtic fiddle music for a while, but usually I don't play music when I write. When I'm reading over lunch, I have classical music in the background.

 

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

 

That's an interesting question. I think the blurb is difficult, because it is more of a clinical process than a creative one. You have to synthesize, present, and hook, which is very different from storytelling. I am basically a storyteller.

 

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

 

There is so little known about Harald Harefoot, I would really like to know if he was half as decent as I make him out to be. Queen Emma made him out to be inconsequential and inept in the history she had written after his death.

Other memorable people I would like to talk to over coffee? Theodore Roosevelt, Pierre Radisson, my Norwegian grandfather who died in the 1930s—a whaler, sailmaker, Klondike gold miner.

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 

That keeps changing. At first it was to be published. Now it is to sell lots of books and have print editions published. Ultimately, maybe success would be recognition from the best writers. To have someone ask Margaret Atwood what she is currently reading, and have her reply, "Garth Pettersen's new book!"

 

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

 

I am at an age now where I do look back. There was a time when my life was extremely bleak. I'm still amazed that I got the train back on the tracks. I have a good marriage, a beautiful home and acreage in British Columbia's Fraser Valley, and three grown sons that I'm proud of. And I have fulfilled my dream of being a published author. There is so much to be thankful for.

 

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 

I'd like my fans (I have fans?) to know I have no plans to stop writing. To future authors I would say:

  • have fun exploring the world of words

  • don't listen to the inner critic

  • be attentive to the story ideas; see them and grab them as they go by (Stephen King)

  • find the rhythm in a well-crafted sentence

  • learn the craft of writing

Anand Arungundram Mohan

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

 

I write freely

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 I am writing my forth book and I have published only one. I wanted to do things right by the work I created.

 

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

 

 I am going to release the book “The Under-Ordinary Life of Mangamma Uppertoe” soon. I don’t have a release date yet.

 

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 

I already have the titles for the next three or four books written down. I don’t change the titles after penning the story.

 

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

 

There is a character named “Chakkuma” in my next release of “The Under-Ordinary Life of Mangamma Uppertoe.” She gets affected mentally at the swag end of her life, and she realizes living for her daughter is always more important than giving up on life itself. When one is mentally ill, they make a fool of themselves and are bound for ridicule at best of times. When dignity is taken away and yet one continues living for their family’s sake, it shows inner strength. It teaches us to respect everyone from all walks of life, because you cannot imagine what they are undergoing in real life.

 

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

Philosophical Young Adult

 

 Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

 

“The World’s Oldest, Most Powerful Secret Society” is about friendship, love and the power of peace.

 

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

 

“Where is the power of Green Earth?

Is it not run by a slew of Carbon atoms?” – The Under-Ordinary Life of Mangamma Uppertoe.

 

 Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

 

I have traveled to more than 10 cities in the past decade and lived in each one for nearly a year.

 

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

 

A: Enid Blyton, J K Rowling and Robert Jordan.

 

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 

A thesaurus for writers.

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

 

I am methodical. I have an excel sheet for writing the important points before fleshing them out.

 

Q: Why do you write?

 

Because I want to share what is in my mind.

 

Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?

 

The Under-Ordinary Life of Mangamma Uppertoe is a standalone book. I am publishing it soon.

 

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

 

Yes, I read my work a lot. It makes me realize that most of the ideas penned down come from a source far superior to my brain. What it is, I have no idea.

 

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?

 

 I like silence when I write. I love to concentrate on the work I do solely till I hit a wall. Then, I walk around with music blaring in my ears and let the imagination run wild.

 

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

 

I have to agree with you. I am excited to write the book and once done, I can’t wait for it being read by others. I don’t like to sit down and write about what I have already written at that point of time.

 

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

 

I would want to drink the coconut water with the ape that was turning into a homo sapien. Perhaps, a drink with my amazing future bride (whomsoever she be) would be interesting. And for the third, I would say I would like to share a cool beverage with someone badly in need of water – like in a desert. That way, I am doing a good deed with what I have.

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 

 A writer is someone who writes, while a successful writer is someone who can make others debate and grow.

 

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

 

 The accomplishment for me is financial freedom I guess.

 

 Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 

To my readers, I say thank you.

Christy J. Breedlove

Q: In threewords, describe yourself.

 

Determined literary savage.

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 

I’ve written approximately 26 novels over a period of 36 years. Twelve are currently published, with a trilogy that will appear within nine months or so. Most of the early books were typewritten and shelved. It’s only when I got my first agent that I began to sell anything.

 

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

 

My newest release is called Screamcatcher: Web World, a YA fantasy thriller. I still consider it recent since it came out April 23, 2019. Book two is Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers and book three is Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye. The Shimmering Eye is basically a retelling of the Hunt for Skinwalker Ranch, the most haunted property in the U.S. George Knapp, investigative reporter, documentarian and author out of Las Vegas, gave me the thumbs up on the idea.

 

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 

I wanted to write a story about a haunted dream catcher. There was nothing on the Internet about such a trope or premise. I mean, nothing! I used the word scream and married it to catcher, thus arriving at Screamcatcher, a play on worlds, but also a fairly good identifier of the genre type.

 

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

 

I would have to say Jory Pike of the Screamcatcher series is the most intriguing because she is definitely POC, with her Ojibwe American Indian heritage. She becomes the team leader of a paranormal investigative team on the hunt for ghosts, monsters and evil spirits. She is almost a dead ringer for Katniss of The Hunger Games, both in bow skill and physical appearance.  

 

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

 

My fans seemed to answer that one: They say I mash-up YA fantasy with horror. I did not realize I had that much of a horror element in my YA writings. I preferred to think of it as fantasy/thriller. Somebody wanted to nominate me for the fantasy/horror category, whatever that is.

 

Q: Without quoting your back coverblurb, tell me about the last book you published.

 

This would be more of a tag line: A Native American teenager and her friends are sucked into a hellish web world when an ancient dream catcher implodes, pulling them into a world of trapped nightmares. They must find the exit or perish in the alternate world.

 

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

 

It’s part of a dialogue sequence from Screamcatcher: Web World:

“Everybody up!” Jory ordered the team. “That includes you, Darcy! We’ve got sunshine.”

“I don’t see any sunshine,” said Darcy, sleepily.

Jory growled. “You’ll see bright stars if you don’t rouse that flabby ass!”

“Since you put it that way, stretch girl.”

 

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

 

I was a professional miniature and dollhouse builder, with over 80 projects built and sold. I was a federal protection officer, and a master mechanic. My last occupation was editor and report for Sunset Publishing. I guess that is a really weird combination. Oh, I have a commendation for bravery from the U.S. Government for saving over 250 lives from a burning building.

 

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

 

Poul Anderson, the late great SF writer, who got me started and became my mentor for years. Alan Dean Foster because of his Icerigger series. And Michael Crichton because he beat out my book Dinothon with his Jurassic Park novel. I dedicated the Wolfen Strain to him, out of admiration and superior talent.

 

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 

I was totally taken up with The Hunger games, both in print and movie franchise. I was astonished at how much terror teenagers could endure and survive through impossible odds. I swore then that I would write something just as thrilling and daring, taking my characters to the absolute limit of human and spiritual endurance. The Hobbit comes in second, after I re-read it so many years ago.

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

 

I’m a full-on pantser—no outlines, limited notes. I just go like hell, energized by that white-hot drive of discovery and newness. I’ll back-track and add voluminous notes and references, doing most of the serious research during the second editing pass. I have to blitz and get it done to feel really setup and satisfied first.  

 

Q: Why do you write?

 

I see myself as an entertainer. It’s my love, job and duty to appeal to the public. I want to give them a thrill ride like they’ve never experience. I’ve written some heavy duty literary work, but I’m more noted for action-plot-paced beach reads. I aim to rip your head off, make you laugh until you gag, and pull out tufts of your hair. I write for the effect and consider the importance of voice just about more importantly than anything.

 

Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?

 

Oh gosh. Rainbow Warriors is a MG novel of fantasy adventure, something akin to the Narnia world. I stalled out on it because I became afraid of losing or developing that category voice, which is way more difficult that writing YA.

 

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

 

The only reason I read my own work is because I want to laugh. I fancy myself as a humorist and love to find those choice passages that I created which evoke irony and humor. I guess I crack myself up a lot.

 

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?

 

 You know, I don’t listen to music when I write. I do have a fast enough pace with good literary beats. I do remember that King and Koontz listen to rock ‘n roll and jazz, and that’s okay. Music can create a mood. I guess I’m the opposite in that I could set my words to music. Hasn’t been done yet.

 

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

 

I’m starting to get the right openings of the first lines and pages now. I didn’t pay too much attention to it before. But, yeah, like you I’d say the full synopsis is the creature that really haunts me. I can never condense it like I want and get the full message across. Thank the Maker I have an agent that will cut me to the quick for that. I just close my eyes and bleed.

 

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

 

There would be quite a few. I like what I consider stylists: Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet, Peter Benchley, The Island and Jaws, Joseph Wambaugh, The Onion Field and Black Marble, Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, Alan Dean Foster, Icerigger trilogy, and some Stephen King. Anne Rice impresses with just about anything she has written. I think it's the humor and irony that attracts me the most--and it's all character related. I would spend afternoons with any of these writers, asking questions about their early years. 

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 

 Straight up—a movie deal. I want a feature film. It’s really a long shot, but I write with all the senses and with heavy visuals. I have an agent and promotion manager working toward that goal now. I hope it comes to reality. It’s a lot to ask, but I feel I would easily pay the price for it.

 

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

 

 The feature film. Heh, I’m back on that again. A franchise would be heavenly. My goals are lofty, but I’m up there in years and feel I’ve paid the dues ten times over. I could write and publish bestsellers all day, but for my work to grace the screen, now that would be hitting the ultimate honor society. I could not go any further than that. It’s something that drives me beyond all comprehension. I’ve come so close to film before in my early years. It gave me a taste, like a shark that smells blood. 

 

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 

 Okay Writers: Watch your spending on ads--they can be grossly ineffective. Use social media and generously interact with fellow writers and readers. Don't abuse FB and Twitter solely for the purpose of "Buy My Book." Join writing groups and learn from the pros. Ask politely for reviews--don't pressure, harass or intimidate. Be creative. Target your genre readers. Offer incentives and freebies. Craft a newsletter and send it out bi-monthly. Don't take critiques as personal attacks--learn from honest opinions. Don't despair. Never give up. Revenge query. And buy Screamcatcher for .99 cents or go KU!

Karl Beckstrand

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

Organized sharing learner

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 I have about thirty finished stories, twenty-two are published.

 

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

 Well, it’s a ways off (isn’t illustrated yet), but Agnes’s Rescue should be out next year. It’s the true story of an immigrant girl who walked about 1,000 miles across America (mostly in bare feet) into blizzards in the Rockies.

 

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 Sometimes the title comes first (as with Sounds in the House or The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga). Sometimes it comes after the story is written (as with Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids, which almost was called “When Bananas Go Bad”).

 

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

Anna Anderson (my great-great aunt—the subject of Anna’s Prayer) because her story is true.

 

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

Twisted multicultural/multilingual humor for kids

 

Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

 A mysterious visitor sparks intrigue and fun for a multicultural family

It Came from under the High Chair - It Came from Under the Highchair – Salió de debajo de la silla para comer: A Mystery (in English & Spanish).

 

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

“Itches…twitches; he picks at his stitches. He thinks about riches. He’s sinking in ditches. He switches. He pitches. He untwists his britches—and drifts—now the glitch is, he’s dreaming of WITCHES!” from Why Juan Can’t Sleep: A Mystery?.

 

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

 I lived in South America for a couple years and speak Spanish. I’m also learning German. I teach digital media at a state college.

 

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

 In my genre: Shel Silverstein

Outside my genre: David McCullough and J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 Major Problems in American Colonial History (edited by Karen Kupperman. I like history)

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

I get ambushed by ideas that have to get put on paper. When writing chapter books, I outline the whole story and then fill in the details.

 

Q: Why do you write?

A: See above:)

 

Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?

 A work in progress? See my third answer above.

 

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

 I do while it is in draft form—always polishing.

 

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?: I don’t listen to anything while I write, but I listen to radio/music when I illustrate.

 

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

 The synopsis is hardest because you have to encapsulate and tantalize in very few words.

 

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

 1. Jesus Christ (so much I would ask)

2. Churchill (I’d seek input on today’s issues)

3. Joseph Smith (I’d like to know more about who he is)

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 To complete a story (whether it’s published or not)

 

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

 I’ve done nearly everything on my bucket list. I would like to visit more countries and see old friends.

 

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 Write every day (even for just a few minutes). Don’t quite marketing your book for at least eighteen months.

Sharlene Almond

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

 

Motivated, determined, empathetic.

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 

I’ve written 5 books in total. Initiated to Kill is the only novel in the Annabella Cordova series that has been traditionally published. I have also written a New Zealand travel e-book called ‘Journey in Little Paradise’ that has been self-published.

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 

I create the title after the book has been written. Except for my first novel, all my other books their titles have been changed after I have began the editing stage.

Initiated to Kill was the easiest title to come up with, as it is the main premise of the book. Two men, initiated into a powerful organization to kill.

So, when coming up with the other titles, while editing, I note down the main motives behind what occurs. With these notes, I come up with the title that best sums up the main motive or premise of the story.

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

I might be biased here; I do think that Annabella Cordova is the most interesting. Her background, her having to overcome her inability to hear by using her other senses and reading body language to communicate with people.

Her past also reveals how closely linked she is to the events happening around her. This continues throughout all my novels. However, I do like her character progression in later novels, as she becomes tougher, more determined and capable.

I would agree that the ‘setting’ is an incredibly important and interesting character. All my novels are set in different locations, so it was important for me to show the culture, people, traditions and myths surrounding the locations I set my novels in. A great way to explore a country.

Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

The story takes the reader between 19th century Whitechapel, London and 21st century Seville, Spain. When Annabella’s roommate goes missing she gets tangled up in a network of conspiracy, university secrets, an infamous serial killer, and her own past reveals she is much closer to all of this than she realizes.

Initiated to Kill has plenty of flashbacks from past to present for all the main characters to create an in-depth insight to the psyche of the characters.

The historical part travels back to 19th Whitechapel where an artist’s apprentice wanders the gloomy streets, hunting for his next muse. Flashbacks from past to present for this character reveals the disturbed psyche of a narcissistic killer, whose psychopathic tendencies are unleashed when he is initiated into an organization to kill.

The novel then travels forward to Seville, where Annabella wrestles against the past, dredging up memories that led to her deafness, and utilizing her natural skills of reading body language to help Andres Valero unmask a killer that seeks to once again wreck havoc and instill fear in the world.

Although flashbacks in the novel may seem confusing at times, they are designed to create a detailed canvas of the character’s lives, and what lead them to who they have become, and what they do next.

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

There is a lot of lines that I like; however, I believe the first line in the Prologue of Initiated to Kill is one of the best, as it introduces the reader not only to the setting, but also to the way I write.

“The solemn lodge hid from unworthy eyes, unnoticeable forgotten place made of granite. Two Sphinx-like granite lions with women’s heads peered down from the entrance of the lodge. An ‘ankh’ adorned the lion’s neck entwined with a cobra. An image of a woman embellished the neck and breast of the other lion, speaking of fertility and procreation.”

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

I love learning. I have studied a range of subjects – Beauty and Spa therapy, Animal Behavior, Pet Care and Nutrition, Dog psychology, Editing and Proofreading, Animal Photography, Criminology, Freelance Journalism. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Body Language and Naturopathic Nutrition.

I’m currently studying to specialize in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Medicinal Cannabis and CBD.

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

Dan Brown, Jeffery Deaver and Jack Kerley.

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

Revelation by C.J. Sansom – a Matthew Shardlake novel.

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

I use word excel to plot out my chapter outlines. That way I know what I need to focus on researching and writing each day. It keeps me focused, and also ensures my novels follow a logical progression.

Q: Why do you write?

I’m probably drawn to writing because I love to learn. With my novels I have to research, thus learn about the location it is set in, the history and everything that is revolved around the history.

I like to go in-depth as possible, without weighing the story down with too much detail. I love history; so researching the historical element to my novels is incredibly interesting.

It’s fun immersing myself in another world, develop a connection to the characters I created, and be able to control how things progress and eventually turn out. Of course, with the historical element, certain things are out of my control, as I try to stick as closely as possible to the actual events, while putting my own twist to it.

Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?

To me, anything that I haven’t traditionally published is still a work in progress. So, my second, third and fourth novel in the Annabella Cordova series is still WIP, as I am currently editing my second novel to prepare it to send to publishers. Then I will continue to edit the other two as well.

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

Yes! The more I read it, the more I pick up on what to change, add or remove. A couple of months ago, I read Initiated to Kill in print. I loved it, as it felt brand new, rediscovering and remembering what I wrote.

And it also revealed that even now, there are things I would change about Initiated to Kill. So, reading them over and over again just tends to help me keep on improving my novels.

I do find it helpful to have a couple of months (if possible) between reads, so I approach the edit with a fresh perspective.

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

It’s definitely the synopsis for the book. Trying to condense a massive writing project into a page or two, covering the main points and characters while trying to make it sound riveting and engaging is a pretty difficult task.

However, I find that using my word excel chapter outline helps me to cover the main points, then I just reword it to make it sound more interesting.

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

J. R Tolkien would be my top pick. I would love to pick his brain as to how he come up with all those characters, the setting, everything about Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. And what inspired him to create the ‘Elvin’ language in the books.

 

Gaius Julius Caesar. Get some ‘honest’ answers to everything that happened back then, what made him so determined to do everything he did? Were the Romans as bad as history states? What would he do differently?

 

Finally, probably one of my historical characters in my novels would certainly be an interesting chat. Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Bathory, the Zealots in Masada, or the people that were affected by the Bubonic Plague. History is full of people I would love to talk to.

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 

To me it means to create something I can be proud of. I’m very pedantic, I’m my harshest critic, so if I’m not impressed, I will keep working on it until I am.

It’s also important to me that others also like my books. It is great being a published author; however, it is the reader’s opinion that also makes a writing endeavor successful. That’s not to say everyone will like my book, just that even if it is a small handful of people that do, then that is success to me.

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

I’m doing it, lol. I’ve already ticked quite a lot off my bucket list, from skydiving to swimming with sharks, all the way to successfully writing novels, and starting up my online businesses.

The thing that I would like to still do though, if health and finances allowed it, is to travel to the locations I have written about.

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

Feedback is important. Don’t get discouraged by bad feedback, as long as you can learn from it.

As for readers, one the of best things you can do for an author you like is to post and ‘share’ a review of the book. Word-of-mouth is the best form of advertisement, as it isn’t just the author saying the book is good, others are saying it as well.

And, of course, it’s just as helpful when the reader mentions what they didn’t like about the book, that way the author knows what they might like to do differently next time.

JW Robitaille

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

 

Hard-working, resourceful, creative

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 

I've written 11 books. Eight are published or about to be published. The other three are a YA series that I haven't released yet.

 

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

 

Consequences, the fourth Cory Marin detective novel, is due out on 7/19.

 

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 

 I generally come up with the title as I'm working on a novel and the theme is solidifying in my mind.

 

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

 

Location is a character for me because all of my fiction is set in Gainesville, Florida, a college town. I'm particularly fond of the group of characters I've created for the Cory Marin series because I feel like they've all become my friends.

 

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

 

I write character-centered stories. I would call the Cory Marin series character-based detective fiction or literary detective fiction.

 

Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

 

Consequences, the one due out in July, focuses on three female detectives taking on a high school sexting scandal because they can't stand to see how powerless the girls are. Each detective has a backstory that helps explain her determination to help the girls.

 

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

 

I've also painted (primarily oils but also watercolors and pastels) for almost as long as I've written. I took a painting class when I was frustrated with not being able to bring my first novel together. What that class taught me was that you can't do anything (a book or a painting) in your head. It has to happen on the page or on the canvas. I've painted and written ever since. I'm also a do-it-yourselfer. I love having a vision of what I could make (whether it's a novel or restoring a house or a painting) and then seeing it come to fruition.

 

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

 

Louise Penny, Donna Leon, Ian Rankin

 

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer. It's quirky and funny and charming. I mostly listen to audiobooks and I go through 2-3 per week.

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

 

With detective novels, I have to have a crime and at least a pool of suspects before I start (even though I often know who did it and why). That pool of suspects often grows as I write, as do subplots, so the plot gets more and more complicated as I write.

 

Q: Why do you write?

 

I write for much the same reason I paint: because I love to reflect some part of the amazing complexity and beauty of the world I see.

 

Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?

 

This summer I'll be working on the fifth Cory Marin novel. It's tentatively titled Spring of Fire.

 

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

 

I only read my work when I'm doing a public reading. It's fun to revisit the opening of Romancing the Crime, the first Cory Marin novel because I realize I set up the major characters in that first chapter.

 

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?

 

I tend not to listen to music (although I always do when I'm painting and Tom Petty, Dire Straits, and Bruce Springsteen are my faves for painting). I write in the morning. I also tend to write when I'm walking. I use the notes function on my phone to record scenes and dialogue as I walk. I can then send the file to myself and clean it up.

 

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

 

 The synopsis is definitely the hardest. It's really hard to condense the complex world of a novel into a paragraph or two.

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 

To me being successful means doing the work, writing, editing, and publishing stories. It helps if people like the work, but for me, the primary measure of success is that I'm writing and completing projects.

 

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

 

 My two boys are the part of my life I'm proudest of, but I'm also proud of having restored the house we live in (and several other houses) and having accomplished the things I set my mind to, whether that was painting or writing novels.

 

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 

 Jump in and get started on whatever it is you want to do. Don't put it off, and don't give up once you do start, no matter how tough the going gets. The only thing you will regret is not trying.

Diane M Wigginton

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

 

Hard Working, Considerate, Loyal

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 

I have written 5 books. 4 are published and the 5th book is in process.

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

I do have a 5th novel I’m working on but I don’t have a specific date for release. It’s called, “Compromising Position.”

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 

I usually come up with the title mid-way through and it usually sticks.

 

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

 

I love the characters from my Jeweled Dagger Series because they are all so strong and unwavering in their convictions. The three main characters from the series have paranormal powers and they are so strong willed and unyielding in their desire to do what is right.

 

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

 

More Than Historical Romance because they are full of action and suspense as well as the historical romance.

Q: Without quoting your back-cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

Lara’s Story is a young adult historical fiction, drama. The story setting begins in the beautiful landscape of Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, where we first meet our heroine Lara Flannigan when she is a young child surrounded by a loving family. But when tragedy strikes and Lara finds herself alone, a childless American couple rescues the girl and take her back to the big city of Philadelphia. Here, Lara must forget her brash roots and try to grow and fit in with the high society of America’s finest, posing as the couple’s new daughter. But it is not always easy to let go of the past, especially when it won’t let go of her.

It is a gripping and emotional journey from start to finish as Lara tries to navigate her strange new world while figuring out where she fits in it.

Lara’s Story is about fitting in as well as self-discovery as she matures into a woman of society in Philadelphia during 1840’s to 1853 as appearances are usually put first, which is very different from the life Lara was used to.

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

"When a heart breaks it does not break evenly-cleaving in half exactly down the middle. It breaks, jagged and rough, cutting one to the very core of their soul. And while things appear perfectly normal to the naked eye, beneath the surface lies the real tragedy, fragmented and splintered beyond reconciliation."

This is from Lara’s Story, in the beginning. I just love this story and everything I went through to bring this story to life. Sure, there are some tragic parts that brings you to tears but, in the end, you see how the character grew from the child to this great woman and the journey she had to take to get there. It is raw and emotional and real. It makes you feel and it forced me to open up a vein and bleed out onto the paper as I was writing it. There were times that I wrote three of four pages and I was so wrung out that I was finished for the day.

I just love this book because I feel that I grew as a writer because I was so open and honest in the writing process.

 

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

 

 I am a mother of 3, a daughter and 2 sons. I am the step mother to 3 boys and a grandmother to 8 grandchildren with 2 more grand-babies due this fall. I love the great outdoors and traveling. If I could travel four months out of the year to exotic places, I would. I believe that every experience helps one develop into a better writer. It gets the creative juices flowing so to speak.

 

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

 

I have loved Kathleen E. Woodiwiss since I was young. She was always so amazing with her descriptive words.

Diana Gabladon and her Outlander Series, of course. The woman is amazing.

Mary Higgins Clark is a wonderful who-done-it writer.

 

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 

The Story Tellers Secret by Sejal Badani and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, two wonderful story tellers and fascinating books.

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

 

 I think that it is more fun to see where the story takes me. Sure, I have a rough idea of the storyline, but my first series, Jeweled Dagger Series was all by the seat of my pants. I began with an idea but then let the characters take my on a journey that was so much fun to go on and I hope that the readers enjoyed the journey as much as I did. Sometimes I would put the main character into an impossible situation and I would have to figure out how they were going to get out of it or what came next. I was almost as if I was reading it and living through the story as I made it up. Very exhilarating as a writer.

 

Q: Why do you write?

 

 I write because I have something to say and I want others to hear what it is that I am saying with my words. It’s like talking to a good friend but instead of an intimate setting of five people it is hundreds of people and I hope some day thousands of people that will hear my stories.

 

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

 

Some times I pick up one of my books and start to read something and forget that I wrote it. Then I think, “Wow, that was really clever.” I love to add something in the end to show how the character has grown or what they learned from their experiences. It’s really a growing experience for me as well each time I create a character and the world in which they live.

 

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?

 

I don’t usually listen to music when I write. I lock myself away in my little office downstairs and get very irritated when my husband bothers me when I’m on a streak to ask me if I want to take a break or go someplace. Sometimes I even shut the door then he knows not to bother me until I come out for air.

 

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

 

Probably the synopsis. It’s hard for an artist/writer to condense everything about the story into ten lines of copy. It forces one to cut so much out.

 

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

 

I am very religious so I would have to say the number one person I would want to talk with would be Jesus because I think it would be a life changing experience to simply be in his presence.

The second person I would love to sit down with would be Elvis. I always had a crush on him when I was a little girl and would love to understand what went through his mind.

I also think it would be fascinating to sit down with Leonardo DaVinci because he was such a forward thinker. I would want to know if his ideas came to him in a dream or if he simply sat around all day thinking up crazy things and then built them.

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 

 Well, it means that you can pay the bills and continue to write which I am not there yet. I haven’t really made any kind of money writing and producing my own books but maybe someday I will sell thousands of copies at a time and become very successful. But even if I don’t, the process of writing and expressing that part of my voice I never knew I had has been amazing.

 

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

 

I am leaving something of myself behind for my posterity and generations of family who will come that says that I was here and that I left my mark behind.

 

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 

I want to just say that having a dream won’t do you any good, unless you are willing to work hard and strive to make that dream come true.

Dreams are great to have but making those dreams come true is the best gift that you can give yourself.

Philip Rivera

Q: In three words, describe yourself.

 

Imaginative, dry, witty.       

 

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

 

 One (there are two available, but the first one is a preview of the first. Kinda like a delicious Costco sample).

 

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

 

My humorous memoir, Suburban Luchador: Memoirs From Suburbia, was published on Amazon last month.

 

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

 

My book is a collection of short, slice-of-life stories gathered from my adventures as a dad, husband and high school teacher. When life offers up a humorous situation in one of these realms, I try to capture it in the title. For example, my family and I were going on a road trip to caves in northern Florida. During that trip, we crossed a time zone line, which led to an imaginative discussion with my wife about movie soundtracks, Back to the Future, and time travel experiments. The title of that story was “Roadside Temporal Anomaly.”

 

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

 

Since my book is based on stories from my life, I would humbly say I’m the most interesting character since I’m in every story. Each story is a blend of real-life scenarios mixed with my whimsical imagination. Like the time when my wife mixed up a pop-culture analogy in a conversation, I imagined her confused thought as a team of minions scrambling through her brain, desperately trying to get the correct analogy into the correct “thought tube.”

 

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

 

Imaginative nonfiction memoir.

 

Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.

 

My last (and only) book is a collection of short, humorous stories from my life as a dad, husband and high school teacher. I took daily, mundane situations from suburban life, inserted them into my imagination, and out popped thirty stories about a normal man who envisions himself as the ultimate suburban underdog hero.

 

Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.

 

“Release the Princesa or face my wrath!” yelled the knight (me) as he raised his sword at the gargantuan beast. Behind the dragon, in an oversized birdcage, sat an attractive Puerto Rican princess (my wife) with long black hair, who casually scrolled through her phone. 

From the introduction to my book, Suburban Luchador: Memoirs From Suburbia.

 

 

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

 

Before being an author, father, or husband, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. This relationship affects everything I do and forms my worldview. My greatest aspiration is to live the type of life that reflects the love of Christ to those around me, even if they have a completely different spiritual perspective. In addition to writing, I also love traveling and learning about different cultures. I hope to pass this passion on to my three young children.

 

Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?

 

Jack Handy, Jenny Lawson, Joel C. Rosenberg

 

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

 

Damascus Countdown, Joel C. Rosenberg

 

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

 

I just start writing and worry about the editing after.

 

Q: Why do you write?

 

I feel like I have a unique, humorous view on everyday life that others can connect with. I believe each person has inside them a creative story teller that can weave fascinating tales that pass down myths, memories, and morals. I hope to inspire them to see the valiant, heroic and grand moments in their mundane lives, if they would only look through the eyes of imagination.

 

Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?

 

I’m working on my second humorous memoir. The title is still in progress, but the current one is “Suburban Luchador: Memorable Memoirs and Menacing Minivans.”

 

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

Yes, for review purposes. I find myself thinking, “I like this guy. He’s funny.”

 

Q: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?

 

I sometimes listen to music.  I bounce from 80’s pop to modern instrumental music.

 

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

 

The whole thing was hard! I had to do some research and learning, and I found Bryan Cohen’s resources excellent.

 

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

 

Jesus – I’ve dedicated my life to Him and His word…but there are some clarifying questions I have.

The creators of the show Lost – amazing writing, but I need the ending explained.

Nate Bargatze (comedian) – he’s a clean, hilarious comedian with an awesome deadpan delivery. I think I can learn a lot from him.

 

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

 

A successful writer has an established, loyal following that he/she dialogues with and provides grassroots promotion.  

 

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

 

To live a life that reflects my Christian values and to use the gifts God has given me to their fullest potential, one of which I believe is writing. I want to see my books in the shelves of bookstores and to be able to use my platform as an author to encourage fathers to be an active part of their family’s lives.

 

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

 

Fans – Thank you for following me on this journey! Writing is risky job because you’re opening up your life to others, and there’s no guarantee they’ll like what they read. I hope my writing inspires  you to enjoy the simple moments of life and to not take yourself so seriously (most others don’t). Future authors – don’t give up, ask for help, educate yourself! I’m still at the beginning of my self-published career and I’ve learned that it’s an “easy” venture to get into because there’s no middle man, but excellence is what will make you stand out. Some of the podcasts I’ve gleaned a lot from are Self Publishing Formula, Bryan Cohen, Nick Stephenson and Kindlepreneur.

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