CHAT WITH NADIA HASAN

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Nadia Hasan is a writer and poet living in Detroit, MI. Following wherever the path of inspiration leads, she strives to cultivate hope, awareness and empathy through her writing. Her work has appeared in The Mirror News under their “Through the Looking Glass” segment, The Michigan Ave. Creative Arts Journal, and Rewriting Mary Sue. She also writes paranormal fiction as N.J. Ember.

Congratulations on your new book! What is called?

Thank you! My book is called Waking the Wild.

Waking_The_WildDo the poems in your book have a theme?

I think the theme of the book would be growth. Most of my poems are about growing emotionally and mentally and the struggle between transitioning from a difficult period in life to one of healing.

How would you describe your poetry?

The majority of my poetry is free verse. I would describe it as visceral and evocative. I’ve noticed that people often react strongly to my poems, both positively and negatively. Either way, I take it as a compliment that I am able to make them feel anything at all.

What do you strive for when you write a poem?

When I write a poem I try to describe a complete narrative or emotion. I want them to be as true as possible to whatever experience I’m trying to create, but I also want it be logical. I want it to be accessible by both readers of poetry and non-readers, those trying to “get into “poetry.

Do you always know what want to write or do you just let your emotions spill onto the page and form words?

I’m emotion driven. I almost never know what I’m going to write about beforehand. Usually it stems from some lines that repeat in my head until I’m forced to write them down. I sit in front of the computer, center myself and begin. I try not to think too much about what I’m doing until it’s all out.

Can you tell us about poetry and literary-centered events happening in your hometown, Detroit?

The two events that come to mind are Progressionista and the Motown Mic competition. Progressionista is a book club founded by Shanel Adams for girls in Detroit ages eight to twelve. During each monthly meeting, they have women professionals (progressionistas) speak to the girls about their careers. Each career is related to the themes of the next book. The meetings also include interactive activities which help encourage further reading over that month. So not only does Progressionista foster literacy and cultural awareness, but it promotes female leadership and illustrates how important reading for fun can be.

Motown Mic is a spoken word competition held at the Motown Museum. The competition is held each Friday in April and provides a way for artists and local poets to share their talents. Two winners are selected each week and advance to the grand finale in June at the Garden Theatre for a chance to win a $1,000 cash prize.

Who are the poets you admire? What is it about their work that speaks to you?

There are so many! There’s spoken word artists like Alysia Harris, Miles Hodges, Zora Howard, Sarah Kay and Sierra DeMulder to start. There are also poets such as Amber Jerome-Norrgard and Ben Ditmars. I think their work speaks to me for various reasons.

I admire the first group not only because of the way they craft their poems but of the way they perform them. You really feel it and it stays with you. I’m envious of that. As for Amber and Ben, I think they write poems that are uniquely them. They leave so much of themselves on the page. Every poet I read has some quality that leaves an impression or some way of writing that teaches me something.

I know that the cover of your book has very personal meaning to you. Can you tell us more?

I lost both my best friend and her little brother this year. It was sudden, and continues to be something that I struggle to come to terms with everyday. We were both writers and many of my poems, if not written with her, were directly influenced by our friendship and the conversations we used to have. So when I was thinking about the look I wanted for the cover, my first thought was to incorporate things that had meaning to the both of us. I choose lotus flowers because she was the first person to tell me about the life of lotuses, how they rise out of muck everyday untouched by it and still sink back into it every night. I chose lilies because they were her favorite flower. It was important to me that she was represented because she was such a tremendous part of its creation.

PinkLotusWhat would you like readers to know about what you write and who you are as a poet and person?

I think it’s easy for people to forget that an artist and their work are separate. Even poetry, which is very personal and most often an intimate look at the poet is never a one hundred percent accurate portrayal. I want readers to know that even though many of my poems may seem bleak, that’s just a snapshot of whatever I’m thinking about at the time. Alysia Harris said it best when she said, “a poem is just a tombstone eulogizing a moment.” I have good days and bad days just like anyone else.

What can we expect from you in the future?

All the books! In addition to writing poetry, I plan to write paranormal fiction books under a pen name. I hope to put out at least two poetry books per year. I also want to write more flash/micro fiction.

Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?

Yes, I do. I had always planned on writing my paranormal fiction under a pen name because I wanted a little bit of freedom to write without judgment. I wanted to be able to feel free to take creative risks. Maybe I just really liked the idea of having an alter ego.

What else have you written?

I’ve written and published short stories and flash fiction. My favorite one is called Bird Song and it’s currently up on Rewriting Mary Sue. From the Cafe and Beyond: A Collection of Poems and Other Writings was my first published book.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would love to be able to draw. It would be nice to draw my characters the way that I see them or to create my own merchandise and promotional graphics.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Be proactive in learning more about people or things that are different from you, especially if your ignorance causes you to fear them. Treat everyone and everything with compassion, empathy and respect. Contribute something positive to the world through the gifts that you were born with. (We all have them. The trick is figuring out what they are.)

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

I love getting something in the mail that I wasn’t expecting. My favorite things are those which are handmade or handwritten, like cards and letters. I like being able to have a tangible memory of someone. I like being able to look at something and remember the way that I felt in that moment.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

I watch Orphan Black, Sherlock, Doctor Who, Penny Dreadful, Scandal and every version of NCIS.

If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?

I would add a library and office. If I could only add one room, I guess it would have to be a library and office combined. I’d be fine with that.

Care to brag about your family?

I have the best grandpa in the whole world! You might think that’s an exaggeration, but it really isn’t. He does everything for me and sacrifices so much to make sure that I have everything I need. He’s also the biggest supporter of whatever I do. We’re pretty much opposites in everything and it drives us crazy. He’s neat and I’m organized chaos. He’s an early bird and I’m a night owl, but I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He’s one of a kind.

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(Referenced in Interview)

Progressionista

Motown Mic

Bird Song

CHAT WITH ANGIE DICKERSON

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Angie Dickerson is the author of women’s fiction and her debut novel, Friends at Forty, is the first in the Friends series with book two underway titled Friends at Sea. She is new to self-publishing and was previously a literature and creative writing teacher for fifteen years. Angie decided to risk it all and retire early to make her writing dreams a reality. She is, like her main character, a misunderstood forty-something wife and mother of three who has recently been demoted to the role of empty nester. Her novels are for anyone who’s ever felt lost and had the need to find their way again. She currently lives in a gorgeous, over-priced unit overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Newport Beach, California with her critic, editor, website designer and cheerleader-husband of twenty-two years. Is your recent book part of a series?

Time to chat with Angie!

My debut novel, Friends at Forty, is the first in the Friends series. It starts with a marriage in trouble after they inherit the painful role of empty nesters. The series is not to be confused with a trilogy. I have designed it so each book stands on its own without the need to read them chronologically. These will be the misadventures of married life, family ups and downs and much more. I am currently 40% through book 2 in the series titled, Friends at Sea. In this second book, Samantha and Daniel pack their marriage troubles and head for the high seas. The entire book takes place on a luxury cruise ship and has exciting ports-of-call adventures, as the couple continues their journey.

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What are the special challenges in writing a series?

The worst part about writing a series, at least at a fast pace and without the perks of an agent, professional agent or publisher, is that I have had very little feedback from the first book from readers. I am lucky to have a couple of wonderful book clubs reading my novel right now, but as I continue to wrap things up with book 2 I have to be confident that what I am delivering is what readers expect and will want to see from the next evolution for these two complex forty-somethings. But who knows? Maybe it’s all for the best that I don’t have lots of feedback. In that way I can just write the story the way I see it developing.

FriendsATSea

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

The women’s fiction/chick lit genre absolutely choose me. I have many YA dystopian novels outlined and ready to go but this inexplicable attraction to flawed characters and marriage misadventures has a grip on me. I’m probably going to have to get countless of these women’s fiction novels out of my system before I even consider exploring other genres.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Every single character I create is autobiographical: based on someone I know well, someone I somewhat know, colleagues from my fourteen years in education, or my husband. The main characters are all mostly me: me on a bad day; me on a great day; me on my crazy; me at my best. The many faces of me.

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

“If our love life was a dishwasher, we could fix it!”

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I must always write scenes in order otherwise I make a mess. I am horrible about continuity. My girl may be wearing a red cocktail dress and drinking a Margarita at the beginning of a scene and seconds later the drink magically morphed into a beer and she’s adjusting her jeans. Ouch! Yeah, no, I could never write out of sequence.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Absolutely. I always outline. I had a creative writing professor who suggested that outlining can suck the creativity out of the narrative but I find without one my story meanders with little to objective or goal. I must know the main story arch. Now, once I start mashing those keys and scenes develop, “all is fair in love and war.” I don’t expect I’ll ever stop being surprised at the end of writing every chapter. They absolutely take on a life of their own while at the same time adhering to the big ideas, themes and story ending.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

Thanks to my loving, supportive and ever-present husband/in-house editor, I managed to finish my debut novel April 2016. I know where it to me I would still be editing and revising and editing over and over and over. Yikes! I also need to thank the wise words of Stephen King when he encourages beginning authors to just keep writing through “the crap” (I am paraphrasing here in other to keep this interview PG-13). Thank Mr. King!

AngieHave you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you?

Yes. I think every author does at some point. Mine came with every rejection notice I received from countless agents about how my main character was just not likeable. Apparently, Samantha Blake is the forty-something, mother, wife and empty nester you’ll love to hate. I think if you are bothered by Sam, I have done my job because, honestly, we are all so very annoying, aren’t we? One recent review said: The main character was annoying and loveable all at the same time.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

Night owl. My brain doesn’t function properly until after 6 PM. I need tons and tons of coffee, sugary snacks (lemon bars are a recent favorite) & music!

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I would say: To save an author, readers must write reviews. On Amazon and Kindle. On Barnes & Noble. On the author’s web page. On Goodreads.com and similar blogger sites. On their Facebook page and other social media venues. Anywhere and everywhere the novel is listed. Review! Review! Review please!

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

At first, I was quite apprehensive and skeptical. But I read many expert articles suggesting any self-respecting author must be on Twitter, have a Facebook page, a professional-looking author website and be ever present on social media so I followed their advice. I can’t say enough great things about my experience with Twitter and the like. I was carefully to only “Follow” like-minded people who shared my passion for books and authors. This community has become an incredible asset for marketing. But the best thing isn’t what I get out of it but the great feeling you get when you can retweet another author’s work or novel and promote them. I always start my SM day by posting a reminder of the Twitter Author Challenge to promote three authors before you post—I’ve done it everyday and have quite a few “followers” turned “partners-in-crime” as we all help promote each other. The best of those examples is you featuring little-old-me on your site through this wonderful interview opportunity.

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CHAT WITH KATHLEEN HARRYMAN

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Kathleen Harryman lives in York, England with her husband, two daughters and family dog and cat. Kathleen has always enjoyed reading, and grew up reading Enid Blyton, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. Such stories have fueled Kathleen’s imagination, allowing her now to write her own stories.

What is your latest book?

My latest book is called The Other Side Of The Looking Glass This is my first novel, and has been published by Austin Macauley Publisher in London.

The book is a thriller based in the City of York in England, it is a story about mistaken identity, mystery and true love.

LookingGlassHow did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

The book definitely dictated the genre. And I have to say I had great fun writing it.

One of my favorite characters is Liam Thornton, who hires a hit-man to kill anyone who gets in his way. He really isn’t a nice person, which was really fun, because he would say and do things which are completely alien to me.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

Yes, definitely! I am so excited to confirm that I have just signed a contract with Austin Macauley Publishers for a second book.

The book is called When Darkness Falls and is thriller.

This book is very different from my first book as it is about a woman serial killer.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Lots of times. That’s beauty of writing. I always have an idea of what I want the characters to be like, and then all of a sudden they will do something completely out of character that will take me by surprise. I think this keeps the characters real. I know I can relate to this.

It also makes the story more interesting for the writer, as you have to look for ways out of the situation that your characters have gone themselves and you into.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I definitely write my scenes in order, as this keeps the story flowing for me. I also feel that it also allows the characters to develop more. I think I would find it hard writing out of order and then bringing it back together.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I like to have some understanding of how the book is going to end. The setting has more flexibility, but the ending for me is very important, as I tend to work up to this; bringing everything together.

The title I’m not always so stringent with. I changed the title of The Other Side Of The Looking Glass, a few times before I felt that it was right for the book.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Yes. It sounds strange doesn’t it. But I find that these characters add a lot of depth to the story and give it meaning. We don’t like everyone we meet in life, for one reason or another, and for a book to connect there always has to be a character or two that you’re not going to like. To me it keeps the story real, and that’s important.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I have to say that I feel very privileged and amazingly lucky as I only ever sent my manuscript to one publisher and they were happy to publish it.

Like everyone else when I sent in my first three chapters and a synopsis off to the publishers, I was preparing myself for a rejection. I had read so many stories about how very successful authors had received a number of rejection letters before being published; that it almost felt inevitable, that I would receive one as well. In some respects, I think I was building up my defenses in readiness for a rejection.

This is why I say I was incredibly lucky to find the right publisher for my book on the first attempt.

For Austin Macauley Publishers to agree to publish my work in the first instance, it was just so wonderful. There are still times when I just can’t believe how lucky I am.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 6.10.17 PMAt BBC Radio York with Ross Dickinson

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

Feedback is so important to an author. It’s is also a very frightening thing as well.

A lady came up me to recently and said how much she had enjoyed reading my book. It was great to hear her talk about the characters as if they were real, and that she had loved the style the book had been written in.

I was so pleased, that she had connected with the story and the characters. It was a huge compliment.

KathleenReaderSigning Books at WHSmith

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I have always loved to make up stories. When I was very young I would pretend that I was an author, and that I had written lots of books.

I absolutely love writing and creating a story. Seeing the story come to life is a wonderful experience. It’s like being transported into another world, and watching the scenes unravel.

The hard part for me was finding out if I was capable of projecting my story enough to make other people love it as much as I do.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

Synopses are so hard. In a few short lines you have to sum up hundreds of pages of writing. That’s really hard to do.

Evil? Yes, its definitely like taking a trip to the dark side.

The hardest part of writing is the synopsis. You have to consider what can be left out, and what needs to be left in. A lot happens in a book, and all of a sudden you have to make someone want to consider your full manuscript in a few words. How do you do that?

It sounds impossible doesn’t it? And in some respects that is exactly what it feels like.

A manuscript could be rejected, not because it isn’t any good, but because the synopsis isn’t selling the manuscript. A synopsis is a very important selling tool.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

A cover design is what makes a book stand out, and is as important as the story within.

The book cover is what everyone is going to see first. It is what is going to make someone pick it up. This is the hard part. A story can’t sell itself it needs a cover to say ‘look at me’ and ‘come on, you know you’re interested’. Then comes the blurb at the back of the book to entice the reader even more.

I had a lot of input regarding my book cover for The Other Side Of The Looking Glass, and am completely blown away with how it turned out. I love it.

Care to brag about your family?

I have an absolutely wonderful family. I have two sisters, one of which is my identical twin, and I tell my two daughters that a sister is the best friend that they will ever have.

I had so much fun growing up, and it’s always great knowing that I have two sisters to share those times, and reminisce over.

To me family is one of the most important things in life. With family you are never truly alone, even if they don’t always get you, I know that they love me. Pretty special eh!

If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?

My dad was recently diagnosed with cancer; thankfully they caught it early and were able to operate and remove it. He is still undergoing treatment, but things are looking really good, and the doctors and everyone are really please with how he is doing. Until then didn’t really appreciate what a wonderful job the cancer charities do. So I would probably split the money between the different cancer charities and those for animal welfare.

I love animals, and I’m a real softie when it comes to their welfare. It makes me really sad to see them being mistreated, or near to extinction, or removed from their natural habitat, which is why I would split the other half of the million to give to animal welfare.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would really love to be able to speak another language, and admire anyone that is multilingual. This is definitely a skill I would love to poses.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

I have family dog, and my biggest peeve are dog owners that don’t clean up after their dog.

When my eldest daughter was four she fell over and got covered in dog pooh, simply because an irresponsible owner hadn’t cleaned up after their dog.

Things like this shouldn’t be happening. We now even have dog bins to throw our dog pooh in, so there is no excuse.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

I love the stars, and the early morning before everyone wakes up.

I get up super early in a morning 3:30am, and it is just a lovely time of the day, the birds are chirping, and I’ve seen the odd fox and deer. It’s a pleasure worth smiling over.

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