CHAT WITH LINNEA TANNER

Linnea Tanner passionately reads about ancient civilizations and mythology which hold women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids. Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry.

Time to chat with Linnea!

What is your latest book? Is your recent book part of a series?

My debut book is Apollo’s Raven, was released on April 10th. It is a tale that follows two star-crossed lovers and weaves Celtic mythology into a backdrop of ancient Rome and Britannia. In a story of forbidden love and loyalty, the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin is caught in a political web of deception when the emperor Tiberius demands allegiance from her father, King Amren.

Catrin is drawn by the magnetic pull she feels for Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, who stands in the shadow of his scandalous forefathers. When King Amren takes Marcellus as a hostage, he demands that Catrin spy on him. As she falls in love, she discovers a cure that foretells a future she desperately wants to break. Torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and loyalty to her people, Catrin urgently calls upon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that looms over her.

The historical fiction/epic fantasy is the first book in the Apollo’s Raven series. The series was inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony but with a Celtic twist. The epic series spans from 24 AD when Catrin and Marcellus first meet to 40 AD just prior to Emperor Claudius’ invasion.

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

I write scenes both in and out of order. I usually start with a broad outline, but as I write the story, other threads in the plot develop and I may need to write others scene to make everything connect in a logical manner. When I write in multiple points of views, there are times when I write scenes out of order, so I can stay in one character’s head to play the basic plot. Sometimes, I surprise myself and can go in a completely different direction from what I had first planned. This provides twists to the plot.

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

My characters sometimes surprise me as I discover more about them when I’m writing the story. At first, I was hesitant to explore the inner essence of the heroine, Catrin, in Apollo’s Raven. She has a darker side that broils to the surface whenever she must overcome life-threatening situations. Her biggest fear is that she could abuse her powers and transform into someone evil like her half-brother, Marrock. Conversely, I added more depth and back story to Marrock, so a reader could relate to him and understand his vile deeds.

Characters must ultimately act consistently according to their true natures and background. Nothing they do should come as a shock to the reader.

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

The title of my book was important to me, because it conveys an image taken from both Roman and Celtic mythology. In the writing process, I am open to changing any part of the story that I had originally planned. Twists in the plot come from moments when I ask myself, “What if I did this instead of that.” When a “wild idea” flashes in my mind, I usually go for it, as it comes from a deeper core of my creativity.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

In preparation for the series, I did extensive research on the history, mythology, and archeological findings of 1st Century Britain before the Roman invasion in 43 AD. A major challenge researching the Celts is they passed down their history and mythology through oral traditions. Most of my research had to be gleaned from the biased accounts of Greek and Roman historians, medieval writers who spun Celtic mythology to fit their Christian beliefs, and archaeological interpretation. I also visited many areas in the United Kingdom and France that are described in my series. I’ve hiked over 12 miles over the white cliffs of Dover so I could catch first-hand what my characters are experiencing when Apollo’s Raven first opens.

In the story, I wanted to capture the essence of the Celtic noble warrior society. The Greek historian Poseidonius writes, “The Celts engage in single combat at dinner. Assembling in arms, they engage in mock battle drill and mutual thrust and parry, sometimes inflicting wounds.”

In my research, I discovered southeast Britannia evolved differently than Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. After Julius Caesar’s military expeditions to the region in 55 – 54 BC, Rome strongly influenced the internal politics and trading of southeast Britannia. Many of the rulers were educated in Rome as hostages and adopted the empire’s taste for luxuries. Several powerful Celtic kings expanded their territories by conquering other tribes.

There are written accounts that Celtic rulers pleaded for Rome’s help to intervene on their behalf. Recent archaeological findings support a Roman military presence that protected areas of Britannia vital to trading with the empire before Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. Of note, Shakespeare’s play, Cymbeline, is based on the Celtic King Cunobelin whom the Romans referred as the King of Britannia. One of the plot points in the play is Roman forces invade to restore tribute that Britannia ceased to pay. The play was likely based on oral traditions or medieval accounts in which there were some historical accuracy.

My extensive research sets the stage for the Apollo’s Raven series which spans from 24 AD to 40 AD.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I work with a developmental editor and coach. His feedback gives me guidance on how to make the plot or characters’ motivations clearer. I then have a couple of trusted who provide further feedback. If there are any holes in the story, I have a chance to readjust or change sections of the plot as I proceed.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

It is my hope that I can write a book on how the Celtic tribal kingdoms evolved in southeast Britannia before the Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. I’ve written several posts on my blog regarding the research I’ve done on the Celts. I would like to use this as a backbone for the book.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

My road to publication has had lots of twists and turns. After I retired from the pharmaceutical industry in 2010, I began writing the Apollo’s Raven series in earnest and drafted almost three books in two years. After receiving comments from agents and other writers on the first book, I realized that I needed to start the story earlier in Britannia and provide a more comprehensive background of the Celtic culture and mysticism. Thus, Apollo’s Raven is actually the fourth book that I wrote in the series.

With the dramatic changes in publishing, I decided to independently publish my series in 2016 instead of taking the traditional route. However, I wanted to make sure that the quality of my book would match that of traditional publishers. Thus, I worked with the AuthorU organization consisting of established authors and professionals in the publishing business dedicated to helping authors fulfill their dreams. On my journey, I’ve met wonderful writers, authors and other professionals who have generously provided advice and inspired me.

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?

The book cover design is the first impression that a potential reader has of your book. It needs to stand out from the other books and immediately draw a reader’s interest. Thus, I placed high priority on the design of my book, so it looks professionally done. I was very fortunate to work with a fabulous graphic designer who captured my vision of the book cover and designed the interior so it was easy to read.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

The qualities I most value are loyalty, honesty, sense of humor, compassion, and curiosity to learn more.

Care to brag about your family?

My greatest inspiration was my mother who raised five children after my father died. She held me to the highest standards, but allowed me to follow my dreams.

My husband, Tom, is my loyal and supportive soul-mate. He is the reason I believe in love at first sight and true love.

My daughter is the epitome of Catrin—tough-minded and athletic, but has a heart of gold.

My son demonstrated his loyalty and compassion by caring for his wife who died of cancer a few years back, but he gained new happiness by marrying again.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees after I married and had two children. I took lessons in flamenco dancing and crafted dried floral arrangements which I sold at an art market in Boulder, Colorado.

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

Be respectful of other’s beliefs and cultures.

Be open to new ideas or opinions

Learn from history and don’t repeat the same mistakes.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

I smile whenever I watch the wonderment on a baby’s face that a balloon can float while everything else falls on the ground.

CONNECT WITH LINNEA

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CHAT WITH KEN STARK

Ken Stark is a horror fiction writer from Vancouver, Canada, and is living proof that it’s never too late to chase your dreams. After decades of writing only for himself, he decided it was finally time to let the world see inside his head, and what better way to do that than by utterly destroying civilization in his debut novel. With the second chapter of his Stage 3 series due for release soon and more on the way, he can only hope that everyone is buckled up for a wild ride.

Time to chat with Ken!

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge in even contemplating a series is going through the effort to map out an entire future, not knowing whether a single word of it will ever see the light of day. Considering the odds, it might just be a tremendous waste of energy, but if it’s published, a reader will want to know that the series is following a game plan rather than just being made up along the way. This doesn’t mean that every single step of the journey has to be plotted in excruciating detail, but you have to at least know where you’re going. In that way, I guess it’s just a magnified version of what every writer faces; tons of work with no guarantees.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

I love short stories, but they definitely have their pros and cons. A complete story has to be told in the space of what would be a single chapter of a novel, so there isn’t a lot of room for subtlety. But that limitation can work in the writer’s favour, too. A backstory can be summed up in two lines. A character’s motives might boil down to a few words. And it has to be said, there’s a certain rush in being able to weave a tale together in a week rather than the better part of a year.

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

Actually, I intended to use a pseudonym with Stage 3 in order to keep my anonymity, but when my publisher sent me the cover art for approval and I saw my name splashed across that incredible piece of artwork in big, bold type, the egotist in me took over and I couldn’t let them change it.

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

I think horror and I chose each other, and at a very young age at that. I grew up under the shadow of Mutual Assured Destruction and nightly images from Vietnam, and most of my favourite TV shows and movies growing up reflected the zeitgeist of the day. Omega Man, The Day After, Soylent Green, Night Gallery, even scifi flicks like Planet of the Apes and Logan’s Run; they all seemed to paint a fairly bleak picture of the future. They weren’t horror per se, but the dark visions of an unknown future fascinated me. I’m not sure if we’re any better off now than we were then, and in many ways the threats have actually multiplied, so though I see immense potential for the future, there remains a nervous burbling in the pit of my stomach that keeps my writing rather dark.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Not yet, no. I won’t say that it will never happen, but so far, my characters are their own people. All of us meet so many people over so many years of our lives, I don’t see a need to capture someone wholesale and drop them into a book. It’s much more fun to pick and choose from that library of traits, and build someone entirely new.

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

Probably more often than they should, but that’s when I know that I’ve created a powerful character. More often than not, the story veers off in an entirely new direction and I have to corral everyone together to get things back on track, but I always find that it all worked out to my advantage. Invariably, that momentary insurrection gave the story a more organic flow, and the story is just that much better as a result.

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

I don’t draft a detailed outline, but I know the story I want to tell and the specific arcs of the characters, and I certainly know the way I want it to end. Things might arise along the way to alter the exact ending I had in mind, but it only varies by a few degrees, and it’s always better than what I had planned. As for titles, I prefer to let those come naturally. Usually, the words jump out at me as I’m writing a particular scene, and I know right then that I have my title.

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

Truth be told, I’ll edit a book into the ground if given the chance. I usually pound out a chapter or two, go back and edit, write a few more chapters, go back again, and continue that way until it’s done. And once it’s done, I’ll go through it again. And again. And again. Honestly, if I didn’t have several people reminding me that I eventually had to finish, I’m not sure I ever would.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

My advice to aspiring authors is always the same. Don’t listen to what anyone says, just tell the story that’s in your head. Write what and how and where and when you want, critics be damned. But for the sake of those looking for something a little more tangible, let me tell you what I wish I had known from the start. First, don’t worry about finding an agent. Lots of publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts, and you can find lists of them all over the web. So check them out, see the kind of things they’re interested in, and have a look at the books they’ve already published. Second, finish your book before you submit anything. And I mean finish it. Complete, edited and polished. If you send in 3 chapters and they want to read the whole thing, they aren’t going to wait six months while you write the rest. Third, and perhaps most important, write a kick-ass blurb for your book. The person who reads your email will be wading through dozens a day, and that blurb is the only thing that will make yours stand out. And if it intrigues the publisher, he/she knows that it will intrigue potential buyers as well, so that blurb is all-important. Do some research. Look at other blurbs. See what works and what doesn’t, and take your time to get it just right. If it doesn’t take a couple of weeks, it can be better. And yes, it’s that important.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

Actually, my story should be motivation for every aspiring writer. I wrote a book and spent a year shopping it around with a remarkable lack of success. It was immensely discouraging and I began to think that I was wasting my time, but as I was checking various publishers’ websites, I found several that were looking for a specific type of story. So I set aside the book I was trying to flog and started to hash out the premise for Stage 3. When it was done, I submitted a completed manuscript to one of those publishers, and they scooped it up. And so, I guess the lesson here is two-fold. Never give up on your dreams, but allow for the fact that those dreams might cut a rather circuitous path.

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

I had next to no social media presence before being published, so I had to catch up quickly. Without a doubt, Twitter has become my favourite because it lets me spread the word on hundreds of extremely talented people every day, and I’ve met some real friends along the way. My least favourite is anything that involves an author’s bio. I’m perfectly happy discussing my work or being interviewed, but seeing the words ‘tell us about yourself’ fills me with absolute dread.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

A lot of what I read could benefit from an extra comma here or there, but I couldn’t care less about grammar. Historically, the English language became what it is through adoption, absorption and invention, so as far as I’m concerned, anything goes. I feel perfectly free to dangle participles, split infinitives and hyphenate the unhyphenatable. And no, unhyphenatable is not a word, but it is now…..Dibs!

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

First draft, nothing! I never let anyone see a word of what I’m writing until the whole thing’s done! It’s hard enough putting my heart out there with a fresh coat of varnish, I can’t imagine letting anyone see it all full of holes and dripping with rust.

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?

The cover is the first thing people see, and in this world where thoughts drift as quickly as the click of a mouse, that cover is more important than it’s ever been. I can’t tell you the number of times someone told me that they picked up Stage 3 because of the cover. Yes, I hear you all screaming that it’s what’s inside that counts, but believe me when I say, nobody’s going to bother looking inside unless the outside draws them in. If you’re an indie, spend the money. It might take a year’s royalties to pay it off, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

In no way am I a poet, but how about the best limerick I can come up with in under two minutes?

Ahem…..

There once was a fellow named Ken

who took up his paper and pen

The words that he wrought

weren’t quite what he ought

And the masses cried, “Damn, this again!?”

*bows ponderously, and exits stage right to the sound of crickets chirping in the distance.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I’ve lived in Vancouver for most of my life, but as I said in one of my earlier stories, ‘a man shouldn’t grow old in the same town he grew up in’. I’m thinking Hawaii, or maybe the Mexican Riviera, but definitely someplace warm. I’m open to suggestions…. Anyone?

If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.

Albert Einstein’s, definitely. He was able to see the fabric of the universe in a way that no one had before, and I would love to have just a glimpse of that brilliance. For a thousand years, humanity envisioned a clockwork universe, and then along came Einstein with a unique vision of it all. Can you imagine the audacity to suggest a century ago that space and time were really one? This meant that the ‘now’ of a someone coming toward us might be centuries different from the ‘now’ of someone moving away from us. It’s mind-boggling to even contemplate, but that unknown patent clerk envisioned it all. Just imagine if that kind of out-of-the-box brilliance was directed at some of the problems we face today.

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

I’m supposed to say books, right? Well yes, of course there would be books, but really, I would love a games room. Wet bar, pool table, big screen TV, comfy chairs, jukebox, room for all my comic books and nerd toys……Actually, that sounds so good, maybe I’ll just add a bed and move in!

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

No, if something gives me pleasure, I don’t feel guilty about it. That probably sounds hedonistic, but in my boring little world, such excess usually takes the form of extra cheese on the pizza or imported beer rather than domestic.

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CHAT WITH JEN PONCE

Jen Ponce lives in the Panhandle of NE with her three boys, her cats, and her goldfish named Reggie. She loves to read, watch, and write fantasy and horror. Her passion for writing comes from her desire to see more stories with strong, complex female characters. There weren’t enough books with women she could root for, so she had to write her own.

Jen Ponce: Writer of kickass women and oogy monsters.

Time to chat with Jen!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Burning the Devil, a psychological horror story about relationships, hope, and evil. The idea for the book came from a dream, one of those unusual dreams with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end and a plot arc that intrigued me. I tried many times to write the story as I saw it in my head to no avail. I finally figured out the theme of the book and what I wanted to say with it. After that, pinning the story to paper came easier.

Is your recent book part of a series?

No. This is a stand-alone horror novel. I do have a dark fantasy series. I’m currently working on book five. The series starts with The Bazaar. I was lucky enough to win a free cover design for that book. I’m super stoked about it.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

Keeping everything straight! You’d never think you’d forget your character’s height or eye color or what they were wearing when they come into their power … but you do. My best advice for anyone who wants to write a series is keep a story bible. Keep detailed notes. Re-read the stories before you starting writing the next one. Trust me.

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

I write fantasy and horror because those are the genres I love to read most. I was an avid romance fan in my high school years and I’ve written a few romances, but I really love a good fantasy or horror novel. There’s something about diving into a book with magic and monsters that just thrills me.

What else have you written?

I have two novels with deliciously bloody vampires, a horror novel about bugs and zombie fungus, two romances, a serialized novel about a bisexual demon hunter, and my Devany Miller series.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

My favorite part is seeing what happens next. I’m a pantser, which means I don’t plot out my stories. I like to see where the idea takes me. Sure, sometimes I have an ending in mind, but it’s a nebulous thing. I tell stories to myself as I write, which keeps everything fresh and fun.

That being said, I always hate the middle part of my novel. For me, I start wishing I could write a new story when I get to the end of the first third of the book. Everything feels awful, all the words I’ve written seem pointless … it’s just a nightmare. I really have to stay focused and disciplined to push my way through that point. Once I get by it, I’m good to go again and writing, once more, is fun.

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

I have tried writing a book out of order and it’s still a mess. I love the story, but I dearly wish I’d never attempted to assemble it from the middle. Ugh.

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

I have to know the title—as best I can, anyway—before I can start writing. I don’t have to know the end; in fact, I’d rather not know so it can be a surprise to me, too. But I can’t get started without a title.

Burning the Devil didn’t have that title when it started. It’s one of the rare books I’ve written that ended up with a completely different title at the end.

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

Character names are important, but I’ve never really had trouble with names. Titles, yes, names, no. I’ve changed very few names, and when I changed the name, the character changed too. So, I guess I changed the character’s name only after the character themselves changed.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

I would write a book about dangerous relationships and what to look out for when dating, aka dating red flags. I work as an advocate for sexual and domestic violence victims and I am passionate about promoting healthy relationships, healthy boundaries, and healthy sexuality. I’m also passionate about educating people on relationship red flags. Did you know that ‘love at first sight’ can be a red flag? An abusive person likes to get you emotionally invested in themselves as quickly as possible. If more people knew what to look for and everyone was taught about healthy relationships, healthy boundaries, and healthy sexuality from the time they were tiny, it would transform the world.

How would you define your style of writing?

My writing is spare and colorful. I hate long, droning paragraphs full of description. I am an impatient reader. I want to see the story. I want to see the action and I don’t want to dwell overlong on things that don’t matter to the story. I know some people love leisurely books full of details. I rarely do. Sometimes I have to slow myself down and remind myself that not everyone is like me. I don’t want people to turn away from my work because it’s so sparse on details that they can’t see what’s happening. I just want to cut out the boring bits.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in the Panhandle of Nebraska. If I had to move, I’d consider Colorado. There’s a college with an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter program. I’m currently taking ASL classes and I’d love to become an interpreter.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Trains. There’s something lovely and romantic about trains.

If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.

I’d take my friend Jim’s knowledge. He was the funniest guy I knew, smartest too. I’d love to have all those jokes at my fingertips and I’d never lose at Scrabble. (Because he never did.)

Care to brag about your family?

I have three awesome boys: Emilio, Luc, and Miguel. They are kind and funny and intelligent. I learn something new from them all the time and I’m so glad I’ve been lucky enough to have them in my life.

What music soothes your soul?

Hip hop. Weird but true.

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

Have healthy boundaries. Respect others. And be kinder.

 

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CHAT WITH ERIK THERME

erik-therme-author-photo

Erik Therme has thrashed in garage bands, inadvertently harbored runaways, and met Darth Vader. When he’s not at his computer, he can be found cheering for his youngest daughter’s volleyball team, or watching horror movies with his seventeen-year-old. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa—one of only twenty places in the world UNESCO has certified as a City of Literature.

What is your latest book?

My third novel, Roam, will be released in February 2017. The story follows a young man who believes he’s being haunted by his dead father, and the only way he can redeem himself is by “saving” someone else. It’s a character-driven story and very different from my first two books.

roam

What else have you written?

My debut mystery, Mortom, is about a guy who inherits his deceased cousin’s house and finds a key with a note that says: Follow Me. From there, he has to follow a series of clues to unravel the mystery. My second novel, Resthaven, is about a pack of kids who have a scavenger hunt inside an abandoned retirement home, only to discover they’re not the only ones roaming the hallways.

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

I always have a vague idea of how the book will end, but once I get there, my original vision rarely resembles the finished version. I’m not much of an outliner and prefer the “process of discovery” method when writing first drafts. I will confess that my lack of outlining causes lots of backtracking, dead ends, and staring into the screen for hours on end, but I like the freedom to see where the story takes me. Titles, on the other hand, usually come to me fairly easily, and they rarely change once I’ve picked one out.

Are you easily distracted while writing? If so, what to you do to help yourself focus?

I am the king of distraction. A typical writing session for me is as follows: open Word, type a few sentences, check e-mail, check Twitter, type a few more sentences, check Facebook . . . and rinse and repeat. It’s a miracle I ever get anything written. And it’s probably the reason it takes me two years to finish a book. I do have moments where I get into the zone and write big chunks without distraction, but those moments are usually far and few between.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

It’s been said that talent is a cheap commodity, and I’ve come to believe that’s close to the truth. I’ve witnessed excellent authors languish in sales, while horrible writers excel. Talent is absolutely needed to get the ball rolling, but hard work, perseverance, and plain old dumb luck are just as important. And even then, there’s no guarantee. Sometimes books resonate with readers, sometimes they don’t. It’s as simple as that. All you can do is keep writing, hone your skills, and hope the next book will capture the attention of the masses.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Don’t be afraid to write badly. First drafts are supposed to be ugly. The important thing is to get the story onto the page. Everything can be fixed from there. Writing, as many authors will attest, is 90% rewriting. Also, be sure to tell a story you’re passionate about, because you’re probably going to spend months—if not years—reworking the same sentences and paragraphs.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I chased literary agents for years in the hopes of bridging the gap to a traditional publisher. After a very close call with Gillian Flynn’s agency, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and self-publish. Six months after Mortom was released, I received an e-mail from Thomas & Mercer, who had discovered the book and wanted to acquire and re-release it through their imprint. Needless to say, I was more than happy to accept. When I completed Resthaven, I knew it wasn’t a good fit for T&M (they don’t handle YA), so I submitted the book to Kindle Scout, where it was selected for publication.

Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?

I regularly run three types of giveaways, each of them serving a specific purpose. Goodreads giveaways are great exposure, as they usually generate hundreds of entries. Most entrants add the book to their bookshelf, which increases the chances of them grabbing a copy if they don’t win. The downside is that Goodreads currently only allows paperback giveaways, which can get pricey. LibraryThing, on the other hand, allows e-book giveaways, which is an inexpensive way to get reviews. The only catch is that the minimum number is 100 e-books, and some authors might not be comfortable giving away that many copies. Lastly (and my personal favorite) are Amazon giveaways. To win, the entrant has to follow you on Amazon (there are other options, but this is the one I use the most), which means every time you release a new book, they’ll get an e-email notification. This is a great way to build a fan base to complement your mailing list.

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?

My buddy, Craig A. Hart, summed this up perfectly in a recent interview: “There is no excuse these days for a bad cover.” I couldn’t agree more. It can get a little pricey to have a cover designed from scratch, but pre-made covers are prevalent and affordable. Resthaven and Roam were both existing covers from a pre-made site, and each cost under $100 to purchase. To be a fiscally successful writer, you have to treat your writing like a business, which means—at minimum—spending money on covers and editing.

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

I learned, early on, that trying to control my characters works as well as trying to catch sand in a net. It ain’t gonna happen. My job is to follow, observe, and write down the things my characters say and do. More often than not, I find they surprise me and take the story in unexpected directions.

How would you define your style of writing?

Many authors aspire to create sprawling, epic tales—which is great—but I love crafting brisk, short reads that can be devoured in one or two sittings. I often joke that my books should only be sold in airport gift shops, as they’re the perfect length for a short plane ride.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

I imagine this is different for every writer, but for me, writer’s block most commonly takes the form of crappy, uninspired writing. This can last for hours, days, or weeks. Sometimes a long break from my story will fix the problem, but more often than not, the only solution is to keep plugging away, and eventually the muse will show her face again.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

I’ve never been on a train; planes make me claustrophobic; and my longest boat ride was a 30-minute ferry to Mackinaw Island (lovely place, if you ever get the chance to visit). Drop me behind the wheel of an automobile, and I’m pretty content to log some serious miles, as long as I have Mountain Dew, music, and/or good conversation.

Care to brag about your family?

My wife is an avid knitter and churns out cowls and sweaters with frightening regularity. Her incredible creations can be found at her Etsy shop: Knit By Design. Our 17-year-old has been on the honor roll since her freshman year, and our 13-year-old is gearing up to dominate her second year of club volleyball.

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

I’m a big fan of Walking Dead and Bates Motel, but my favorite show of all time is ABC’s Lost. I laughed, cried, and scratched my head at the finale . . . until it slowly sank in, and I realized the ending was perfect. It was an amazing viewing experience and one that will stay with me for years to come.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

I was a child of the 80’s, which means video games pretty much dominated my youth and then followed me into adulthood. I recently purchased the complete box set of Three’s Company, and I never tire of watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island.

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CHAT WITH PADDY CUMMINS

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When Paddy Cummins began writing books in the year 2000 it was the start of another segment of an interesting life of various and diverse careers. Growing up in the Ireland of the fifties he, like many others, was forced to quit school at age thirteen, get a job and contribute to the family finances of his parents and five other children. He became a motor mechanic, at which he worked for ten years. In the swinging sixties with a group of seven friends, he formed a showband which became one of the most popular in Ireland, performing professionally for five years before being disbanded in 1965.

In the years that followed he set up a successful engineering works, had his own pub, became a political activist as press secretary for the government party, serving four prime ministers, before becoming a senior consultant for a big international company until his retirement after fifteen years.

So the writing was meant to be Paddy’s hobby in his leisure years but he soon discovered that it was becoming another career and now after sixteen years and twelve books he is busier than at any time in his life.

Time to chat with Paddy!

What is your latest book?

In Love With Malta (The Hidden Treasures)

Synopsis

The hidden treasures of Malta, Gozo and Comino, little gems that you won’t find in other guide books, but define the charm and mystique of The Maltese Islands. There is something for everyone to enjoy from living it up in modern urban resorts to wandering leisurely in little traditional hamlets and villages dotted throughout the islands where time seems to stand still and you can linger awhile and relax in the warm sunshine.

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Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes and no. Not a series in the strict sense of the term but it is my second travel book on Malta. A third is possible.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

That’s a really interesting question. I know that many writers say they are much more difficult than novels but I find writing them delightful and easy. I love the discipline of word economy, concise dialogue and description, with surprising and satisfying endings. I’ve written three collections but published only one: Time and Tide on Amazon. I would love to publish more but for some reason they are not great sellers. All my other books have outsold Time and Tide.

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

Actually I’m a bit of a ‘genre-hopper’ I have written three romantic adventure novels, a sea tragedy, one collection of short stories and poems, a memoir, an autobiography, two travel books and a mind, body, spirit book. I tend to like a bit of variety.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Yes. I think every writer whether they admit it or not does the same. The numerous characters in my books are people that I encountered through life and especially those who for one reason or another left a lasting impression on me. I certainly couldn’t see myself inventing a character and see no need to, as the world is full of every type of character I will ever need.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That they are mediocre, amateur and inferior to published authors in the traditional way. Another false impression is that they are only ‘Publishing House’ rejects that only become indie authors as a last desperate resort to get published. Nothing could be further from the truth and those blinkered with those misconceptions should read some of the brilliant books now being published online. Indie Authors are the future of the book industry and while the old publishing format will continue in existence, all the new super talented writers will be found on the Internet.

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

I always know the complete story line and the ending before I begin writing a novel. Perhaps it’s because of my early work with short stories, but I couldn’t see myself making up a story as I went along with no ending in mind or in sight. Of course, I develop all the sub-plots and fill in the padding, dialogue and descriptions as I proceed but I feel that it’s easier once I know the main story line. I also like to have the title before I start. I love experimenting with titles. I would write out as many as 100 titles and a similar number of sub-titles, carefully considering each one before deciding. Even then, I wouldn’t regard my choice as final and before the last chapter I could get a brainwave and change it again. For me, choosing the titles is the fun part.

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

I edit as I write. Before I begin a new day’s writing I always edit the previous day’s work. I think it serves a few purposes. It allows me to recap with a fresh mind and very often see and correct errors of direction, shades of characters and superfluous dialogue and descriptions. I also correct the punctuation and spelling and reading it aloud I can get the flow and pace. Of course, when the book is completed I can spend weeks reading and re-editing again, but a lot of the tedious and boring work would have been done earlier.

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How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

Very important and yes I have changed character names many times. It all depends on the setting and location of the novel. I must always find the right name to fit a character and I usually use names that are not in everyday use but are still easy to pronounce and remember.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Yes. In Green Lodge, one of the main characters, Janet, is a ‘tyrant.’ She is just obnoxious and a horrible person. But I have to tell you that she is based on someone I knew really well and although now deceased, it gave me great pleasure to portray her in all her scheming ruthlessness.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

I wish I knew the answer to that vital question. If I did it would be a license to print money and I would never see a poor day again. I think it’s about getting to know the mind of the modern reader. What are they looking for? What turns them on? I believe that good marketing is important. Lots of good reviews certainly influence sales and of course if an author has one hit it will greatly help sales of follow-up books. But as you say it’s still a big conundrum and authors the world over would dearly love to know the answer.

dream_valley

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

Social Media is a vital partner of Indie Authors. Apart from the limited promotion and marketing that the online publishers like Amazon can do for us, it is ourselves that must bring our books to our readers around the world. We can only do that through social media and I have found that it’s a numbers game – the more exposure our books get online, the more sales, reviews and readers we will get. I use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Goodreads and Pinterest. For me, Twitter is the important one. I have 25K followers and average 10K impressions per day. I don’t advertise my books directly in my tweets but I post images and content with links to my two Blog sites where all my books and links can be found. I do the same on the other social media sites but to a lesser extent. After a lot of experimenting over the years I feel this works best for me.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

The answer to that question, Lisette, is a definite no. My books are a one-person project from beginning to end and from the first seeds of a story idea to the published book. If that sounds arrogant it’s not meant to be. It’s just that I want to focus totally on developing my storyline without distractions and complete it exactly as I want it to be. It may be unusual, but I type the manuscript, edit and proof-read it, format it for Kindle and upload it. The only part of the process that I outsource is the cover design which I feel should always be done by an expert. I know that I could seek advice and the expertise of others which would probably improve my finished product but I have this tendency to go it alone – it’s just me – the way I am.

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?

This is a vital question for all authors especially indie authors. There is no doubt in my mind that reviews, good and not so good, are the fuel that drive sales and books that don’t have them suffer and fail even though they are often better books than the ones with lots of reviews. It is another very effective form of marketing and like all successful brands people will buy if they see that lots of others are buying, while also giving lavish praise and 5-Star reviews. It is in my opinion unbalanced and unfair. Established authors will get a host of glowing reviews for their latest book on the strength of their status and not on the quality of the book, while new and less well-known writers who have published a far superior book may not get any reviews and will struggle to succeed. I don’t have the answer except to say that some authors are better at asking for reviews than others. I have got a reasonable number of reviews for all my books but being reluctant to ask readers to review, I think if I had been more assertive I would have got many more. I really think that readers do not appreciate the value of even a one line review to an indie author and if they were told, perhaps they would respond positively.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in Ireland during the summer months (May to October) and in Malta for the winter. (November to April) I don’t like frost and snow and with that arrangement I can avoid them both.

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

It would definitely be a children’s charity. I am continually appalled at the suffering and death of children throughout the world from war, terrorism, starvation, violence and malnutrition. This is a censure on us all because there are ample resources on the planet for everyone if they were more equally distributed and all this unnecessary suffering and death could be avoided if more enlightened decisions were made by our world leaders. There are heroic efforts being made by NGOs but their devoted work is only scratching the surface and they are constantly struggling to fund their vital aid programmes. They would get my million dollars.

When did you start writing books? Early or late?

I had a busy career in business and although I was writing a little for pleasure, it was when I retired that I began writing seriously. I didn’t plan it but one day while looking around for something to fill my new leisure time I spotted a little advertisement in my local newspaper for a ‘Creative Writing Course’ starting in our Community Hall. I enrolled for the ten week course and as they say, the rest is history. Twelve published books later, I can honestly say that seeing the little ad in the paper was a stroke of luck for me as it proved to be my key to a whole new world of wonderful pleasure.

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CHAT WITH ANGELICA KATE

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-4-42-56-pmAngelica Kate (pen name) writes contemporary and inspirational romances primarily, but occasionally likes to dabble in other genres. She is a lifetime scribbler who has always enjoyed writing as a release from the reality of life. In 2014 in keeping a promise to a friend that has since passed she published her first book Loving Abby through Amazon’s self-publishing tool and was bit by the bug. The feedback both positive and negative continues to propel her to hone her writing chops, and she still reads every review (even those that require a glass of wine to stomach). 

What is your latest book?

My most recent release is Out of Solitude, which is a story of two people that overcome horrifically tragic circumstances. Rather than make their stories highlight just the positive, this book was about a woman who blocked out the world after losing her children and a little girl who quit talking in response to losing her mother. Their meeting was the healing salve the other needed, and is a story of the triumph of the human spirit and victims who earn their happy ending.

outofsolitude

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

I do write under a pen name of Angelica Kate, which was a name that I thought lent itself well to romance writing and featured prominently my grandmother’s name of Kate whom I am actually named after, Angela Katherine.

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

I am an addict of good romance stories, with well-developed strong heroines, so this was a no-brainer when I started writing. I love a story of a woman rising above her circumstances and a man never overwhelms her story, but enhances it.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Yes, many of my characters and story lines are based on my own personal interactions. My friends and family members actually joke to each other how certain situations we are going through will end up in a book someday. I think the best writing has to have some baseline in real life for it to feel authentic, so many circumstances, people and event current events end up central to my books.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That they cannot get published and thus their work is sub par. I never tried the traditional route and now that I’m an indie author have no desire to do so in the future. Indie writers aren’t below average writers, but rather many times strong, determined writers in charge of their own destiny. They have conquered their goals and dreams every day to see their dreams of being published happen.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-4-36-50-pmHow often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Often! I allow my stories to develop organically as a journey through each book’s inception to publish date. My most surprising character development saw one of my main heroine’s actually die in a scene, and I remember stopping and out loud exclaiming how I couldn’t believe she died. My daughter looked at me and said, “Mom, you write the story and can change it.” I could not change the scene it would have not been true to the story, but I still can remember the shock of not seeing the happily ever after I came to expect of my main characters

discord5-01Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I write the book and then worry about editing. I need to get the story on paper and see where it is going, many times how I edit or the extent will be determined by the tone and texture of the story’s development.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Absolutely! Often my stories have been about domestic violence, murder and other current event themes. I have chosen not to focus on the monsters of these stories but rather give voices to the victims. Unfortunately, to provide a full canvas for these fabulous characters you need to pen the opposing forces and characters that made them the people they are in the story. I dislike have to channel the hate, despair and intent of these characters and find them the hardest to pen.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in Sarasota, Florida which is where I would live if I could be anywhere. After living in some big cities around the country for my career, and also in the Midwest to take care of family this was a decision we made last year for the beaches, weather and culture. I absolute adore this area, and cannot imagine every relocating anywhere else.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

When I was 30 my daughter who was six at the time, approached my sister about wanting to get me an awesome gift. Together they bought me this delicate sapphire necklace, that I treasure. The pure joy on her face when she gave it to me has always stayed with me every time I put it on.

Care to brag about your family?

I have two fabulous polar opposite children that I adore. My creative artist child has made me look at life with different lenses from the moment she came into the world. My youngest child is a math genius who challenges me every day and has made me an advocate for education and more equality for subjects I never knew I would come to care about. Without both of them balancing out my world, I’m not certain who I would be today. My husband the gentle force that allows me to be me along with a bevy of family that make up a unique list of characters in my own life, has definitely been both a blessing and curse in my world.

What makes you angry?

People who talk before they think. I try my hardest to know when I should say something, and when I need to walk away and give a subject more thought before vocalizing an opinion. We live in a world were too many people have become intolerant, and believe that freedom of speech is a right they own to hurt others around them. I would love to see a heap more tolerance in our society and people who find constructive solutions, rather than just boisterous opinion making.

What music soothes your soul?

 Country – especially the old crooning kind that tells a story. Sometimes just getting into the car and turning that style music on can dissolve an entire rough day in the span of a few minutes.

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

Big Bang Theory and Scorpion.

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

 Give your time to just one cause you believe in.

Find one person to be kind to, even if just saying good morning, each day.

Find a person who represents a cause you disagree with, and have a discussion with them on the topic. Really listen. Not to change your mind, but just to maybe understand more than you did before.

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CHAT WITH JENA C. HENRY

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Jena C. Henry is an active, high-energy gal who is a wife, mother, non-profit volunteer and bon vivant. She created the book series, The Golden Age of Charli, to encourage, entertain and share her joy of living and laughing. Jena C. Henry holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Akron School of Law. Now retired, she and her husband, Alan, live in tropical Ohio.

Jena presents writing workshops to help creatives achieve their dreams of writing a book and publishing it. When she is finished tidying her house, Jena likes to relax on her front porch and read and write. She enjoys fine dining, traveling to visit family, and lounging by lovely bodies…of water.

Time to chat with Jena!

Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes! Charli, my book character and I are creating The Golden Age of Charli series. The first two books in the series have been released. My third book is in the editing process and I have completed the first draft of book four and it is in the fermenting process. Yes, Charli, I will tell everyone what our books are about; they are not just your books. Our books are about finding happiness in the golden years of life. Charli learns that it takes lots of love and laughter to find the gold.

Jena C Henry books

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

 Having Charli interrupt me with her ideas? I agree, Charli, you have contributed some fun scenes and your adventure with your husband in Cancun was certainly crazy. The biggest challenge for me in writing a series is to keep track of the characters and places, so the names and features stay the same. Along with that, I must make sure that the timelines and continuity are accurate, and that the overall voice is the same. One thing that has surprised me is that my characters have wanted to grow and develop throughout the books. What? Excuse me, Charli? Ok, I understand what you are saying. Charli wants you to know that she did have a problem with her expanding girth in the second book. But Charli, I am not talking about growing heavier. I meant that you and Stewart have grown in your marriage relationship and in your interactions and even in your own personal goals and dreams.

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

Yes, I do. I decided to use a pen name because as a first-time author I thought it would be cool, that it would make me feel like a real writer. I also knew that I would be using social media, and I wanted to keep my personal accounts separate from my author accounts. My dog is adorable, but the world doesn’t need to see photos of her every day. That’s right, Charli you have a different name, too. Your given name is Charlotte, and your nickname is Charli, but that’s not the same as a pen name. It’s not.

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

“Wine saved my marriage”- Charli

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

 When I began writing my first book, I had a general idea of the story arc, and what would happen in each chapter. I wrote my manuscript and when I was done I realized it was about ten pages long. Even as a novice writer, I knew that a real book was longer than ten pages. I had to add more than story arcs, I had to create a world, and characters and their feelings and thoughts and joys and passions. The best part about writing a novel is weaving all of the threads into the tapestry and then making sure that when the finished side of the tapestry is revealed, the image is connected and complete and lovely. As far as least enjoyable, I struggle with all the grammar and punctuation rules!

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

I would say that I have never been blocked, in the sense of I sit down, stare and have nothing to write. But many times I will be writing and I will think, this scene needs something more, it’s boring. I am not having fun writing it and readers won’t like it either. The best thing for me to do in those situations is to go for a walk with my doggie. Moving, seeing the pooch leap and bound, waving to neighbors gets my creative gears and switches grinding and firing and when I get back- aha I know what to write!

A few weeks ago, I had the opposite problem- I couldn’t stop writing. I was almost finished with my manuscript. Then, I decided that I needed an additional chapter. So I wrote it. But the story didn’t want to end. I thought I would write another scene and that became a chapter as well. I wrote some more until the manuscript told me it was ok to finish. I felt like a marathon runner who makes it to the 26.2 mile-point only to find that the race is now 27.2 miles and upon running the additional mile, she still has to jog another mile.

What are some of the crazy things people have said to you upon learning you are an author? How have you responded?

Me, happily, “I’m an author!”

Person, incredulously, “Really?!”

Or the person might approach me and say:

“You know, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read your book, because I didn’t know if you knew how to write, but I did read it and I really liked it!”

My shaky response, “Thanks?”

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I meandered down the road to publication for forty-five years. I have always wanted to write a book. If you had invited me to a party at your chateau, I would have rushed up to you and every other writer, sloshing my wine, and said, “Oh, you’re an author. I have always wanted to write. Tell me all about it.” About two years ago, my husband said, “Honey, you keep saying you want to write a book. Well, you better start soon!” So I did. I spent a few weeks setting up my office. I bought cute paper clips, note pads and colorful pens and I hung an inspiring picture. One morning, it was time. I made a mug of coffee, coaxed the dog to lay at my feet, fired up the computer, opened up a blank template, experimented with fonts, and began to write a book-length document. I wasn’t sure if it would turn into a real book, but I wrote 1,000 words every day. After a few weeks, while I was clicking away, I used the online thesaurus. As I was looking at that site, an ad popped up, Are you writing a book? It was a sign. “Yes! Yes, I am writing a book!” I clicked on the ad and that’s how I found my self-publisher. I liked the company because they offered a full range of editing, design, and marketing services; they called it supported self-publishing. My dream came true and I lived happily ever after.

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

A year ago, when my first book in the series was published I thought, Social Media. Oh no, cue the lightening, scary organ music and falling chandelier! I signed up for individual training sessions with a PR/Marketing expert, through my self-publisher. She gave me a solid foundation and helped me get my platform started. I have a website, where I blog every week, and follow other bloggers. I also feature book reviews and book tours. I am active on Twitter and Facebook and I send a monthly email newsletter. I enjoy creating my posts and I use some programs to help me produce content and schedule posts. All of my followers have come organically. The friends I have made on Twitter and Facebook are priceless. I have a group of best friends and we share everything from gourmet popsicle recipes and inspiring quotes to marketing ideas. I have learned about other authors’ books and they have learned about mine. I met Lisette Brodey on Twitter!

My least favorite part is being followed by weird sex sites. I always block those!

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

Now they’re is a good question; many people have there own rules about grammar because their are many points to consider.

Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?

Yes, I do because they have taught me to be more kind, caring, and optimistic. I wrote my series The Golden Age of Charli to encourage and support my readers, who I think of as my friends. My goal was to share positive and helpful ways to have a rich life in all seasons, so I gave my characters the gifts of optimism, perseverance, thoughtfulness and love. I don’t always remember to focus on those traits myself, but I find that my characters remind me to live each day with gratitude and grace towards others. I ended up encouraging myself the most of all! Thanks, Charli, Stewart, and Sibby and all the rest!

If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.

Erma Bombeck. Erma found the humor in everyday life and she shared her wit and wisdom in a warm, straightforward, loving way. Who hasn’t been touched and encouraged by her story, When God Created Mothers? Here are some other nuggets of her wisdom; get ready to chuckle:

“Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” “Never have more children than you have car windows.”

I would like to have Erma’s ability to laugh at the small, ordinary yet wondrous things in life and be able to share her font of charity and compassion with others.

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

I would like to know how to use power tools so that I could build or fix things around the house. A cordless power drill, an impact driver, a miter saw, or how about a Sawzall- those are all cool! What would I build, Charli? Shelves? A gardening bench? A credenza?

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I want to get a tattoo. So now, whenever I am in a bistro or pub and the server or bartender has a tattoo, which they almost always do, I say to them, “Oh, I like your tattoo! Did it hurt to get it?” And they answer, “Yes!” so, that’s why I don’t have one yet. That’s a good idea, Charli. Maybe if we do it together, it won’t hurt as much.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?

How fast five years go by.

My short poem, “Thank You, Lisette”

I enjoyed my visit to your

Writer’s Chateau,

Thank you for the wine and the

chocolate gateau.

It was a pleasure to meet you and share what I know

Alas, now I must find my chapeau,

pack my portmanteau

and go!

Thank you, Jena! Delightful! I love it!

 

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CHAT WITH CARON KAMPS WIDDEN

Caron–Kamps_Widden

Caron Kamps Widden is the author of RESTORATION, a novel (2006 Hilliard & Harris) and THE LIES WE KEEP, a suspense novel (2015 Hilliard & Harris). She was an editorial assistant at ORANGE COAST MAGAZINE, a submissions reader at ZOETROPE: ALL-STORY, and ran a boutique business called, The Word Source. When writing, Caron enjoys exploring the complexities of family relationships. Her stories are rich in emotion and delve deep into the intricate dynamics of love and heartbreak. She is currently at work on her third novel. Born on the west coast, Caron has lived all over the country and in Belgium, but now calls western Connecticut home. She and her husband have three grown children and an adorable grandchild who they visit often.

What is your latest book?

My second novel, The Lies We Keep was released in October 2015. Set ten years after the tragedies of 9-11, the story follows Alex Gershom from New York City across the country to Sedona, Arizona, where he tends horses and works at a restaurant at night. While on a cigarette break in the alleyway, he notices a woman hiding in the shadows, a ghost from his past that sets in motion the long buried memories of the life he left behind.

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As a character-driven author, I really like the themes that you write about in your novels: the secrets people keep, the restoration of the human soul after tragedy, and much more. Do you find that you learn more about these topics through the process of writing about them? Will readers find any similar themes in future novels?

I definitely learn about human nature as I research and write. I learn from following my characters pathway, they show me who they are through their actions. I’m simply the medium for their stories. The idea for The Lies We Keep came from the notion of people who choose to disappear. Why do some people decide to walk away from their lives? Their families left to wonder if they are alive or dead. What would have to be so wrong for someone to walk away? There’s the obvious answers, financial trouble, crimes committed, abuse, addictions, avoiding fallout of some type. But what if there is no apparent reason? What went wrong inside that person? This is the story I was after with The Lies We Keep…these are the stories I’m always after.

In my first novel, Restoration, I asked myself the simple question, what would happen if life was going along just fine and in an instant everything changed when a man lost his wife, who happened to be the glue holding it all together? What would happen to him? Would he pull it together? Would he fall apart? I like to examine human pathos, the depth of emotional response to life’s tragedies, large and small. Why do some people pick up and move on so easily and others struggle to regain any sense of normalcy? Where does strength come from? Why are others so fragile? The more I write, the more I learn and the more I seem to be able to understand people. And yes, I’m sure I’ll be writing more on these themes.

Restoration

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

I write commercial/mainstream fiction, but some have suggested it leans toward literary fiction because of the depth of emotional content and the lessons learned by the characters. Others like to call my work, love stories, because there’s always love and heartbreak at the core. My most recent novel, The Lies We Keep is a suspense novel. I’m currently at work on a new novel that seems to fall under all of the above.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Every character is a compilation of people I have known, or know or even just see around town. It’s almost as if characters are created out of all my questions about life. Why is he so mean? Why does she talk so loud? What makes one person kinder and another cruel? I’m always wondering. And I’m always wandering! I’ve lived all over the country and in Europe and everywhere I go, people are basically the same. They want the same things. They may have different accents or speak another language, but for the most part, give or take a few lunatics along the way — everyone is after the same things. Security. Love — a good life. So yes, my characters are based on everyone I know and everyone I don’t know.

What else have you written?

For a while I was obsessed with writing super short pieces. Short-shorts. And verses. Poetry. I was never good at short stories. Although, I haven’t given up, I still try to write short stories. I have one in particular that I have revised over and over for the last seventeen years, never satisfied. I love reading short stories. Some authors are so good at telling a story in sparse, crisp detail. I’d love to be able to write that way. Like the story, Inventing The Abbotts by Sue Miller. Brilliant. I worked for a literary magazine in San Francisco called Zoetrope: All-Story. I would read through stacks and stacks of stories in the slush pile secretly hoping to learn more about the mysteries of short story. I’m still stunned when an author can take me in so deep, so quickly and finish up so fast leaving me totally satisfied. I’ve also written articles for town newspapers and was an editorial assistant writing restaurant reviews for a regional magazine. At one time, I had my own boutique business called The Word Source, and you name it, I wrote it – resumes, menus, and promotional ads, even medical transcription. When I was in the corporate world (payroll, accounting, and then sales), I also wrote the division newsletter. I guess you could say I’m always the writer. And I blog, like all authors are expected to these days, but in a run-on sentence type of way, as a way to break from the rules of prose. Oh, and I write killer love letters. But it’s novels I love to write most. That’s where my heart is happiest as a writer.

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

Everyday. When my husband comes home, I often say, “You’ll never guess what they did today.”

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love the total immersion of the novel. Becoming obsessed with the story, the characters, and the settings. But, I hate when my knees and wrists begin to hurt after I write too long.

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

Always in order — the characters drive the plot.

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

I always know the ending before I begin. I’ve listened to the characters for months before I sit down to write the story. There are surprises along the way, but I know where they are ultimately going. It’s almost as if I’m going back to the beginning to see how they got there. The title is important but I can start without it.

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

I write straight through on the first draft. Then Edit. Then Revise. Then edit, revise, and repeat until I’m satisfied.

After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?

I’m fortunate to have a few close folks who tell me when I’m off the path, and a great editor who wields a big, red pen with abandon. And I love and appreciate them all.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

You’ve heard it before, but it’s true. Read. Read. Read. This is the way you learn.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

You don’t want to hear my sad story! Let’s just pretend it was all fairy angels and pixie dust, and not hard work, determination, doors slammed in my face, a binder full of rejection letters and all those humiliatingly awful pitch sessions at writer’s conferences. No, it all happened in a beautiful dream. But seriously, I set goals for myself, I was polite and helpful and grateful to everyone and anyone who could point me in the right direction. I got involved, volunteered, took classes, joined writer’s groups, went to conferences, read at least forty books a year, worked for free in publishing to learn about the industry, and finally, when I was ready, I called myself an author, gave myself a five year deadline to write my first novel, find an agent and land a contract with a publisher. I met that five-year deadline by pushing myself, and others (politely) to be in the right place at the right time, by staying active and searching out every lead. You have to be your own advocate. You have to believe in yourself, and in your work. Successful authors create a great product, market and sell that product and are always setting new goals. Successful doesn’t necessarily mean bestselling. Being true to yourself, going after your dreams, and being realistic will keep you in the game. And here’s the biggest way to get published — just be nice. Believe it or not, having good manners goes a long way in the publishing industry.

What do you like best about the books you read?

I love books that stay with me long after I’ve read them.

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

I knew early in life I wanted to be an author. I loved wandering the stacks at the library and visited the bookmobile every week at the park near my house growing up. There’s nothing better than getting lost in the pages of a good book and I wanted to do the same thing, write those kinds of books.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in a quintessential New England village about an hour north of New York City. After living in thirteen different cities in thirty years, my husband and I struggle to figure out where we will retire. There are so many places we love. But if we had to move again, and it wasn’t a transfer for my husband’s work, I’d probably want to move closer to our three adult children. And luckily, they live in really cool places.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Automobiles. Always love a good road trip. It’s the only time I eat candy bars from gas stations.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

I’d hang out at the White House. With an invisible pen and notebook.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My husband and three children, they’re the gift that keeps giving.

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

To hit a homerun, as in — be athletic.

What music soothes your soul?

Classical. (And okay, Adele)

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

Stay calm. Tell the truth. Be kind.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Walking in nature. Babies laughing. Church bells. Fresh flowers. Big hugs. Warm baths. Clean sheets. Train stations. Sunny days. First snow. Waves breaking. Sunset.

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CHAT WITH LYNDA RENHAM

 

Lynda_RenhamLynda Renham has been writing for as long as she can remember and had her first work published in a magazine at age nine and has continued writing in various forms since. She has had several poems published as well as articles in numerous magazines and newspapers. Recently she has taken part in radio discussions on the BBC. She has studied literature and creative writing and has a blog on her web page: www.renham.co.uk Lynda lives with her second husband and cat in Oxfordshire, England. She is Associate Editor for the online magazine The Scavenger and contributor to many others. When not writing Lynda can usually be found wasting her time on Facebook.

Time to chat with Lynda!

What is your latest book?

I have two new books out at present. A Romantic Comedy which is the normal genre I write and also a romantic series. The comedy is titled Perfect Weddings and the romance series are titled A Village Romance and A Summer Romance.

Perfect_Weddings

Is your recent book part of a series?

A Village Romance and A Summer Romance are part of a series named ‘Little Perran.’

A_Summer_Romance

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

I write The Little Perran romance series under the name Amy Perfect. I did this to differentiate the series from my usual romantic comedy books. They are more romantic in style to the comedy novels.

Village_Romance

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

I chose to write romantic comedy after my contemporary romance novels didn’t sell.

I had a severe migraine and watched The Holiday movie to take my mind off things. I then wondered if it were possible to write a feel good novel. I wrote Croissants and Jam, which sold very well and I’ve never looked back. I rather think the genre chose me.

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

Oh often. It’s what I like most about writing. The character Birdie in A Village Romance and A Summer Romance, took me totally by surprise though. I really wasn’t expecting what happened to her. You’ll have to read the book to find out what, of course.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

Truthfully I enjoy the ending and the promotion. I truly find writing very hard. It seems to flow but it really is agony and I’m sure many writers would say that. I’m also a terrible procrastinator so when the end comes I’m ecstatic that I even got that far. How I have written eleven novels in just four years never ceases to amaze me. I’m that much of a procrastinator.

After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?

Yes, this has happened to me. I re-read the novels so many times when I’m writing that I reach that point where I am convinced the whole thing is rubbish. My husband is my fiercest critic and is the first to read and edit my work. He keeps me grounded and tells me when it is good. I trust his judgement and allow it to over- ride my own.

What have you done to market your novel and what did you find the most effective? The least effective?

I used to do a lot of marketing. I would promote the books on social media. Contact online book reviewers and so on. I spent more time promoting than I did writing. Then these past weeks I have been ill and could not do anything really except lay around and feel sorry for myself. The book sold loads without me doing anything which made me wonder if promotion actually does anything. I think you maybe need to do it when you start out but after that I think it doesn’t make much difference. After all tweets disappear so fast and there are only so many people who see your posts on Facebook. I think the best thing a writer can do is write good books.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

Accept it for what it is, simply someone’s opinion which is to be expected if you put yourself out there. Having said that some reviews are unacceptable and I have experienced some horrid reviews but these have been written by an online stalker and have been removed by Amazon. So, if an author feels a review is truly objectionable then one should contact Amazon. Otherwise I think it best to overlook the bad review and simply plod on and remember the good reviews.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

Oh yes, too much. I feel like I have permanent writers block. I would like to give advice on getting round it but the truth is I have no easy answers. I tend to continue writing no matter what. I like to think that somewhere in the rubbish there is a little bit of gold and that I can work with that.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in a small village in the Cotwolds in Oxfordshire, England. Everyone knows everyone and we spend a lot of time going to village activities. I love it. At Christmas we have lots of party invitations. I love being part of a village and write about village life in my Little Perran series.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Chocolate is my comfort food. I adore it. I hate cabbage. Always have.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I used to have a terrible stutter.

What makes you angry?

Foolish people.

What music soothes your soul?

Classical music and Adele

 

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