CHAT WITH DIONNE LISTER

DionneListerDionne Lister is an author, editor, co-host of Tweep nation podcast and lives in Sydney with her husband and two sons. She is almost finished a creative writing degree and is working on the second book in her epic fantasy series. Dionne loves sharing her stories but wishes they wouldn’t keep her awake at night.

She has recently published a humorous women’s fiction under the name of Eloise March. Close Call is the first in the series and is also a standalone novella.

Time to chat with Dionne!

What is your latest book?

Shadows of the Realm, an epic fantasy ideal for adults and teens.

SOTR

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

Yes, how did you know? I’ve been asked to sit on a panel at the NSW Writers Centre’s Speculative Fiction Festival on 16th March. I’ll be talking about my experiences with self-publishing. It’s an honour because all of the authors attending are some of the best traditionally published fantasy authors in Australia like Kate Forsyth (the festival’s organizer) and Ian Irvine. I was shocked to be invited and I can’t wait.

Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes. I’m working on the sequel and I am hoping (and by that I mean madly typing and praying) that it will be out by the end of March, 2013.

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

Psst, wanna buy some dragons?

What else have you written?

I’ve written a collection of short stories called Dark Spaces. They’re all suspenseful and involve intense emotions. There may even be a psycho or two in there as well.

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

That we don’t take the business seriously. Unfortunately it’s true for a lot of us (there’s no smoke without fire) but I’m studying writing at university, have my books edited and I’ve had professional covers done for my fantasy series. I want to put out the best books I can and I plan to be doing this for a long time.

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

A lot. The worst is when you find out a character you love is going to die. I had tears in my eyes last time they dropped that on me.

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

I love writing the first draft and I hate it from the third edit onwards. I don’t enjoy it again until I get the cover and press ‘publish’.

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

I never know the title until the book is finished. I was racing to find one for my first book because the cover art was ready and they were waiting on me to give them the title. The one I’m currently half way through writing is nameless and I hope to think of a name before the cover is done lol. I don’t always know how the book will end, as I write as I go, but I do know the ending of the current book and the end of the series.

CloseCall

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’m an editor by profession so I sometimes edit as I go. It’s painful and slows the process so I have to remind myself to stop and keep writing. Before I was an editor I was more free to write and wait till the book was finished before I did any editing.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Have patience, know that after the tenth rejection you’ll get used to it, learn the craft – good writers are ones who learn, practice and take legitimate criticism on board. Don’t ask someone for feedback then argue about it. Remember that reading is a subjective pastime and that not everyone will love your work so it’s best to get over it quickly and move on. And remember that you write because you love it.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I wrote Shadows of the Realm about nine years ago. I had it critiqued, worked on it a bit and sent it out to publishers (this is in a time before digital publishing was around). I finally realised, after a ton of rejections, that my writing needed work and I was not going to be the next squllionaire best-seller (surprise, surprise). Two years ago I started a creative writing degree and a year ago I had my book edited, went through it about eight times, employed an artist to do the cover and then self-published. I have no regrets.

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

I love that I’ve met so many awesome, encouraging writers who have helped me get where I am. If it weren’t for those people I would have no blog and wouldn’t be self-published. What I don’t like is that I love chatting and I get stuck on there too often. It’s like a giant magnet and I’m a helpless iron filing; I just can’t get away. If it weren’t for social media I wouldn’t be published, but I would have written three more books lol.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I love poetic prose that has me saying I wish I could write like that, and in-depth characters. I also like humour (when it’s called for) and writing that allows me to escape.

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

He, he, none. I chose to write epic fantasy not only because I loved it, but also because there is no research involved. It’s my world and you can’t tell me it’s wrong.

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 have a friend who offered to beta read and she is always waiting for the next installment so I’m letting her read it and I’ve told some of my secrets to another author friend too (I just can’t help myself). I get so excited when I’m writing that I just want everyone to see it.

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

Every time someone loves it and has great things to say, I get excited as if it were the first time. I’m surprised because even though I love my book, it doesn’t mean anyone else will and it’s such a thrill when I know someone has enjoyed something I’ve done.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I write short stories and flash fiction. I find with flash fiction I can get emotions out in a hurry and it tends to be intense

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

I was born to write. As a child in primary school, one of my teachers wrote, “Dionne is a daydreamer,” on my report card. It was meant as a negative criticism but now I look back and laugh and think, “Yay, I’m a daydreamer.”

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?

Oh my God yes! Synopsiseseses (oops) suck (can I say suck, here?). I hate them and they are evil. How do you squish a whole novel into a paragraph or even a page? You’re supposed to write the relative exciting bits, but to an author, all their book is exciting and of course, it never sounds as good as you know the book is ;).

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

Hmm, that’s a tough one. Maybe my dad’s life because he was born in a village in Cyprus (he’s Greek) and his mother used to get angry at him and he’d have to sleep up a tree to avoid getting a beating, and of course he always complains how he never had shoes.

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

I’d say do both at the same time. There is no penalty for being self-published nowadays. When I started (9 years ago) it was the kiss of death and was called ‘vanity publishing’. Now you have the opportunity to have people actually read your book, which is really all we writers want (not to say that fame and fortune isn’t desirable). At the same time, if you do it right, you can attract the attention of publishers and agents. Harper Voyager is a prime example of the industry taking notice of self-published writers. They had an open submission for writers without agents and although not everyone who submitted had self-published, it shows they know there is potential out there. If I hadn’t self-published, Kate Forsyth would never have asked me to sit on the panel and who knows what will come out of that? At the very least, more people will know who I am and that I have a book out there.

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

Hmm, now where to start? Hours and hours every day on social media—Twitter, Facebook and to a lesser extent Goodreads and Google+. You have to build relationships and respect so people know you are producing a good product. Your friends are the ones who help spread the word on their blogs when your book comes out or if you have a sale (you, of course, will do the same for them). I also gave out maybe six or seven free copies in exchange for HONEST reviews at the beginning. I figured I needed to know the truth and if it happened to be that people liked the book I could keep going, and if not, I would have to look at trying to improve it.

I’ve tried Facebook ads, which did NOT work—they got me plenty of page likes but no sales. I ran an ad on Bookbub for my latest sale and it was a massive success. Shadows of the Realm reached #610 paid overall on Amazon and #1 in two categories. It worked because I already had some good reviews and the cover was well done. If you don’t have a good cover or a certain amount of 4 and 5 star reviews, a lot of the places who advertise won’t approve the ad (again it comes down to being professional).

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

My latest one is my baby and I love it.

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?

Lol! I’m smiling (I think I must be cruel). The first few criticisms will sting like you’ve been slapped across the face with a wet fish and the pain might last for a few days, but then you toughen up and go about your day. Everyone has an opinion and their own taste so you have to respect that and not get offended. I think the bad reviews hurt less if you have confidence in your work. The reverse is when everyone is saying the same thing. Maybe they’re saying the book has too many typos or grammar errors—take that seriously because if you haven’t put out the best product you are ripping off your customers and they have every right to get snarky. You are also helping to give indie authors a bad name.

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

I did a couple of small giveaways and I received reviews from every winner so yes, it is a great way to promote your book.

Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program? If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?

No I haven’t and I don’t believe in giving books away for free or exclusivity. The disliking of the free thing is not because I think my work is so precious, but so many people give away free books that readers have e-readers stuffed with 500 free books that they may never read. In my opinion, if the reader has paid for the book they are more likely to read it because they have invested something in it already. I understand it can get an author more readers but it’s not something I’m interested in doing.

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

Music is a must, although I can write without it, but I like that it creates a mood. I start writing at about 10.30 am (after I’ve had 2 coffees) and write on and off until about 10 pm. I have to fit writing in with looking after two kids, a university degree and editing work.

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 book cover is just as important as what’s inside. When I grew up I loved to see what the covers would be in my favourite series and I know I was disappointed with some of the covers done for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I think especially with fantasy there is an expectation of dramatic covers that capture the spirit and feel of the world you’ve created. I employed Sydney artist Robert Baird to do my first cover, and soon I’ll be working with him on the cover of my next book. It’s the best money I ever spent.

Every day brings forth new changes and shifts in the world of publishing. Any predictions about the future?

I wish I knew. I’m hoping there is some middle ground where professional indie authors are more easily found by the buying public. I would like to see the big publishers stay around because most of the time they set a standard we should all be following in terms of editing and putting out good material. I would hate for readers to read so much bad writing that it becomes the expected and accepted norm. I do think publishers are recruiting books from the ranks of indie authors and I think we may be taken more seriously in the future.

How would you define your style of writing?

I actually write in different styles for fantasy as opposed to my short stories. My writing is more descriptive in my fantasy novels and more economical with the short stories because of the settings and subject matter. I like to use evocative words and create an intense mood as well as in-depth characters. I don’t use a lot of big words and hope it’s writing that anyone can enjoy.

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

Not yet. I may change my mind when my fantasy series is finished, but I still get to spend every day with them.

Have you ever wished that you could bring a character to life? If so, which one and why?

Sinjenasta is a giant panther in Shadows of the Realm. He is strong, cynical and loving and of course very cuddly with big floppy paws. I’d definitely love to have him around.

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?

They are very important because it gives other readers an idea of what to expect from your book. It also matters for your Amazon ranking which, if you rank highly enough, helps boost sales. But I understand that some people don’t feel confident to write a review, or maybe they feel they don’t have time. I guess if it’s something you’ve never done you might feel shy about doing it. But readers, if you love a book (or hate it enough to warn others), please consider doing a review, even something simple. I had one of the most wonderful reviews the other day and it was two sentences. A lady just wrote that she really enjoyed reading it with her son and they thought it was great and a lot of fun.

Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?

No, but I have with short stories. I’ll have a character and a setting and nothing else and start writing. The stories write themselves sometimes. When that happens it’s always a great feeling.

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

I’d stand next to people and whisper, “Shadows of the Realm by Dionne Lister. It’s the best book ever. Go and buy it.”

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

My husband used to make surfboards when he was young, and even after he had moved on to other work, he made one for me for my birthday and it was a total surprise. Surfing is something I did before kids lol.

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

I’d be a better artist. I love to draw and paint but it doesn’t come as naturally as writing.

What makes you angry?

Oh wow, there are so many things *snickers*. I get angry when people walk behind my car when I’m reversing out of a parking spot (those little white lights aren’t there for decoration) and I also get angry when people dent my car with their doors at the shops and don’t leave a note (you know who you are, and karma is gonna get you).

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

Stick up for what you believe is right and support those asking for equality, try not to judge people because you don’t know where they’ve been or how they got to where they are, do something nice for someone because it not only makes you feel good, but spreads happiness and goodwill.

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CHAT WITH BRENDA SORRELS

BrendaSorrels

Brenda Sorrels is a writer who grew up in Fargo, ND and attended Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY.  She now lives in Dallas with her family, including small dog, Charlotte – and spends summers writing in Connecticut.

Time to chat with Brenda!

What is your latest book?

The Bachelor Farmers, an historical love story set in Northern Minnesota in the winter of 1919.

Is your recent book a part of a series?

No, it’s not part of a series, but there will be a sequel.

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

The Bachelor Farmers – a love story to fall in love with!

What else have you written?

I’ve been writing short stories for many years, but this is my first published novel.

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

I think the biggest misconception is that the quality of the writing is not up to the level of traditionally published writers. This is changing fast. Many Indie writers, (just like all writers) are working very hard to become better at their craft. They’re having their work professionally edited, and are serious about taking it to the next level. In a way I think Indie writers are harder workers because they almost always must do everything themselves…this includes writing intros, synopses, bios, inside covers, back-of-book content, questions for discussion – you name it. Plus, they must promote themselves with very little help.

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

Great question. This happened a few times in The Bachelor Farmers which was a big part of how the story developed. I don’t want to give away the plot, but when I was certain one of the characters would not act a certain way, I switched the action to his brother and it became a huge twist in the story. I try to think out my characters ahead of time, but as you write they develop and sometimes go in directions you could not possibly have imagined. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about writing which leads into your next question:

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

The character development is definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of writing for me. There are always surprises around the corner! You have the story line going one way and then suddenly you realize that one of your characters would never do that…so you have to adjust and make some changes. They end up going in another direction which causes other things to happen.

I also really love the beginning when you have an idea and you must flesh it out.  I usually do an outline first, then write a short story.  If there’s enough there, and I love it, I will think about expanding it.  Right now I have several short stories that I think would make wonderful novels.

I love all of it really, but if I had to pick something I enjoyed the least it would be spending a lot of time writing a scene or say, an ending and realizing it doesn’t work, then having to scratch it and start all over again.  It’s a lot of work and very time-consuming!

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

I believe this is different for every writer or maybe I should say may be different for every book. For The Bachelor Farmers, I had the title in my mind well ahead of time. I just liked it and it triggered the story for me, though there was a lot of discussion in the end. Some people in my inner circle thought it could have been misleading, that people would associate it with old men in overalls, rather than young, hunky Norwegian brothers! I love the title and am glad I hung in there and kept it. The ending was changed a few times. I remember at one point having the entire book, but no ending. It took a few months to iron that out. Like I said before, I wrote a couple of endings before I was happy.

5969178BC_Front Cover

For my upcoming book, The Way Back ‘Round, I had no title for awhile and then my editor came up with it and I knew it was perfect.

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 work with my editor during the entire process of writing, so I would say I edit excessively as I write. I will do a first draft and when I’m ready I’ll give it to Margaret Doud, my friend and editor. She’ll read it and give me notes. I’ll redo it, add scenes, expand, change things, etc. on and on. We go back and forth like this until the changes we’re handing off fade away. You could actually fiddle with a book forever. At some point you must declare it “finished” and move on.   It takes many months and rewrites to get to that point.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

I wrote a small article for my blog which anyone can read on my website called  How I Wrote a Book. Here are some of the highlights: Start thinking of yourself as a writer, create a sacred space, write every day, take a writing class, write a messy first draft, try a short story first, find an editor, find a publisher. All of these things are important. You must think you’re a writer to become one…that’s key. After that, find the discipline to sit down and get the words on paper…if you can get this far I would also add…don’t send your work out too early. This is a huge mistake that most of us have made. You must edit and rewrite and edit and rewrite. Most of the work is really in the rewrite. I would also caution new writers to be careful who they share their work with. When you’re first starting out, you’re very fragile and almost no one hits a home run the first time to bat. Find someone you can work with who believes in your work. Be gentle with yourself and have patience!

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

I have had a lot to learn with social media. I didn’t realize how time consuming it would be and how much work it is to keep up with it. Because I am in the middle of writing another book I’ve had to make some serious choices about how much time I devote to social media. I decided to cut back quite a bit because I wanted to get back to my writing. This is one of the problems with being an indie writer!

I understand now that social media really is about building relationships and interacting with people. Right now I devote my time to Facebook, my book page there, my blog, my reading group on Shelfari and reviews I do for Goodreads, guest blogs and interviews like this one. I also do some Twitter and  Linkedin.

Favorite part is meeting wonderful people.  Least favorite is the time it takes!

What do you like best about the books you read?  What do you like least?

I like books best when they are well written, portray characters with dimension and have interesting plots. I love it when characters are developed as much as possible. I just read an interview with the creator of Downton Abbey and he said he thinks a big part of the show’s success is that even the minor characters are fully fleshed out. If you watch that series you’ll see it is true! I also love books that have a strong sense of place which I think is very true for The Bachelor Farmers. A story that engages all of the senses as much as possible.  I like books where things happen.

I dislike bad writing, but I might excuse it (a bit) if the story itself is really good.  I don’t like a lot of gratuitous anything… violence, bad language etc. I am really sensitive to anything regarding animals and hate cruelty, even a little. I didn’t enjoy the book Like Water For Elephants because of this reason.  I don’t read a lot of fantasy or sci-fi, though I know some of it can be really good and a lot of fun.  I don’t like stories that take place in someone’s mind or are too psychological. I prefer stories to be a little more concrete. I also don’t like books that are too stylistic, where the writer is trying too hard with the language.

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

I’d been writing a lot of short stories and I had it in my mind that I wanted to make one of them a love story that would be set in very beautiful place. A sense of place to me is important and is a huge part of this book. I have a large extended family and on my mother’s side (15 kids in her family) I had two uncles that were ranch hands, farmers, who never married. The concept stuck with me because it was so odd. When we think of farms we always think of families. When we think of bachelor farmers we think of old guys in overalls, but I wanted to make these bachelor farmers young and hunky – which I did. Ironically, these boys love horses and horses ended up playing a significant role in the story, especially at the end. Many Norwegians settled in ND and MN and so I thought of Northern Minnesota, and I began to research that area.  I did a lot of research on line, but I also found the Voices of America books on ND, MN, Pioneer Women, Cass County and several others were great. A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean was one of my favorites for the ambiance and feel of the forest, etc.  The Haymakers by Steven Hoffbeck, Spirit of the North and The Lonely Land by Sigurd Olson, Tales of Spirit Mountain by Anne Crooks.  I also read countless articles on how the land up north was settled, who lived there and what happened. The Native Americans at the time, the Ojibwa, were in and amongst the Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Danes, and French Traders – and the logging business was thriving. All of this played into the story. Mahal, a beautiful half-Ojibwa woman is hired as the brothers’ cook when her abusive husband is injured in a logging accident.

Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer?  If so, what is it?

Yes, what is my new book about?

The Way Back ‘Round is a story of family and friendship, of a boy who makes an innocent, but terrible choice that haunts him for the rest of his life.

The story begins in the summer of 1937, rural Minnesota, when twelve-year-old Jake Frye breaks a promise to his parents that results in a tragedy that shatters his close-knit family. Unable to face his guilt, Jake hops a freight train joining thousands of other depression-era men and boys riding the rails. Fate brings him together with another boy named Franz and they form a friendship as close as brothers.

As they journey through “jungle” camps pitched along the routes to picking fruit in California, cotton in Texas, a Roosevelt Conservation Corps Camp for itinerant men and WWII – they face the ultimate challenge. Will they survive the cold hungry life on the road or be killed by one of the brutal “Bulls” who patrol the tracks? Will Franz ever marry the red-headed girl he dreams about? Will Jake ever see his family again?

As challenges are met, Jake learns what it takes to survive in an unfair world, what it means to forgive and ultimately what it means to love. Themes of friendship and family, loss and guilt weave through the story and reinforce the truth that our lives are shaped by the choices we make.

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?

As I mentioned before I work very closely with my editor through the entire process. I also have a group of what I call my “Core Readers.” These are very smart, literary friends who like to read and will give me their feedback. I give different people different drafts at different times. It all depends on how I’m feeling or what I want to know.

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

Yes, some of the reactions and feedback has surprised me.  I was surprised at how people got attached to certain characters and why. Some people mentioned the sadness and their feelings for different things that happened. It surprised me because I hadn’t given much thought to people’s reactions, etc. I just wrote the story that was inside of me. I imagine I’ll have many more surprises down the line.

Do you write anything besides novels?  Care to share?

I write a lot of short stories as I’ve mentioned.  I also write a blog every month and post it on my website.

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

I have always loved writing though as a child it was letter writing, journaling, pen pals, etc. I developed a real love for it in college but didn’t start taking workshops until years later when I was married. I got really serious around eight years ago and have been going strong ever since.

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?

I will admit that it’s not one of my favorite things to do.  It’s one of the most difficult things to write, but I also think it is invaluable in helping a writer articulate to other people what their book is about.

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

This is amazing because I was just thinking about this the other day. I would like to write a book on what it takes to be a good step-mom. I’ve been married for 13  years and have two wonderful stepdaughters. I’d like to share my experience.  Most of the times stepmoms get a bad rap and I’d like to write a book about how being a stepmom can be a rich and rewarding experience.

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

I believe that this really depends on the writer. If you have the time and patience to pursue the traditional route, it’s probably worth giving it a try. It would be wonderful to have help with promotion, publicity, etc. though for new writers, I’m told publishing companies don’t really do that much. It’s not an easy route either way, I think. Traditional publishing takes a lot of the writer’s income unless you land a huge book deal somewhere. Indie publishing is growing and you have more control over your destiny. If you go the traditional route you must find an agent  (this could take forever!) They then, have to sell your book to the publisher (this could take forever) and then who knows when or if they will ever publish it. If you’re very young and have years and years before you, it could be worth it. If you’re impatient and want to do your own thing, there are so many choices now – it’s really quite wonderful.

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

Another great question!  I’ve done as much as I can via social media.  I’ve tried all of it, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Amazon Boards, Goodreads, Shelfari, Pinterest on and on. I wish I had time to do more. This is by far, the biggest challenge I am facing right now. Getting people to review the book, leave reviews on Amazon and other places, etc. has been the most important thing and I believe has helped me the most. I’ve decided to cut back and do the things I enjoy doing, because I need my time to keep writing. Right now Facebook is the biggest thing for me and I’ve been able to connect with some great people like you! I’ve gotten into Pinterest too and love it. I matched photographs with dialogue from the book, so it’s like looking at a small movie. Really fun! I think it helps to do interviews like this one and anything else that comes your way, book clubs, book fairs, etc. Anything at all to get the word out. All of these things present an enormous challenge to time management, so you have to pick and choose the ones you enjoy and the ones that will give you the biggest amount of momentum.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

It is because this is my first published novel, but I’m also really excited about The Way Back ‘Round which I hope to have out within the next couple of months.

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

Take what they say and if something rings true for you like – how to improve your writing, do it in the next book. Otherwise try not to think about it and move on…keep going. Understand that not everyone is going to like everything you write.

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

Yes, I think giveaways are fantastic!  I’ve done several and people love them.  I would definitely recommend doing as many as you can handle.

Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program?  If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?

I’ve never been involved with Kindle Direct.

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

I do my best work at night. I’m not a morning person at all. I like to get up and get all of my errands out of the way for the day. Once I sit down at my desk I do not like to be disturbed and I can go until all hours of the night. That’s what I enjoy most about writing in Connecticut. It’s quiet and there are few disturbances. An afternoon cup of coffee or tea is nice and sometimes at night when I’m winding down, a glass of wine. I like to do a final read-through after a day’s work with a glass of wine. It makes me sleepy and when I’m done, I’m ready to head back for the night!

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?

I place a huge amount of importance on the cover design. This is the first meeting people will have with your book. If they are not attracted to the cover, they may not even pick it up. I don’t think you can spend too much time designing the cover. I spent hours and days searching for the perfect photograph for my book cover. I love the cover and never tire of looking at the image. I’ve also had many people comment on how much they love the cover. I would say take your time…do all that you can do to make it perfect.

Every day brings forth new changes and shifts in the world of publishing.  Any predictions about the future?

I think that indie publishing is going to keep moving into the mainstream and will continue to gain respect as more and more indie authors are discovered.  I also think there will be more electronic reading…the trends that are happening now will continue. However, I also believe that there will always be a desire for real books. There is nothing like the feel of a real book in your hands. I love my Kindle but I also love my books…books warm up a room, they make you feel good, you can write in the margins and pick them up and turn them over, give them as gifts. There will always be people who feel like this.  I think there will always be people who will gravitate to the small bookstores too.  Some small bookstores will make it, others won’t…but I don’t believe they will ever die out altogether. At least I hope not!

How would you define your style of writing?

I am extremely visual and I think of my writing as descriptive with a lyrical quality to it.

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?

For a reader who doesn’t think reviews are important, I would argue that many times it is one of the only tools that potential readers have to help them find a new book. Unless someone recommends it to you or you read about it somewhere, how are you going to find out about what a book is about? Reviews help the writer get the word out about their work, but it’s also extremely helpful to go to new readers to help them not waste time and money on something they will not like, etc. It helps readers as much as writers. As writers, we are going to have to keep emphasizing this to our friends and readers. If you want to help a writer, there is no better way than to leave them a good review on one of the social media sites.

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

I live in Dallas, Texas now but grew up in Fargo, North Dakota then headed east for college. After graduating from Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, I worked in NYC as an editor for Mademoiselle Magazine. I moved to Wilton, Connecticut with my first husband and lived there most of my adult life. My first husband died suddenly at a young age, and I decided Los Angeles would be a great place to start anew. I ended up working for the Fox Broadcasting Company in National Media, where we promoted the shows that ran on the Fox Network.  Movies and storytelling is what LA is all about, and it was here that my interest in writing really began to take shape. For the next five years, I took countless classes through the UCLA Extension program on storytelling, character development, script analysis, etc. However, I missed the change of seasons, my house, the beauty of Connecticut and eventually moved back east.

Eventually, I married Barry Sorrels, my college boyfriend (he went to Columbia University in NYC) and moved to Texas.  I live in Dallas now with my husband and small dog, Charlotte. I have two step-daughters who are grown but are a big part of my life. I like to return to Wilton to write, especially over the summer months when it’s too hot in Texas. If I ever had to move again, it would be back to Connecticut I’m sure.

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

If I could add a dream room to my house I would add a very personal writing space, cozy but not too small either. I’d have floor to ceiling bookshelves with all of my favorite books…a couple large windows, a fireplace, a large desk, my favorite pictures hanging on the walls…a special spot for my small dog, Charlotte.

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

I think we could make the world a better place if we all slowed down a bit.  Everyone I know, including myself, is always short on time or rushing to get somewhere or do something. Our culture could take a few lessons from the Europeans…longer vacations, more time off for family, etc. If we slowed the pace I think we’d become more tolerant of one another. We’d be more likely to know who our neighbors are and to get involved if they need help. On the other hand I also believe that people are basically good and in some ways things are better than they used to be. There is a lot more opportunity out there for writers and anyone willing to work hard to make their dreams a reality.

I think the world would be a better place if we went back to some of the core values of our grandparents’ era. Less materialism and more emphasis on what’s really important in life, like the intangibles…time spent with a loved one, caring for a pet, growing a garden, picking flowers, reading a child a book, saying a prayer now and then…all of the lessons that come from the countless things in our everyday lives that we take for granted.

I think the world would be a better place if every person lived consciously,  (In fact, I just wrote a blog about this very subject!)  if they thought about their own imprint on the planet and what it means for themselves and other people. I think more people would take the time to recycle and show concern for environmental  issues – the quality of our air, the state of our oceans, forests, the animals and other people around the world. The good news is that there are a lot of people out there who are thinking about the way they live and getting more involved in their communities, etc.  If everyone did their part, it would make a huge difference.

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CHAT WITH MOLLY RINGLE

 

 

Molly Ringle has been writing stories since middle school, and especially likes creating fiction about love, humor, and frequently the paranormal. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, because a climate without rain would make her sad.

MollyRingleTime to chat with Molly!

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

It got off to a slow start, with years and years of rejections, nibbles that ended up going nowhere, and publication by small houses that soon went out of business. But finally in 2008 The Wild Rose Press accepted my manuscript, The Ghost Downstairs. Hurray! My experience with that press was so positive that I decided to approach another small press (Central Avenue Publishing) two years later for one of my YA titles, What Scotland Taught Me. The editors there have turned out to be wonderful and attentive too, and we’re now talking together about my next novel, a YA paranormal based in Greek mythology.

MollyScotland

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I like novels that bring a setting alive for me, and have lovable characters who feel real. Moments of humor are always appreciated, as well as fresh ways of phrasing things; and, of course, a plot that makes me want to keep reading. Accordingly, books I dislike tend to feature anything that bores me or pulls me out of the moment: info dump (“the author did a lot of research and is going to make you pay for it”), characters who are flat or annoying or who don’t lift a finger to get themselves out of scrapes, and clunky phrases or excessive clichés.

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

One type of research I did with both What Scotland Taught Me and Relatively Honest was to employ Britpickers. I’ve been to the UK, but my memory isn’t perfect, and neither is Internet research. So I sent the manuscripts to British friends and begged them to fix the dialects, the setting details, anything they could catch. And I’m glad I did, because they all caught things I never would have guessed were wrong.

MollyRelativelyHonest

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?

When I was a teenager, I used to have my sister and friends read my works in progress. But these days I feel more comfortable composing a semi-decent complete draft before unveiling it to others. I tend to feel first drafts are not to be seen. I do my own first round of fixes and edits before even letting the beta readers see it. If nothing else, I don’t want to make everyone tired of the story before it’s even officially done. For my upcoming YA paranormal, I have posted occasional small excerpts to show people what I’m up to–just a few lines here and there. I’m hoping those serve as teasers or appetizers, making people curious to read it later. But even posting those made me a bit nervous.

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

It interests me when some readers hate the protagonists and others love them. This has happened most dramatically with both What Scotland Taught Me and Relatively Honest. The teen narrators for those books make a lot of ethically dubious decisions, which I knew would pose problems for some readers. And indeed, for the Scotland novel, some hate Eva (the narrator) while loving Laurence (another main character); but others ended up feeling vice-versa. And with Relatively Honest, I’ve had some people say narrator Daniel is loathsome scum, while I’ve had others say he’s lovely and tame and adorable. What I’m hoping this means is I’ve created actual three-dimensional characters with many facets, just like real people

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

Parodies, mainly. I find it funny to condense a whole movie or book into a ridiculously short format (say, a few pages), which alone is amusing, but which I augment by cracking jokes along the way. I’ve done this for several of the Harry Potter books, and the Lord of the Rings films, as well as the unabridged Les Misérables (they’re all available on my website), and people seem to like them. Despite my laughs at the expense of these films/books, I only write parodies for material I honestly like. I wouldn’t bother spending that much time and effort for something I didn’t like.

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

Perfume. It’s one of my main hobbies and biggest non-literature-related loves. Scents fascinate me because of how closely they’re tied to our emotions and memories, and perfume is the art form of the scent world. So when it’s well done, it makes me swoon. Plus it involves a lot of science, and science is sexy.

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?

Just don’t answer it. Anything you say will call attention to it. Silence is the best revenge. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll have fans come to your defense with their own outrage, which is always satisfying.

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?

I love my covers, because I’ve been very lucky: both of my publishers asked for my input on what I’d like the covers to look like, then employed graphic artists to create them. (Good thing, since I have almost no graphic art skills myself.) Are they important? I think they are, more than the old saying would indicate. We can’t help being psychologically influenced by a cover. Haven’t we all hesitated to be seen in public with some book whose cover features a couple ripping off each other’s clothes, or a gory weapon splattered with blood and a cheesy horror font?

Have you ever wished that you could bring a character to life? If so, which one and why?

I wish it with every book. And of course these days I wouldn’t mind meeting some of my Greek-god characters. But one of the most enduring favorites of mine who I’d like to meet is Daniel, narrator of Relatively Honest. His whole persona revolves around being charming, flattering, clever, and hot. Plus he’s got a London accent. So, though it’s shallow of me, naturally I want to meet him, just to listen to him talk, and to let him flatter me. Even though I already set up a girlfriend for him.

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

I live in Seattle, and most of the time I’m content to be here. But sometimes I miss the warmer, milder climate of Oregon, where I grew up–especially the smaller cities with less traffic. I also suspect I’d do pretty well living in Provence or the south of England, but those are more like pipe dreams. I do require pretty landscapes and some rain in the climate.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

I can’t help thinking trains are coolest, and my young sons would agree. But planes sure are faster. I just wish they’d give you more legroom without asking an exorbitant fee.

Care to brag about your family?

My parents, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts–they’re all quirky, hilarious, and far above average in intelligence. They’re a fabulous gene pool to have come from, and I treasure them. As for my main household: my 3-year-old can already read lots of words! My 7-year-old has gotten 100% on all his spelling tests this year! And my husband puts up with me with far more grace than anyone, ever! That alone qualifies him for a Nobel Prize, believe me.

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

This is surely not the most practical answer, but what first leaped to my mind was, “Greenhouse!” A sunroom/mudroom, basically, would be awesome. Glass walls or at least big windows on three sides, lots of plants, space to leave your muddy boots before entering the rest of the house, and informal places to sit and read. Maybe we could camp out in there on warm summer nights. Yeah. All sounds pretty good.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Most sane people would say I have a ridiculously large number of perfume samples, decants, and bottles, more than I can use in a decade. So sniffing at those, and selecting the “right” one to wear each day to suit my mood, probably counts as a guilty pleasure. Also chocolate. Not a day goes by without my nibbling bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

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CHAT WITH MIKE ROCHE

MikeRocheRev

Mike Roche is an adjunct instructor of Criminal Justice and retired from the U.S. Secret Service. He is the author of Face 2 Face – Observation, Interviewing and Rapport Building, Mass Killers: How You Can Identify Workplace, School, or Public Killers Before They Strike, and three works of fiction, The Blue Monster, Coins of Death and Karma!

What else have you written?

I am an eclectic writer. I have written two police procedurals with a hardboiled female detective, The Blue Monster and Coins of Death, one YA mystery/romance that explores the trauma of bullying called Karma! Oh yeah, I have also written a nonfiction rapport building and observation techniques based on my experience with the Secret Service, called Face 2 Face. I am working on a historical fiction along with several other works in progress.

MikeKarma

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

That we are not “real writers.” Yes, there are a number of people that are hobbyists or should not have been published, but that is up to the readers to decide. With the contraction of the publishing industry, the opportunity to become traditionally published is becoming more daunting. Many of the New York Times best sellers can hold up countless rejection letters from agents and publishers. In today’s market, how many of those same authors would have chosen the Indie path? All of the Indie authors I have known are dedicated to their profession and craft. Guy Kawasaki, termed us as artisan author/publisher/entrepreneurs (APE’s).

MikeCoinsofDeath

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

I have a general sense of where the book will end, but it is fluid. I enjoy escaping with my fictional friends and letting them make the final decision. In The Blue Monster, I initially had Frank Duffy as a minor figure, but he weaseled into almost a co-starring role with Kate Alexander. As I came towards the end, I decided to add an unexpected twist. In Coins of Death, the final scene was added after my wife’s input from reading the manuscript. Aside from Coins of Death, each of my works has had a number of title changes.

MikeTheBlueMonster

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

I have a blog on my website at Mikeroche.com in which I provide relationship advice. I have a Facebook page and LinkedIn, but I really do not promote those platforms. I spend most of my time on Twitter. As I told you and wrote a post on this, I was like the teenager making their way into the cool surf of the Jersey Shore. As I became more acclimated, I have made many online friends. It is a beautiful community, where most everyone is accepted. Just like at Thanksgiving, stay away from religion and politics. There is a considerable time commitment to engage in the community, but it is invigorating when you interact with friends, fans and other writers. I am always impressed by those that are gracious and humble. Many of those on Twitter are willing to share and help promote others. Like the pioneer days when they would have a barn-raising in which the community collected together to help a neighbor. Being Irish, Twitter reminds me of the pub mentality, where everyone drops in and huddles around the bar sharing gossip and stories.

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

Despite spending a career in law enforcement, I still have to fact check and I have a considerable library of reference books. Technology is always changing. In Face 2 Face, my bibliography was eleven pages. I am working on an historical fiction on Irish immigration and there was considerable research involved. I recently visited the Five Points section of New York and the West of Ireland last year for more perspective.

MikeFace2Face

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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 typically do not allow anyone to read until the first draft is complete. There are too many dream stealers that dampen the synergy. I did share Karma! I wanted to gauge the interest of the young adult target audience. At the 8,000 word mark I shared the beginning with my daughter. She was in her late teens, so I continued when she gave me the thumbs up.

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?

Most authors I speak with are hurt personally by negative reviews. Most everyone is stung from rejection. We have invested a great deal of time and money in the project. Due to the anonymity of the internet, some reviews can be very caustic and some have an agenda. I use my wife as a filter. She reads the good ones and if there is a negative one with valid criticism, she will paraphrase for me. I look at Stephen King, Michael Connelly and Lee Childs all have one-star reviews for their best selling books.

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?

Professor Nalini Ambady’s research has demonstrated that a first impression is completed in less than two seconds. Author Joe Konrath has beat the gavel on this issue as well. My first cover artist went missing. In a panic, I went looking for a replacement. I found an author’s covers that popped off the screen and I contacted him. His cover artist is Lynn Hansen, and she has been fun to work with. A good cover is well worth the investment. Do it yourself covers, often have that appearance. Don’t judge yourself; allow others to provide input.

How would you define your style of writing?

My writing is based upon an amalgam of experiences and characters that I met in my 33 years in law enforcement. I enjoy writing complex plots, and hosting an eclectic group of characters thrown into a caldron. I am heavy on dialogue and let the characters tell the story as they expose their personality.

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

I live in Tampa and I love it. If I were compelled to relocate, I would chose either Denver or New York. I have always enjoyed the abstract of Denver’s architecture and terrain. It is a great walking city as is New York. I enjoy the diversity of the entertainment and dining experiences in large cities. Dublin and London would also be high on my list since I sunburn easily.

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

I enjoy creating culinary delights in my kitchen, but I still fall back on NY Pizza. My least favorite is anything that swims. I cook it, but I will not eat seafood.

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

Loyalty, integrity and dependability. I love someone that feels comfortable enough to ask for a favor and one that will offer a favor without being asked.

What music soothes your soul?

I have a very eclectic music collection. For soothing, I enjoy light classical or smooth jazz.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Rude, arrogant and egotistical people. Does that count as one or three peeves?

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

Slow down and listen.

Demonstrate genuine respect for others.

Look for random acts of kindness that you can deliver to improve someone’s day.

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Email: mike@mikeroche.com

 

CHAT WITH LORNA SUZUKI

LornaSuzuki

What is your latest book?

My last published novel was released in October 2012. It’s called The Dream Merchant Saga: Book Three The Crack’d Shield. It is a YA fantasy co-written with my teenaged daughter Nia. The latest book I am in the process of writing is the 10th novel in the Imago Chronicles series, an adult epic fantasy.

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

Yes! The first three novels in the Imago Chronicles series have been optioned for a major motion picture trilogy planned for a worldwide theatrical release in 2014. An Oscar nominated/two-time Golden Globe winning production team is at the helm of this project; the screenplay is done, the line producer has determined the budget based on the screenplay, a major film distributor is on board and 100% of financing has been secured, so movie development is now underway!

LornaImago

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

I was surprised when I discovered some readers and book reviewers refused to touch my novels because I’m self-published! Even though my writing was worthy of literary representation and is currently in movie development and they’ve received some great reviews, these readers cannot be swayed to read my novels. Apparently, they’ve read a number of self-published novels that were just poorly written or were not properly or professionally edited; they didn’t want to chance another terrible read. With one broad stroke of a brush, we’ve all been painted as amateur writers when there are some professionals out there that take indie publishing very seriously! Many use professional editors, use feedback from Beta readers and hire professional cover designers to put out products as good as, if not better, than some traditionally published titles!

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

The title, not so much, but probably with the last ten of the thirteen novels I’ve written so far, I’ve written the ending first. The story is the journey the characters undertake to get to that ending.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I’ve written everything from a documentary that was aired on The Biography Channel to scripts for a weekly TV adventure travel show (West Coast Adventures recently hit the international airwaves). I’ve even written a script for a themed fundraiser where the hosts were dressed as characters from Alice in Wonderland! Basically, I’ll tackle most things as a freelance writer, but writing fantasy is my first love.

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

If your ultimate goal is to have your stories read, then indie is probably a great way to go, but I still run into aspiring authors who believe that unless you are traditionally published, you have no credibility as an author. It comes down to the individual and what your expectations are. If you’re willing to find a credible literary agent with a proven sales record and you don’t mind waiting 18-24 months to see your novel on the shelf of a bookstore (that’s only if the agent can sell it) and believe you only have validation as a writer if you are traditionally published, then this is the only way to go.

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

I’ve tried the free giveaways via the Kindle Direct Program and it generated only a handful of sales of the sequel to the free novel and ‘0’ new reviews. I spoke to some who took advantage of these free downloads and they admitted they love anything that’s free. They also said they often have so many titles they had downloaded, by the time they go through their eReader, they don’t even remember why they downloaded some of the titles (other than it was free) and admitted they just delete them without even reading the ebook.

I found the amount I received from the sequels being borrowed from the Lending Library was less than I would have received if I had sold the sequels instead.

I also discovered that those who invested in the books by buying them were more inclined to read that first book. Happily, about 93-97% of those buying the first book in either the Imago or Dream Merchant series return to buy some or all the books in the series. I even had some crossing over from the Imago series to read the other books in the Dream Merchant series, and vice versa, once they were done just to keep reading my novels. This is a very gratifying feeling! 😉

Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program? If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?

I tried it for The Magic Crystal and The Silver Sword, books one and two of the Dream Merchant Saga and even though I made it to the top 10 free fantasy download during the 5 days of free giveaway, either people hated it so much they couldn’t be bothered to post a review or come back for the sequel (only about 5 borrows) or they didn’t read it at all! As I said in the above question, those who had invested by paying for it were the ones returning for more!

Also, I do make sales via Smashwords, particularly through the Apple Store and Kobo, but if you’re with Kindle Direct, you can’t make sales to those who prefer to buy anywhere else but Amazon.

I feel uncomfortable letting Amazon have a monopoly on book sales and I believe readers should be able to buy from the retailer of their choice. Plus, I’ve had readers tell me they love that with Smashwords, once you download an ebook, it won’t mysteriously disappear. Plus, if you switch from say a Kindle to a Kobo or iPad, if you bought through Smashwords, you can transfer these titles. Apparently, you cannot do this with Amazon purchases. You must buy them again to download onto your new reader!

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

Favorite comfort food: Homemade beef vegetable soup, heavy on the veggies & barley. Least favorite: Beef vegetable soup from a can.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

My hubby & daughter matted and framed the signed photographs of the cast from The Lord of the Rings trilogy I had languishing in a folder for years! It looks fabulous! Second surprise that was not so cool? My hubby wanted to hang these framed photos on a small wall directly behind a door that is open 98% of the time so none would see it unless that said door is closed! lol

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I am only slightly bigger/taller than my Twitter avatar! And many are quite surprised to learn that in spite of my puny size, I’m a 5th dan black belt practitioner/instructor in a discipline that incorporates 6 traditional samurai schools and 3 schools of ninjutsu and until last year, all my students were men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAT WITH CASSIUS SHUMAN

CassiusShuman

Cassius Shuman is an acclaimed journalist, playwright, screenwriter, and novelist who grew up in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. After an arm injury derailed his dreams of playing professional baseball, he segued into broadcast journalism, which established the foundation for his writing and producing career. He resides in Los Angeles, where he works in the television, film, and communications business.

Time to chat with Cassius!

What is your latest book?

My latest book, which is my debut novel, is called The Dead Boy’s Legacy. It is about a missing boy, the family who loves him and the man who abducted him.

CassiusShumanBookCover

What else have you written?

I started in the broadcasting business where I wrote and produced daily newscasts. I have written numerous stage plays, screenplays and short stories.

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

The part I enjoy most about writing a novel is the challenge of facing the blank page, and being pleasantly surprised by what my imagination manages to create from mere whimsy. The part I like least is editing the work. It is tedious, meticulous and exhausting work. I admire those souls who have a gift for it like my editor Adam Bodendieck, who did an incredible job with The Dead Boy’s Legacy.

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 like to edit as I write. I usually edit a chapter immediately after writing it. I will go back through and look at it from every possible angle to ensure that it was written properly from a story and grammatical standpoint. That way there is less work (I’m hoping) for me, and subsequently the editor, when the work/book is finished.

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

It’s not important, or essential, for me to know the ending of a story that I’m telling before I begin writing, but I like to have a vague idea, or notion, about what the ending might be. That being said, I think that not knowing all of the details of the ending provides for more magic, or happy accidents, to happen on the page when you reach the ending. Now, when it comes to the title, I like to know what it is before I begin writing. I usually figure that out in the conception stage.

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

I firmly believe that I was born to write. I think that it is an extension of my artistic side. I started out as an art major in college. But, I first discovered that I possessed a gift for storytelling in high school when I wrote short stories for class, and that was further validated when I worked in the broadcasting business. It has always been my passion, whether or not I knew it at a young age.

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

I write whenever I feel compelled to sit down and do so. This can be in the morning, or very late at night. I have often awakened in the middle of the night and sprinted to my computer to get something down on the page. And I don’t need anything when I write. In fact, I often forget to eat, drink, or do anything else when I am writing. My imagination is the only thing that I require. 🙂

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?

Unfortunately, I think that the saying, “You can’t judge a books by its cover,” does not apply to marketing a book. I believe that a good, eye-catchy cover design is essential to capturing a reader’s attention when they’re perusing the bookshelves both in the store and online.

How would you define your style of writing?

One word: Truthful.

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

The Killer, The Killed – That was the headline in the Sunday edition of The Herald News about my book. I thought it was pretty smart.

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

That I could sing. I’ve always admired people who could do that.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

My favorite year of school was senior year of high school. Everything seemed fun and life ahead seemed to hold limitless possibilities.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

My favorite movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Newman and Redford were amazing in a classic western story written by William Goldman. My favorite book is probably Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I read it when I was young in school and it had a profound impact upon me.

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

Give back with a generous heart. Be an agent-for-change. And, be the best that we can be on a daily basis to make the world a better place.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I think that you might be surprised to know that I have a silly, funny side. Just because I write primarily about serious subject matter doesn’t mean that I can’t have a good laugh every now and then. 😉

Thank you, Lisette, for hosting me on your blog! (My extreme pleasure, Cash!)

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CHAT WITH ANN SWANN

AnnSwannAnn lives in West Texas with her handsome hubby and three rescue pets.  All For Love is Ann’s first Contemporary Romance novel.  She is the author of the Middle Grade/Young Adult books: The Phantom Pilot, and The Phantom Student.  She is hard at work on Book Three, The Phantom of Crybaby Bridge. Though published by a small press, The Phantom Series is currently available only through the author.

Time to chat with Ann!

What is your latest book?

My latest is a contemporary romance/family drama called All For Love. It’s the story of a woman who will do anything for the man of her dreams. Even after she discovers that he just may be the worst thing that ever happened to her. It was published by 5 Prince Publishing.

AnnAllForLove

What else have you written?

I’ve also written The Phantom Pilot, and The Phantom Student. These two books are part of a series for Middle Grade/Young Adult readers. I recently reacquired the rights from the company who first published them. Now, I am trying to decide whether to go with another small press, or simply publish them myself. At this time, they are available only through me. I’m almost finished with the third book in the series, The Phantom of Crybaby Bridge. When it is finished, I will have to decide how I want them to be republished.

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

My characters do surprise me sometimes. I love it when that happens!

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

Yes! I have to know the ending or I get completely bogged down. I think I just have to have that goal to work toward. Titles are actually 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 write as much in the rough draft as I can, but when I start anew each day, I usually go back and edit some things just to get my brain back on track. It sort of jump-starts my thinking.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Pay attention to your point-of-view from the very beginning. I have a lovely novel in my “ugh” file that needs to be completely rewritten because I thought I could do 3rd person omniscient. Come to find out, I can’t. In my version, it simply devolved into whiplash-inducing head-hopping.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I’ve always loved making up characters. I took a fiction elective in high school, and I was hooked. In college, I won a few short-story contests and that gave me the confidence to enter other contests. Locally, I won quite a few (plus one in The Alfred Hitchcock Magazine).  Then I met an editor through my writer’s group, and she steered me toward small press publishing.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

All I will say is that life is too short to read bad fiction. If it doesn’t grab me within the first few pages, I put it down and move on.

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 do allow my critique group to read it, especially things I’m not sure about. They give awesome feedback.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I write short stories and dabble in poetry (doesn’t everyone?). You can read a couple of each on my blog. I also tried my hand at self-pubbing a short story, Chems. It’s the tale of a chemically altered soldier who was given some of the characteristics of a zombie. I love that story, but I think it needs a better cover. I also don’t promote it like I should. It was sort of an experiment on my part.

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?

I used to dread it. Then someone told me about this One-Sentence Pitch that made it so much easier. Once you fill in these blanks, then you can write the synopsis.

My novel is about ________ who must ________ in order to___

________.

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

I live in West Texas alongside coyotes, rattlesnakes, and scorpions.

If I could afford to live anywhere in the world, I would choose a beach house on a bluff somewhere in the good old USA. In fact, I love Texas, but I wouldn’t mind a vacation home for eight or ten months a year.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

My husband surprised me on my birthday once by renting our entire community pool for the party—we lived in a small town at the time—and inviting everyone we knew. And somehow, he kept it all a secret!

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

Acceptance and an open pocketbook. Er, I meant to say an open mind!

Care to brag about your family?

Yes I would! My dear hubby is very supportive—he is my backbone. And my lovely daughter is also an author. She writes under the name Sara Barnard. You can find her work on the 5 Prince website, too.

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

I would love to have the gift of gab. I am terrible at socializing.

What makes you angry?

Abuse of innocents—human or animal.

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Email Ann at: swannann76@yahoo.com

CHAT WITH PAT BERTRAM

PatBertramRev

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning. She is a native of Colorado.

Time to chat with Pat!

What is your latest book?

After my life mate/soul mate died, the only way I could handle my overwhelming grief was to pour it out onto pages of a journal, letters to him, and blog posts. When I discovered how much those blog posts meant to people who had also suffered grievous losses, I compiled my writings into a book about my first year of grief called Grief: The Great Yearning, which has recently been published by Second Wind Publishing. One reviewer said, “This is an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”

Is your recent book part of a series?

I hadn’t planned to write a series on grief, though to be honest, I hadn’t planned to write a book about grief at all.  Still, I’ve been continuing to write about grief on my blog, chronicling the steps to acceptance and perhaps renewal, and a compilation of those posts would make a good sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning.

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

Simply: Grief the Great Yearning and my website address. The title says everything.

What else have you written?

I’ve written four suspense novels:

More Deaths Than One tells the story of Bob Stark who sees his mother’s obituary in the morning paper, which stuns him because he buried her two decades ago before he left the country to live in Southeast Asia. So how can she be dead again?

A Spark of Heavenly Fire tells the story of how Kate Cummings, an ordinary woman, gathered her courage and strength to survive the horror of an unstoppable bioengineered disease let loose on the state of Colorado.

Daughter Am I is the story of a young woman who inherits a farm from her murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born. She becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead.

Light Bringer is the story of a woman who returns to the town where she’d been abandoned as a baby and discovers a secret that is out of this world. Literally.

PatBertramBooks

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

Never. When a story flows, when everything is motivated, it makes sense that some ideas, emotions and themes and even dialogue show up that aren’t planned. If the characters are true, it has to happen. I am not saying that the characters do things that I don’t plan. Their actions are completely planned. But some underlying truths could emerge that I didn’t purposely put there.

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

Before writing a novel, I need to know the main characters, the beginning of the story, the end of the story, and how I want the characters to develop, but I don’t flesh out the individual scenes until I start writing them. Sometimes I know the title, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the title changes during the writing, sometimes it doesn’t. For example, Light Bringer was always Light Bringer. More Deaths Than One went through several title changes before I stumbled across this snippet from Oscar Wilde’s “Reading Gaol”: He who lives more lives than one, more deaths than one must die.

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 do edit as I go along, but not excessively. Since I’m not a writer who can sit down and let the words flow out of me, I have to choose every word I put on the paper, each one building on the last. If I take a wrong turning, I have to go back and find that wrong turning so I can continue building, otherwise the whole project stalls. Most of the editing is done after I’m finished, though.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Writing is not always about writing. Some authors can sit down and let the words flow and lo! There is a story! Other authors have to think about what they’re doing. So ask yourself, what story do you want to write? Why? What do your characters want? Why? How are they going to get what they want? Who is going to stop them getting what they want?

Every day brings forth new changes and shifts in the world of publishing. Any predictions about the future?

I don’t know enough about technology to predict changes, but I do know that changes and shifts in technology will be reflected in the world of publishing. For example, people will be reading more on their phones, e-books will eventually become multi-media –- comprising video, social networking, and other elements.

How would you define your style of writing?

Concise, colorful, character-driven.

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

My life wouldn’t change much. For all practical purposes, I’m invisible now.

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

Someone once gave me a year of the internet. I had no interest in the internet, but it turned out to be the best gift I ever received. It changed my life.

Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?

I have never played a practical joke on anyone. I despise practical jokes. The closest I ever came was when I told my little sister that a square meal were things like sandwiches made on square bread.

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

Loyalty, kindness, intelligence.

What music soothes your soul?

Silence. Nothing soothes my soul like silence.

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CHAT WITH DEAN MAYES

DeanMayesAustralian author Dean Mayes has established himself as a writer of great literary style and dedication since the release of his first novel The Hambledown Dream in 2010. He continues that tradition with his landmark new release Gifts of the Peramangk for Central Avenue Publishing. Dean lives in Adelaide, Australia with his wife Emily and their two children Xavier, 6 and Lucy, 3.

Time to chat with Dean!

What is your latest book?

I’ve recently released my second novel titled Gifts of the Peramangk through Central Avenue Publishing.

Gifts of the Peramangk tells the story of an 8-year-old Aboriginal girl named Ruby who is an undiscovered violin prodigy living on the struggle streets of Adelaide’s suburban fringe here in Australia. Ruby has been taught to play by her frail and elderly grandmother Virginia who, herself displayed a prodigious talent for the instrument as a child but was never able to fully realize that gift because of her circumstance. Virginia was a child of the so called “Stolen Generations” here in Australia. During much of the mid 20th century, Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families as part of what was known as the White Australia policy. They were put to work, often in appalling conditions, as domestic servants or farm hands and were stripped of their culture and their family links. Virginia was one of those children and the ramifications of her being taken have huge ramifications for her family.

DeanGiftsCover

Is your recent book part of a series?

Not really, however one would be encouraged to read my previous release The Hambledown Dream as there are some subtle linkages between both books.

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

That they are undisciplined and don’t take the time or the care to produce high quality work. I have met and worked alongside some really talented indie writers who have produced novels that are far and away more polished and offer a much richer reading experience than their big name/big published counterparts. I think that has come about because these independent authors have taken much more care with their work and have crafted it rather than handed it over to a big publishing machine that act to arbitrarily “manufacture” a product for mass consumption.

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

I write on the proviso that my characters be allowed to direct the storytelling to a certain extent. I will draw the basics of a character at the very beginning of the writing process but I won’t lock them in to a particular arc because my stories tend to evolve organically from the basic structure that I begin with. I discover a lot about my characters and I find that really stimulating.

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

Funnily enough, I really enjoy the editing process. It’s the part of the journey where stories are really made. I’ve learned not to allow myself to become too invested in story elements during the initial writing phase because I’m always looking for the best ways to serve the story. Research can be a tedious process but I recognize that it is an essential part of the journey. This was especially the case with Gifts of the Peramangk which dealt with historical subject matter that I had to portray faithfully.

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

I always have a basic idea of what the ending to a story will be but I allow myself the flexibility to change the ending. So yes it is important to me but not essential. The title of a story is not as important to me because I tend to discover the title of a work in the process of writing 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’m getting better at writing without editing as I go along but I have been known to edit incessantly as I go along. That habit grew out of my tendency to procrastinate incessantly and I used the micro editing as I went along as a way of avoiding writers block. I have, with subsequent projects, becoming better at planning so I’ve been able to resist the temptation to edit until I have produced a draft.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Be open to change and don’t allow yourself to be locked into a particular story arc. Always look for alternative pathways to reach your destination and don’t be afraid to work with your ideas. You will find that you’ll be less likely to run into problems associated with writers block if you have those alternative ideas available to you.

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

Oh man, I have such a love/hate relationship with social media. I mean, I love it because I have met some wonderful people through my platform and it is but I tend to become overwhelmed by all the noise it creates. In the beginning, I felt as though I had to have a presence on every available platform there is and it seriously got insane. I have streamlined quite a bit to a suite of four key platforms, those being my official site of course, my Facebook page, Twitter and Google Plus. Occasionally I’ll make use of my WordPress account but it’s usually just to post a link to whatever I’m showcasing on my official site. My official site is at the core of how I communicate with my readership and my platform serves to promote that. While I regard engagement with my audience as important, I’ve tried to limit my activity on my social network – otherwise I’d never get any work done.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I have a really eclectic and varied taste in the books that I read but in all of them, I really look to the voice of the author and how it engages me. If the voice speaks with enthusiasm about the subject, then I’m usually drawn in. If there is a lack of enthusiasm, I’ll spot it pretty much straight away.

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

There was a huge research curve involved in Gifts of the Peramangk because I was setting it against the back drop of one of Australia’s most controversial periods in the 20th century. The White Australia Policy was instituted as a means of addressing the “problem” of half caste Aborigines in Australia over the life of the Policy, many thousands of children were forcibly removed from their families and fostered out to white families or were put to work as domestic servants or farm hands, doing menial jobs for little to no pay. They were prohibited from returning to or having contact with their families. The resultant Stolen Generations was the result of this policy – Aboriginal Australians who had their identity and culture stripped away from them. It lead to massive social problems which still resonate today. In order to portray the effects of the White Australia Policy on one particular family with a sensitivity and accuracy, I devoted nearly a year to reviewing literature, examining case studies, talking to individuals who were directly affected by the Policy.

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?

During the writing of Gifts of the Peramangk I did share my work with a couple of people who were able to assist me with the technical aspects of my writing as well as the accuracy of my portrayal of Aboriginal Australians. I was happy to do so and I think it really benefited the story.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I have posted a number of short pieces at my official site which are examples of my trying out different writing styles. I’m really proud of them and one or two of them have the potential to be expanded on in the future if I want.

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

I realized I had a love of writing from an early age but I guess you could consider me somewhat of a late bloomer as a serious author. For me it was a case of my life getting in the way – school, university, work, family commitments and so forth. And these aren’t bad things of course (laughs) but they certainly gave me little time to devote to writing. Also, I don’t think I was really in the right head space to write until my mid 30’s. I had a couple of failed attempts at it before then but for whatever reason, I couldn’t make the stories work. When the idea for (my first novel) The Hambledown Dream germinated, it seemed to be the right fit at the right time.

DeanHambledown

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

I’m very proud of both Gifts of the Peramangk and The Hambledown Dream and they each have qualities that I’m drawn to for different reasons. I think Gifts of the Peramangk is a more accomplished work mainly due to the research effort I undertook for it and I edited it more heavily than The Hambledown Dream. Hambledown is a more personal work and it represents facets of myself. I really explored both the dark and light sides of myself to craft the dual protagonists in Hambledown and so, for that reason I tend to look upon that novel in a more personal way.

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?

I have come to view negative reviews with the maxim “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” in mind. I try to respond to every review that is left for both my novels and I always thank the reviewer for taking the time to read my work. I look for constructive criticism of my work and I do take on board what each reviewer has said in that sense. Where there hasn’t been any constructive criticism, I like to encourage the reviewer to elaborate on their comments. Most of the time however, such reviewers don’t hang around so I don’t dwell on them for too long.

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

It is a good way to interact with readers but I personally, haven’t seen a huge knock on effect in terms of promotion.

Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program? If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?

As far as I’m concerned, the less said about Kindle Direct the better.

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

I do place quite a bit of stock on cover design because I have an artistic streak in me that just won’t let me go. The way I see it is a book as a whole is a piece of art and the cover itself is very much an artistic component that will help sell the overall piece. So it has got to be eye catching and attractive. I’ve seen many a good book fade into obscurity because of a poorly designed cover.

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?

Your review matters. It really, Really matters. We slave away on these writing projects, often with little support and understanding from those immediately around us and it is only when our work is done and we turn it over to the world do we really wait for and covet those reviews. They remain the only true measure of whether it was all worth it or not.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

I suck at poems.

What makes you angry?

Unshakable belief in the morally indefensible.

What music soothes your soul?

Vince Jones. He is an Australian jazz singer/trumpet player who I regard as a personal hero. I’ve been listening to his music since I was a kid.

Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?

The Talented Mr Ripley with Matt Damon. I love Matt Damon but that film was a complete toilet bowl.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

The 1985 drama Witness starring Harrison Ford is probably my most favorite film of all time. The True History Of The Elephant Man by Michael Powell and Peter Ford is my most favorite book.

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CHAT WITH TIFFANY KING

Tiffany King is the author of The Saving Angels Series, Wishing For Someday Soon, Forever Changed, Unlikely Allies, and Miss Me Not. Writer by day and book fanatic the rest of the time, she is now pursuing her life-long dream of weaving tales for others to enjoy.

Time to chat with Tiffany!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is a YA novel called Miss Me Not. It’s a YA coming of age/romance type of story, but with an edgy, hard-hitting undertone. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone this time to write about more serious social issues. The idea of writing about teen suicide made me extremely nervous, but the response from readers has been wonderful.


What else have you written?

I wrote a YA Paranormal Romance Series called The Saving Angels Series: Meant to Be (book 1), Forgotten Souls (book 2), The Ascended (book 3). I have also written three other YA Contemporary Romance novels: Wishing For Someday Soon, Forever Changed, and Unlikely Allies. All are available in ebook and print.

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

If you are the type of reader that refuses to try a book because it is self-published, more power to you. That is your choice and there is not much I can say to change your mind. That being said, you are missing out on some wonderfully imaginative stories by truly talented authors. Even before I started writing, I loved reading. I still do, and I wish I had more time to do it, but whether or not the book is traditionally published or self-published makes no difference to me. If it’s good, it’s good, regardless of how it is distributed. Obviously, most of the reading public feels the same way judging by the sales rankings. Plus, look at the number of indie authors being signed by traditional publishers. All that has happened over the past few years is that authors have more opportunities to make their work available to the reading public who will then decide if it is good or not.

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

I always have the story mapped out in my head before I start writing, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t necessarily change by the time I reach the ending. I usually just let the story take me where it wants to go.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

First, start by writing what you enjoy reading yourself, not just because you feel it will sell. Not to say that you can’t eventually step out of your comfort zone, but you have to establish your voice first. Second, always continue to believe in yourself. Remember that reading is subjective. For every person that hates your work, there is another that loves it.


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

Social media is invaluable to an author. There is simply no better way to get your name and your work out there. It can be grueling because it takes countless hours to maintain, but I have met so many wonderful friends in the past few years through social media.


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?

Usually, only my daughter reads my work in progress because she is in the target age group for my books; however, I have several trusted individuals who read pre-edited versions of the completed draft, and then even more individuals who read the work when all the edits are complete. The book definitely goes through many sets of eyes before being released to the public.


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

I will never cease to be amazed by the positive feedback I receive from readers. I was especially nervous with Miss Me Not, considering the subject matter, but the response has been overwhelming. I get contacted everyday by people who thank me for writing about teen suicide because it has helped them relate to their own lives. Just knowing that they not only appreciated the work, but that they trust me enough to share their personal feelings is truly humbling.


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?

That’s funny. I haven’t met an author yet who enjoys writing a synopsis. You have this piece of work that you spent countless hours of blood, sweat and tears to finish, and now you have to sum up the entire story in a few paragraphs. Try pulling out your own hair in handfuls. Sometimes it can feel the same way.


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

Both. I try to write mostly during the day, but I have been known to jump out of bed at 2:00 am if an idea suddenly pops in my head. Thankfully, I always have chocolate around when I need it.

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

Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. My least favorite food is onions. I hate them on anything and everything.

Care to brag about your family?

I have a wonderful and supportive husband of 18 years and two teenagers. I say supportive because working as an author requires a great deal of time, but fortunately, my family is so understanding, and they are always willing to help me in any way they can.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I’m shyer in person than you might think. If you follow me on any social media channels it may be hard to believe that, but it’s true. There was even a time when I was terribly afraid of public speaking, but I have since overcome that phobia as well. Of course, once I get to know you, I can talk your ear off.


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

I have a pretty sizable collection of books that are in my office, but I would love to build my own library in my house. I would line the walls with shelves, all filled with first editions of all my favorite books. I would cover the floor with a nice plush carpet and have a comfortable chase lounge that would sit in front of a fireplace. Oh, it would be heaven.

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

1. Be nice
2. Be tolerant
3. Love one another

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