CHAT WITH ANGIE DICKERSON

AngieDickerson

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

Time to chat with Angie!

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

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What are the special challenges in writing a series?

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

FriendsATSea

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

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

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CHAT WITH KATHLEEN HARRYMAN

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

What is your latest book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The book is called When Darkness Falls and is thriller.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

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

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KathleenReaderSigning Books at WHSmith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Care to brag about your family?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

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

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

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

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

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

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

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CHAT WITH DARLENE FOSTER

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Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true. It’s no surprise that she’s now an award-winning author of children’s adventure books featuring spunky 12 year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene and her husband divide their time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain.

Time to chat with Darlene!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone

Amanda_AlbertaIs your recent book part of a series?

Yes, this is the fourth book in the Amanda travel adventure series. The first three books are, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel. In this recent book, Amanda entertains her visitor from England by showing her the fascinating sites of her home province of Alberta. The fifth book in the series, Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music, will be published in the fall of 2016.

Can you share some of the feedback you’ve received from readers?

From a teacher librarian – Foster has captured a sense of place in this novel. I liked the action and adventure that keep readers entertained at the same time as it will educate them. Through Leah’s visit, Foster introduces readers to Alberta’s First Nations people. At the same time as they are revealed as an historic culture, she also shows them as modern people living modern lives.

From a young male reader – Amanda is a great middle-grade character. She is a friendly person, and a wonderful role model. Leah is a pretty cool Brit. The plot is fun and engaging as are all of the Amanda books. I love how Ms. Foster puts the reader right in the action and kids get to learn about the exciting places Amanda goes. The action and mystery in the book makes it a fun read for kids!

From an adult reader – This was one of the best Children’s adventure books I’ve read in a while. First of all the plot was tight and flowed. There was enough excitement to even keep me interested and would have been the kind of book I’d have loved as a kid. The plot wasn’t written down to readers and also didn’t feel impossible.

3_Amanda_BooksWhat are the special challenges in writing a series?

Consistency in the details can be a challenge. I had Amanda wearing glasses in the first book and I don’t think I mentioned them in the next two. A good memory helps, as do good notes. You also have to be careful not to become predictable. Every now and then a character has to do something out of the ordinary to keep it interesting.

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

Like you, I write the scenes in order. The logical part of my brain won’t let me do otherwise.

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

I never know the ending until I am almost there. I often start to panic as I near the end and still don’t know how the story will end. Then, miraculously it shows up. For Amanda in Alberta it formulated while I was having a massage. You just never know! The title usually comes to me while planning the novel or while writing the first couple of chapters. I have never changed the title once I decided on it, but there can always be a first time.

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 tend to edit as I go along. I go back over what I have written and edit before moving on. It slows me down considerably but it is the only way it works for me. Of course, I still do more editing after it is completed.

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

Yes, this happens to me often. Many times I just want to chuck it in the trash. I stop myself from doing that by having it critiqued by writing partners or readers. Just recently I read two chapters from my work in progress to a nine-year-old and asked for honest feedback. She was great and told me what she liked and what was totally boring. I needed that! The boring bits have been reworked or eliminated.

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

For me this is like choosing names for your unborn child. They have to live with it for a long time so it is very important. I chose Amanda for my main character as my second granddaughter, Amanda, was twelve at the time I started writing the first book as was my character. I planned to use it until I came up with another name but it fit my character so well I kept it. Needless to say my granddaughter was very pleased. My other granddaughter, not so much. I guess I better create a main character using her name. To date, I have never changed a character’s name once chosen.

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

I love social media, especially blogging. Social media keeps me connected to my network all over the world. I have met the most amazing people, like you Lisette, though social media. What I don’t like is how it can zap up so much of my time.

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

When I started writing Amanda in Alberta, I thought I wouldn’t need to do much research. After all, I grew up in Alberta and worked for the local museum at one time. Boy, was I ever wrong. First of all I realized I really didn’t know that much about my home province and second, it would look very bad if I got some details wrong about a place I came from. So, I flew out to Alberta, rented a car, picked up my then twelve-year-old grandson and drove around to some of the sites mentioned in the book. We had so much fun and I collected a ton of material while seeing familiar sites through the eyes of a twelve year old. I also did research on the computer and borrowed books from the library. I did more research for this book than any of the others and learned a lot through the process.

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 allow others to read my WIP, especially my critique group. For me it is very important to get feedback as I write. Now that I am in Spain, we still meet once a month via Skype for a critique session. I also have a friend who has travelled with me to many of the places Amanda visits. She is great at reading parts and giving me valuable feedback. I can’t express the value of critique partners enough. I would not have completed five books without them.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

No one has ever asked me this. I am embarrassed to admit that I can’t type. I have written five books and many short stories using two fingers. I am actually quite fast at two finger typing, but I am sure I could have doubled my production if I could actually type.

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 believe the book cover is important and should reflect the story. I am very pleased with the covers of the Amanda books. My publisher is wonderful at involving me with the design. Amanda takes pictures while she travels so the idea of a collage of photographs works well. I also love the vibrant colours my publisher choses.

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

Perogies are my favourite comfort food. My German family lived in south Russia before immigrating to Canada one hundred years ago and brought the recipe with them. I remember my grandmother´s and mother´s perogies when we were growing up on the farm. My daughter-in-law now makes excellent perogies and I often crave them. My least favourite food is meat which is why I don’t eat it.

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

Good conversation. I need someone I can discuss books, movies, travels, ideas and life with. I also look for a good sense of humour and a kind heart.

Care to brag about your family?

Of course, since I have the best family ever! I have an incredible son who is a musician and super dad, a talented and beautiful daughter who is an accomplished potter, two amazing granddaughters, two wonderful grandsons and two adorable great granddaughters. I still have my sweet eighty-seven year old mom and two supportive brothers. I feel incredibly blessed to come from a large, loving German Canadian family with many aunts, uncles and cousins who meet for large family reunions on a regular basis. Did I brag enough?

Darlene_grandson(Darlene with her grandson at Hoodoos in Drumheller, Alberta)

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

To be able to type. I know, I could take courses. But, after taking three courses, I still can’t type. I seem to be missing the typing chromosome.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

Grade three. I had an incredible teacher who introduced me to the world and encouraged me to spread my wings. I will always be thankful for that. I still have the Bobbsey Twins book she gave me at the end of the year.

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

Put love first

Practice patience and tolerance with those who think differently

Take care of the earth

Thanks so much Lisette. These were great questions and I enjoyed answering them.

Thank you, Darlene! It’s been an absolute pleasure!

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CHAT WITH AMANDA GREEN

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Amanda Green is an English self-published author of seven inspiring books: memoir, short stories and a self-help book. 

Aside from writing and social networking, she spends a lot of time with her pets; a handsome cat called Titus, a pretty kitten called Millie and tropical fish. She strongly believes in pet animal therapy as being good for the mind, body and soul and she promotes the fostering and adopting of animals as opposed to private breeding and purchase. She detests animal cruelty and protects the vulnerable. Amanda campaigns to ‘stop the stigma surrounding mental illness’; something very close to her heart.

She has travelled on/off across the world, taking in twenty-five Countries – living and working at times in Japan, Thailand and Australia and has enjoyed a very mixed bag of jobs. She is currently finishing her level 4 Counselling skills Diploma at college as she loves to help others’ facing issues. Her placement is with homeless people who need help to move on from their adversities.

Time to chat with Amanda!

What is your latest book?

I have just published my seventh book  Living with Depression and Anxiety: 26 ways to get you out of the fog, into the sunshine

First of all, my supervisor (I am a counsellor) read my books and suggested I could write a self-help book, especially with my counselling and writing experience. I have had so much feedback from readers of my memoirs that my story, tips and experiences have inspired them and helped them on their recovery, I thought that maybe I could continue to help with a self-help book. The idea was well received by many, so I set about planning it, and took off with the idea quickly.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 5.02.19 PMWhat do you think is the most misunderstood aspect regarding depression?

‘YOU LOOK ALRIGHT’ – A major issue which can hinder the process of getting help, particularly from the NHS, a workplace or within a close circle of friends and family, is when, to the outside world, the person looks alright. But the thing is, a person can be a master at covering up their real emotions, and the outside world does not see them when they are indoors, suffering at times. If a person dresses nicely and washes their hair, or smiles a lot, it can seem like life is treating the person well. The human race can be masters at smiling through adversity, and using different personas for different people or experiences, so it is not surprising that the audience do not recognise or accept the underlying, negative issues being covered up. This persona issue can very much stop a person from getting help or support of any kind. If the act is dropped, and a person can be more honest and real about their feelings, it will be much easier to gain understanding and support from those who matter.

To get help the person needs to come to terms with their problem, take it on as their own, and seek help, but to disbelieve someone has depression because they look OK only encourages sufferers to cover up even more.

How can each of us do our part to help de-stigmatize mental illness? What are the most common misconceptions?

Many people with mental illness feel lonely and isolated. Their journey through life can be filled with adversity and mental turmoil. For others, their symptoms are more easily dealt with through medications and/or therapy, and they have a very good quality of life. It all depends upon the individual. One thing they have in common through, is the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Stigma against people with mental illness hurts them. It can make them worse. It can even make people take their own lives. It is essentially a form of bullying based upon a person’s ignorance or lack of understanding and empathy.

Mentally ill people should not feel ashamed of themselves or their illness any more than anyone else with a physical illness, so it is very important not to discriminate.

The kindest thing you can do for anyone with mental illness is to try to understand the person’s illness. Try to create empathy for that person. It’s not about sympathy; it’s about empathy – really trying to understand things from the other’s point of view. I have written articles on my website about how you can help stop stigma if you’d like to take a look sometime.

There is one big thing a sufferer can do… Share their stories to help others’ understanding of mental illness.

Social networking and personal blogs are a valid addition to the world of mental health. Not only do professionals share their knowledge but sufferers and families of sufferers are sharing more and more the stories of their journeys through mental health issues. This not only brings the subject out in the open more, it helps people to understand this often misunderstood area of illnesses.

Although there are symptom lists for each condition, people are individual and when it comes to the brain, it can depend upon the person’s base personality make up to start with as to how a mental health issues will affect them.

The subject of stigma is one which, thankfully, many people are now fighting. Mental health charities, advocates and many individuals are campaigning to stop others’ negative attitudes to mental health issues. They do this knowingly. However, sometimes unknowingly, some individuals are helping to reduce stigma by way of writing on their personal blogs or social networking and I applaud them. Just by sharing our stories of mental illness, we are helping tackle the stigma that surrounds the subject.

How easy or difficult is it to write about such personal issues?

I kept every little memento of my life until I wrote my first memoir in my late thirties: diaries, airline tickets, photos, letters, emails, text messages, cinema tickets and notes from people – everything and anything. I always had an inkling from a young age that my life was different, and that I might one day write my story. This was later compounded by the thought I might not have children, so who would remember me? I decided I wanted to leave my legacy in words: my words, my story, my perspective.

I’ve always thought how sad it is, that when people die they take their memories with them. Things they have experienced that no-one else knows are gone forever. Their house, their life’s worth of objects can be sold or put in a loft and forgotten– everything that was precious suddenly seems worthless. But if they wrote it down they could at least leave their story behind. Family and friends could read it, it could be passed down to other family members, and their life would still have meaning – their words would still go on.

What could be more precious?

Years later, I realised what was different about me – that thing I could never put my finger on – I suffered with mental health issues and dissociated from distressing events in my life. I had been having various therapies over the years, since I was in my twenties, and had been offered counselling for depression when I was fifteen. Every therapist I saw delved deeper into my past, trying to uncover the underlying reasons. When my problems and moods started to get out of control, in my thirties, I became so distressed and confused I decided to start looking into my past again – by myself. If I had had the money to have a professional therapist help me, I would have, but I didn’t.

I read some childhood diaries first, and came across an eight-page typed document, describing in detail the day I was raped. I had written the story the day after the event occurred, when I was fifteen, and had obviously dissociated completely from it. You can only imagine the shock I felt when I discovered it, tucked into one of my old diaries. As I read, it was as if that person wasn’t me: I guess that was my first encounter with my alien self. I stopped writing my life after that, it scared me, and then in 2008 I finally saw a psychiatrist who gave me a correct diagnosis, a name for the condition that could account for all those years of depression, chronic mood changes and dissociation. But even then I was still in denial.

I always thought of myself as a happy-go-lucky girl, as did everyone else, but I also knew the stigma of mental illness because I’d grown up with a mother with schizophrenia. Eventually I knew I had to open the Pandora’s Box of my life memories – it would be the only way to get everything out in the open, to understand how I turned into that alien me and then maybe I could find myself again and close the box forever. All I wanted was to move on and concentrate on being happy in my future.

So I wrote my story as a type of self-therapy, but it took every bit of strength to do it, and it caused my issues to escalate, as the dark events of the past came back, one by one. At that time, I also read memoirs by other sufferers, which helped me to understand myself a little more, and also made me feel less alone with my problems. Not that I wanted anyone else to be going through the same traumas, just to know there were others suffering as I was, at times, became a great comfort. So with that in mind, I decided to turn my story into a book that might help others too, so that something good could come out of the pain.

Can you share some of the feedback you’ve received from readers?

Yes, these are from my first memoir My Alien Self: My Journey Back to me

“I felt so many of my own excruciating experiences shared with her, as I read it got very synchronous at times… The levels of understanding, sympathy & empathy did not stop rising until at a peak near the end. A lady who has worked hard to push through many boundaries, not just to get this book written but also to change herself, as much as one is able.”

“I found it compulsive, disturbing and ultimately inspiring. These issues are unique to the individual, but there are many more out there with similar problems, who don’t have the eloquence, courage or motivation to write such a thought-provoking, honest, heart breaking inspiring book, chronicling all the pain and emotion that mental illness can load onto a person, a family… this should be read by everyone out there who has any compassion for their fellow man… it will open a whole range of new experience and knowledge, which is the first major step in removing the stigma that damns us all.”

“I love the journal entries and the visceral approach to the truth as you approach healing and discovery”

“You are inspiring to have suffered so much and found the courage to write your story, which will undoubtedly help others.”

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

I originally wrote under the pen name ‘Amanda Green’ to protect my identity and my family, since I had written such brutal truths about myself. But, some time ago, I decided to ‘come out’ and reveal my true identity. Because of the following I have, I continue to write as Amanda Green, but only because it is better for me to continue to promote myself and my work under the same name.

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

I am going to attend my first author signing even this June (2016), at the Essex Author Extravaganza in Southend-on-sea, Essex, England, and I am very excited. I have all my ‘swag’ ready – pens, banner, business cards – and will be taking four of my seven books with me – my paperbacks.

Amanda_GReen_BooksWhat else have you written?

Two memoirs, several short stories, a novelette and a novella.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Just write and keep writing, only edit once you have finished or you will lose your natural rhythm and focus.

Write when you are in all sorts of moods – it amazes me how my writing changes when I am in different moods – happy, sad, angry…

Unplanned writing – Write instead of doing something else that is planned. My writing is often at its best as I am not expecting to write and have no set goal as to what I want to write or how much I want to write. Sometimes setting goals around writing can put too much pressure on me and if I don’t set a goal, I write and write and write

Warm up writing. I love to write a journal each day and this is often my warm up to writing some really good narrative – all the babble comes out so I can focus on my words.

If planning to publish a piece of writing or a book, get an editor or at least a proofreader! This is essential as no matter how much we read our own stories, we will always miss things and no-one wants to read repetition or misspellings!

Read other people’s books! You will learn so much from them – what you like, don’t like, what grips you…

If you are a beginner to writing or just want to better your writing, then writing courses can be very helpful

Writing magazines can provide lots of tips!

If you do publish, make sure your piece of writing or book is the best it can be – do not rush to publish it, as once it is done it is often too late to go back.

And a final tip is to be quiet and to think of nothing for a few minutes each day. It might seem hard to find those few minutes to do this, but it is worth it. Often, thinking of nothing will result in many ideas coming to you once your mind is clear – many of my best ideas have come to me from doing this mind de-clutter!

Writing memoirs

Make sure you keep to your genre – it is not an autobiography, it is about a theme. Mine was mental illness, so I concentrated on telling the story of why I had mental illness, showing I had mental illness, or showing my recovery, and I had to lose a lot of the stuff I wanted in there, such as fabulous holidays, events etc that did not move the story on or fit with the theme of the story. My editor (Debz Hobbs-Wyatt) taught me this and it took me a long time to be able to edit things out as easily as she could!

I guess if you keeping thinking that a memoir is about ‘memories’ of a certain type (your theme) then it will get you going!

When I was suffering mental health and felt alone, I read other people’s memoirs and they helped me a lot. I knew I had a story to share that would show just how mental illness forms, what makes it worse, and all I had to do was get better to have the ending! It took many years, but I managed it and I knew that mental illness was my theme, so I took out any irrelevant events and descriptions from my life, diaries etc. My second memoir is about life after mental illness and nearly reaching the age of forty a childless woman – it focuses much more on the positives in life with a more ‘uplifting’ tone.

Although writing a memoir does need to have a story line, flow and peaks/troughs, it does not require the same story arc of a novel. Also the protagonist in a memoir just does what they do rather than a fictional character that needs to tick certain boxes. It is harder to write a memoir because it is so close to you, the author, but then it’s easier in many other ways, because the story is already there.

I had some interest from a couple of agents, who I sent my draft manuscript to, and it gave me the strength to go forth and self-publish, so I published my memoir as an e-book through Amazon.

I self-published both of my memoirs and am very proud of that fact, because I was able to write them exactly as I wanted them to be written, with the help from my editor at the time. Whilst a publisher and agent do offer a lot of help and contacts, they do narrow down what is published, so I took on the journey to publish and market both books myself. After my first two books, where I had an editor, I decided to edit and proof-read myself.

Tips for self-publishing

Never publish it until you are 100% sure you have done the best you can with it – editing, proof reading etc.

Take time to ensure that the file conversion for an e-book, of any kind, is perfect. You do not want sentences, words or even paragraphs misaligned with the rest of the content, or bullet points starting halfway across the page! If it is too daunting to do it yourself, then seek the assistance of a professional and get it right first time.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

Yes, I touch type, almost fast enough to keep up with the speed my brain churns out what I want to say! This is essential for me, as I would be impatient otherwise!

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

My personal favourite is Behind Those Eyes; Life on the streets of London – my novella.

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?

Evaluate it in case you can learn from it, but never reply to a negative review justifying yourself, and always remember that even the best books in the world get negative reviews – you just cannot please everyone J

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

ALL

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

Roast dinners and Indian curry. I cannot eat cheese L

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

Being told by my boyfriend I am being taken on my trip of a lifetime, to see the Orangutan and wildlife of Borneo, and to organize the whole itinerary exactly how I wanted it. We trekked, we saw awesome wildlife in the forests and along rivers, we visited Orangutan rehabilitation centres and I got to hold an orphan baby Orangutan – the most special moment of my life!

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 5.26.19 PMSandra_OranguatanIf you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?

Two thirds to animal charities, one third between charities supporting children and elderly.

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

I would have it as my counselling room – a lovely warm, comfortable room for myself and my clients.

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

Gone with the Wind (film) and possibly The Clergyman’s Daughter (book) by George Orwell.

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

Only once –The Mask. I didn’t like Jim Carey’s character one bit!

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

Be kind to one another; think before we say something we regret.

Rehabilitate people who do bad things.

Respect and look out for elderly people, plus animals and children and any other vulnerable being.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

My cats, people helping one another, hot chocolate, getting into bed when I have just changed the bedsheets… so many things!

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CHAT WITH CANDY KORMAN

CandyKormanCandy Korman is a professional freelance writer and an amateur Argentine Tango dancer, living and writing in New York City. She loves travel, mysteries, art, theater and cats. Fueled by coffee, she always has more than one work of fiction in progress. Her series of novellas inspired by horror classics is called—Candy’s Monsters. She posts two Monster Meditations each week on her blog and enjoys Twitter.

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

No question here, I was born to write. My childhood memories are about stories and storytelling. I grew up in a house filled with books. My mom is a mystery reader and fabulous plot consultant. My father read bedtime stories when we were small and even much later on, when we traveled as a family in the pre-mobile entertainment world, he would read in our hotel rooms. Time and Again by Jack Finney was the book on one of our longer trips. Bedtime favorites were The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle.

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

I think the biggest misconception is that our books are riddled with typographical errors. Yes, they exist. But I keep finding them in ebooks put out by conventional publishers, so it’s not an indie-only problem. I think the other misconception is that we are basically fan-fiction writers. We’re not. Indie authors represent a deep well of creativity and talent.

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

The question of genre is at the heart of my Candy’s Monsters series of novellas. The first one in the series is a mystery in the familiar Agatha Christie format—a house party with a limited number of characters, and a murderer lurking in the woods. It’s inspired by Frankenstein and called THE MARY SHELLEY GAME.

MaryShelleyGame

After Frankenstein it was natural for me turn to Dracula and mine its rich veins of suspense, gothic horror, sublimated Victorian sexuality and sublime language. My response to the deep darkness of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece was to create a brokenhearted comedy. The original was written in diary entries, letters and news reports, so BRAM STOKER’S SUMMER SUBLET is written in journal jottings, sticky notes, voice mail, email, etc.

Next up is POED—yes, I’m using Poe as a verb in the past tense. As a kid I was a big Poe fan. I remember loving the subtle creepiness, the languid descriptions, and most of all the gothic menace in every word. POED is set in the ‘Usher Institute for the Study of Criminal Psychopathology’ —where killers too vile and crazy for the regular justice system live out their days amidst ghosts of the asylum’s mysterious past. It’s a contemporary gothic/psychological suspense tale.

The fourth is THE STRANGE CASE OF DR HYDE AND HER FRIENDS—my romantic suspense novella about a young, successful, doctor suffering from a bad case of ennui. She gets in too deep when she walks into a very dark corner of the dark side during a strange summer in New York. Her roommates from college come together to get her out of a very sticky situation involving crime and a hedonistic cult pushing personal boundaries.

Hyde.KormanThe MONSTERS series became a boundary pushing experience for me as a writer. I’ve just begun a fifth book. The genre? Steampunk Mystery. My long answer to the short question of genre is… Mystery found me and went on a scavenger hunt for genres that expand my territory.

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

This is the story of my life! I’m always in love with my latest work-in-progress—and it’s the kind of love that cannot see faults or flaws beyond typos. I read Stephen King’s On Writing years ago and he talks about putting a manuscript draft away for an extended period of time. This ‘ cold storage’ method has always been difficult for me. I pine for the company of my characters.

I’m doing an experiment right now that I hope will give me both the distance (aka objectivity) I need, and some useful feedback. The completed first draft of a new mystery novel is in the hands of two friends. They are both slow readers. This is frustrating, but good for me. I’m a very fast writer—sometimes I write faster than I read—and I am not allowing myself to look at the manuscript until they return it with their responses.

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

What’s in a name? Oh so much! When naming characters, I use a combination of intuition and research. Since I often write characters from a variety of backgrounds, I use the Internet to find typical names from specific places, i.e. a region of Italy, or popular names from a particular period of time. Ethnicity, family heritage and age are important for naming characters in stories set in contemporary America—especially cities like New York that are full of immigrants and their descendants.

When I name a character I consider when and where they were born, as well as their parents’ naming objectives. Objectives? Yes. Must their firstborn son be named after Dad? Does a woman with a common name want her daughter to have a distinctive name? Is Dad a literature buff? Is Mom a political junkie?

Like many writers I’ve changed character names. Once it was because too many of the character names were similar, and I got feedback that I was confusing readers. But more often, it’s been because as the character developed the name felt flat.

My given name is Candida, after the play Candida, by George Bernard Shaw. Candida is a part of me, but most of the time I’m happy to be called Candy.

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

My characters surprise me all the time! They are often smarter, braver, and more talented that I am. They will take the dialog in a different direction or dare me, as the author, to venture where I’d never go in real life.

CandyFranken

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 won’t say that I edit excessively, but I do edit throughout the process. I write quickly and then go back and read previous pages, before I go on. It’s a pattern of refinement and rethinking. I often pick up a thread from an early chapter later in the book and the back-and-forth helps me do this without dropping a stitch.

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

I love this question! As a mystery reader and writer, I’ve always been amused by the story of Dorothy Sayers and her fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey. I was told that she fell in love with her creation and then created his perfect match—the mystery writer Harriet Vane—a character based on Sayers. It then took three books for Peter to win Harriet’s heart.

Right now, I’d love to meet the Vermeer expert/chief museum conservator from the novel in the hands of my alpha readers. In the novel, only part of his backstory is revealed. But now that I’m contemplating a second outing with this cast of characters, I’d love to sit down over a beer and pick his brain about art.

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

Friendship is very important to me and I’ve explored it in much of my fiction. The protagonist in BRAM STOKER’S SUMMER SUBLET is bereft and temporarily alone. This allows her vampire fantasies to take hold. We need our friends to keep us in balance.

I’m attracted to people who are intellectually challenging, friends with whom I can travel and share experiences, people willing take risks and check out obscure Off-Off-Off Broadway plays, people with passions and interests that they want to share with me. I’ve done, seen, tasted, and explored all sorts of things and places because of a friend’s desire to share what is important to them. I don’t need friends that mirror my image, ideas, experiences, and tastes. I need friends open to sharing their own.

The people that linger and become part of my life—smart, fun, unconventional and wise people—are also kind. Friendship makes us vulnerable and so kindness is essential. It’s not easy being friends with a writer. Sometimes I ‘disappear’ into my thoughts and I’m the first to admit that I’m a story vampire. Tell me a story and it may inspire my fiction.

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

I would love being one of those brilliant people who pick up foreign languages with ease. I have many friends for whom English is a second (or third) language and I envy the way the slide from one to another. They are citizens of the world and I am just a visitor.

What music soothes your soul?

All sorts of music is both soothing and inspiring. I’ve been dancing Argentine Tango for many years and snatches of Tango songs dominate the “soundtrack” in my head, along with vintage R & B and cast albums from Broadway musicals. Music—all sorts of music, from classical, Latin jazz and blues to pop, rock and the American songbook—works its way into my fiction. I was listening to Paco Peña (the Flamenco guitar maestro) and all of a sudden the protagonist in my Monster-in-Progress has an encounter with a small Flamenco troupe. The music directed the story and gave the protagonist a new dimension.

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CHAT WITH PJ WEBB

 

PJ_Webb

PJ Webb is an award winning indie author of fantasy and mystery. Originally from New York, she now lives in North Carolina with her husband and their two cats. Her first book, Transformation, is also the first in her Prince of the Blood Vampire Chronicles. She has recently released the second book, Evolution, and is currently editing the third and fourth books in the series. She hasn’t limited herself to the subject of vampires, however. Her newest book, Lora Lee, the first in her paranormal Cliff House series, has just been released.

Time to chat with PJ!

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

So far, I haven’t had any problem, but I would imagine the only challenge really is having enough to write about. Other than that, in my opinion, series are the absolute most fun to write and financially make the most sense. You don’t have to say good-bye to characters you’ve written into being and come to love as quickly, and it gives you a better opportunity to hold on to new readers until they’re steadfast fans.

Prince_Of_Blood

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

My first book was born out of a desire not to stay up all night worrying about events that were unfolding in my life that were beyond my control. I decided the time could be better spent doing something creative, and so I began to write a story about a character who lost everything and managed to cope with that loss and reinvent himself in the process. You see, my husband and I were about to lose everything we owned including our livelihood in 2011 due to the recession. To be honest, I guess I chose fantasy because I was looking for an escape from reality, and through my experience with writing, I now have an understanding that nothing ever stays the same. There are only different degrees of change, and it’s not those changes that define us but what we do with them that matters.

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

I do. I have a new book coming out soon entitled Colette’s Diary. It’s about one of the characters that is prevalent in books one and two in my Prince of the Blood Vampire Chronicles. She’s a French courtesan in the court of Louis XV who goes on to live many lifetimes. I had hoped for its release in time for Valentine’s Day, but that appears to have been wishful thinking on my part. Realistically, it should be launched by mid-March.

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

I think there is really only one. That our books lack proper editing. Unfortunately, in the beginning of the independent author rush many inferior self-published books, those introduced by one book writers who had jumped on the bandwagon with inferior editing, were submitted to Amazon, and they have left a daunting reputation for the good indie author to overcome.

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

I don’t think there’s any easy answers. The problem is getting our books seen, and there are at least three ideas that I know of to that end. Some say social media is a waste of time. Some say you should follow the guidelines publishing houses use to create attention, while others say to draw up a budget and pay for advertising. All I know is that at the moment there are millions of Indie authors, and add to that all of the traditionally published authors and what you have is a big mountain to climb. All of us want the same thing, potential readers to be able to see our books and love them. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your story is, how beautiful and eye catching your cover, or how grabbing your description. It doesn’t even matter how many excellent reviews you have, or your awards, for that matter. If you’re not in the top 100 in your particular genre, you’re not going to be seen. Of course, all of those good qualities are very important once you are noticed. You have to try every possibility, and if one thing isn’t working, move on. Even better, if you have the time and money, try all of them at once.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

The road to success is a hard one, even for published authors because they now have to promote themselves unless, of course, they happen to be a star and seventy-five percent aren’t. The art of self-promotion doesn’t come easy for everyone either, and those that are talented in that regard definitely have the edge, but don’t give up on your dreams. If you just keep believing in yourself, you’ll eventually find your way. You may not be a NY Times Best Selling Author, but you will find a following of loyal readers who appreciate your work. Most importantly, get an editor that you can trust to edit your books properly. There are so many horror stories about indie authors hiring editors that have not done the proper job, and they’ve suffered unnecessarily because of it. Make sure you hire someone who’s recommended highly by other authors that you know, or check them out carefully. It doesn’t matter how amazing your story is if it isn’t properly edited, critics are sure to have a field day with it, and it’s not something that you’ll live down easily.

There are so many conflicting opinions out there about everything related to publishing: e-book pricing, book promotion, social media usage etc. How do you sort through it all to figure out what works best for you?

The only way to find out what works best for you is to get in there and start, and if you find one things isn’t working, try something else until you hit on the best solutions for yourself.

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

I’m just beginning to realize, that for me, social media is probably not the best way for my books to be seen, and it’s also begun eating up way to much precious time that I need for writing, but I would never give it up entirely. I’ve met too many wonderful and talented authors who have become great friends, and I’ve learned a lot from them, so I intend to continue, but not as strongly as I used to. I need time to explore different avenues now. As I mentioned earlier, you need to realize when it’s time to move on.

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?

Yes, only because it so very important. After the cover, that’s the next thing that determines a reader’s possible interest, or lack thereof, and furthermore, how can you possibly sum up in so few words that which took so many to write?

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

My first book, Transformation, from my Prince of the Blood Vampire Chronicles will always be my favorite because of how it healed the heartache I was feeling and gave me the strength to reinvent myself and go on.

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?

All of us pour our heart and our souls into our work, and getting a bad review is devastating. I don’t think any of us have gotten so tough skinned that it no longer hurts. In fact, I think I could liken it to a state of grieving and most would agree with me. Eventually, you have to come to terms though, and realize that not everyone is going to appreciate your work, no matter how perfect it is, and not only that, but they aren’t going to care how hard and long you worked, or how devastating they’re words are going to be. If it’s the only bad review mixed in with a number of great reviews though, you’ve got to just get over it and move on. It’s only when all, or many of the reviews you’ve gotten are similarly critical that you need to take a serious look at whether they’re right or not, and if you find that what’s said is true, then do something about it. Otherwise, don’t fret over it. There will be plenty more good reviews to come, and they’ll water down that bad one until it hardly matters at all.

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

Yes, but not because of immediate sales. If you have a blog site and put out a newsletter, it’s a great way to start compiling your readers list.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Boats

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

Anne Rice. She’s my favorite writer, and while I wouldn’t want to copy her style, I would love to write as well and would relish being as adored for my books as she is.

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

Loyalty, kindness, and honesty.

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

Somewhere in Time and Interview with the Vampire.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

My husband and I lived on our 36’ Christ Craft boat, Somewhere in Time, for fifteen months.

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CHAT WITH HEIDI SWAIN

Heidi_Swain

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.

She joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2014 and is now a full member. The manuscript she submitted for critique, The Cherry Tree Café, is her debut novel and was published by Books and The City, the digital imprint of Simon and Schuster in July 2015.

She lives in Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Time to chat with Heidi!

What is your latest book?

My debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café, was published by Books and The City, (the digital imprint of Simon and Schuster), on July 16th 2015.

It follows what happens to flame haired Lizzie Dixon when she is unceremoniously dumped on her birthday and moves back to Wynbridge, the small East Anglian market town she grew up in.

There are cupcakes, crafts, love and friendships and of course, bunting in abundance!

Cherry tree cafe green cover-1

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

Yes, I have phenomenally exciting news! I have recently signed another two book deal with S and S and both novels will be published in e-book and paperback format this time around. The first will appear on the shelves in time for Christmas and the next in summer 2017.

I am absolutely delighted that I will be having two novels published this year, (Summer at Skylark Farm will be published on June 2nd), and seeing the announcement in The Bookseller really was a dream come true for me.

What else have you written?

Summer at Skylark Farm, my second novel with Books and The City will be published in e-book format this June and follows the story of Amber who decides to leave the hectic city life and career she has established and help her other half, Jake, turn around the fortunes of Skylark Farm.

The farm is located in the countryside around Wynbridge, the town where The Cherry Tree Café is set, so readers can expect so see some familiar faces from the first novel popping up again! Summer at Skylark Farm isn’t a sequel but a few of the characters were determined to nudge their way back in!

Skylark Farm final cover

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

I always write scenes in order, but with one eye on what is going to be happening further down the line. Consequently I carry a notebook at all times and have paper to hand when I am typing, so if an idea materialises I can jot it down and include it later. I find some of my best ideas and plot twists come to mind when I am ironing or taking a walk and I am always amazed when I look back through my original planning that the plot has taken on such an energetic and fluid life of its own.

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

This is a great question and the answer is, I imagine, unique to everyone. What works for me might be anathema for another author!

Personally, I find it too easy to get caught in that ‘editing as I go along’ trap. If I’m not careful I can find myself reading and re-reading a chapter when I know full well that I just need to get the words down and work on them after I’ve typed The End.

Discipline is required and lots of it. I work three days a week which I find really helps when I’m writing a first draft. Those brief snatches of time before work and during my lunch break, when I write longhand, are hugely productive because they have to be. Some days they are the only time I can write so I just have to keep moving forward.

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?

When I was starting out and considering the best route for me, a fellow author reminded me that the path I was on was my own and that if I was serious about my writing then I should just get on with it. It was quite simply the best thing I could have been told at the time!

After hearing that I was adamant that The Cherry Tree Café was going to be my first published novel and that I wasn’t going to wait any longer to get things moving. I had a cover designer and independent editor all lined up and then my publisher came knocking. All I needed was that one little nudge to take myself seriously, stop procrastinating and get the ball rolling!

Personally I think both routes have their pros and cons, just don’t sit around waiting for one or the other to happen. Make a plan and stick to it because at the end of the day, you are in control and you are the one who can champion your work best and make it happen!

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?

Negative reviews are the pits. Fortunately I haven’t had many, but one I read last December was simply horrid and of course those absolute stinkers are the ones that come back to haunt you in the darkest watches of the night.

‘You’ll never write something that pleases everyone,’ is a little nugget of truth courtesy of my husband, while my daughter goes for the ‘but look at all the five stars you’ve had!’ train of thought.

At the end of the day, if I’m feeling that downcast I’ll log on to Amazon, have a look at the reviews of an author I admire and take heart that not everyone loved everything they had written either.

It’s tough out there and you have to face the fact that some people seem to relish writing bad reviews, a quick look at other reviews they have written often proves that point, so don’t give them too much headspace or you’ll never pen another word!

Do you know anyone who has ever received any auto DM on Twitter (with a link) who was happy about it?

Nope. When will people learn? Unfollow. Move on.

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

An original oil painting called The Moon and The Hare by Norfolk artist Hannah Giffard. Hannah’s paintings are simply mesmerising and highly sought after so when my husband presented me with this beautiful canvas I was absolutely stunned. I had spent hours sighing over it in a little gallery in Wymondham, Norfolk, just up the road and wishing I could afford it. The prints were lovely, but nowhere as spellbinding as the real thing. Fortunately I now have the real thing hanging in my house and I would never part with it!

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

Be the very best version of yourself that you can possibly be, every single day.

Don’t waste time. Life is too short. Chase your dreams wholeheartedly.

Be kind.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Reading, gardening, spending time at home with my family, oh and Galaxy bars. Never underestimate the pleasure chocolate can bring!

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CHAT WITH JUDY FOLGER

JudyFolger

Judy Folger began her writing career in earnest four years ago after her retirement as an Executive Director in Healthcare. So far she has published 16 lesbian romance novellas, but has actually written 40; the others are waiting in line for editing in order to be published on Amazon.

What is your latest book?

Lesbian Yuletide Love Stories.

Is your recent book part of a series?

No.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

I have not written a series, but I have written a few sequels.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

My greatest challenge in writing a short story is that I can see where it would make a good novella, but also being able to recognize where it needs to stop in order to be a short story. I have to restrain myself and hold back in order to keep a story at a proper short story length.

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

Yes, I write under a pen name for privacy.

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

The genre I write in chose me. Being a lesbian, it was a natural for me to write lesbian romance novellas. Most of my books have subplots that deal with social issues, such as lesbian domestic violence, transgender, incest, and paranormal, to list a few.

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

“Love is Love”

What else have you written?

I have written 16 published books. Right now the most popular are, The Plumber and The Pianist, Family Pride, Black and Blue Love and Crash Landing.

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

Perhaps that they are all not worthy of being published so have resorted to self publishing.

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

While I am in the process of writing a story, I often find the character(s) taking over and saying something I hadn’t quite expected! But then that is part of the great fun of writing: to see where the characters lead me.

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

I enjoy starting a new book and getting to know my book’s characters. The least? That’s when the story ends; it’s always so difficult to let my characters go as I have come to love them. It is exciting to watch my characters grow, mature, and resolve their problems.

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

I write the scenes in order, as I don’t have a plan laid out for the story. It develops as I go along. That is the fun of writing a novella and watching it come to fruition.

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

I always have a working title, but sometimes it changes for publication. I have a pretty good idea how the story will end, though sometimes it might change a bit as the end nears. The characters have a tendency to take over the story and I enjoy being a part of the ride.

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 some editing as I go along. When the book is finished, I go back and reread my hard copy and make any changes then. Then I send my manuscript to my editor for the final editing.

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

I write novellas, not full-length novels. Therefore, I believe I don’t ever lose my objectivity. I am able to stay very focused on my story line until the very end.

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

So far I have been satisfied with my books and their characters and plots. Perhaps because I am able to remain very focused on my goal.

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

I do some thinking about my characters’ names before I start writing. I try to find names that I think will suit their personalities. Therefore, I don’t change them once I’ve started the story.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

I’ve written characters that I have not liked very well, but that’s fun. I can do all sorts of things with them! Sometimes fun things, sometimes not-so-fun things.

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

I suppose smart marketing has a lot to do with sales, along with a good bit of luck. Being a talented author no doubt helps!

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Never, never give up! Writing is an ongoing learning experience. First-time authors should be aware that having an excellent editor is of great help in learning the writing craft.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

My wonderful friend and editor, Debra Stang, actually talked me into publishing my first book on Amazon, The Unfinished Letter. To my amazement, it has done well from the beginning. I was able to write this novella in 30 days; however, the additional days it took to complete this process took longer as my editor’s efforts at editing the manuscript added to the time it took for the actual publication.

There are so many conflicting opinions out there about everything related to publishing: e-book pricing, book promotion, social media usage etc. How do you sort through it all to figure out what works best for you?

I’m still not sure what works best, but at this time I prefer Twitter. My editor and I take a look at the current going rate for novellas and then decide what price point to ask.

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

I don’t enjoy having to deal with social media. It’s something I have to do in order for my books to be seen. I’m very active on Twitter. I’m also on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, and I will soon add Tumblr and Pinterest.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

Ha! I have numerous pet peeves, such as knowing the difference between your and you’re, for example, but thank goodness, I have an excellent editor!

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

The books I like best to read are those that can draw me in and arouse my curiosity. What I like least are those books that seem to be full of unnecessary “filler” paragraphs that go on and on and on….

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

My most current book, Lesbian Yuletide Love Stories, did not require any research on my part. However, I’ve written so many books, it’s hard to say about each, but let me just say, I usually revert to Google for research.

Do you have any secrets for effective time management?

My “secret” for effective time management is, I live alone! I can make my own schedule for writing. But, it also takes a certain amount of self-discipline.

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 don’t let anyone read a work in progress, because too much input can be confusing, but I do have helpful chats with my editor along the way.

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

I love to receive feedback from people who read my books. Such as the women who have taken the time to let me know that they appreciate the fact that my stories are about mature women. Thankfully, I have enjoyed many positive reactions.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

I am a fast typist. I think fast and I type fast, which helps me to produce a number of pages every time I sit down to write.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

Sometimes for my own enjoyment, I will write a short paragraph or two about something romantic on my mind. I find this to be an enjoyable exercise in creativity.

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

I feel I was born to write. I messed around with writing ever since childhood and into adulthood, but I never had the time to be serious about writing until I retired a few years ago.

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 do dread writing a synopsis. But thank goodness, I have a wonderful editor who does it for me.

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

IF I were to write a non-fiction book, it might be about my life. I believe everyone’s life would make an interesting book. Everyone has both a great love story and a great tragedy in their life.

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 would advise a new author to seriously consider self-publishing on Amazon. Self-publishing is a great way for new authors to get their start in publishing and to feel the enjoyment of seeing their book out there for the public to notice.

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

I rely primarily on using Twitter to market my books. As I gain more and more followers, I gain more and more readers. The least effective is doing nothing to promote one’s book.

I’m sure you’ve read many interviews with your fellow authors. In what ways do you find your methods of creating most similar and dissimilar?

It seems to me that a lot of authors work like I do, without an outline. Sit down and start writing, and enjoy the ride.

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

My personal favorite might be “The Plumber and the Pianist,” but it’s hard to choose, kinda like choosing which child is a mother’s favorite!

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’m still trying to learn this one myself! Ha! Actually, such as in my case, with a number of 5* reviews and perhaps one lower-star rating, that one is very possibly a “troll” who enjoys writing negative reviews and therefore not worthy of my attention.

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 get up usually around 3 am, eat a light breakfast, and then begin writing. I like to get up early before the rest of the world is awake.

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’m sure the book covers do affect a person’s immediate attention to a book. I am in the process of updating my book covers and I am finding that the more attractive covers do make a difference in sales.

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

Sometimes my characters take off on their own. I delight in their individuality.

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

I desperately miss my characters when I finish writing a book…until I start a new book! Then I become enthralled with my new set of characters.

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

Fortunately, I have never suffered from writer’s block. I am so focused on my story line that I am constantly thinking about my story, even when I am away from my computer.

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

Not so far.

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

I currently live in the Kansas City area.

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

The most important trait I look for in a friend is honesty.

Care to brag about your family?

My son, Mathew Curry, has written and published an excellent mystery book: “Spellbound: The Ascension,” on Amazon.

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

I have always wished I had studied music.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

My favorite years of school were when I was attending college. I loved the non- regimented schedules.

What makes you angry?

I am very laid back and easy going, but I can become angry when I see someone treating another person without respect.

What music soothes your soul?

I enjoy listening to classical and golden oldies.

 

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CHAT WITH RAY JAY PERREAULT

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Ray spent 10 years as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, traveling to 27 countries, and 28 years as an aeronautical engineer for a major aerospace firm. He loves to write science fiction and to create unique heroes and heroines facing unusual challenges. Many of the current Sci-Fi stories are missing something, for example ‘how did the evil computer start?’ as in his series SIMPOC. If aliens invade Earth, Ray will likely write from the alien point of view. His protagonists include, clones, robots, computers, aliens, and yes men and women.

Time to chat with Ray!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Earth II-You Have No Honor. Which was released a little over a month ago. Recently I’ve been converting my work to Audible files and two of my novellas SIMPOC-The Thinking Computer and SIMPOC-Human Remnants have just been released. Two others Virus-72 Hours to Live and Gemini will be released on Audio in January. The remainder of my work will be released through-out the spring.

Gemini Book Cover V4

Is your recent book part of a series?

Earth II is actually the end of the first Epoch in a long story and it focuses on all of the characters in the SIMPOC and Virus series. I did something a little unusual with these series. SIMPOC focused on two very advanced computers, SIMPOC is a ‘good’ computer and ‘Julius’ isn’t. Their story emerges as the world is struck by a suspicious virus and the two novellas focus on the computers. The human story is described in the Virus novels and the computers are among the characters. Earth II brings all of the characters together and the story reaches a major milestone and prepares them for a follow-on series.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

One of my series, Virus is complicated with a long list of characters, each with their own story line. I found it challenging to keep all of the stories in sync and moving towards the same points where they would interact with each other and ultimately conclude. I like series because good stories are huge and have many perspectives. I like to show different parts of the story and how they eventually come together and play out to the conclusion.

Virus 72 Hours to Live (688X433)

What else have you written?

I’ve got four short stories and three series. Two of the series SIMPOC and Virus are related. I wrote SIMPOC first and it is about a suspicious virus that almost wipes out Earth. During the turmoil two very sophisticated computers emerge. One is inclined to help and the other has its own agenda. The story was to show how an evil computer starts. Later in the story I introduced other characters such as astronauts from various space settlements and some key players in the US Government. Some of my readers commented that they’d like to see the back story of those later characters, so I wrote the Virus series which includes SIMPOC but focuses on the story line from the perspective of the astronauts and US Government. All of the characters from both series come together in a third series called Earth II which brings them to an interim conclusion. Separately, I’ve started a separate series Gemini about true aliens and no human characters. It’s a story of love, strife, battles and alien’s evolution to survive. The Raog are a naïve alien race that begins to investigate their solar system. What they find attacks them and for the first time in their history they have to develop survival skills. I have a young couple of aliens that fall in love, share a huge loss and grow to become leaders of their people.

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

I love playing with ‘the twists’ in my stories. My characters surprise me all the time. I never know what they’ll say or do until I get in the story. That might sound crazy to a non-writer, but I start with a concept of the character and as they development, they take on a life of their own and they are always saying and doing things that surprise me. Love it. I look for situations that would be fun to write about. I get tired of the same hero fighting the aliens and creating a bigger bomb. I like the subtleties of leadership and putting unlikely heroes and heroines in challenging situations. What I enjoy the least is when it ends. I get involved in the story and go through a binge phase while I write, when the story is done, it depresses me a little until I can get another story started. I miss the excitement of the story and I miss the characters.

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

I never know the ending. I might know how it will end, but I don’t know the details. For example, I might know that a good computer will beat a bad computer, but how? Once I get into the characters then I start building the tension and set up the conflict based on how they interact, then writing the ending is just a part of the natural flow of the book.

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 go through a ‘naught’, ‘alpha’, ‘beta’ kind of process. My ‘naught’ is basically a brain dump. I’ll edit as I go, only to the point that I have a clear picture in my head. Then the alpha review might be multiple passes where I fill in the holes, and adjust the storyline. The grammatical editing continues with each pass through the story. Finally, when I have all of the story elements in place and my typing passes through a check with Grammarly and the MS Editor, I consider it ready for a beta read. Sometimes there are multiple beta reads as I adjust the ‘small’ pieces. Then it’s ready for prime time. Often, weeks might pass between each of the steps. They story has to ‘steep’ for a while before I go back to it, that way I can read it with fresh eyes and see it as a story; not my story.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Write, write, write, write. Then edit, edit, edit. Then sell, sell, sell, and when you’re done start over.

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

Being an Aeronautical Engineer and an ex-military pilot with over 4,500 hours of flight time puts me in a position where I enjoy using technology. Most of the tech that I used is based on realistic science that is occurring today. I’ve had enough experience so I can take many of the cutting edge concepts and amplify on them with my imagination. I do enough research so I know what the concept is, then I use literary license to expand it in the direction that I want.

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

My last novel was Earth II which is the culmination of two series, Virus and SIMPOC. I enjoyed it the most because it brought together all of my characters and I was able to resolve much of the conflict. True, I’ve set it up for future conflict, but that’s what a series is all about. I enjoyed it, because each of the characters were able to emerge and become a complete story in themselves. My heroine lead makes a speech at the end which I love. I think it is one of the best scenes that I’ve done.

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 been criticized by the best. Throughout my career as a USAF pilot and engineer in many levels of management, I was always evaluated and my ‘issues’ were pointed out. I remember being afraid to walk across a parking lot for fear that a Vice President who disagreed with me would run me over. When I get a bad interview I take some time to cool down, then I try to look at it from the writer’s point of view. Invariably there is some truth buried in the review and I try to find it. Sometimes the truth is relevant and sometimes it isn’t, the key is to make that decision.

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

The only analogy I can describe, is writing for me is like following a map. I know where I’m going, but there are a million paths to get there. The same goes for my characters. I know where they’ll end up, but their character leads them down various paths to get there. I don’t control that path, because the character usually leads the way. I might put in one or two sentences, that seem great at the time and it changes the entire path of the character. That is the fun of following the roads, along with the character, not leading them.

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

I’m lucky, I’m retired and I get to live where I want. Since retirement, my wife and I have traveled a lot. When I was in the Air Force I flew to 27 countries and I learned to love where you are and who you’re with. If you can do that, then you’ll be happy everywhere.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Planes definitely, I’ve flown them, grew up around them, designed them, built them and I love them.

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

Anything with my wife, that we shouldn’t have.

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

Isaac Asimov. He had the ability to see how technology would affect the world in ways no one else did. He didn’t need to make the issue complex, he could take the simple parts of the technologies effect and write it into a story that everyone would read, smile and shake their heads a little when they were done.

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

Honestly and loyalty.

Care to brag about your family?

I don’t have enough space, but you asked. Aside from my wife, my daughters, their husbands and my first grandchild, I can’t think of anything else.

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Email: rayjaywriter@yahoo.com

 

CHAT WITH ROB DINSMOOR

Rob in Hawaiiian shirt

Robert Dinsmoor is a freelance writer and yoga teacher. He has published hundreds of articles on health and medicine as well as pieces for Games, Paper, National Lampoon, and Nickelodeon Magazine and scripts for Nickelodeon and MTV. He has written fictive memoirs titled Tales of the Troupe, The Yoga Divas and Other Stories, and You Can Leave Anytime and co-authored a children’s picture book called Does Dixie Like Me?

Time to chat with Rob!

What is your latest book?

You Can Leave Anytime is a memoir about being admitted to a drug and alcohol rehab facility and staying a lot longer than I intended. I went from a nicely unstructured life as a freelance writer to having to live in a world of strict rules—some arbitrary and some downright silly. It was like being back in grade school again. So, it’s about how people regress when they lose their sense of control and are treated like children. Naturally, it’s also about addiction and recovery, and I think the take-home message is that you have to find methods that work for you rather than blindly following any sort of dogma.

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What are the greatest challenges to writing short stories?

For me, it’s the plot. Even with a simple plot, you need to introduce it, build on it, make it peak, and resolve it. I’ve written a lot of stories where I liked the premise but I couldn’t make the plot work. One trick to plot, I think, is not becoming too attached to what you were planning. I had a great screenwriting professor, Maury Rapf, who taught me a thing or two. He would sit there puffing away at his pipe and blithely offer suggestions for altering the characters in my precious screenplay. At first I was defensive, but finally realized his suggestions really did move the plot forward. On the other hand, many writers go too far in the opposite direction, making them follow the plot almost against their will, often at the climax.

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

It would have the title and say, “Getting into rehab was easy . . . “

What else have you written?

I’ve written hundreds of skits, short stories, and even some plays, many of them pretty dreadful. I wrote a pretty good screenplay called “Insensibility,” about the discovery of ether anesthesia in 19th century Boston and how it ruined the lives of its discoverers. Then I amassed Tales of the Troupe, which I still love, and it’s about my days writing for a comedy troupe in New York City in the 1980s. It was followed by The Yoga Divas and Other Stories, about the strange situations I found myself in while practicing and teaching yoga. With my best friend Helen Retynsky Kamins, I wrote a children’s picture book called Does Dixie Like Me? which she illustrated.

It’s about how I gradually earned the trust of her Border Collie Dixie. At the time of this writing, Dixie does like me! Currently, I’m assembling a collection of short stories called 32 Dogs, the title of which is based on a set of rhyming couplets I wrote about a lynch mob that was scared away by the family dogs. The collection is about where love meets ferocity. Finally, I’m working on a novel called Ageless Dilettantes, about a character who is immune to age and disease and gads about throughout the decades getting himself into dangerous situations.

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You’ve written about very personal matters, especially your latest book, You Can Leave Anytime. What are the pros and cons of writing about your life without the shield of fiction?

The upside to writing about your own life is you’re the expert on it and you’ve already got a cast of characters you don’t have to invent. The first problem is how you present your own character. One of the things I’ve learned from yoga and Eastern philosophies is not to try not to judge myself or others, and that has allowed me to be fairly honest in portraying myself, without the need to make myself look good. The same goes with other people.

Can you tell me about your life writing about health and medical issues? How has freelance life changed over the years? Has the knowledge you’ve gained helped you in your day-to-day life? (Made you a good candidate for a quiz show?)

People are always asking me about their ailments and I try to give them what knowledge I can before they see their doctors. The business of medical writing has changed a lot, and the most striking thing for me has been how much easier it is now to access information. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I would have to go to a medical library and search a 10-foot row of tomes called the Index Medicus, printed in 6-point type. I would have to figure out all the possible search terms and it would take hours. If I was lucky, the medical library would actually have the article I wanted, but often it wouldn’t and occasionally I went home empty-handed with eyestrain. Eventually, I was able to do searches on-line to get the titles of articles, and now many of the articles are available on-line and I can now do in several minutes what used to take me an entire day. Hallelujah!

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 think it’s very important. I sometimes get drawn into a book by its cover, especially if it’s an author I’m unfamiliar with. I like cover designs that suggest some degree of novelty or mystery. I’ve been very fortunate in having very colorful, well-designed covers designed by professional artists who happen to be friends. In fact, the cover of You Can Leave Anytime was designed by Helen, who also figures heavily in the book. The cover suggests a sort of tropical paradise but with a chain-link fence, security fence, rats, and even an alligator. She said that was the way she pictured the facility based on my description when she was my phone contact.

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

I read reviews of products I’m going to buy and you probably do to. I think some people are intimidated by the idea of posting a review. The review doesn’t have to be perfect, and you might even find it fun to write one. If you’re completely cowed by the idea, just give my book five stars, write “Magnificent!” and be done with it!

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

I never run out of ideas, but sometimes I get stuck on a project. One of the things I do then is read some of my best writing, conclude, “Damn that’s good!” and it gives me confidence to write more. I also find it inspirational to read my favorite authors.

Care to brag about your family?

Since you asked, sure! Dad was a very highly regarded psychology professor who studied under B.F. Skinner and was chosen to write a foreword to one edition of Byond Freedome and Dignity. He also ran for Congress on a platform of getting the U.S. out of Viet Nam—back in 1966—and got arrested in a peace march when LBJ was in Indianapolis. My brother is a clinical psychologist with four great kids, including one who is a photojournalist and political activist and one who teaches “at risk” kids. Mom ran a psychology journal out of our basement. She was also a political activist who ran a campaign for one of her best friends. Her friend became the first female mayor of my hometown, Bloomington, Indiana. The other thing you have to know about my mother was that she helped a lot of people in their time of need and was universally loved.

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?

I was the only guy in my typing class in high school and took some crap over that but I was glad to be able to type my own term papers in college and all of my writing after that. I got my first job in New York because I could type 85+ words a minute and I probably type much faster on a computer. I can’t imagine that my writing would flow so well if I had to hunt and peck.

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

I was stoned the first time I saw Shadow of a Doubt in college and fell asleep. On seeing it a second time, in my 20s, it sent chills down my spine. It was Hitchcock’s favorite film, about a girl named Charlie who suspects that her beloved Uncle Charlie is a notorious serial killer called “The Merry Widow Strangler.” It’s about lost innocence, with undertones of incest. Joseph Cotton was priceless as Uncle Charlie and I absolutely love his absent-minded, cold-blooded monologues about women and the general rottenness of people in general. My favorite book is probably Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons, even with its ridiculous ending involving a giant chessboard. It’s about mind vampires who can tap into other people’s nervous systems and control them like puppets. They include two aging Southern belles, a Hollywood producer, some Washington politicians, and a Nazi, and what I really love about the book is it gets inside their heads and makes you feel their appalling narcissism, sense of entitlement, and lack of empathy for others—and yet the author makes you actually feel sorry for them from time to time. The mind vampires may be fantasy but, alas, their mindset is not.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Just in case I haven’t been sounding misanthropic enough . . . I can’t stand people who stand obliviously in doorways and hallways, blocking other people. Usually, they’re texting and listening to their iPods. It’s not just younger people, either. One thing I learned from living in New York City for 10 years is not to block pedestrian traffic or you’ll get body-checked out of the way. And that is so tempting to do now . . .

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